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Day trip from Vancouver: What to do in Bellingham

Day trip from Vancouver: What to do in Bellingham

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We were recently given our Canadian Permanent Residency (hooray!) and decided that crossing the border to activate it would be the most fun way to do things. So we took a day trip to Bellingham from Vancouver and found there are so many things to do in Bellingham. It was such a nice day and I’m already hoping to go back again sometime in the not too distant future. If you’re planning a trip there and wondering what to do in Bellingham then read on to find out!

what to do in bellingham wa

About Bellingham and where is Bellingham located?

things to do in bellingham

Bellingham is a small city on the coast of Washington State near the US-Canada border. It’s just a few hours north of Seattle and just over an hour away from Mt Baker in the east. It takes about 90 minutes to get from Vancouver, BC to Bellingham, WA depending on how long the queues are at the border. It’s the perfect place to go for a day trip from Vancouver. 

Made up of downtown Bellingham and the historic (and very pretty) Fairhaven district slightly to the south, there’s plenty to do in Bellingham. There are local breweries, Bellingham hikes, fresh shellfish aplenty along the scenic Chuckanut drive route, cute bookshops and mountain biking for those seeking adrenaline. 

How to get to Bellingham from Vancouver

From downtown Vancouver simply head south on the BC-99 South towards the Peach Arch border crossing. From here, continue southbound on the I-5. Bellingham is just 55.2 miles away from Vancouver so it’s really not far at all!

Seattle to Bellingham

Getting from Bellingham to Seattle just means heading north on the I-5. On a good day, it’ll take under 2 hours. In terms of how far is Bellingham from Seattle, it’s just under 90miles each way. 

What to do in Bellingham, WA

things to do in bellingham

Before our trip to Bellingham, I really hadn’t given the town much thought. It was just somewhere you pass on the way to Seattle. Little did I know that there are loads of fun things to do in Bellingham, Washington! I did some research and planned us a day that revolved around the Chuckanut Drive, cafes and books. It was the perfect day and there’s still plenty more for us to go back and see too. Here are a few ideas for a fun day out in Bellingham and the top Bellingham activities.

Drive the scenic Chuckanut Drive

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I’d never heard of this before and given we drove most of the western coast of the USA during our US Road trip, that was a bit surprising. We started by heading south of Bellingham and then driving back up the coast towards home.

Chuckanut Drive is Washington State’s original scenic byway and officially begins at exit 231 on the I-5 in Burlington and continues for 20 miles into Bellingham. The road was completed in 1896 and is a beautiful drive of beach views, delicious restaurants and hiking trails. 

From Vancouver, simply take the I-5 Southbound and come off at whichever junction you want to start at. For us, this was the Bow Hill Road where we went west towards the coast and the Chuckanut Scenic Drive. 

Our drive along Chuckanut Drive started with a cute looking cafe and an antiques shop that was fun to wander around. I’m not sure how many sales are actually made here but it was fun to wander around the rusty bolts and screws, the car manuals from before we were born, and the old fitness videos at the back of the store

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We then continued northbound getting shellfish at Taylor Shellfish Farms (see below), and stopping in Fairhaven, along the coast and in Bellingham before heading back to Vancouver via Trader Joes (of course!). 

Stop for fresh shellfish at Taylor Shellfish Farms

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This stop was so worthwhile and on a sunny day, I highly recommend you time this stop with lunchtime. 

Taylor Shellfish Farms sell their shellfish all over Washington and they’ve been sustainably farming shellfish since the 1890s. Their Samish Oyster Bar and Shellfish market is right on the waterfront along the Chuckanut Scenic Drive. At this location, they have a shop selling different varieties of Oysters, and a grill where you can get fresh scallops, prawns, grilled oysters and more.

Tables fill up quickly, we were there just before 12 pm but it got super busy within 10 minutes of our arrival. 

Browse the shelves at Village Books in Fairhaven

bellingham village books fairhaven

This bookstore in Bellingham’s Fairhaven district is a treasure trove for book lovers. The store is over 3 floors and has a cafe and a restaurant, besides books there are also gifts and cards too. Take in the views at Boulevard Park

Grab a coffee at Makeworth Market

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I haven’t been so impressed with a cafe in a long time but Makeworth Market is just gorgeous. It’s super spacious, bright and welcoming and they do great cakes too! They also have a curated selection of homewares and gifts such as candles and ceramics. We sat in here for a while while I read a new book I’d picked up at Village Books. Make sure to stop in here when you’re looking for cafes in Bellingham. 

