Once upon a time, when Canada and the United States were settling on where the borders should be, they determined that to make things easier for everyone that the 49th parallel should just be used. It sounded like a good idea and there were a few exceptions made, like Victoria Island, where it made more sense to just cede the territory to the other.
What no one realized at the time, however was that Point Roberts existed. So the Canada/US border runs up to the waters around Victoria Island and then swoops through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but just before that happens you have this little parcel of land that sits 22 miles south of Vancouver, BC. It’s home to about 1300 people and there are 2,000 homes… but more than half of them are owned by Canadians.
Why Go to Point Roberts?
For Canadians, that answer is pretty easy. Gasoline is cheaper, you can often avoid all the taxes for shipments by having an American PO Box over the border, and you can order a hamburger or steak that’s medium rare. You read that right! Health codes in British Colombia make it nearly impossible to get your cow cooked peak instead of crispy.
For Americans over there, well, the answer is a bit more complicated. There’s nice beaches, certainly, and there’s pretty low crime. There’s no high school, however, so you’re either going to be homeschooled or go around through Canada to come into Bellingham to go to school, which means you cross the international border 4 times per day. There’s no doctors, dentists, or healthcare service of just about any kind either, which means going to Bellingham for care instead of Vancouver because those pesky American health insurance plans don’t like Canadians.
What Is There To See and Do?
So the first thing on your list to do in Point Roberts is to grab a boat and go whale watching. The local Orca pods tend to head up that way during the Spring/Summer months, so you’ve got a great opportunity to see a wild Shamu most days. There’s also an extensive collection of Bald Eagles that call this tiny peninsula home, so birdwatching is a common pastime. You can camp out by the lighthouse if you want and if you own a horse, you’re welcome to take that horse out to the beach.
That’s right – you can’t hire a horse, you can’t rent a horse, but you can buy your own horse and board it at Point Roberts.
Most people tend to choose the beach option when visiting, however, and it’s interesting because the four public beaches are at the exact four corners of the peninsula like if you were playing corner Bingo. They’re rough Northwest beaches that have more rocks than they do sand, but it’s a good way to get out, take a hike, and have your picture taken in two countries at the same time without a customs guard putting you into handcuffs.
This unusual slice of Americana offers a unique, slightly bizarre look at what life in the Pacific Northwest is like. It may not be a big slice of land… but Point Roberts does offer a lot of hospitality.