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A woman admires the views of the waterfront on a day trip from Vancouver to Bellingham.

From Vancouver to Bellingham: A Day Trippers Guide

I remember the excitement as a kid whenever we headed out on a day trip from Vancouver to Bellingham. Our itinerary was predictable: Bellis Fair Mall, outlet shops, and a round of exploring ‘exotic‘ big box stores that felt wonderfully foreign at the time.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve found that Bellingham holds much more than just retail therapy and Corn Dog on a Stick.

From cultural haunts to natural beauty, allow me to guide you through the best things to do in Bellingham that offer a true escape from the ordinary.

Vancouver to Bellingham

Heading down to Bellingham from Vancouver is a well-trodden path for many of us Vancouverites. Located just about 90 kilometres (55 miles) south of Vancouver, the journey to Bellingham is a breeze and can be done in 90 minutes—assuming the border gods are smiling.

While you have options like the Vancouver to Seattle bus and the scenic Amtrak Cascades train that can drop you off in Bellingham, let’s be real: over 95% of us are going to opt for the convenience of driving. It’s straightforward, quick, and lets you travel on your own schedule.

Many of you have likely made the trip so often that it can feel as routine as a run to the grocery store. But before you write off Bellingham as just another shopping stop or a brief pause on your way from Vancouver to Seattle, let me share some genuinely compelling reasons to stick around.

Related: Vancouver to Seattle: The 7 Best Ways to Reach the Emerald City

The Top Things to Do in Bellingham

Explore Fairhaven Village

This lesser-known waterfront neighbourhood southwest of downtown truly captures the essence of Pacific Northwest charm.

The area is brimming with unique attractions, from quirky local shops offering everything from artisan gifts to vintage books to delightful restaurants where the focus is on fresh, local cuisine. The famed Bellingham Boardwalk in nearby Boulevard Park is also a must-see.

What’s more, Fairhaven houses the Bellingham Station, which is a stop for the Amtrak Cascades. This makes it incredibly convenient for Vancouverites who might prefer a scenic train ride over driving.

A man pours a beer at Aslan Brewing in Bellingham, Wa.
Instagram: @aslanbrewing

Sample the Local Craft Brewery Scene

Bellingham, Washington, is a rising star in the Pacific Northwest craft brewing scene, holding its own alongside larger brewing hubs like Portland and Seattle.

As a beer enthusiast from Vancouver, I’ve been thrilled to explore Bellingham’s thriving beer culture, which features standout breweries such as Aslan Brewing Co. known for their organic brews, and Stone’s Throw, a pioneer in the local craft beer movement.

For those looking to dive deeper, the “Brew to Brewery Tour” offers an incredible guided experience. It’s a fantastic way to sample a variety of Bellingham breweries’ offerings, all while learning about the craft brewing process up close.

A view of Mt. Baker just outside of Bellingham, Washington.

Admire the Views from Mt. Baker

Growing up in Vancouver, Mt. Baker was always a prominent fixture on the southern horizon, its snow-capped peak a distant yet majestic sight. So, finally visiting was a revelation!

Once there, the activities are as varied as the landscape. Summer offers lush hiking trails and picturesque camping spots, while winter transforms the area into a skier’s paradise with some of the best slopes and deepest snowfalls in the Northwest.

Being on the mountain felt like stepping into a new world, so close to home yet packed with adventures that were previously just part of the view. Simply take the scenic Mt. Baker Highway right into the heart of the mountain’s recreational area and marvel at its beauty.

A woman marvels at the colours at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, near Bellingham, Washington.

Check out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

As a frequent visitor to Bellingham from Vancouver, I’d always heard about the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival but had never managed to see it myself—until last year.

Each spring, the Skagit Valley transforms into a painter’s palette of colours with rows upon rows of tulips in every conceivable shade. The festival draws visitors from all over to marvel at the vibrant fields under the open skies.

It is held every year throughout the month of April and often attracts as many as one million visitors per year. So, take the trip south of Bellingham to Mt. Vernon and see what the hype is about!

The view from Clayton Beach in Larrabee State Park near Bellingham, Wa.
Instagram: @bellinghamexperience

Enjoy a Moment of Reflection at Peaceful Larrabee State Park

Despite countless drives past on my way to Seattle, I had never stopped at Larrabee State Park, just south of Bellingham along Chuckanut Drive. Perched along the coastline, the park offers breathtaking views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands, providing a serene backdrop that’s hard to forget.

The area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a variety of activities such as hiking, camping, and fishing. The well-maintained trails invite explorers of all skill levels to discover the lush surroundings.

Among the park’s highlights is Clayton Beach, a spot that surprised me with its scenic beauty and tranquillity. This beach is perfect for a leisurely walk or just sitting and soaking in the panoramic views of the bay.

A group visits the Spark Museum of Electric Invention on a day trip from Vancouver to Bellingham.
Instagram: @sparkmuseum

The Spark Museum of Electrical Adventure

The popular Spark Museum of Electric Invention is a fantastic destination that captivates visitors of all ages with its interactive and educational exhibits on the history of electricity and radio.

From vintage radios to hands-on science experiments, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into how these technologies have shaped our world. One of the highlights is the MegaZapper Electrical Show, where giant lightning bolts literally light up the room—an absolute thrill for kids and adults alike!

The Spark Museum is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Bellingham for families. It’s not only fun but also manages to spark curiosity and learning in an incredibly engaging way.

Check Out a Local Distillery

On my last day trip to Bellingham from Vancouver, I decided to dive into the local craft distillery scene, and what a delightful discovery it was! The distilleries here, including the standout Chuckanut Bay Distillery, produce some award-winning spirits like bourbon, rye, gin, and vodka, all crafted from locally grown grains and ingredients.

They offer on-site tours that are not only educational but also quite fun. You get to sample their spirits and enjoy mini cocktails, which are perfect for understanding the nuances of each drink.

If you’re looking for a unique taste of Bellingham, a tour of Chuckanut Bay is a must. It’s an eye-opening peek into the art of distillation and a great way to support local craftsmanship.

A woman enjoys a kayaking excursion 
in the Salish Sea while visiting Bellingham from Vancouver.

Go Kayaking in Bellingham Bay

The protected waters and picturesque islands around Bellingham Bay offer a serene escape that feels worlds away from the city hustle.

Recently, I discovered the Whatcom Water Trails—a fantastic network of 22 curated water trails throughout Whatcom County, each offering unique sights and experiences. Whether you’re gliding past quiet coves or around lush islands, the routes are perfect for paddlers of all skill levels.

Spending a day out on the water here not only refreshes the mind but also provides a delightful perspective of Bellingham’s natural beauty. Rentals are available via Dragonfly Kayak Tours or Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures.

A shot of Mt. Baker with the Patos Island Lighthouse in the foreground.

Visit the Nearby San Juan Islands

This serene archipelago feels a million miles away from both Vancouver and Seattle, offering a tranquil alternative to BC’s Gulf Islands. The area hub of Friday Harbour can be reached via the Washington State Ferry from nearby Anacortes.

With lush landscapes and expansive marine views, the islands provide a plethora of outdoor activities. Camping under star-studded skies, hiking through fragrant, forested paths, and kayaking in the gentle waters are just a few ways to immerse yourself in nature here.

Plus, the area is renowned for its San Juan Island whale watching tours—an unforgettable experience as you spot orcas and humpbacks gliding through the ocean.

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All set for your day trip from Vancouver to Bellingham?

Having ventured past the food courts and shopping bags, I’ve unearthed a Bellingham that’s rich with experiences and beauty, proving it’s more than just a convenient stopover on your way to Seattle.

This small harbour city is a treasure trove of culture, nature, and history that makes every visit worthwhile.

For anyone looking for a fulfilling getaway, the trip from Vancouver to Bellingham promises much more than you might expect.

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