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Credit: Curt Woodhall

The Hotel Bellwether on Bellingham Bay offers spectacular views and deals

There's more to Bellingham than cheap gas and cheese. Spend the weekend cross-border discovering restored architecture, artisan shops and scenic views of Bellingham Bay

Just 30 minutes from the BC border, Bellingham has everything you could want in an affordable weekend getaway: a mix of chic boutiques and family-run shops selling artisan wares, a burgeoning culinary scene, waterfront parks offering glimpses of the San Juan Islands and the best luxury hotel in the Northwest.

Sites and Shops: Bellingham’s Must-see Spots

Downtown Bellingham houses an array of trendy home décor stores. Must-shop spots include Ideal, for outstanding and unique design-centric gifts and goods, and the ultra-cool Digs, offering everything from cheeky cocktail napkins to chic chaise lounges.  

Each Saturday from April through Christmas local producers gather to sell their artisan wares at Bellingham’s open-air Farmer’s Market. Freshly baked breads, organic cheeses, preserves and beautiful hand-made jewelry and ornaments are some of the tempting items on offer at the downtown Market Square.

You could also spend an afternoon in Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district, strolling through the quaint streets sprinkled with art galleries, cafes and quirky stores in charming turn-of-the-century brick buildings.

Village Books
and Paper Dreams, mainstays of this seaside neighbourhood, offer a mélange of new and used paperbacks and hard-covers, stationery, gifts and sweet treats including handmade fudge. For designer duds, luxurious linens and Parisian perfumes beautifully displayed in a restored 19th century bank building, visit the Three French Hens boutique.  

Another tempting Fairhaven stop is the artisan cheese shop Quel Fromage, offering more than 100 cheese selections and delectable accoutrements and fine wines. The holiday season in Fairhaven promises twinkling lights and storefronts adorned with bows wrapped in ribbon, while summer months lend well to starlight flicks at the Village Green’s Outdoor Cinema with a picnic box from Quel Fromage.

The Bellingham area is home to almost a dozen artisan wineries, including the family-owned Samson Estate Winery. In addition to red and white varietals, Samson produces true to the fruit, award-winning off-dry berry wines using local raspberries and blueberries.  For a leisurely four-hour tasting at some of the Pacific Northwest’s best boutique wineries, contact Whatcom Wine Tours.

After a day on your feet exploring Bellingham’s shopping and sites, pamper yourself at Zazen Spa. Signature treatments include the deep-tissue Jade Stone Massage and two-hour Aroma Body Envelopments treatment, featuring a full body exfoliation, 60-minute massage and body masque and wrap.  

Nips and Nibbles: Favourite Bellingham Restaurants

Dining options abound in Bellingham -- from the fork-free to sky-high. A favourite fork-free eatery is Fiamma Burger for deluxe house-made all-natural patties stacked with tasty toppings. Salmon, bison and lamb are a few of the carnivorous options on the grill, as well as the infamous house-smoked pulled-pork sandwich topped with shoestring potatoes and creamy coleslaw.    

The burger joint’s sister restaurant, La Fiamma Woodfire Pizza offers an equally creative menu including The Spuddy, a baked potato pizza with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, smoked bacon, cheese, scallions, house-made BBQ sauce and a generous dollop of sour cream.  

For seasonal, sustainable cuisine and panoramic Pacific-Northwest views, take the elevator up to Nimbus on the top floor of Bellingham’s tallest tower. Chicken pot pie with wild mushrooms, root vegetables and roasted onion cream, and grilled beef flat iron steak served with potato and winter squash gratin, rosemary sausage, fried quail egg and maple gastrique are current features on the restaurant’s ever-changing menu.

Tantalizing tastes and sangria sure to make you sing are on the menu at Flats Tapas Bar in Fairhaven. Each dish is prepared from scratch using local, seasonal and organic ingredients. Fall highlights include the Pasado (grilled eggplant, tomato, asparagus and manchego cheese in a rosemary balsamic vinaigrette) and the Galicia (scallops with cannellini bean puree, caramelized onions, aioli and hazelnut pesto).

Deal on Digs: Stay in Style at Bellingham’s Hotel Bellwether

Recently voted the Best Luxury Hotel in the Northwest by Evening Magazine, Hotel Bellwether on Bellingham Bay offers an intimate waterfront sanctuary with spectacular views of the San Juan Islands and snow-capped peaks of Mount Baker.

From October through March Hotel Bellwether features an incredible Best of Bellingham travel package complete with two-night accommodations, a welcome bag of locally made gifts, $25 Downtown Dollars to spend at a host of local shops, passes to the historic Pickford Film Centre and Whatcom Museum, and a delicious Northwest dinner for two at the hotel’s Harborside Bistro.

Prices for this two-day package start at $299 based on double occupancy. 

See more photos of Bellingham in our Weekend Getaway Guide photo gallery

Mhairri Cuthbert is a travel writer at Arrivals. Visit their blog for additional links, information and photos on this destination.