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Why Bellingham, Washington is a Must on Your Next West Coast Road Trip

Lush forests, green and white ferries, and sockeye salmon are only a few of the iconic images that come to mind when you imagine the Pacific Northwest. An area with so much to offer is the perfect destination for a road trip! One small town not to miss is Bellingham, Washington. Just a 90-minute drive north of Seattle, here you can immerse yourself in the authentic Pacific Northwest where mountains still dominate the horizon, solitude can be found on uncrowded trails, and farm-to-table dining isn’t a trend—it’s a way of life. Here are just a few reasons why Bellingham should be the cornerstone of your next West Coast road trip. 

This story was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.


Nestled on the coast of northern Washington between North Cascades National Park and the rugged coastline of the Salish Sea, the city of Bellingham enjoys a privileged location in the Pacific Northwest. Here you’ll find easy access to trails, a charming downtown, and miles of waterfront where idyllic sailboats fill the marinas. Mount Baker, a 10,781-foot peak that holds the world-record for the highest snowfall recorded in a single year (95 feet in 1999), stands guard on the skyline and provides a year-round playground. If it does happen to rain, you’ll find a number of entertainment options like the Whatcom Museum where exhibits from the Smithsonian are often on display. It’s no wonder Bellingham is a favorite destination for professional athletes, university students, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world!


No matter what time of year you plan your West Coast road trip, Bellingham offers outdoor adventure for the whole family. In the summer, enjoy unparalleled access to the North Cascades, where hiking trails and over 50 miles of the best mountain bike singletrack in the state awaits. For those who enjoy cycling on the road, miles of quiet blacktop are available to explore. You’ll also want to spend some time on the Salish Sea! Tackle the coastline by kayaksailboat, or stand-up paddleboard. Whale-watching tours are incredible here and leave daily, rain or shine, May-September. In the winter, enjoy alpine skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing at Mount Baker. You’ll find a mixture of all of the above activities if your itinerary is in the spring or fall, depending on the weather. Outdoor adventure defines Bellingham and will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable parts of your visit!


Not only does Bellingham offer fresh seafood like salmon, oysters, and crab, but it is also developing a reputation as a foodie scene to reckon with! The downtown area serves as a great incubator for young chefs and restaurant owners to get started at a lower cost than in nearby big cities, with fresh ingredients sourced right out the back door. In fact, the Bellingham farmers market is one of the best in the state! Thirsty travelers will also enjoy taking a break from their West Coast road trip in one of Whatcom County's nearly 20 craft breweries. Visitors can also enjoy wine, cider, and spirits made by local brewers. 


Whether you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile, it’s easier than ever before to access Bellingham. With an international airport serving Alaska, Southwest, and Allegiant airlines with flights from Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, and more, you can combine a trip to the Pacific Northwest with your other West Coast destinations with ease. Prefer to travel by rail? Amtrak operates daily journeys from Vancouver all the way to Los Angeles. And of course, our favorite way to explore the region is by car. That way you can connect destinations like Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Seattle, the San Juan Islands, and even Vancouver at your leisure. 


Bellingham is home to a plethora of accommodations that will make you feel right at home during your West Coast road trip. One example is the famous Hotel Bellwether, located right on the water of Bellingham Bay. The luxury hotel features an iconic lighthouse suite for the ultimate romantic getaway! Another option is the Hotel Leo. Originally built in 1889, the Leo combines historic touches with modern design flare in the heart of Bellingham. We also love the Heliotrope; a perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts to crash after a long day playing in the elements. You will find all of these destinations and more at your fingertips for the perfect West Coast road trip accommodations in Bellingham. 

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        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Visitor Center Located at I-5 Exit 253 - Check Hours
904 Potter Street, Bellingham, WA 98229
Phone: 360-671-3990

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