Picnics are the perfect way to welcome summer’s return, whether you’re watching the sunset with your sweetie or planning an outing with the whole family. You can make yours as adventurous, low-key, spontaneous, or extravagant as you want– really, there’s no right way to have a picnic. You just have to get outside (and bring some snacks)!
Whatever your vibe, our summer feature is all about how to make the most of picnic season, from the bare essentials to menus, drinks, and even a few of our favorite locations. We also think the most essential item on the picnic checklist is good company– so gather up your loved ones, pick a scenic spot, and get outside while the days are long. Now is the perfect time to celebrate stellar weather, yummy food, and good old-fashioned togetherness.
On the Menu
Now that the essentials are packed and the location is chosen, you can move on to the fun part– food! Since your menu might change depending on your company, here are a few of our favorite ideas on how to make any picnic occasion truly memorable, no matter who you’re dining with.
Set design courtesy of Wander Design + Rental. Major thank you to the Wander team for making our picnic dreams come true! Bellingham, 206.792.5449, rentwander.com
Photos by Cocoa Laney
Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, wooing someone new, or just looking to add some magic to an otherwise ordinary night out, picnics are practically synonymous with summer romance. Our lush PNW scenery sets the mood well enough, but location isn’t everything– you’ll also want to bring snacks to enjoy while soaking up the glow of a summer sunset.
Meat and Cheese, Please!
If you ask us, charcuterie boards are ideal for picnic dates. They’re elegant, portable, customizable, and undeniably yummy– so what’s not to love? You can curate a simple board yourself with a trip to the store, but for truly special occasions, Yeah Baby Boards in Ferndale dreams up stunning charcuterie spreads that are as artful as they are edible. In addition to boards, Graze and Gather also creates grazing boxes of all sizes, plus perfectly portioned 8-ounce charcuterie cups for smaller appetites. For Skagit-based picnickers, Salt and Vine and Blackbird Wine Bar and Charcuterie (both in Anacortes) offer charcuterie, nibbles, and an excellent selection of wine.
If charcuterie isn’t quite your style, spring for mezze instead. Mezze are small plates commonly eaten in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and they’re perfect for sharing. As an added bonus, many of the common choices (hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, et cetera) can be enjoyed by omnivores and plant-based eaters alike. Seven Spice Cafe has an irresistible Mezze Plate that comes with all the fixings, including falafel and their famous fresh-baked pita bread.
Sushi and Bento Bites
Sushi might not be the most obvious choice for a picnic dinner, but it makes sense when you think about it. After all, sushi is portable, easy to eat, and is best served at room temperature. As an added bonus, who wouldn’t feel glamorous eating sashimi by the seaside? Spring for a few rolls from your favorite local spot, such as Goji Bistro, or order two Bento Boxes from Blue Fin Sushi. They include additional goodies such as gyoza or tempura.
A picnic sans dessert is practically unthinkable. For a treat that’s truly indulgent, pick up some goodies from Evolve Chocolate + Cafe. They offer truffles in a variety of creative flavors plus baked goods such as tarts, brownies, scones, and even a vegan “cake-ette” that’s substantial enough to share (although you probably won’t want to). Chocolate Necessities also crafts truly impressive chocolate goodies, and their boxes of chocolate roses are perfect for an evening of romance.
Photos by Cocoa Laney
With kids home for the summer, it can be hard to find ways to fill your days. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest is a cornucopia of outdoor activities, including picnicking! Lots of local parks have playgrounds and areas for families to gather, so once you find your spot, here are some suggestions to plan a menu that the whole family will enjoy.
Anyone who’s ever attended a cocktail party can attest that food just tastes better on a platter. Whether you’re serving up fruit tarts or tiny sandwiches, platters are a fun (and sometimes efficient) way to present a selection of snacks that are enjoyable for all ages. For pre-made platters that are sure to jazz up your picnic, head to Skagit’s The Store in Anacortes. Choose between the Croissant Sandwich Platter equipped with deli meat, cheese, and vegetables, or the Breakfast Pastry Medley.
