I-5. Exit 260. Lummi Island. Someday…someday.

That was it. I had driven past that exit one too many times. I had read too many articles since 2011 about the Willows Inn and master chef Blaine Wetzel’s culinary magic. I had heard far too many “you MUST go, guarantee you’ll love it” comments from friends who had experienced the aforementioned magic. No more waiting. Time to go.

Approachable and warm. Elegant and cozy. Stylish and unpretentious. All words that I had heard used to describe the dining experience at the Willows Inn. I can safely add another…magical.

You’re doing yourself a disservice if you only go to experience dinner at the Willows Inn. Lummi Island is meant to be an adventure. One that opens your eyes, ears and taste buds to a deeper understanding of why Blaine decided to return to the PNW and put down roots on this special rock instead of zipping away to Seattle to do battle with the other local culinary kings.

It starts the moment you squeeze on the ferry (22 cars max, best to take a pack and bike on if you can) and feel the cool sea breeze hitting your face as you take a quick 6-minute jaunt over to Lummi. As you exit the ferry, take a deep breath and pause. Get ready to slow down life and embrace minimalism (locals will say the pace of life here is like Lopez…but slower). Pick a direction and go as your options for exploration are limited to a total of 9 square miles. You’ll quickly realize that it’s the size of Lummi that makes this place so damn special.

Beautiful forested hikes with jaw-dropping views of the San Juan Islands. Makeshift artist galleries set next to picturesque farms. Muffled sounds of the tide smoothing rocks on driftwood-strewn beaches. Empty roads scattered with local residents offering a a quick wave on their routine afternoon stroll. Time is meant to tick by and minutes enjoyed in this idyllic setting. You should treat it no other way.