Enjoy the views of Bellingham Bay

Boulevard Park was one of the stops on my list for our trip to Bellingham. It looks like a great place to picnic and enjoy the views. It’s not the only place to enjoy the views though.

The parking here was completely full so we carried on northwards on the main road and spotted a pull out with some parking spaces, opened the back doors and soaked in the views for a while. 

And a few things to do in Bellingham we’ll have to go back and do! 

Here are a few things we couldn’t quite fit into one day – next time we visit Bellingham we’ll give some of these a go!

Wander Larrabee State Park

If you want to explore the beaches in Bellingham then head down to Larrabee State Park for access to Bellingham beaches, tide pools and trails. 

Shop Bellingham Farmers’ Market

The farmers’ market is held every Saturday in Bellingham from April – December and every 3rd Saturday in January, February and March between 10 am – 3 pm. There are around 100 vendors selling local produce and artisan crafts. 

Eat ice cream at Mallard Ice Cream

Mallard Ice Cream has over 600 flavours including avocado, root beer and the classics. The ingredients in their ice cream are sourced locally and a cone from here is the perfect addition to a summer day trip in Bellingham. 

Take a beer crawl

For a relatively small town, there are a lot of breweries in Bellingham. There are 12 within Bellingham city boundaries, and 14 breweries within Whatcom County. You can see where all the breweries are by checking out the Bellingham Tap Trail

Take a hike in Bellingham

things to do in bellingham

As with most towns in the Pacific North West, there’s also a lot of hiking to be done. Some of the most popular hikes in Bellingham include Oyster Dome along Chuckanut Drive, Fragrance Lake Trail in Larrabee State Park and the Whatcom Creek & Falls loop. Packing your hiking boots and hit the trails. Next time we’re definitely doing one of the hikes near Bellingham!

Go mountain biking in Bellingham

Bellingham isn’t just good for hiking. There are also plenty of mountain biking trails nearby. Our friends go down to Bellingham for biking a few times every summer and next time we plan to join them. Galbraith Mountain and Chuckanut Mountain include mountain biking trails for all abilities. 

Best places to eat in Bellingham

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There are loads of great places to taste the best of Pacific Northwest ingredients in Bellingham. 

Homeskillet, Bellingham

If you’re looking for breakfast in Bellingham be sure to check out Homeskillet. This cafe is like an eclectic junkyard inside with kitschy toys and brightly coloured tables. They sure know how to do breakfasts though! Their biscuits and gravy are a staple but the pancakes and tater tot hash have to be tried too. Get there early as there’s usually a wait. 

The Birch Door Cafe

Another great place for breakfast in Bellingham is The Birch Door Cafe. Their buttermilk pancakes are an absolute must as sourdough yeast is used in them to make them extra light, fluffy and tasty! 

Old World Deli

The Old World Deli make delicious sandwiches and subs that make for the best lunch in Bellingham. Eat-in or get it to take out and enjoy somewhere nearby with a view.

Gainsbarre 

This wine bar serves natural wine which are all organic and don’t have any additives. They serve small plates and do proper cheeses. It’s a great place for a laidback drink with some tasty food.

Where to stay in Bellingham

If you want to extend your trip to Bellingham and stay in a Bellingham hotel or Airbnb, take a look at my top picks below. These hotels in Bellingham are suitable for people travelling on a budget and get great reviews on Booking.com.

Best Bellingham hotels

Check out these hotels in Bellingham, WA for somewhere to stay. 

  • Heliotrope Hotel: The Heliotrope hotel in Bellingham is close to the craft breweries and includes free parking for all guests. 
  • Guesthouse Inn Bellingham: Every room here has a fridge and a microwave and breakfast is included. It’s close to the highway which adds a little extra noise but it’s super cheap and ideal for one night. 
  • Coachman Inn: This inn in downtown Bellingham has an outdoor pool and sauna. All rooms have a TV, A/C and ensuite bathrooms and prices include a good breakfast too. 

Airbnbs in Bellingham

These Bellingham accommodation options give you the option of self-catering which is always great if you travel on a budget. 

  • Lettered Streets Studio: This studio apartment is within walking distance of downtown Bellingham. It’s super bright and has everything you need including a mudroom for bikes and skis! 
  • The Cabin Apartment: This cabin apartment looks super cosy and is also close to downtown Bellingham and West Washington University.