Pizza with Pizzazz
Everyone loves pizza, but sometimes not everyone agrees on what kind of pizza to order. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants in Bellingham that offer customizable pies to suit everyone’s needs. For Neapolitan-style pizza, try Övn Wood Fired Pizza. Their signature pies like the Matterhorn (topped with potato, sausage, and rosemary) are nontraditional must-trys. Pickier eaters can sample the classic pepperoni or build their own. Plus, everything is available with gluten-free crust. Speaking of pizzazz, Pizza’zza in Fairhaven offers customizable pizzas, salads, and ice cream sandwiches. For an extra cheesy treat, grab some cheese balls from Coconut Kenny’s— they’re sure to be a hit with the whole family.
Lovely Lunch Boxes
Why bring any lunch box when you can get one full of locally-sourced goodies that will appeal to adults and kids alike? Acme Farms + Kitchen offers curated meal kits that can easily be prepared in advance, including a Kid’s Box with well-rounded (and often adorable) meals and snack foods. If you still can’t find a box you like (and there’s plenty to choose from) you can build your own. Those with dietary restrictions can delight in the vegetarian-safe, vegan, gluten/dairy-free, and low-carb options.
Hot and Hearty Helpings
If you’re not traveling far for your picnic, takeout is always a quick-and-tasty option for your family outing. If you’re struggling to find a place that offers menu items to fit the whole group, try Fiamma Burger. Meat lovers can grab a Fiamma Burger or a Fiamma Junior (for those with smaller mouths and appetites). Other kid’s menu items include grilled cheese, hot dogs, and fried chicken bites – all come with a handful of fries and a drink on the side. Equally delicious options can be found at The Edison in Bow! Go for takes on classic burgers like the Big E Cheeseburger and Bow Burger or try something daring like the Oyster Burger and Crab Cake Burger.
In the past, picnicking with dietary restrictions has been nearly impossible, but no longer! While it can still be hard to dine out as a vegan, there are plenty of local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and grocery stores that offer delicious vegan-friendly items to help you assemble a picnic basket perfectly suited to your needs.
Photo by Ryan Palmer
For those picnicking earlier in the day (or those who love breakfast for dinner), a stop at Bellingham’s SconeGrown is a must. Not only will you find sinfully-satisfying vegan delights like blueberry, chocolate chip, and golden mylk scones, you can also find nutritious and delicious savory bites. For something heartier, The Wild Oat Bakery & Cafe offers endless vegan options like the Cheezy Tofu Scrambled E’ggs and the Monster Burrito.
Food Truck Favorites
Hot and tasty food on the go can be found through Whatcom’s vibrant food truck scene. You can try a wide variety of vegan cuisine at New Public Food Truck, from vegan drumsticks and burgers to baja bowls and gyros. For additional plates, head to Sage Against the Machine and sample jackfruit wraps, vegan burgers, and loaded mac “no” cheese. You can also find their food at the vegan convenience store V GO’s Bellingham.
On a Roll
Ever tried vegan sushi? Now you can! Quantum Leaf offers a 100% vegan, gluten-free, and non-alcoholic menu. That menu includes four sushi options like the Spicy Jackfruit Roll and Miso Tofu Roll, plus poke bowls, soups, salads, and loads of mocktails. Lovers of Vietnamese cuisine should try take-out from Soy House, where many of the dishes are wheat-free and can be made vegetarian or vegan.
Photo by Anna Poutos
Delicious vegan options aren’t just limited to Bellingham– venture into Skagit County and you’ll find good options from Drink Your Veggies. This Anacortes juice shop not only has delicious vegan smoothies like Creamy Cold Brew and Lemon Ginger Cookie, but you can also find items like pot pie bakes, zucchini lasagna, and their popular falafel wrap.
Who says your next brunch date has to be at a restaurant? Picnics and brunches are fun on their own, but if you combine the two, the result is an event that’s nothing short of epic. Don’t forget to bring the mimosas!
As far as picnic spreads go, who says traditional charcuterie has to reign supreme? Instead of meat and cheese, try creating a board inspired by breakfast favorites– think fresh fruit, pastries, hard boiled eggs, strips of bacon, or whatever other breakfast goodie you can dream up. Yeah Baby Boards makes brunch boards to order, but you can also put one together yourself using goodies from local bakeries such as Mount Bakery or even JoJoe’s Doughnuts for plant-based sweets.
This option couldn’t be easier: Just bring your favorite toppings plus pre-toasted sourdough from a local bakery such as Avenue Bread. Toppings and spreads could be savory (think avocado, smoked salmon, or whipped goat cheese), sweet (jam, Nutella, nuts, berries), or any combo in between. Depending on your preference, you could even swap the sourdough for bagels from The Bagelry.
