My hometown of Bellingham is one of the best places to spend the summer. The days are long—more than 16 hours of sunlight—without bugs or humidity. The temperatures are perfect for exploring Bellingham Bay, hanging out in town or hiking in the mountains. Here’s my list of favorites:
1. Bellingham Bay
There are plenty of options for spending time on Bellingham Bay and the nearby San Juan Islands. Gato Verde, a 40 foot diesel hybrid Catamaran is one of my favorites. You can choose a sunset cruise or charter it for longer trips. Skipper, Todd Shuster makes any trip fun with his knowledge of nature and the island ecology.
You can also go Whale Watching with a variety of companies. During the summer, pods of Orca whales can usually be found on the west side of San Juan Island. San Juan Cruises includes a nice stop at Friday Harbor midway. It’s also easy to rent kayaks and other small boats at the Community Boating Center for a more adventurous trip on the bay.
2. City Walks
Bellingham has more than 15 scenic walking trails spread throughout the town. Walk in the woods or along the bay. You can walk around Lake Padden or out on the north end of Lake Whatcom. Many of the trails are old logging train routes that meander through forested parks past ponds, waterfalls. Some trails take you through neighborhoods and past Bellingham Bay. Take any trail and you will enjoy a quiet walk and beautiful scenery.
You can download an extensive map from the Bellingham Parks Department.
3. Farmers’ Markets
The downtown Farmers’ Market is one of the best markets around. Not only will you find local farmers with wonderful produce, you’ll also find produce from nearby Skagit Valley and further east. You can also buy fresh artisan cheeses, breads and bakery items. The market is a good spot to enjoy a delicious lunch from the local vendors who are cooking on site. It even has an excellent selection of arts and crafts as well as live plants for your garden. Fairhaven has another smaller market on Wednesdays on the Village Green.
If you can’t make it to the Farmers’ Markets on those days, visit Joe’s Garden (Monday-Saturday) for fresh produce, flowers and plants. When the corn is in season, Joe’s has the best in town!
4. Pick Your Own Berries
There are plenty of farms just outside of town where you can pick your own berries throughout the summer. Strawberries start in June, then raspberries, and finally blueberries. You can also find fresh berries at the Farmers’ Markets and Joe’s Garden.
You don’t have to travel far to find some scenic hiking trails. The Chuckanut Range is close to town with several hikes that offer views of lakes, the bay or the nearby mountain peaks. Just drive down Highway 11 (near Fairhaven) and choose a hike. There are several good websites that provide descriptions of local hikes.
You can also drive east on Mt. Baker Highway for more challenging hikes. In a little more than one hour you can arrive at Artist Point, near majestic Mt. Baker, for views of glaciers and the scenic Cascades. Take a picnic and relax, or hike a few miles to some arctic lakes. There are plenty of scenic hikes along the highway (Highway 542). My favorites are Skyline Divide and Yellow Aster Butte. For more information try these links: http://www.bellingham.org/activities/hiking/
6. Downtown Bellingham
Walk downtown and explore used book stores, cosy restaurants, small boutiques and fun, local spots like the Pickford Theater (for cinema) and Mt. Baker Theater (for live theatre). For the best homemade ice cream, stop at Mallards, on Railroad Avenue. On the same street you’ll find a nice selection of coffee shops with free wifi and comfortable tables— or the best scones in town (at Avenue Bread). Visit the Spark Museum of Electricity or the Whatcom Museum. Exhibits are always changing, so check their websites for current information. Whatcom Museum also sponsors a fun history boat cruise of Bellingham Bay during the summer months.
7. The Skagit Valley
Our neighbor to the south, the Skagit Valley is another fun area. My favorite town is the small burg of Edison, home of fun cafes, bakeries and art galleries. You’ll find the best bread at Breadfarm. There’s a great cheese shop (and farm) in the nearby town of Bow at Samish Bay Cheese Company on Bow Hill Road.
Another fun stop is the town of La Conner, with more shops, restaurants and galleries. They even have a museum of quilts. Not far is a favorite hiking area at Deception Pass State Park, on the way to Whidbey Island. This park has several easy hiking trails with views of the nearby San Juan Islands or the Skagit Valley.
8. Vancouver, BC
Just 54 miles north is the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver, Canada. Be sure to bring your passport if you want to cross the border. There are plenty of shopping areas, excellent restaurants, several lovely museums and lots to explore at beautiful Stanley Park. Granville Island is also a fun area to explore.
9. Summer Concerts & Outdoor Cinema
In the summertime, there are free concerts throughout the city. The city sponsored concerts are held at Boulevard Park on Saturdays and in Elizabeth Park on Thursdays. The Downtown Concerts are held on Wednesdays on lower Holly Street.
On Saturday nights in Fairhaven, you can find outdoor cinema on the Fairhaven Village Green.
During the month of July, don’t miss the Bellingham Music Festival held on the Western Washington Campus and throughout the town. The wonderful orchestra and guest artists provide Bellingham with a fabulous week of classical music each year.
10. Beer Gardens
If you are a connoisseur of beer, Bellingham is your town. Several new beer gardens seem to be opening each month. Almost every neighborhood has one. Frequently, you will also find some tasty food choices from the food trucks parked nearby. If you visit in September, you can attend the Third Annual Bellingham Beer Week.
As much as I love to travel and explore the world, it’s always nice to return to my hometown of Bellingham, Washington. And in the summertime, there’s no better place to be.