Bellingham is still a bit of a secret, but not for long. It’s been popping up on all sorts of “best of” lists, from college towns to places to retire. Seattleites should take a day or two to see what all the fuss is about. A detour off Interstate 5 will put road trippers on renowned Chuckanut Drive, which curves along lush forests and past sound views. Stop at Taylor Shellfish’s oyster bar in Bow for some fresh oysters on the waterfront, then continue to the end of the road, in Bellingham’s charming Fairhaven neighborhood. There, you can rent a paddleboard, kayak or rowboat at the Community Boating Center for an outing on Bellingham Bay, or if you prefer land adventures, rent bikes at Fairhaven Bicycles. And exploring the shops in this historic neighborhood is a must, starting with Village Books, one of the best independent bookstores in the state, where the focus is on local, from authors to Pacific Northwest–themed gifts, toys and more. Upstairs, the Evolve Chocolate and Cafe serves fantastic healthy fare, made from scratch, along with artisan chocolate treats—we recommend indulging in the sipping chocolate.
Take the time to detour to Taylor Shellfish to enjoy oysters on the beach. Photo courtesy of Taylor Shellfish
If you’re in town on a Saturday, head to the downtown area (about 2 miles from Fairhaven) for a truly standout farmers market, even by Northwest standards. Don’t miss bread from Breadfarm, the famed bakery in Edison (this would be a good place to stop on Chuckanut Drive, especially if you’re hitting Taylor’s oyster bar), along with many other edible treats, plus an impressive selection of high-quality handmade jewelry and crafts to browse. From the market, walk over to the Whatcom Museum for some history and fine arts, or the—dare we say it?—electrifying Spark Museum of Electrical Invention. After that, it’s definitely time to hit one of the many brew pubs in B’ham. Boundary Bay Brewery and Aslan Brewing Company are probably the most well-known, but there are lots more to sample. We recommend the beer garden at the Twin Sisters Brewing Company, which also has a great menu.
Make a weekend of it with a stay at the Fairhaven Village Inn. In the morning, before heading back to Seattle, you can take a hike on one of the great trails within 30 minutes of Bellingham, such as Oyster Dome, where you’ll be rewarded with a great view of Bellingham Bay from the summit.
TO GET THERE
Bellingham is about an hour-and-a-half drive north of Seattle on I-5, when traffic cooperates. But spare an extra 20 minutes to cruise the famous Chuckanut Drive for scenic views, making some pit stops for delicious eats.
Why we like it: This waterfront college town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, but it also boasts some seriously charming neighborhoods. It’s become a hub for craft beer fans, cyclists and those looking for a thriving arts community.
Main attractions: Go for the outdoor fun, craft beer, bougie boutiques and great food.
Don’t miss: Stop by the Saturday farmers market, which runs through the end of October, to nosh on ready-to-eat treats or pick up seasonal produce to take home.