For many travelers, Bellingham is simply the last stop in the country as you make your way to the Canadian border. But over the last few years, this coastal town has transformed to become one of the most up-and-coming cities in Washington State, thanks to its spectacular landscapes, thriving art scene, and award-winning gastronomy. There are so many things to do in Bellingham that it’s hard to decide exactly how to spend your time.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking to hit the slopes of Mount Baker or a self-described foodie on a mission to taste the best local produce in the state, Bellingham is guaranteed to have something to keep you entertained.
And if you’re in town just to soak in the laid-back vibes and small-town charm of the Pacific Northwest – well, Bellingham is also the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway from Seattle.
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What to Do in Bellingham
Drive Chuckanut Drive
Chuckanut Drive is arguably one of the most scenic routes in Washington State and one of the best things to do in Bellingham. This 24-mile journey meanders through cliffs, tulip fields, and coastal areas while boasting some of the best views of the Pacific Northwest. You can make the drive if you’re coming from Seattle, or you can simply visit some of the following stops on a day trip.
Coming from Seattle, your first major stop along Chuckanut Drive will be Edison, a small town with delicious eats (try Mariposa Taqueria, Breadfarm, or Tweets Cafe). Then make your way to Bow to for an afternoon pick-me-up at Rhododendron Cafe or grab snacks for the road at Samish Cheese Co. You’ll also find Taylor Shellfish Farms, one of Washington’s best restaurants for fresh, sustainably-caught oysters.
Pigeon Point is your next stop, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the Samish Bay from the rugged, coastal cape. A few miles north is Dogfish Point, a scenic beach that can be quite popular with locals during the warmer months.
As you continue towards Bellingham, you’ll reach Larrabee State Park, one of the best places in Bellingham for fishing, hiking, and cycling. Spend a few hours lounging in the sun at Clayton Beach or hiking to the spectacular Fragrance Lake.
From there, head to Clark’s Point to witness something unique – a railroad track snaking through the middle of the ocean! Finally, end your journey in Fairhaven, a historic town with a beautiful waterfront park (which is perfect for a late afternoon stroll!)
Hiking Near Bellingham
Hikers are spoiled for choice when it comes to nature trails in Bellingham. The Oyster Dome Trail is one of the more popular routes for visitors. This 7.9-mile trek takes you through the lush forest of Blanchard Mountain before dropping you a scenic viewpoint over the bay.
Larrabee State Park is also home to several outdoor trails, including the moderate Fragrance Lake Trail that loops around its namesake body of water. You’ll also find the leisurely Clayton Beach Trail, which takes you to the rocky coastline along the edge of the park.
Just two miles from downtown Bellingham is Whatcom Falls Park, a 241-acre with waterfalls, ponds, and miles of hiking trails (like the scenic Whatcom Creek Trail). And don’t forget to visit the iconic Whatcom Falls on your way out.
Day Trip to Lummi Island
The scenic ferry ride from Bellingham to Lummi Island is just one of the reasons to make this day trip during your visit. In addition to the laid-back island vibes, Lummi Island also has a charming town center – although don’t expect to find anything more than a general store, a post office, a small library, and a schoolhouse.
There are also two restaurants on the island, one of which is considered to be one of the best fine-dining establishments in the entire state. With an award-winning head chef and a detectable creative prix fixe menu, the Willows Inn is a must-eat for any foodies traveling through.
Taste Some Local Cider
As the country’s largest producer of apples, Washington is home to numerous orchards and farms. But besides growing apples for eating, the area is also known for producing freshly-pressed apple cider!
The Bellingham Cider Company has over 20 different ciders on tap at all times, all produced in small batches right in the building. They also have a gourmet restaurant, bar, and outside deck that overlooks the Whatcom Creek Waterway.
As one of the newest cider producers in the scene, Lost Giants Cider has a taproom where you can sample both their home-brewed and local cider flavors.
Thousand Acre Cider in downtown Bellingham also has an expansive list of 24 rotating ciders on tap, along with over 200 different types of bottled ciders in their shop.
It’s also worth popping by Honey Moon Alley Bar & Cider, an adorable candle-lit bar and restaurant which serves handcrafted cider and mead.
The Bellingham Farmers Market
From homemade jellies and organic cheeses to crafted pottery and natural lip balms, the Bellingham Farmers Market is your one-stop-shop for locally sourced goodies. For almost 30 years, the market has showcased Bellingham’s finest, with over 100 stalls and booths selling practically everything under the sun.
And if staring at delectable produce and snacks all day makes you hungry, then you’ll be happy to know that there’s a wide range of food vendors to choose from too. Meat pies, shaved ice, wood-fired pizzas, and Chinese dumplings are just a few of the vendors you might stumble across during your visit.
Although the main market occurs on Saturdays at Depot Market Square, they also host a slimmed-down market on the historic waterfront on Wednesdays. It’s best to check their website to see exactly which booths will be where during your visit.
Bellewood Farm and Distillery
Bellewood Farm and Distillery is more than just your typical apple orchard (although they do have over 21,000 different apple trees on their property). They also have a gift shop, gourmet cafe, and even their very own distillery on site.
In fact, Bellewood was the first farm-to-bottle distillery, which means they owned the entire process from growing the apples to processing them for consumption. Their award-winning spirits include brandy, gin, and vodka – all of which you can try right in their tasting room. And they’re all made from apples that are grown right there on the orchard!
For underage or non-drinking guests, Bellewood also allows you to pick your own apples right off the trees. Their UPICK experience is only open seasonally, although it’s still one of the coolest things to do in Bellingham.
Day Trip to Bow and Edison
If you’re itching to hit the road for a day trip, then consider visiting the charming towns of Bow and Edison. They sit on the southern end of Chuckanut Drive (so you’ll likely pass them if you’re headed that way to or from Seattle) and cater specifically to foodies.
Stop by Tweets Cafe for lunch, and sample their ever-changing menu made from locally sourced ingredients and produce. Or pick up something to go from Slough Food. It feels more like a cafe in Europe than in small-town Washington, with gourmet sausages, imported cheese, and handmade sandwiches.
If you’re looking for something on the carb-ier side, then head to Breadfarm for freshly baked pastries and baguettes. Once five o’clock rolls around, you can stop by the Terramar Brewstillery for beer, cocktails, and hand-tossed pizzas.
You also can’t go wrong with a snack from Mariposa Taqueria. This modern Mexican joint whips up some of the most creative taco flavors you can imagine, including ones with pomegranate, pickles, and beef tongue.
Day Trip to Fairhaven
The historic town of Fairhaven is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Bellingham, which means you can easily visit for lunch, dinner, ice cream (at ACME Ice Cream Café), or the whole day!
If you’re hungry, then you’ll also have several mouthwatering choices for food and drink. Stones Throw Brewery has a rotating menu of beer on tap, as well as a rotating schedule of food trucks on-site. We also love the Swim Club Cocktail Bar, whose extensive drink menu and Instagram-worthy décor makes it a fun pit stop.
And don’t worry if you’re traveling with your four-legged friends – the Paws for a Beer tavern is Bellingham’s only dog-friendly pub where you can unwind with a pint with Fido by your side. They also have a doggie daycare in case you need some alone time to shop or eat as well!
Where to Eat & Drink in Bellingham
Eating in Bellingham
Bellingham is a good food city, with restaurants, cafes, and delis guaranteed to delight all types of palates.
Black Cat: Serving traditional American fare, this upscale tavern in Fairhaven has an impressive menu that includes favorites like nana’s pot roast, cod fish & chips, and hand-pattied burgers.
Old World Deli: Ideal for a quick lunch break, this deli and market sells some of the best cheeses and meats not just in Bellingham but in the entire state. While many of their meats are smoked in-house, others are sourced from Seattle, Portland, New York, or California.
Birch Door Cafe: Guaranteed to please early risers and breakfast lovers, the Birch Door Cafe puts a creative spin on morning favorites by serving dishes like blueberry lemon cobbler french toast and strawberry granola pancakes.
Black Sheep: Mouthwatering Mexican food is the star of the show at Black Sheep. With gourmet tacos, burritos, and chimichangas, we guarantee you’ll leave full and very satisfied.
Drinking in Bellingham
It would be a shame to visit Bellingham without indulging in a few adult beverages. Thankfully, there are numerous bars, breweries, and cider houses to choose from.
Camber Coffee: You can get your morning or afternoon caffeine fix at Camber Coffee, a gourmet roastery that also serves beer, wine, and other small bites.
Kombucha Town: This ultra-trendy cafe sells sustainably made kombucha, tea, and sparkling seltzers, as well as a variety of cocktails, sandwiches, and shareable plates.
Ciders: As we’ve previously mentioned, Bellingham is famous for its crisp hard ciders. You can easily sample the best of what Bellingham has to offer by making the rounds to Bellingham Cider Co., Lost Giants Cider, Thousand Acre Cider, and Honey Moon Alley Bar & Ciderhouse.
Getting to Bellingham
Located near the Canadian border, Bellingham is just 90 miles north of Seattle. Depending on your time schedule and budget, you’ll have several different options for traveling from Seattle to Bellingham.
If you have a car, then driving is arguably the easiest mode of transportation. It’s a straight shot up I-5 North, so you won’t have to worry about confusing routes or directions. The entire journey should take approximately 1.5 hours.
Another option is to take the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle’s King Street Station to Bellingham Fairhaven. Trains leave twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) and take just under 2.5 hours. It’s a comfortable and scenic journey, as you’ll be riding along the coast for a fair part of the trip.
If budget is a concern, then you may also choose to take the bus to Bellingham. BoltBus, Greyhound, and Amtrak Thruway all make multiple trips throughout the day. For the cost and trip time, BoltBus is the best option, with a one-way journey taking just over 2 hours.
Best Time to Visit Bellingham
As a destination for all seasons, Bellingham has plenty to offer no matter when you decide to visit. While the warmer months are ideal for exploring the outdoors, winter and fall also have their own advantages – fewer crowds and cheaper accommodations!
If you’re traveling during summer, then you can expect pleasant temperatures and long hours of daylight. It doesn’t get blistering hot, and rainy days are sparse, which means you can spend all day hiking, mountain biking, or exploring the plethora of parks and campsites.
Fall is utterly gorgeous, with forests and trees turning vibrant shades of ambers, oranges, and browns. On sunnier days, you can still take advantage of the outdoors by going on hikes or attending numerous festivals like the Cloud Mountain Fall Fruit Festival and the Hovander Homestead Bluegrass Festival.
As winter arrives and the temperatures drop, Bellingham can see its fair share of snow, which is perfect for skiers and snowboards who want to make the trek to Mount Baker. The holiday season is also magical, with festivities and parades happening throughout December.
Spring is one of the best times to visit Bellingham, as people start heading outdoors for hiking, biking, fishing, and golfing. You’ll also find that there are more festivals popping up over the city, including the Wings Over Water Birdwatch or the Fairhaven’s Dirty Dan Day & Seafood Festival.
Where to Stay in Bellingham
From cozy rental homes to trendy boutique hotels, Bellingham has plenty of places where you can rest your head after a day of sightseeing. Airbnb is a good option if you want all the comforts of home (like a kitchen to cook in), although there’s nothing like pampering yourself with a few nights in a hotel.
Airbnb in Bellingham
There are plenty of Airbnb options in Bellingham – here are four that we came across in our search and liked.
Lilabel’s Loft (ideal for couples): With a prime location in the Letter Streets neighborhood, this quirky loft guesthouse is within walking distance to plenty of parks, shops, and restaurants. While the apartment is equipped with the basics (fully-stocked kitchen, private bathroom, separate living space), the coolest feature is the hot tub that’s located in the back garden.
Renovated Fountain District Charmer (ideal for families or groups): This newly remodeled two bedroom two bathroom apartment is full of charm and mid-century vintage vibes. In addition to the open kitchen and living room space, this apartment also has a laundry room so you can wash your clothes if you’re staying for the week.
Cool Cabins in Bellingham
These two charming cabins are a bit outside of Bellingham’s city center, but will make for an incredible, secluded getaway with stunning views over the coast of Northern Washington.
Pleasant Bay Lookout: Perched on a cliff overlooking the glistening Salish Sea sits this jaw-dropping treehouse appropriately named the Pleasant Bay Lookout. Keep in mind that the bathroom and kitchen are located in the main house (30 seconds from the treehouse), although that shouldn’t bother you once you set eyes on the breathtaking view from your private deck.
Chuckanut Forest Studio: This little oasis in the middle of the forest is the perfect getaway for a weekend in Bellingham. On the main floor, you’ll find a kitchen, bathroom, and living area with a wood-burning fireplace, while the bedroom is located up a small ladder in the loft. You can also take advantage of the outdoor hot tub, which is surrounded by towering pine and evergreen trees.
Hotels in Bellingham
Here are two cool hotels in downtown Bellingham that would make a perfect home base for a weekend getaway from Seattle.
Hotel Leo: The historic Hotel Leo is smack in the middle of Bellingham’s Central Business District, making it a great jumping-off point for anyone who wants to explore both the city and nature. The rooms are outfitted in trendy albeit minimalistic decor, while the main lobby has a library, pool and shuffleboard table, and even a private cinema room.
Heliotrope Hotel: This retrofitted 1950s hotel has been tastefully updated to feature all the comforts of home. However, the communal space is where all the action is at. The Hub features a fireplace and lounge with the Yard has an outdoor firepit and spacious lawn for picnics or games.
More Weekend Guides in Washington
- A Weekend in Leavenworth: The Best Thing to Do, See, Eat, and Drink
- What to Do with a Weekend on Vashon Island: Where to Eat, Stay, & Play
- A Weekend in Port Townsend: A Local’s Guide to the Best Thing to Do
More to Explore in Washington State
- The Best Day Trips from Seattle
- The 17 Best Hikes Near Seattle (Local’s Guide)
- 14 Incredible Hikes in Washington State
- The Best Cozy Cabin Getaways in Washington State
- The 15 Best Weekend Getaways from Seattle
- A Weekend in Seattle: A Seattle Itinerary for First Timers
- The Best Hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park
- A Complete Olympic National Park Itinerary
- How to Plan a Perfect North Cascades National Park Itinerary