Yogurt parfaits are a great pick for picnics because they require minimal prep and, best of all, absolutely zero cooking. Depending on the size of your group, you could pre-assemble one at home or pack each ingredient separately– think yogurt, muesli, fruit, and jam– so guests can prepare their own. Whichever toppings you choose, the crunch factor is non-negotiable, and we recommend sourcing granola from Cascadian Farm. They offer a variety of irresistible flavors ranging from dark chocolate almond to coconut cashew.
Cookies for Breakfast
Yes, you read that right. Cookies can indeed be a breakfast food– as long as they’re made by Erin Baker’s. This locally-owned company specializes in Breakfast Cookies that are akin to a “portable bowl of oatmeal,” and in addition to being filling and wholesome, they’re as low-maintenance as breakfast can be. Flavor options range from double chocolate to oatmeal raisin, caramel apple, peanut butter chocolate, and more.
While food tends to be the star of the show, no picnic would be complete without refreshments to wash it down. From adult beverages to soft drinks, there are lots of libations to choose from when planning your perfect picnic.
Juice it Besides being chock full of vitamins, juice is both a sweet and refreshing addition to any meal. If you don’t want to settle for boxed, venture out to some local juice shops. Big Love Juice Bar + Kitchen offers fresh and organic cold-pressed juice meant to cleanse the system. Order off the menu or pick from ingredients like blueberries, cayenne, kale, and more. Head downtown to sample Refresh Juice Co. which on top of fresh-pressed juice offers smoothies, superfood lattes, and inventive toast.
Killer Kombucha If you like your drinks with a side of cultures, Kombucha Town has plentiful options for you. For classic kombucha, try the Cascadian Hops or Original Ginger. For a lighter flavor, sample one of their new live seltzers, available in grapefruit, cucumber, and ginger. You can also find unique flavors like blood orange, blueberry white, lavender, and green jasmine. For even more punch, head to Everson and try some Kine Kombucha. Kine Kombucha sells several varieties of hard kombucha including prickly pear, pineapple, dry-hopped, and peach iced tea.
Photo by Bella Coronado
Mixer Elixirs Looking to try something new and different? Make your picnic stand out with these local drinks that offer flavor and a boost for your system. Apple State Vinegar makes their own shrubs, which are vinegar based fruit preserves that are perfect for sparklers, cocktails, and mocktails. Flavors include ginger and Hawaiian chili, raspberry and citrus, and more. While you have to order ahead, the Hibiscus Sips Fizz from Calypso Kitchen can be used beautifully as a mixer or enjoyed straight up.
Wine Time What’s a picnic without wine? Whether it’s paired with cheese or drank by itself, finding the right bottle of wine can kick your picnic up a notch. Local wine aficionados are sure to have stopped by Seifert & Jones. This wine shop carries an almost overwhelming variety of hand-picked artisan wine sourced from Whatcom to worldwide. If you’re not an expert, don’t panic. The staff is highly experienced and can help guide you.
Photo by Cocoa Laney
Beers to Cheer About For beer lovers, Bellingham is your oyster when it comes to brew selection. While there are endless top-notch breweries in the area, one-stop-shoppers should visit Elizabeth Station. Perfect for picnics or parties, this pizza and beer market has everything from local cans, bottles, and kegs to ciders, wines, and ice cream.
Charcuterie Crash Course
Photo by Cocoa Laney
Seven Top Tips from Crystal Stewart of Yeah Baby Boards
Photo Courtesy of Yeah Baby Boards
If your summer goals include mastering the fine art of charcuterie, we’re here to bring you guidance from the expert herself: Crystal Stewart, owner of Yeah Baby Boards. Give these pointers a try at home, or visit Stewart at her new storefront in Ferndale this summer to see how the pros do it.
- Vary your ingredient selection. Having different options is a surefire way to make sure your whole party is pleased, because not everyone likes the same thing. Moreover, having a variety of flavors and textures keeps every bite interesting. “You don’t want to have all soft cheeses or all hard cheeses,” Stewart says. “It’s really cool to have some soft, some semi-soft [cheeses], and then also pick different milks, so you have a goat cheese, a cow’s cheese, or even something dairy-free.”
- Meat and cheese is only the beginning. Brie might be the star of the show, but don’t neglect the sauces! Stewart recommends having both sweet and savory options, such as jam and mustard, as well as something crunchy. “You want a pickle or some nuts or something to add dimension to your bites,” Stewart says. “It changes the flavor, and it makes it fun.”
