For all our seafood lovers, we’ve crafted this two-day game plan to explore Bellingham’s maritime heritage and revel in the harvest from the sea. This seaside college town is located on scenic Bellingham Bay, which has nourished local Coast Salish peoples since time immemorial. Today, Bellingham is home to a thriving working waterfront, charming downtown, and plenty of fantastic restaurants for gorging on local delicacies like oysters, salmon, and Dungeness crab. Dive into the past at the Whatcom Museum, take to the water on a kayak or historic schooner, stroll down a charming historic boardwalk, and take a scenic drive along Chuckanut Bay as you eat your way through Bellingham.
Morning stroll and lunch at Squalicum Harbor
Park open dawn to dusk | 2600 Harbor Loop, Bellingham, WA 98225
Dockside market open 10:00 am-2:00 pm on the first and third Saturdays of each month | 722 Coho Way, Bellingham, WA 98225
Start your day at scenic Squalicum Harbor overlooking Bellingham Bay. Walk along the waterside interpretive trail to learn about the local fishing industry and pay your respects to the large memorial dedicated to fishermen and other mariners lost at sea. You’ll also have great views of Bellingham’s active fishing fleet from the shore of the harbor’s full-service marina. For those traveling with little ones, Zuanich Point Park within the harbor offers a children’s play area.
We HIGHLY recommend visiting on the first or third Saturday of the month, when you’ll have the chance to explore the Bellingham Dockside Market, where you can purchase fresh seafood directly from local fishermen. Visit the market’s Facebook page for updates on vendors—including regular demos on how to cook your seafood. After the market, stop by one of Squalicum Harbor’s many seafood restaurants for a quick lunch.
Open Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00-5:00 pm | 121 Prospect Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
If you can tear yourself away from the water, it’s worth the 30-minute stroll over Whatcom Creek and through Maritime Heritage Park to Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall location. On the second floor, you’ll find the Maritime History Gallery, featuring exhibits on the county’s water-based heritage and beautiful views of the bay. Fun fact: Bellingham’s Old City Hall was the first site in Washington State to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“My favorite aspect of the Maritime Gallery are the historical photos, especially on the windows overlooking the bay. To see the waterfront now, compared to how it looked 100 years ago, is really something special.”
Dinner in Downtown Bellingham
Now that you’re hungry again (right?), it’s time to head downtown to keep the sea feast going. Given its location, it’s no surprise that Downtown Bellingham is home to a range of restaurants with fantastic fish and seafood offerings! Continue your seafood odyssey at one (or more) of these locations recommended by the experts at the Downtown Bellingham Partnership:
- Rock and Rye Oyster House, 1145 N State Street. A locally- and family-owned restaurant in the historic Bellingham Herald Building, Rock & Rye offers innovative drinks alongside sustainable local seafood—including oysters, of course!—made from scratch.
- CARNAL, 1234 N State Street. Focused on live-fire cooking in the heart of downtown, CARNAL features ambitious, creative, and shareable dishes like steelhead trout tartare and seared black cod.
- Nomad Charcuterie and Wine, 10 Prospect Street. A cozy café with large windows, Nomad serves a seasonal menu of cheese, charcuterie, and small plates like caviar and crudo, alongside natural wine from their home in the Flatiron Building.
- Bellingham Cider Company, 205 Prospect Street. A local craft cider producer, Bellingham Cider is a solar-powered restaurant with a full bar, locally-sourced food menu, and gorgeous patio overlooking Bellingham Bay—the perfect spot to enjoy one of their small-batch ciders and a plate of expertly prepared scallops, cod, prawn, and other fresh seafood.
- Culture Café, 210 E Chestnut Street, Suite 2. Featured in Bon Appétit, the award-winning Culture Café features a full bar and a scratch kitchen featuring Pacific flavors and Northwestern salmon.
“I love when a happy hour with a killer appetizer (Hello Oysters Cascadia with a gin martini from Rock & Rye!) leads to extending the evening downtown for an impromptu live music show. My current favorite excuse to stay downtown a while longer is live jazz at Aslan Depot.”
Drinks in the Waterfront District at Kulshan Brewing Company Trackside Beer Garden
Open seasonally spring through fall, 11:00 am-11:00 pm | 298 W Laurel Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Formerly the site of a large Georgia Pacific pulp and tissue mill, Bellingham’s central waterfront is in the midst of a rebirth. The Port of Bellingham is transforming this former industrial site into a vibrant multi-use neighborhood with recreational spaces, shopping, housing, and plenty of remnants of its historic past. Although the transformation is still in progress, you can check out a rehabilitated granary building, watch bikers on the pump track, and grab local sips at Kulshan’s Trackside Beer Garden (dog and family friendly!). And, if by some miracle you’re still in need of more seafood, the Captain’s Cod Company food truck is often on site serving up fish and chips.
Take to the water
On Sunday morning, it’s time to get on the water—and you have plenty of options for how to do it.
If you’re looking to work up an appetite for more seafood, head over to the Bellingham Bay Community Boating Center, where you can rent a kayak, paddleboard, rowboat, or even a small sailboat. Their friendly staff will also give you some great local tips on where to explore! Brought your own boat? The Community Boating Center also offers an easy put-in spot at the Fairhaven Boat Launch, or you can check out the Whatcom Water Trails Map for more options.
“Trip planning from the Community Boating Center is heavily dependent on conditions—Bellingham Bay can get rowdy! If it’s windy, I love exploring the pocket beaches just around the CBC near Boulevard Park. If you have the time and the conditions are right, heading down to Chuckanut Island is the best! Everything the San Juans have to offer is found on this one tiny little island. There is a stand of wild madronas clinging to sandstone cliffs on the southside, a mature old-growth forest in the middle, and at low tide, a white sandy beach! A decent trail can bring you around the perimeter of the island in about 20 minutes. Also, there is a fossilized palm tree trunk to find on the way. Stop by the CBC and chat with our team to design a float plan that works for the weather, your timeline, and your interests! There is so much to explore….”
Those looking for a bit more guidance can book a trip with Dragonfly Kayak Tours, which offers half-day guided tours of Chuckanut Bay (just a bit south of Bellingham Bay) that usually leave at 10:00 am.
If a luxurious brunch is more your speed, you may be lucky enough to be in town for one of Schooner Zodiac’s famous Bellingham Brunch on the Bay sails. The Schooner Zodiac is a classic historic windjammer, originally built for the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical heirs in 1924 for use as a private yacht. Beautifully maintained, the Schooner Zodiac is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operates out of Bellingham as a charter vessel.
Lunch at Port Fairhaven Fish-n-Chips in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal
Open daily 11:00 am-7:00 pm | 355 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225
- Pro tip: Branch off onto a fish and chips tasting tour of Whatcom County with this list of top spots from our friends at Visit Bellingham.
On your way out, look for a small exhibit space tucked into the heart of the cruise terminal. Although its hours are somewhat unpredictable, you can peek through the windows at the Whatcom Maritime Heritage Museum—a hidden gem within the ferry terminal featuring historic photos, model ships, and other artifacts from Bellingham’s longstanding maritime industries.
Historic Fairhaven neighborhood and Taylor Dock boardwalk
After lunch, take a stroll through the Fairhaven District. The Town of Fairhaven was founded in 1883 and served as a prime location for manufacturing and processing of salmon, lumber, and coal—taking advantage of the intersection of abundant natural resources and access to the sea. Now a National Historic District within the City of Bellingham, Fairhaven is a truly charming neighborhood full of red brick Victorian-era buildings, art galleries, shops, and restaurants. Check out a few of Fairhaven’s unique local businesses on your way towards the Taylor Dock boardwalk.
Hop on the Taylor Dock boardwalk near the Chrysalis Inn & Spa. This long, elevated boardwalk extends over the bay, connecting Fairhaven Village Green to Boulevard Park. Originally built in the late 1800s as a working dock for the offloading of fuel and supplies, it now offers some fantastic views of both sea and mountains. As you walk north, keep an eye out for Tin Slag Rock rising above the water. This “rock” is actually a large pile of tin waste, created by a salmon canning facility that used to be located nearby. Each evening, the metal shavings from the factory were swept off the dock, eventually creating this enormous, rusty mass.
Cruise Chuckanut Drive to Larrabee State Park
Park open daily 8:00 am-5:00 pm | 245 Chuckanut Drive, Bellingham, WA 98229
After your walk, hop in the car and drive about 10 minutes south along Chuckanut Drive, also known as State Route 11. Hugging the shoreline south of Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive is famous for its gorgeous views wooded cliffsides dropping into the bay. Completed in 1896, it provided the first land access to Fairhaven. Today, it’s a favorite scenic drive.
Head south until you reach Larrabee State Park around milepost 14. Set on the seaward side of Chuckanut Mountain, Larrabee is Washington’s first state park and is famous for its postcard-pretty views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. This unique park offers opportunities for all kinds of activities—from boating and fishing to hiking and camping—but we recommend the short (1.5-mile) hike to Clayton Beach, which features rare sandstone cliff formations and tide pools teeming with life.
Taylor Shellfish Samish Oyster Bar
Patio open daily 12:00-5:00 pm (hours may change seasonally) | 2182 Chuckanut Drive, Bow, WA 98232
Had enough seafood yet? Yeah, we didn’t think so. After your walk on the beach, continue driving another 10 minutes south along Chuckanut Drive towards your last stop of the trip at Taylor Shellfish’s Samish Oyster Bar, Farm, and Shellfish Market. With a waterfront picnic area overlooking Samish Bay, you can watch Taylor’s farmers bring in fresh shellfish from beds directly off the beach as you slurp down freshly shucked oysters and local beer or wine. Be sure to check out the interpretive panels around the deck that explain the history and art of shellfish farming in Washington! And, of course, don’t forget to pick up some extra seafood from the market to take home.