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Ports of Call: Bellingham

by Eva Seelye

Bellingham Walk, Fairhaven

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.

Around Bellingham, Washington

Left to right: Blocks of pubs and stores, and even nearby Skiing at Mount Baker – Bellingham has plenty of diverse activities to offer.


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.



Spark Museum

The Spark Museum’s collection of rare and unique artifacts from electrical experiments of the 1600s to the Golden Age of Radio in the 1940s is well worth a visit. Take a gander at some of the industry’s original treatises, books, and scientific papers by authors Gilbert, Newton, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, Volta, Hertz, and Marconi. We all use batteries aboard, but ever wonder what the first one looked like? Experience Edison’s first creations including the Edison bulb and the “Edison Tube” and come face to face with the world’s first transcontinental telephone. The first Tesla coils and motors also live here, along with one of Nikola Tesla’s most famous inventions: the Tesla lightning machine or the MegaZapper. Four million volts of loose electricity strike from a monstrous Tesla coil to a metal cage surrounding a chair– are you brave enough? Admission is just $8. Visit sparkmuseum.org for more.

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.



Wild Bellingham

Winding through Bellingham are 72 miles of trails with the closest trailhead to Squalicum Harbor starting at Maritime Heritage Park. A paved trail guides you from the waterfront up along Whatcom Creek, past a salmon hatchery, and a small waterfall below the streets of B-ham – a quick dose of nature for those wanting an escape away from the comfort of their vessel. The South Bay Trail connects downtown B-ham with Fairhaven on a beautiful, two-mile paved waterfront trail through Boulevard Park. Cut across the railroad tracks down Wharf Street to the water for a local treasure – glass beach or “trash beach” as the locals say. Sprinkled among the sand are millions of blue, green, white, and brown pieces of beach glass sparkling in the sun. Continue inland to discover the crown jewel of Bellingham’s city parks; Whatcom Falls Park offers 241 acres of waterfalls, hiking trails, and picnic areas surrounded by massive Douglas Firs. The park then opens up to Whatcom Lake.

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.

Ports of Call - Bellingham, Washington

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