- Shop local. The best places to pick up ingredients are the Community Food Co-op, the farmers market, or one of our many local farmsteads. “There’s so many amazing berry farms and cheese farms here,” Stewart says. “First of all, it tastes better. It’s fresher. And second of all, you’re helping your community.”
- Be deliberate with your arrangement. Making your board look pleasing to the eye is an exercise in creativity. When it comes to setting up a spread, Stewart notes that she starts by placing larger items first and going from there. “I start with my ramekins, crackers, and bread first,” she says. “Then I add my cheeses, then the meats, then the fruits and veggies, and then the nuts and dried fruit.”
- Get outside of your charcuterie comfort zone. “Try different cheeses that you’ve never tried before, and try different combinations,” Stewart says. “You’ll be surprised how even blue cheese can taste if you add a little sweet cherry jam. Just venture out, try different things, and mix things.” The absolute worst thing that can happen is you don’t like your bite– but on the other hand, you also might discover your new favorite combo.
- Don’t forget dessert. When it comes to sugar, why stop at jam alone? Pairing savory combos with sweeter notes like chocolates or red wine adds a whole new depth of complexity. “Sometimes we’ll even add on caramels, or just something to add a little bit more va-voom,” Stewart notes.
- Lastly, remember that charcuterie can go almost anywhere. “You don’t just have to sit in your backyard and eat it. Take it out, go to the park, get some vitamin D while we have it– and [charcuterie] really keeps well too,” Stewart says. “ I think it’s really important to get outside while we can in the summers here, and bring it with you.” 2015 Main St., Ferndale, 360.220.7345, yeahbabyboards.com
Simple, spontaneous picnics shouldn’t require much in terms of prep– food and good friends are all you really need. However, if you’re looking to invest in new accessories, keep things eco-friendly, or create a slightly more elegant atmosphere, these are the items you’ll want to pack.
Just the Basics
Photo Courtesy of King Dahl Creative
- First and foremost, you’ll need a blanket– preferably a Pendleton Picnic Blanket ($150) from Yeager’s Sporting Goods. These 100% wool blankets are made with a sturdy nylon back and roll-up design (plus carrying handles!) for easy transportation. 3101 Northwest Ave., Bellingham, 360.733.1080, yeagerssportinggoods.com
- Alternatively, Bellingham artisan Jessflegel Handmade crafts stunning One-of-a-Kind Quilts ($80-$700) in a variety of styles. Many are also locally inspired, including a throw modeled after a Boundary Bay Cedardust IPA can. Bellingham, jessflegelhandmade.com
- The Large Classic Tote ($185) by Moss Bags is perfect for transporting blankets, food, drinks, and… well, just about anything else you can think of. It’s handmade right here in Bellingham and uses high-quality leather that’s meant to last a lifetime. Bellingham, mossbags.com
- The Hobo Tote ($105) from Bellingham-based company Pack NW is as practical as it is stylish. It can be converted from a tote to a backpack, so if you have to hike to your destination, this is the bag you’ll want to bring. Bellingham, packnw.com
- If you’re bringing thoughtfully curated charcuterie, you’ll need something equally as artful to serve it on. King Dahl Creative makes wow-worthy Charcuterie Boards ($85-$160) from sustainably sourced wood, and they’re sure to make an impression on guests. Bellingham, kingdahlcreative.com
Photo Courtesy of the Wrapsody
- If you’re bringing paper napkins, choose a brand that’s made from recycled materials and doesn’t use plastic packaging. Alternatively, nix the paper and purchase some cute Tea Towels by Kimberbell Designs ($12) from Kori’s Fabric Creations instead. 3023 Chautauqua Ave., Bellingham, 360.671.7570, korisfabriccreations.com
- Bring utensils and dishes from home, or swap the plastic for eco-friendly and compostable Bamboo Partyware (available locally from Bellingham Wedding and Event Rentals). 1971 Midway Lane, Ste. E, Bellingham, 360.393.3654, bellinghameventrentals.com
- Places like Living Pantry sell Beeswax Food Wraps ($23) that work just the same (if not better) than their plastic counterparts. Best of all, they’ll be used for years to come instead of for just an afternoon. Locations vary, livingpantry.com
Set the Mood
Photo Courtesy of Jessflegel Handmade
- When it comes to mood lighting, candles are as romantic as it gets– but then again, nothing kills the vibe quite like accidental forest fires. For romance without the risk, bring some Flameless LED Candles (available everywhere from Walmart to Bed Bath & Beyond) to your twilight picnic.
