Fairhaven, adored for its quaint Victorian-era architecture, one of a kind art shops, and boutique stores, has a number of must see attractions and fun things to do, enough to cover at least two days of travel.
Situated on the shores of beautiful Bellingham Bay, this charming neighborhood has a plethora of great restaurants to choose from and several pleasant hotels, making Fairhaven an ideal place for a romantic weekend away, relaxing staycation, or as a base to explore outdoor opportunities that surround the area.
Most visitors come for the shopping, to wander the cobblestone streets, and to admire the nineteenth century red brick buildings. This guide will cover some of the quintessential stores to visit in downtown Fairhaven, things to do, and other highlights in the immediate area. However, if you need more inspiration or have more than two days to spend in Fairhaven, you may want to take a look at this list of things to do in Bellingham.
But before I cover the top attractions in Fairhaven, let’s go over some history because Fairhaven’s is actually quite fascinating.
Fairhaven, founded in 1883, was once a separate city to Bellingham. The area was originally settled by a small community of coal miners but the population of only around one hundred and fifty in 1889, leaped to eight thousand in 1890 according to the Fairhaven Herald of December 29th, 1890.
During this time, Fairhaven was home to an area called Devil’s Row, a place full of saloons, theaters, casinos, and brothels. The place was booming with business and investment bankers built dozens of wood and brick buildings in hopes of attracting the new Northern Railroad. Unfortunately for Fairhaven, Seattle was chosen as the western terminus and things started to decline here.
Fairhaven eventually merged with Bellingham in 1903 and was slowly forgotten about. It wasn’t until the 60s and 70s when Fairhaven was re-discovered and the buildings restored, gaining the district protection on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
You can still see reminders of Fairhaven’s early years in the cobblestone streets and even old logging trails in nearby mountains.
A small working harbor is still in operation here which also serves as the southernmost stop for the Alaska State Ferry, and other ferry services which provide trips to the San Juan Islands. Wouldn’t a trip to Alaska or the San Juans by ferry make a great bucket list activity? Yep, I think so too.
Anyway, now that we have covered some of Fairhaven’s history you’ll have a better appreciation for the area, and not be too weirded out if you see ladies dressed in corsets and fishnet stockings roaming the streets. Never mind, I’ll explain later.
Fun Things To Do In Fairhaven
Stones Throw Brewing
Stones Throw Brewing is the only brewery in the Fairhaven district so you have no excuse not to visit if you’re staying in the area and in need of a cold one. Although this is not the only reason you should visit. There are plenty of good reasons to visit one of the most recent members of Bellingham’s long list of breweries that seem to keep popping up.
Let’s start with the most obvious reason, the beers. These guys offer a range of beers to suit everyone from IPAs with bright citrus flavors, to slightly spicy lagers, and mellow smoky porters. Their tap list changes frequently to offer seasonals that include Belgian ales, Hefeweizens, and sour beers.
Another reason to visit is because the space is so inviting. Configured to allow multiple areas to relax and socialize, you could hang out in the bright taproom which features a bar made out of a fridge, the front beer garden where you can watch passers-by, cozy up by the fire pit out back, or hide out on the upstairs deck.
Here’s a tidbit on the location of the site of the brewery; it’s located on the site of a former brothel which was run by Miss Annie.
If you’re visiting Fairhaven during the summer, Stones Throw love to throw block parties on the weekends which are free to attend. The family friendly events feature live music, dancing, food trucks, and of course – beer!
The motto here is ‘The Closest Pint To Adventure’ because the founders are an outdoorsy, adventure-seeking bunch, which is evident in the tap room where there are several books and maps that cover nearby outdoor destinations. They seem to have captured the spirit of sustainability, adventure, and community here well which is exactly what they had set out to do.
Bookworms will love Village Books, a three-level independent bookstore and giftshop where you are welcome to linger as long as you like to browse shelves. You’ll find new and used books from just about every category here and if you can’t the knowledgeable staff can help you locate whatever it is you are looking for. I guarantee you will lose hours at this place.
Before you go, be sure to pop into the cafe on the mezzanine level where you can sip on coffee and nibble on gourmet baked goodies.
Drizzle Olive Oil & Vinegar Tasting Room
Drizzle Olive Oil and Tasting Room is a place you will fall in love with. This store sources the highest quality olive oils from around the world from award winning producers. Their products are scrumptious and the best part is you can sample all of it.
In addition to the extra virgin olive oils, they sell a number of fragrant and flavorful infused oils like leek, ginger and black garlic, and cilantro and roasted garlic.
The balsamic vinegar is also top notch here and you can look forward to sampling blackberry ginger, elderberry, fig, lavender, chocolate, espresso, cinnamon pear, and a lot more! I haven’t even covered the white balsamic vinegars yet.
Let me tell you, your taste buds will be exploding and more than likely you won’t be leaving this store empty handed. If oils and vinegars are not your jam, you might be interested in discovering the hot sauces, cheese, honey, or teas here.
Whatcom Art Market
The Whatcom Art Market is a co-op gallery featuring over forty local and regional artists. You can find everything from paintings to woodwork, etched glass, metal, textiles, sculptures, jewelry, and so much more.
