The small city of Bellingham hugs the Washington coastline and nestles up to the craggy, snow-capped Cascade Range. This bustling college town is only a two-hour drive from Seattle, and a 1.5-hour drive from Vancouver, BC. When the opportunity to have a hosted two-day stay presented itself, I packed up my bags and headed north to the lands Captain George Vancouver explored 225 years ago.
Two luxurious hotels—the Hotel Bellwether and The Chrysalis Inn & Spa—hosted my stay. The Hotel Bellwether earned the #1 spot on Evening Magazine's “Best of the Northwest” and its proximity to downtown Bellingham allowed me to discover its art, flavors, and history with ease.
Luxury Awaits at the Hotel Bellwether
As I drove to the Hotel Bellwether, I felt like Captain Vancouver sailing into the bay all those years ago. The 66-room boutique hotel overlooks the waterfront with westward views of Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, and British Columbia.
After a quick check-in, I took some time to admire the charming sitting room with a grandfather clock, a carved wood mantel, and the nearby sleeping Canine Concierge Bella. The ambiance felt more like a high-end country estate, not a hotel.
The hotel offers a range of room and suite styles, like Studios, Island Suites, and the Bellwether Suite, all adorned with luxurious linens and stately furniture. Many have water views and private balconies, and almost all have air-jetted tubs as well as gas fireplaces. If you feel peckish, their snack baskets are Northwest-inspired.
I stayed in a third floor Premier Suite, which included a spacious bathroom with high-tech soaking tub (and yes, I did indulge in an evening soak). I also had an open bedroom that included a sitting area with a fireplace, and a private balcony.
Unfortunately, the day I arrived the clouds were low and the weather glum, but that didn't stop me from enjoying my view with a chilled bottle of sparkling water. From there, I could watch the boats coming in and out of the marina. Locals seem to enjoy afternoon strolls on Squalicum Promenade, which meanders past the marina.
For spa services, the hotel partnered with Zazen Spa and Still Life Massage and Float, which are a short walk away. Hotel packages include spa getaways, which made me wish I'd arranged for some float time. They also have seasonal packages, as well as Romance by the Bay, Dog-Friendly, and Bellwether Bed & Brews.
During my tour of the property, I was able to go inside the three-story Lighthouse Suite. On the lower level is a sitting area with a wet bar, fireplace, and patio. The bedroom and bathroom are on the second floor. The third floor houses a sitting area with an observation deck and 360-degree views. I also got to see the Wine Cellar, which is a European-style dining room surrounded by hundreds of stacked wine bottles.
If you are a golf lover, you'll enjoy the small putting green on the property. One of the features I fancied was the outdoor firepit, which would be the perfect spot to warm up during one of our cool Pacific Northwest summers.
Amazing Dinner, Amazing View
The Lighthouse Bar & Grill has two dining options. The lounge has a cozy bar and a seasonal outdoor patio. The more formal restaurant has granite tables and high-backed booths. I opted for the dining room and chose a table next to the windows.
I started with a tequila-inspired Cascade Rose cocktail ($12).
Next, I ordered the panko-encrusted Bayside Prawns on a bed of cabbage slaw and sweet soy and siracha aioli ($11).
For dinner, I opted for the coriander-roasted Butternut Squash Tower with house-smoked goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms, golden beets, and kale ($27). This unusual sounding dish ended up being my favorite of the night.
After my server had raved about the Croissant Bread Pudding, I thought why not add another great creation into this culinary experience. I wasn't disappointed.
The dining room is also open for breakfast and lunch, but after my extravagant meal, I was still too full in the morning. There are some scrumptious sounding dishes like Challah French Toast, Lighthouse Signature Benedict with Hempler's ham, and the Wild Salmon Omelet.
Downtown Bellingham is a happening place with boutique shops, restaurants, bars, and one of its most iconic buildings—the historic Mt. Baker Theatre. I didn't take in a show, but I did visit a handful of museums. If you are an art lover, I suggest Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher.
The building itself is quite something, with an 180-foot long and 37-foot high translucent wall. The museum has two rotating exhibits, a gift shop, and Artifacts Cafe & Wine Bar, which has happy hour every day from 4 to 6 pm.
Old City Hall is also part of Whatcom Museum. It's a block away from the Lightcatcher, and on Sundays, the offers free docent-led one-hour tours.
Some of the items I found fascinating were the original walk-in safe, discovering Bellingham's Maritime Heritage, and the new John M. Edson Hall of Birds exhibit which features more than 500 birds.
Really old things wow me, and The Picket House, Washington's “oldest documented wooden structure in its original location” provided a big wow moment.
Civil War captain, George Pickett, built the house in 1865 with wood from the local mill and over 150 years later the city has grown up around this landmark. If you want to tour the house, plan to visit the second Sunday of the month, as that is the only day the Daughters of the Pioneers give free tours.
If you want to experience the power of electricity, you'll want to see the MegaZapper Electrical Show at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention. This popular show happens every Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm, and the day I arrived there was a line waiting to get in.
The show is fun, educational, and includes an option to get inside a Faraday Cage, which I did!
Afterward, tour the museum's collection, which includes artifacts from the 1600s, “Herizan-wave” devices, Edison light bulbs, as well as rare music boxes, phonographs, and vacuum tubes. There are several hands-on items throughout the extensive collection, including a Theremin, which provides the perfect opportunity to play your favorite sci-fi song.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.