- Fresh Flowers are also a great way to liven up any picnic spread. Consider sourcing yours from the farmers market or directly from local growers such as Full Moon Flower Farm. Bellingham, fullmoonflowerfarm.com
- If you’re picnicking somewhere private, jam out to a curated playlist with Portable Bluetooth Speakers. Music can liven up any occasion– but remember to be respectful of your surroundings. If there are other groups nearby, it’s best to save the tunes for another time.
Make the Moments Last
- Make your memories tactile by passing around a Polaroid Camera ($120-$140) instead of an iPhone– you can choose from different bodies and also pick up film at Quicksilver Photo Lab in Bellingham. Polaroid prints make adorable souvenirs for guests to take home! 1417 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham, 360.676.2725, quicksilverphotolab.com
- Don’t want to make the investment? Get a Single-Use Camera ($15-$20) from Quicksilver instead. You won’t be able to see your pictures until the party’s over, giving everyone involved a little something to look forward to. Quicksilver will also be able to provide you with high-quality digital files and prints. 1417 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham, 360.676.2725, quicksilverphotolab.com
- For a digital option that still feels old-school, give the Paper Shoot Camera ($120) a try. These ultra-slim gadgets are like a disposable camera’s cool older sibling in the sense that they’re simple, lightweight, and don’t have screens. Best of all, the photos they create are just as dreamy as those caught on film. papershootcamera.com
As far as entertainment goes, a deck of cards is a classic (and simple) choice for picnics. You can pick up a pack at Fairhaven Toy Garden, but cards are just the beginning: They have literally hundreds of other games that the whole family can enjoy. Options range from from board games to Bananagrams, marbles, and even a portable magnetic backgammon set (perfect for windy PNW afternoons!).
If you’re a more serious gamer, Cardhaven Games, Cosmic Games, and Pair O’ Dice Games will all make sure that your nerdiest needs are taken care of. For a uniquely local board game option, NW Corner Goods sells the Evergreen Bandana game, an adventure-style board game in which players face Washingtonian obstacles while racing across the state.
Frisbees and ball games are always a hit at picnics, and if you’re looking to buy outdoor entertainment locally, your first port of call should be Yeager’s Sporting Goods. Launching Success also has a variety of kid-friendly outdoor activities, from jump ropes to cornhole and even American Ninja Warrior-themed bouncy balls (yes, really).
If you’re more creative than competitive, pay a visit to Art and Happiness and pick up a set of brush-style paint pens. Paint pens are ideal for turning found items like rocks into take-home treasures. Dakota Art Store also has small canvases and a wide variety of supplies so you can channel your artsy side while enjoying an afternoon outdoors.
Etiquette: Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts
- Do remember sunscreen and bug spray. Nothing can ruin a lovely summer day quite like a painful sunburn. Picnics at dusk can also lead to unwanted pests, so if you are looking to avoid itchy bites or redness the day after, remember to apply sunscreen and bug spray in regular increments.
- Don’t leave anything behind. No one likes a litterbug! Other than forgetting prized possessions or precious leftovers, leaving food or other items behind is an inconvenience to the environment and those who visit after you. Pack reusable items when you can or bring something to carry your trash in if going to an area with no garbage cans.
- Do confirm food allergies/sensitivities. Avoid ending your picnic with a trip to the hospital– no one needs that memory (or medical bill). Whether you’re inviting one person or 20 to enjoy a picnic with you, it’s courteous and safer to verify any dietary restrictions or allergies when planning your menu.
- Don’t forget the little things. Depending on the remoteness of the picnic spot you pick, supplies may be necessary. For food, make sure to bring silverware, plates, cups, napkins, and a cutting board (if need be).
- Do check the location’s hours. Some public spots, particularly public parks, do have select hours. Avoid getting penned in or locked out by checking these in advance. Often it’s a dawn-dusk policy, but you can always verify through your city’s website.
- Don’t forget sanitizing products. If there’s one habit many people formed during the pandemic, it was to never forget your hand sanitizer. When eating outside, especially if you’re sharing with others, it’s important to bring something to sanitize your hands and utensils with.