Naturally, it is the perfect place to visit if you are an art aficionado, but also if you’re looking to take home unique gifts for family and friends. The store is located in downtown Fairhaven and open every day of the week from 11am to 6pm.
Grab A Coffee At The Woods
The Woods Coffee in Fairhaven is a beloved place with locals, and one of my all time favorite places in Bellingham. The locally founded business which has grown into several stores with locations all over Bellingham has established quite a respectable reputation.
Besides really good coffee, one of the things that stand out to me about every coffee shop of theirs that I have been to, always has such an inviting atmosphere where you never feel rushed or hurried to move on like at other coffee houses. Here, the staff always seem to be friendly, fun, and very chill.
The Boulevard Park location is in a gem of a location, sitting about ten feet from beautiful Bellingham Bay. What could be better than sipping on good coffee while enjoying one of the best views in Fairhaven? Sometimes it is the simple things that are often the best.
Interior design elements like pine tree, mountain, and bear carvings throughout the shop really embody the outdoorsy pacific northwest spirit. Comfy leather couches and a cozy fireplace beckon in the winter months.
Taylor Dock & Bellingham Boardwalk
The Bellingham Boardwalk is an over-water walkway that connects Taylor Dock to Boulevard Park in Fairhaven. The quarter mile long trail provides outstanding views of Bellingham Bay and even mountain peaks in Canada can be seen from here on a clear day.
The iconic Bellingham landmark is a favorite among visitors and locals, and a great place to stretch your legs, relax, socialize, people watch, or catch a sunset. You’ll often see kids jumping from the dock into the water, fisherman, or kayakers launching from here on hot summer days which can be entertaining to watch.
One of the best ways to experience the Bellingham Boardwalk is to pick up a coffee to go from Woods Coffee which is located on the southern end of the walkway to take with you on your stroll.
Sin & Gin With The Good Time Girls
On the surface, Fairhaven seems like it’s always been a charming and quaint village, but little do most know that Bellingham’s south-side neighborhood was once a rambunctious town renown for being the city’s prostitution center.
Yes, Bellingham’s darling district started out as a wild west den of sin, full of brothels and saloons. Are you intrigued? If so, you can take a tour of Fairhaven’s not forgotten past on the Sin & Gin Tour with the Good Time Girls.
Tours are led by sassy women dressed in period costumes who deliver informative and humorous stories based on postcards from the 1890s and 1900s covering the wild west days through prohibition and beyond.
The tours last a little over an hour and run regularly every ‘sinful’ Saturday night between May through September, or can be requested as a private tour year-round.
Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway
Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway is a twenty-two mile stretch of road that features lush evergreen forests and gorgeous emerald bays. The curvy road hugs the Chuckanut Mountains as it travels alongside the shoreline of picture perfect Samish Bay.
This scenic byway offers access to numerous beautiful beaches, tidepools, peaceful coves, and hiking trails through lush temperate forests. There are several turnouts along the way to stop and take in the views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands.
The road is Washington state’s first designated scenic byway, and the only place in the pacific northwest where the Cascade Mountains touch the sea. From Fairhaven, you can drive the entire length of the road which will take you into the farming communities of Skagit County, or just drive a small portion of the road to take in the magnificent coastal views.
Situated on the calm shores of Bellingham Bay in Fairhaven, Boulevard Park is the perfect place to spend the afternoon, especially on a warm summer’s eve.
The beautiful green space is a popular destination with locals for walks, picnicking, barbeques, and swimming. Don’t be surprised to see the place packed on weekday afternoons and weekends.
Although it’s an ideal place to visit at any time of the day, around sunset is the most perfect time to come down because the sunsets seen from here are truly magical. Trust me when I say this is a must do on your trip to Fairhaven. If you are able to visit during the magic hour, don’t forget to bring your camera!
Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema
The Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema is an iconic movie theater in Bellingham and attending is a popular summer time tradition with locals. Outdoor screenings take place on the Village Green in downtown Fairhaven where guests can sprawl out on blankets underneath the stars whilst watching the most recent blockbuster.
Even though food and drinks are available to purchase, it is recommended you bring your own picnic spread if you’d prefer something more substantial than sweets and popcorn.
This year for 2022, films will be screened on Saturday evenings around dusk from the 25th June until 27th of August.
Where To Stay In Fairhaven
When it comes to lodging in Fairhaven, there are two top choices to consider; the Chrysalis Inn & Spa by Hilton, and the Fairhaven Village Inn. Both of these hotels are within walking distance of downtown Fairhaven and the most highly rated among travelers.
The Fairhaven Village Inn offers quaint rooms inside a charming Victorian-era building in the historic Fairhaven district. The 22-room property is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
The Chrysalis Inn & Spa is a four-star hotel situated on the Fairhaven waterfront. The cozy rooms come with bay windows and a fireplace, plus there is an onsite restaurant offering creative northwest cuisine.
You Might Also Like:
- 15 Really Cool Things To Do In Bellingham
- Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway: Guide To The Best Stops
- 29+ Best Things To Do In Washington: Bucket List Worthy Places & Activities
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