You may get from Seattle to Bellingham, Wash., by driving 90 miles straight up the interstate, but you shouldn’t. One of the best path to this small city tucked where the mighty Cascade mountain range meets the ocean might be more scenic and pleasurable. Veer off Interstate 5 about 15 miles south of Bellingham to make the ultimate approach via Chuckanut Drive, one in every of the state’s greater than 20 official Scenic Byways.
The interstate highway exit for Chuckanut, first drops you into the town of Bow. It’s a part of Bow-Edison, which is split between two tiny industrial districts, but for a baked-goods-lover like me, it’s imperative to stop by each. In Bow, the Farm To Market bakery, across from a vintage, light-blue cinder block post office, offers triple chocolate pecan brownies, polenta cakes and other delights to accompany freshly brewed coffee on cheerfully painted tables within the bakery’s rhododendron garden. Two and a half miles down rural Bow Hill Road West, the Bread Farm in Edison offers sweets and fresh bread on the walk-up bakery window. A handful of galleries and shops invite visitors to linger on the town.
Returning to Chuckanut Drive, the sea-level Skagit Valley farmlands lie before you with views to the west of the San Juan Islands before the road starts rising. Greater than 10 curvy miles hug the cliffs of the Chuckanut Mountains, flashing views of the Salish Sea bays and islands below as you wind your way through the towering evergreen forest. The route was used during Prohibition by bootleggers coming in from Canada.
Chuckanut ends north within the historic Fairhaven section of Bellingham, with its eclectic shops, restaurants, and Victorian-era architecture. But when it’s Saturday, the priority ought to be to make it to the vigorous Farmers Market before it closes at 2 p.m. Greater than 100 vendors display a terrific number of food and wares, including kimchi, honey and cheeses, grow-at-home mushroom kits, houseplants, artisan crafts and handmade clothing. The stalls spill over the official market footprint onto and across the sidewalk nearby. Samples of beef jerky from Carnal, a neighborhood restaurant, enticed me to purchase each regular and spicy versions to take home.
Explore by land and sea
Bellingham has increasingly develop into a magnet for people trying to escape Seattle’s rapid development and price. However the compact coastal city is also a perfect place for a weekend visit. On a recent trip there, I easily enjoyed two full days with only a one-night hotel stay.
Popular with outdoor enthusiasts, Bellingham has gorgeous walking, mountaineering and biking trails. A couple of minutes from the town center, Whatcom Falls Park offers easy mountaineering on its four-mile trail network. Passing the salmon hatchery and playground, a W.P.A.-era stone bridge and splashing waterfall await. The sweet scent of Douglas fir groves, moss-covered rocks and a profusion of sword ferns contribute to a superb session of “forest bathing.”
For more structured recreational activities, nearby Cornwall Memorial Park is home to a Disc Golf course, horseshoe pits and pickleball courts together with a playground and spray park. When you don’t have your personal equipment, it’s still fun to observe the players there, or simply explore walking trails through soaring woodlands.
One other terrific place to meander is Western Washington University. The hilltop campus, with expansive views of Bellingham Bay, was founded in 1893 and is now home to fifteen,000 students. It also hosts 70 species of trees and a world-class outdoor sculpture collection. You may’t miss the brilliant red, 27-foot-tall steel creation, by Mark di Suvero, or giant tipped cube by Isamu Noguchi, but there are lots of other works by artists, including Richard Serra and Beverly Pepper. Washington State takes its trees seriously and the university offers online tree tours so you possibly can learn in regards to the campus flora, including the umbrella tree with its 20-inch leaves. One in all the most important Giant Sequoias within the state stands there at 120 feet.
Getting on the water in Bellingham is simple, too. The Community Boating Center near the Fairhaven district rents small craft and runs guided kayaking tours. In search of bioluminescent sea creatures highlights the evening excursions. For an extended aquatic adventure, five to 6 hour whale-watching trips run from the adjoining Bellingham Cruise terminal, where ferries also embark for destinations like Juneau and Sitka in southeast Alaska. Ferry-riders may have to have patience though — the primary stop, Ketchikan, is a 36-hour ride.
Local fare with loads of flair
When you’re able to unwind, it’s easy to slip into the realm’s robust ecosystem of craft brew pubs. At Gruff Brewing Co., visitors can sample a rotating forged (about nine at a time) of homemade brews, including Trash Bird Hazy I.P.A. and Viva Verano Mexican lager. “Guest taps” from nearby beverage makers, including the Bellingham Cider Company, round out the alternatives. Gruff’s backyard overlooks Bellingham Bay and is kitted out with fire pits, cornhole games and brightly coloured seating that makes even an overcast day feel festive. Gruff doesn’t serve food however the Brothers Bus Bistro food truck parked outside offers some great selections, including a hummus, goat cheese, vegetable and pita plate.
A wealth of marine life like Pacific oysters and geoduck, a homely clam whose neck is so large it could actually’t close its shell, are harvested by Taylor Shellfish Farms and other local firms, making Bellingham ideal for seafood lovers. Rock and Rye is one in every of the higher-end restaurants that serves oysters, but don’t miss its halibut or chocolate torte. The bustling eatery, with exposed red brick partitions and high ceilings, has a second-floor deck for outdoor dining.
Tasty breakfast options in downtown Bellingham might be leisurely or grab and go. For something quick, you possibly can try a cranberry cardamom rose scone and a latte at the fashionable coffee shop Camber. If the wait for tables at the favored brunch spots Horseshoe Café and Old Town Café is just too long, get in line at Makeworth Coffee Roasters to order egg sandwiches and waffles. The space gives off a contemporary industrial vibe: white partitions, brilliant and airy with second-floor seating areas overlooking the primary floor.
Bellingham is ringed by reasonably priced hotel chain selections, but to remain downtown and inside walking distance of its dining and recreational options, we selected The Hotel Leo. Inbuilt 1929 because the Leopold hotel, the constructing fell on hard times together with the remainder of downtown Bellingham within the Eighties. In 2019, it reopened as a hotel (starting at about $259 for a Saturday in July) and encompasses a social space from its own bygone times — a wood-paneled library, billiards table and fireside. Guests can stream movies in a small theater.
More for the mind
All northwest trips, in fact, need a rain plan and my weekend was no exception. Because the drops fell heavily, I ducked into the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention, densely full of antiques and hands-on activities. Visitors can try a light-weight bulb created by Thomas Edison and headgear utilized by quack doctors to shock patients, and experiment with an electronic musical instrument, the Theremin, which is controlled without physical contact. The museum’s MegaZapper Electrical Show, a live performance of history and science is a must-see (spoiler alert — disconcerting amounts of electrical current jump through the air).
A couple of blocks away, one other city gem, the Whatcom Museum, highlights the humanities, history and Indigenous cultures of the realm. The present show, “Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea,” goals to look beyond the clichés and romantic myths of the West by sharing the perspectives of artists from diverse backgrounds.