Point Roberts, WA: Visiting Isolation

May 13, 2020/Jonathan Rundle/4 Comments

There exists a curious place in the lower 48. An enclave that forces you to leave the country in order to access. That place is Point Roberts, WA.

Cut off from the rest of the United States by the Canadian Border as a result of the Washington/Oregon Treaty which defines the border as the 49th Parallel. This little sliver of land on the Tsawwassen (pronounced “tah-wass-in” – although a disputed pronunciation) Peninsula went to the United States while the rest of the Peninsula went to the Canadians.

As an American, getting here and coming back (unless coming by boat or air) requires FOUR border crossings.

Point Roberts Border Checkpoint

So what am I doing here? You may ask as was the same question the border agent had for me. I’m here simply because this is such a geographic oddity – and I wanted to visit it for myself.

Point Roberts Boundary Marker

Let’s go check out this obelisk!

Monument Park

Erected in 1861, this is the first of many Obelisks along the US-Canadian border. You can see the latitude called out as 49.0.0 – the 49th Parallel.

US / Canadian Border Obelisk at Point RobertsWhatcom County Boundary Marker

The undefended border is mostly made up of hedges on residential property. Yes, that house is in Canada!

US / Canadian Border at Point Roberts

The undefended border takes on real meaning as the only thing keeping me from running back to Canada is this sternly worded laminated sign. It reminds me of a Simpsons gag.

Border patrol laminated sign

Being here at the northern border, I am struck with how different it is to our Southern border. For instance, this is Border Field State Park outside of San Diego. A little different.

International Friendship Park at the Mexican Border

Lighthouse Marine Park

I drive around town, the marina, and decide to take a stroll along the water at Lighthouse Marine Park. Not much happening here – just a few people having some lunch at the picnic shelter. Some dogs with their owners along the beach. A quiet, tranquil place.

Lighthouse Marine Park

Across the water is the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal where you can catch a BC Ferry to Victoria, Nanaimo, and other parts of Vancouver Island. The BC Ferry is so massive compared to the Washington State ferry. It sails on across the Salish Sea to one of the islands in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

BC Ferry

I couldn’t find anywhere worth eating on Yelp, so I crossed back over the border to Tsawwassen to get something before heading back 25 miles to the Blaine border crossing.

Moving on, there’s not much happening in the little town of Point Roberts. They probably like it that way.


Comments (4)

  • Peter Schaad . February 2, 2022 . Reply

    It truly is one of the special places in the Pacific Northwest, and such a shame how hard it was hit by the last two years. We vacationed on the beach every summer near Lighthouse Beach, southern view, with whales and seals and all sorts of birds regularly greeting us. The people are super friendly, the grocery store has all the treats and American brands of everything, similarly to the liquor stores. I really hope the community bounces back when the restrictions ease. It’s the best gated community you could find, and Canadians have been a huge part of their economy. I would gas-up once a week, and do all my parcel mailing from there because of the significant price difference.

    • (Author) Jonathan Rundle . February 7, 2022 . Reply

      Hi Peter, thank you for that additional information and for sharing your experiences in Point Roberts. Thanks for visiting!

  • David Rowson . February 7, 2021 . Reply

    I thought they were completely shut down and in chaos because of covid.

    • (Author) Jonathan Rundle . February 7, 2021 . Reply

      Indeed they have had a very difficult time because of COVID. My visit to Point Roberts occured before the Covid pandemic.

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Categories: Washington