Consistently selected by national publications as the "Best Place to Visit," Bellingham claims a lush and varied history that is reflected in its architecture and geographic layout. Located 89 miles north of Seattle and 20 minutes from the Canadian border, Bellingham features a colorful downtown, signature neighborhoods, art & culture and historic districts.
Located at the north end of Chuckanut Drive is Historic Fairhaven District, the southernmost, and most historic of the four towns that became Bellingham. Fairhaven is noted for its colorful, 19th century history, which includes an 1880s developer and ex-rum-runner named "Dirty Dan." With hopes of being the next Chicago, Fairhaven bustled with hotels, taverns, an opera house, concert garden, restaurants and brothels. The boom, driven initially by demand for lumber, coal and fish, was further fueled by the rumor that Fairhaven was to become the western terminus of the second northern transcontinental railroad. Today, several red brick relics of Fairhaven's era survive in the district's six square-blocks and are home to a variety of unique restaurants, pubs, art galleries, antique shops, bookstores, boutique hotel and inn and spa. The new Fairhaven on the Green features a grass area surrounded by a grape-covered pergola (arbor) with a wire-glass roof, surrounding fountains, plaques and flowers, a performance stage for concerts and an outdoor movie wall. Sidewalk tombstone markers and brass plaques on buildings tell wild tales of Fairhaven's past. The Fairhaven Station and Bellingham Cruise Terminal have train, bus and ferry connections to Alaska, Canada, Seattle, and the San Juan Islands.
The growing Bellingham waterfront features an eclectic mix of restaurants, high-end shops, parks, foot trails, promenades, state-of-the-art harbor, whale watching charters and luxury lodging.
The Bellingham Farmers Market provides outlets for produce, flowers, cheese, crafts, and more. Operation: Saturdays in Downtown Bellingham through October on Railroad Avenue and Chestnut. Wednesdays in Historic Fairhaven from June through September.
The Whatcom Museum of History and Art is housed in the striking Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect Street with annexes a block away. Besides art and history, there is an extensive display of clocks and watches and changing exhibits.
The Mount Baker Theatre presents living history. Opened in 1927 as one of the last vaudeville palaces on the West Coast, it has been restored and now is both architectural heritage and a vital component of live theater in Bellingham � hosting over 100 live performances each year.
Before heading east toward Mt. Baker, consider heading a bit farther north on I'5 to the town of Blaine. Beautifully framed by the North Cascades to the east and the Semiahmoo Bay and Georgia Strait to the west, it is the busiest border crossing point between B.C. and Washington.
Spanning the U.S.-Canadian border is Peace Arch State Park, home to the 72-foot Peace Arch that symbolizes nearly two centuries of peace between the two countries. The city of Vancouver, B.C., is less than an hour's drive north of here.
Peace Arch can also be viewed from Semiahmoo Resort, located on the Semiahmoo Spit. This world-class 198-room resort features a marina, pool, spa, fitness center, restaurants and championship golf courses. Semiahmoo Spit is home to Semiahmoo Park which features over 300 acres of tideland and approximately 1.5 miles of level pathways ideal for recreational activities such as walking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, clamming, sand sculpting, kite flying and picnicking.
Birch Bay, located west of I-5 exit 270 on your way to Semiahmoo Resort, features Birch Bay State Park, an 18-hole golf course, mini golf, go-karts, bicycle rentals, waterslide park and crescent-shaped bay with miles of beach popular for clam digging.
The biggest mountain north of Mt. Rainier in the North Cascades is Mt. Baker, a volcano that steams but hasn't erupted since the 19th century. Mt. Baker currently holds the world-record for the most annual snowfall and averages more than 600 inches of snowfall each year - drawing thousands of skiers and snowboarders from both Canada and the United States. A trip up the Mt. Baker Highway is breathtaking and filled with many sights along the way, including floral gardens, fish hatcheries & farms. Stop at Mt. Baker Vineyards for touring and wine tasting...then make your way to Nooksack Falls and feel the power as the fall plummets 100 feet down before you! Continue up the highway to Mt. Shuksan, the most photographed peak in the world! The last 24 miles of the Mt. Baker Hwy (Hwy 542) is a National Forest Scenic Byway. It passes the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, which is open during the summer, and ends at Artist Point.
The North Cascade Loop includes the North Cascades Hwy (Hwy 20) and Hwy 2 passing from east to west over the mountains and Hwy 97 connecting them on the east side. On the west side, the quickest way to close the loop is to use I'5 between Everett and Burlington. The completely scenic version of the loop includes Whidbey Island.
Located northeast of Bellingham on Highway 539, Lynden clings passionately to its Dutch roots. Lynden is Washington State's largest Dutch settlements, with approximately 70 percent of its residents of Dutch ancestry, as well as the heart of Whatcom County's farmland. Lynden is the Raspberry Capital of the World harvesting over 50 million pounds of raspberries each year. Upon reaching the four-block span of Front Street, known as Dutch Old Town, visitors are greeted by a 72-foot tall working windmill that towers over the street. Inside, it houses a gift shop, restaurant and one wing of the Dutch Village Inn. A canal meanders through the Dutch Village Mall featuring eighteen shops specializing in Dutch lace, wooden shoes, delftware and other imports. Waitresses in Front Street restaurants bustle about in native dress. Menu selections are typically Dutch and Dutch bakeries abound. Reserve at least an hour to tour the Lynden Pioneer Museum with its premier collection of 40 antique buggies and its two-story replica of Lynden at the century's turn. New to Lynden is Samson Estates Winery, which offers wine-tasting tours.
The - forgotten island of the San Juans, = Lummi Island is a refuge of tranquility. Nine miles long and about two miles wide, the mountainous island lies across the mouth of Bellingham Bay and features sweeping views of the San Juan Islands. The island is a popular day trip for bicycling, scenic drives and secluded stays at area bed and breakfasts.
Ferndale is a short 10 miles north of Bellingham. Framed by the Nooksack River, popular destinations include Hovander & Pioneer Park, Lake Terrell Wildlife and the boardwalks of Tennant Lake.
Getting to Point Roberts provides a truly unique travel experience. To get there, one has to pass through customs, go west to Tsawwassen, B.C., then cross the border again. The waters of Boundary Bay and the Strait of Georgia surround this 5-mile peninsula where beachcombing and whale-watching at Lighthouse Marine Park are visitor favorites. Point Roberts also features a 1,000-berth marina and 18-hole golf course.
Call 1-800-487-2032 or visit www.bellingham.org to order a FREE Bellingham/Whatcom County VISITOR PACKET.
(Courtesy Bellingham-Whatcom County Visitors Bureau 2006)