Throw a hiking boot down any one of Bellingham’s commercial thoroughfares and you’re just as likely to land it in front of an outdoor sporting goods shop as you are in front of some passerby who, just for a second, might think “Hey, that isn’t mine, is it?”
Yep, this is a town that is bonkers for bikes, skis, kayaks, and any other means of conveyance that will get them out into the pristine water, trails and slopes that surround their neighborhoods.
The town is a microcosm of all the best that Western Washington has to offer, with beautifully restored historic buildings, extraordinary museums, and quirky boutiques and creative cafés.
It is also the last major outpost for Canada-bound travelers looking to cross at Blaine or Sumas and hearty travelers planning to take the rugged Alaska Marine Highway ferry.
Getting to Bellingham
By Ferry: The Bellingham Cruise Terminal, located three blocks downhill from Fairhaven, is where you can catch ferries to the San Juans, Victoria, and Alaska. The terminal has reservation and ticketing booths for the Alaska Marine Highway (360/676-8445 or 800/642-0066, www.state.ak.us/ferry), which provides passenger and vehicle ferry service to Southeast Alaska destinations. Also here are a gift shop, storage lockers, and a fine little seafood café.
Victoria-San Juan Cruises (355 Harris Ave., 360/738-8099 or 800/443-4552, www.whales.com) has all-day cruises from Bellingham to Victoria and back, with time around the San Juan Islands. You’ll sail aboard the Victoria Star II, a 100-passenger boat. The cost—including a seafood dinner—is $89 for adults, $84 for seniors, or $45 for kids. Tours are offered late May to mid-October.
Also inside the ferry terminal is the San Juan Island Commuter (360/734-8180 or 888/734-8180, www.islandcommuter.com, $35 adults, $18 kids, $5 bikes, $20 kayaks), which has daily seasonal service (mid-May through September) to Rosario Resort on Orcas Island or Friday Harbor on San Juan Island;. It operates two boats along the route and also has whale-watching trips out of Friday Harbor.
San Juan Island Shuttle Express (360/671-1137 or 888/373-8522, www.island-adventures.com, $33 adults, $29 seniors, $27 students round-trip, $5 bikes) operates a passenger ferry connecting Bellingham with Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Islands. Add a whale-watching trip out of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island for $25 more. The ferry runs daily late May–September. A second Shuttle Express boat also offers three-hour whale-watching cruises from Bellingham for $65 adults, $55 students.
By Train: Amtrak (800/872-7245, www.amtrak.com) provides daily train connections on its modern Cascades train north to Vancouver, B.C., and south to Mount Vernon, Everett, Edmonds, and Seattle. It stops at the Fairhaven depot, just a short walk from the ferry terminal.
By Air: Allegiant Air (702/505-8888, www.allegiantair.com), Horizon Air (800/547-9308, www.horizonair.com), and United Express (800/241-6522, www.ual.com) all operate flights out of Bellingham International Airport (www.portofbellingham.com/bellingham_airport_home.php) to Seattle.
If you’re flying into Sea-Tac Airport and can’t make good connections, Airporter Shuttle (360/380-8800 or 866/235-5247, www.airporter.com) runs daily van service to Bellingham. Similarly, Quick Shuttle (604/940-4428 or 800/665-2122, www.quickcoach.com) runs service to Vancouver, British Columbia.
By Bus: Locally, Whatcom Transit (360/676-7433, www.ridewta.com) provides bus service Monday–Saturday to Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Blaine, and the Lummi Reservation. Greyhound (360/733-5251 or 800/231-2222, www.greyhound.com) has nationwide bus connections from the Amtrak depot in Fairhaven.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition