At the center of spacious Bellingham Bay in the Salish Sea lies the most northern U.S. port city on the West Coast—Bellingham. Just a stroll on the Whatcom Trail away from our Canadian neighbors, Bellingham (B-ham) is a hub for outdoors enthusiasts with Mt. Baker to the east attracting snow and mountain sports fanatics and the sublime San Juan Islands to the west beckoning to us water-driven folk. For the active visitor, kayaking, cycling, mountain climbing, hiking, and trail running plus lakes and the nearby islands are readily available. The more laidback may appreciate Bellingham’s “city of subdued excitement” reputation, complete with many greenspaces, shops, and restaurants.
Known for its boat-building industry, Norstar, Sea Sport, All American Marine, Bullfrog Boats, and Strongback Metal Boats are local to the area. B-ham also has plenty of boat and yacht brokers. Fairhaven once housed the largest Pacific salmon processing plant in the world before it moved to Alaska. Bellingham’s traditional industries of agriculture, lumber, and fishing have slowly declined over the years, but maritime still runs strong in its blood.
Bellingham’s beginnings in the mid-1800s sprung from a lumber mill and a few settlers. After a couple of coal mines, a short-lived gold rush, and the rumor of a Northern Pacific Railroad linking Fairhaven (Bellingham’s southern district) to the rest of the world, the town as we know it started to take shape. While the falsely-promised railroad created our modern-day B-ham, a multitude of smaller institutions make it what it is today with Western Washington University leading the way.
Downtown Bellingham was built as four original settlements—Whatcom (Old Town District), Sehome (Downtown), Bellingham (Downtown), and Fairhaven—resulting in each section’s distinctive look and feel. If you own a bike, we’d suggest bringing it along, oiling up the chain, and putting it to use—all the locals are doing it.