- Do reserve a spot for large groups. For large parties like family reunions or birthdays, picnicking/barbecuing can be a great way to get together. However, if going to a public space, check to see if you can make reservations for larger picnic sites. Many of these areas will have select electricity and kitchens.
- Don’t disturb local wildlife. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll stumble upon some local animals during your picnic. It’s important not to provoke or feed the animals (particularly if there are signs indicating this). Doing so can put you and those around you in danger.
- Do find somewhere scenic. Half of the beauty of picnicking is being outside. In the Pacific Northwest, there are so many beautiful spots to choose from with views of the mountains, water, and more.
- Don’t rely on cellular service or Wi-Fi. Depending on where you go, you may not have good connectivity on your portable devices. If you’re doing any hiking prior to your picnic, bring a map and an emergency kit for good measure.
Swoon-Worthy Picnic Pop-Ups
Spotlight on Krystal Zigulis, Owner of Picnic Party Bellingham
Photos Courtesy of Picnic Party Bellingham
Picnics don’t have to be fancy, but if it’s extravagance you’re after, let’s be honest: Instagram-worthy events require a little (or a lot) of organization. That’s where Krystal Zigulis comes in. She’s the founder of Picnic Party Bellingham, a local business specializing in curated pop-up picnics (minus the prep).
“Our most popular [occasions] are anniversaries or date nights– and those are just two-person picnics,” Zigulis says. “We can do all the way up to 20 people. And we’ve done everything from elopements, proposals, to birthdays, bridal showers, baby showers, company parties… pretty much any occasion or celebration.”
Picnics can be held indoors or outdoors, with location options ranging from private residences to certain local parks. Picnic Party Bellingham supplies everything from a styled tablescape to details such as flowers, games, speakers, and seating. Customers can also choose add-ons such as bubble tents, which make it possible to dine outdoors despite dreary PNW weather. The best part? Zigulis even takes care of the clean-up.
If you don’t want to bring your own food, you can add a charcuterie board and/or dessert. Zigulis works with a variety of local businesses, including Yeah Baby Boards, Graze and Gather, All a Board, Mama’s Garden, Saltadena, Pure Bliss, and more.
While decorations and snacks are important, Zigulis says the most crucial element is something else entirely: good company. More than just a picnic, her events are an excuse to come together, dine, and celebrate loved ones in a setting that’s truly intimate. Sure, these gatherings might be small– but the memories they create are anything but.
No matter what kind of picnic you’re planning, choosing the right location is key. More extravagant picnickers will want to choose somewhere that’s easy to access (in addition to being scenic), whereas those who pack light can choose from mountains, islands, and other far-flung locales around the North Sound. From city parks to the wilderness and everything in between, our region offers a wealth of options to easygoing and adventurous picnickers alike.
*Travel times are in reference to Downtown Bellingham.
Access Rating: Easy
Whether you’re looking for a picnic with a view or a lively day out on the water, Bloedel Donovan Park is a great place to experience a fun-filled summer day, without traveling far. The park is located in the Silver Beach neighborhood. When you get there you’ll find public bathrooms, BBQ grills, picnic tables, ample parking, outdoor courts, a boat launch, a playground, and an off-leash dog area.
Travel Time: 10 minute drive
Access: Open to public
Big Rock Garden Park
For a more intimate picnic experience, Big Rock Garden Park offers a serene escape with lots of natural beauty. The garden sits on 2.5 acres just above Lake Whatcom and is home to more than 37 pieces of outdoor sculpture by both local and international artists. Flower lovers can delight in seasonal finds like rhododendrons, azaleas, and more than 100 varieties of maple trees. While there are no picnic tables, you can find a public restroom, a drinking fountain, numerous trails, and a beautiful gazebo.
Travel Time: 15 minute drive
Access: Open to public
Larrabee State Park
Larrabee State Park is known for both its sweeping views of the San Juan Islands and Samish Bay as well as the fishing opportunities offered by its freshwater lake access. Call in advance to reserve one of two large picnic shelters or grab one of the 45 uncovered picnic areas. Other sights could include birds, wildlife, clam diggers, or trains.
