Permanent Vacation

Property Watch: Off-Grid on Eliza Island

This self-sufficient home is isolated from everything—including cars.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd June 30, 2021

Life on Eliza Island includes no cars, no tourists, and few neighbors. Located in Bellingham Bay just southeast of Lummi Island, this 160-acre community has no ferry service or municipal power, and only a few people live here full-time—and with no vacation rentals allowed, it’s rare to run into strangers. This three-bedroom beach house has plenty of off-grid amenities for either year-round living or worry-free vacationing. The home sits on no-bank waterfront, meaning you can run straight from the front door into the waves.

Inside, it has a kind of polished cabin aesthetic, with exposed-grain tongue-in-groove walls, hickory and slate flooring, and beadboard ceilings. The living room features a cozy propane stove and an up-close view of the ocean. An open staircase winds up one corner, lining a mudroom area with built-in shelving.

The bottom floor is also home to two of the three bedrooms with the same wall and floor treatments, an open kitchen, and two large decks—one looking out over the water, and another wrapping around the side, perfect for gathering and grilling.

Upstairs, a thoughtfully designed master suite includes its own propane fireplace nestled in a wall of built-ins. The bedroom faces the ocean, with nothing between the home and the water. Get even closer on the private balcony, or take in those same sights from a soaking tub in the en-suite bath.

The home gets its electricity from a solar power inverter and a generator, and its water from a reverse-osmosis system shared with the rest of the island. The only motor vehicles belong to the island’s caretakers—everybody else gets around by foot, bike, or golf cart.

Eliza Island spent time in the late 1800s as a massive chicken farm owned by former Illinois state senator Eugene Canfield. An 1890 issue of the Washington Standard reported that about 9,000 chickens lived there (with 12,000 more on the way), although a later report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer would call the effort a failure—the chickens, who didn’t like laying there too much in the first place, were often whisked away by pirates. After struggling to make the farm profitable, Canfield converted the second floor of a coop into a popular dance hall, which perhaps contributed to the general malcontent of the remaining chickens below.

The next owner of the island, according to the P-I, converted it to a potato farm, although it wasn’t particularly successful either. Despite a reported haunting near the water tank and lighthouse, a fishing company moved in next, building facilities to repair ships and nets. After fishing traps were outlawed in 1934, the U.S. Navy used it for bombing practice, according to a 1960 Seattle Times report. A local businessman bought it in 1954 as a vacation home, and it wouldn’t be divided up into private lots until 1961, when ads in various summer issues of the Times started advertising the island as “a perfect place to get away from it all.”

Some 60 years later, Eliza is still very much away from it all—residents and vacationers can only access the island by boat or plane, and typically have to go to Bellingham or Anacortes for supply runs. While the resident caretakers handle most of the island chores, volunteers pitch in too.

Listing Fast Facts

42 Eliza Island
Size: 1,777 square feet/.66 acres, 3 bedroom/2 bath
List Date: 6/1/2021
List Price: $800,000, $84/mo HOA
Listing Agents:
Brandi Coplen, Windermere

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