If you find yourself driving from Washington to British Columbia, why cross the border into Canada just yet? Or if you’re coming from the opposite direction, don’t simply breeze through customs on your way south, take a breather and explore all that Bellingham, Washington has to offer.
At about 20 miles south of the Canadian border and just about 100,000 residents, Bellingham exudes small-town friendliness with the picturesque coastal views of the north end of Puget Sound. The town has a relaxed and groovy downtown area, and if you are into fine dining, there are restaurants along the waterfront that cater to your culinary tastes (read: seafood!)
Bellingham Bay marks the northern beginning of the vast waterway that is Puget Sound. The intricate kaleidoscope of waterways and islands that make up the western part of Washington State doesn’t hold back in the way incredible natural beauty. Here are a few things to do in and around Bellingham.
What to do in Bellingham, Washington
Go for a stroll along South Bay Trail. Boulevard Park is a place to unwind and exit your car for a while. Stretch your legs and get some coffee at Woods Coffee, right in the park. There are beaches to enjoy, food concessions and a playground for the kiddos. Part of the boardwalk even goes over the water for even better coastal views. Another great park to visit is Whatcom Falls Park, with hiking trails and a stone bridge leading you over the creek and falls. There is also a Whatcom Museum.
Take a drive down Highway 11. It hugs Bellingham Bay and as you move south, the tree-lined splendor of the San Juan Islands across the water will encourage a stop or two for pictures. On the other side of the highway is Chuckanut Mountain, great for hiking and killer views of the area. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped Olympic Mountain range to the west.
If you have time for lunch or dinner, stop at Chuckanut Brewery, a brewhouse, and pub serving fine, rotating brews made from fresh, Northwest hops and classic pub fare that is as tasty as it is lovingly presented. Pro tip: Try the beer flight – the perfect way to sample and find out what kind of beer lover you are (if you don’t know already!)
For a bit of history, Mt. Baker Theatre has been around since 1927. Its exterior tower will entice you to take a closer look, and once inside, the classically lush lobby will keep you in for a time. This was one of the premier places in the Pacific Northwest for silent films and grand vaudeville back in the day. Today it holds many different entertainment options, from popular music like Pearl Jam to international dance troupes.
Head toward the Alaska Ferry Terminal, and you will run smack dab into the Fairhaven Historic District. Here you will find art galleries, street art, and eclectic shops. As far as museums go, Bellingham is no stranger to curating the best of industrial history in the way of one of the largest Tesla coils in the U.S. This is literally a hair-raising experience!
While you are at the Washington side of the Canadian border, in the tiny town of Blaine (the official US-Canadian border town) be sure to stop at Peace Arch Park. The Peach Arch International monument is here and is a symbol of goodwill among two nations. But only half of the complete arch resides here. You guessed it, the other half lives just across the border in its sister park, Peach Arch Provincial Park. It is also a symbol of the cooperation of both nations keeping our borders safe.
If you are staying in Bellingham for more than a day or two, a great day trip from town is to Mt. Baker. It’s about an hour and a half drive away, with so many hiking and skiing activities befitting of any great mountain. You could easily spend a day simply exploring this area.
A Pacific Northwest Road Trip Treasure
I hope that if you find yourself passing through Bellingham, Washington that you will at least take a small respite either to or from crossing the border and enjoy the quintessential small-town, Pacific Northwest experience. Road trips along the Pacific Coast are simply the best!
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