Travel Time: 15 minute drive
Pet-Friendly: Yes, but not in swimming areas
Access: Day pass or Discover Pass
Birch Bay State Park
If you’re looking to feel secluded (while still close to civilization), Birch Bay State Park offers the best of both worlds. Situated just between Bellingham and Blaine, this park doubles as a campground, hiking and boating destination, and picnic oasis. For big family picnics, call to reserve one of the larger picnic shelters (one of which comes with a kitchen and electricity). Otherwise, take your pick from one of the 120 uncovered picnic shelters. Forget some key picnic food items? You can find two food trucks parked nearby as well as numerous other amenities and opportunities in the park’s 600+ acres.
Travel Time: 30 minute drive
Pet-Friendly: Yes, but not in swimming areas
Access: Day pass or Discover Pass
Pioneer Park – La Conner
While farther out, Pioneer Park is great for those looking for an intimate gathering at a smaller location. Pioneer Park is connected to multiple trails, perfect for an after-picnic hike. However, the actual picnic sites are not far from the parking entrance. Next to an outdoor performance space, you’ll find a large picnic shelter alongside a public restroom and multiple picnic tables. From there, you have access to picturesque viewpoints, trails, bridges, and more.
Travel Time: 40 minute drive
Access: Open to public
Bonus suggestions: Boulevard Park, Pioneer Park (Ferndale), Lake Padden, Zuanich Point Park, Marine Park, Bay View State Park, Whatcom Falls, Peace Arch Park
Access Rating: Moderate
Teddy Bear Cove
Teddy Bear Cove is the best of both worlds: tranquil and wild, yet still centrally located. Getting there requires a very short hike with a few steep switchbacks; however, the trail is still accessible enough to be considered family-friendly. Descending to the beach straight from Chuckanut Drive is the most straightforward way to get here, but for a slightly longer jaunt (1.8 miles round-trip), begin your descent to the beach at the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead and take the Hemlock and Interurban trails. While Teddy Bear Cove doesn’t offer amenities, its natural beauty makes it an ideal pick for a lazy lunch or sunset watching on a summer’s day.
Travel Time: 10 minute drive
Access: Day pass or Discover Pass
Rasar State Park
Located between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete along the crystal-blue Skagit River, Rasar State Park is certifiably off the beaten path– but well worth the visit. You’ll have no problem finding a secluded spot amid its 180 acres (plus 4,000 feet of shoreline), and the park also offers a designated picnic area, trails, restrooms, plus campgrounds and cabins available for reservation.
Travel Time: 50 minute drive
Access: Day Pass or Discover Pass
Lighthouse Marine Park
Though still technically in Whatcom County, Lighthouse Marine Park is located on the tiny peninsula of Point Roberts. Getting there is not physically strenuous, but it does require crossing the Canadian border (thankfully COVID-19 testing requirements have recently been lifted!). Why make the trek? For starters, it’s one of the best spots to catch glimpses of orcas in the summer months, and the remote shoreline is as picturesque as it gets. The park also has amenities such as campgrounds, picnic areas (including a picnic shelter rental), relaxing trails, and even a playground.
Travel Time: 1 hour drive
Access: Open to public
Access Rating: Master
Pine and Cedar Lakes
If you’d like to pair your picnic with a thigh-burning workout, Pine and Cedar Lakes are the destinations for you. The lakes themselves are lovely, but by some cruel trick of nature, the hikes there and back both manage to feel uphill. Of course, that challenging approach makes the payoff all the sweeter– but (like all three locations in this section) you’re not going to want to bring anything more than the essentials.
Travel Time: 10 minute drive + 2 hour round-trip hike
Access: Day pass or Discover Pass
Hope Island Marine State Park
You’ll find Hope Island situated along Skagit Bay just between Whidbey Island and La Conner. Visiting requires quite a bit of planning: The only way to reach Hope Island is via kayak or boat, so it’s entirely possible that you’ll get the island all to yourself. Once ashore, stay for an afternoon or pitch a tent at one of the island’s several campsites (lovingly described as “primitive” by the Washington State Park Department’s website). Important note: Hope Island is technically a nature preserve, so avoid venturing off designated trails!
Travel Time: 1 hour drive + short kayak/boat trip
Access: Open to the public
The views at the top of this classic hike are indescribably good– as long as you’re willing to work for them. While sharing a meal beneath a glacier might be a magical experience, Heliotrope isn’t the place to go if you’re looking to get fancy with your picnic. Instead, pack your backpack with just the basics, respect the mountain, and be prepared for a few technical river crossings.
Travel Time: 1 hour drive + 3 hour round-trip hike
Access: Recreation pass