WATER. It connects every living thing on earth, and few places are as connected to it as Bellingham, WA. From the icy glaciers of Mt. Baker which spill into the Nooksack River and out into salty Bellingham Bay, the region is submersed in a water-based eco-system.
Bellingham’s Marine Trails offer miles of water adventure, kicked off with the annual Ski to Sea relay race each Memorial Day weekend. Hundreds of 8-person teams compete in the 7-leg race beginning with cross-country skiing on Mt. Baker’s foothills, followed by downhill skiing, running, biking, two-person canoeing on the Nooksack, mountain biking, and finally kayaking across Bellingham Bay to ring the beachside finish-line bell in the Fairhaven District, as thousands of spectators cheer them on. The race signifies the opening of summer water season in Bellingham.
Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures www.moondancekayak.com offers sea kayak adventures for beginners and skilled paddlers on Bellingham Bay with owner and instructor Kristi Kucera. The half-day, full-day and multi-day trip options launch near Bellingham and Anacortes, or from Orcas Island. Kucera specializes in small groups and promotes low-impact interaction with the natural environment. Participants glide through kelp beds, along shoreline galleries of sculpted sandstone. For beginners this is a great place to learn kayak navigation basics and paddling techniques, while experienced paddlers can advance their skills.
If you’re keen to sail, Gato Verde Adventure Sailing www.gatoverde.com is the go-to company, with the first plug-in diesel electric hybrid charter boat on the West Coast. The 42-foot catamaran is based at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal and offers customized sailing instruction or carefree skippered sailing charters from 1.5 hours to 7 days in length. Group size is limited to 9 for overnight trips and 12 for day trips and sunset cruises are offered throughout the summer.
Schooner Zodiac www.schoonerzodiac.com is a living history of our maritime past. Learn how we are connected to the great windships and sailors of yesteryear. You will ‘man’ the helm and be called to ‘watches’ by the ship’s bell. Learn your sailing station and raise the sails on the largest working sail boat on the West Coast. Using charts, learn to identify aids and hazards to navigation. Plot the schooner’s course as Captain Vancouver did in these waters two hundred years ago. Departs from Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
Sail the San Juans www.sailthesanjuans.com is a sailing charter company owned by Jon and Jeannette Baker. The couple operates the 50-foot Catalina Northwind, which accommodates up to 6 guests on multi-day sailing tours from Bellingham through the San Juan Islands, featuring gourmet meals and breathtaking scenery. Two itineraries are currently available: Six day trips with a focus on the San Juan Islands, and Twelve Day Wilderness Trips to explore the southern portion of the Inside Passage.
Small ship cruising, with delicious food and a relaxed atmosphere is the aim of Northwest Navigation Company www.northwestnavigation.com. The Motor Vessel David B can accommodate up to 6 passengers to one of four destinations departing from Bellingham. Multi-day itineraries include: Alaska, the Inside Passage, Desolation Sound and the San Juan Islands. Common activities from the boat include kayaking, hiking and whale watching.
If a single day of watching whales at play is your ideal, Island Mariner Cruises www.orcawatch.com departs from Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor, featuring a 7-hour, narrated scenic orca whale watching tour of Puget Sound. To ensure whale sighting, Island Mariner travels 70-90 miles and also operates a spotter seaplane to accurately direct the boat to the whales’ location each day.
Whale watching is also available aboard San Juan Cruises www.whales.com, which has switched to a catalytic system on their engines that emits 40 less tons of carbon each year. This Bellingham-based small cruise line offers the “San Juan Experience,” incorporating interpretive talks with a uniformed National Park Ranger aboard day-trips, as well as shore visits to Friday Harbor and an all you can eat Salmon & Chicken BBQ on the way home.
Wild & Scenic River Tours www.wildandscenic.com calls the Nooksack River “the best late season run in Washington.” Beginning in the town of Glacier on State Highway 542, the rafters experience the Class III rapids in June and July, including the Nozzle, Fir Drip, Turtle Rock, Landslide, Postcard and Gallop Drop before the river slows and widens with spectacular views of Mount Baker.