Fairhaven, especially on a mild evening during the monthly Art Walk, is magical. With views of Bellingham Bay, historic tree-shaded streets to explore and farm to table dining, Fairhaven, Washington makes for a wonderful weekend getaway or vacation destination.
The historic town has a small working harbor. It's a year-round stop for the Alaska State Ferry and there are several ferries and charters for trips to the San Juan Islands.
Fairhaven was founded in the late 1880s, but about two decades later it became part of the City of Bellingham, Washington. And, for us, we appreciated that Fairhaven is the location of Bellingham’s train station. We arrived at the station on the Amtrak Cascades and found that the beautiful Fairhaven Village Inn was just up the hill, within walking distance.
Staying in Fairhaven
We settled into spacious rooms in the 22-room Fairhaven Village Inn. While the inn fits in well with the Victorian era charm of Fairhaven, it has all the comforts and amenities of a modern-day boutique hotel.
Depending on where your room is located, you can enjoy a view of the Village Green Park or the bay. It’s in the center of everything.
Outside the Inn's front door are walking trails and dozens of local restaurants sprinkled among unique shops. We enjoyed the intimate, deco-inspired Galloway’s Cocktail Bar adjacent to the inn. Upon check-in, the inn gave us little keys to be used for a discount at Galloway's… a nice touch.
The inn has a quaint light-filled lobby and a library to peruse. If you don’t have a bay view from your room, enjoy some time on the view deck. They serve a nice continental breakfast each morning, plus, coffee and tea is always available in the lobby. The inn provides a great base for exploring the historic Fairhaven district.
Once a separate town, Fairhaven is located on the southern edge of Bellingham Bay. It was considered a boomtown in the early 1890s. Speculators and investment bankers built dozens of wood and brick buildings there in hopes of attracting the new northern railroad. Well, the railroad chose Seattle as their western terminus and things declined in Fairhaven.
The town merged with Bellingham in 1904. In the 60s and 70s, Fairhaven was re-discovered, historic buildings were restored and an arts presence emerged. The six-block historic district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
It is this district, with its imposing brick and stone buildings, that has become a popular destination for shopping, dining, and enjoying one of the many special events and festivals. The quality and creativity of the shops and restaurants will make an impression on you and entice you to return.
After resting a bit in our rooms, we stepped out to explore the shops and galleries during the Summer Solstice Art Walk. It was the longest day of the year, the outdoor restaurants and cafés were full, and the shop doors were open.
We walked up and down the historic streets admiring the art, chatting with artists working up an appetite. In addition to galleries, there was a huge indie bookstore and clothing boutiques, all worth visiting.
We especially enjoyed the Whatcom Art Market’s co-op gallery. In one building you can see the works of over 40 local artists from Whatcom, Skagit, and the San Juan Islands. There were jewelry, multi-media framed works, and pottery.
One of the little shops that beckoned us to look inside was A Lot of Flowers on Harris Street. They have more than flowers. Find home and garden décor and gift items artfully arranged there. What I loved about A Lot of Flowers were their intriguing offerings. Succulent fans would have a field day. The shop is a feast for the eyes and an amazing place to pick up a one of a kind memento or gift. Their Instagram account will give you a sense of their eye for beauty and whimsy.
As we explored alleyways and went up and down creaking wooden stairs to visit open galleries, we encountered Sarah Stamps, from Lynden, and her colorful, fanciful outdoor paintings.
Down the street, we found a gallery filled with pottery. Good Earth Pottery is located in the historic Morgan Block Building. They have been there since 1969 and are one of the early influencers of the evolution of Fairhaven into an arts district.
They represent 50 local potters.
The art walk series is a product of a partnership by the Whatcom Art Market and Historic Fairhaven Association. It occurs on the fourth Friday of each month year-round, except in December, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in more than a dozen businesses in historic Fairhaven.
There are many restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries to enjoy in Fairhaven. But we were invited to dine at a relatively new restaurant, Lovitt Restaurant on Harris. While Lovitt was new to Fairhaven, the owners had enjoyed success in Colville, Washington, and had recently moved the family and business.
Owners Kristen and Norman Six are dedicated to providing locally sourced and house-made foods. They make everything from the bread to the ice cream from scratch, right there. They make excellent pasta.
They also have a bar where they serve specialty cocktails, local brews, and wines. I enjoyed seeing Chef Norman working in the kitchen preparing the salmon I ordered that night. It was fresh and cooked perfectly. Their salmon dish is currently made with wild Coho salmon with a maple apple glaze, roasted blue Hubbard squash, and sautéed fall vegetables and crispy kale.
My friend decided it was a comfort food kind of night and ordered the liver and onions demi-glace, roasted potato hash, and fall vegetable, also excellent. You can count on menu changes seasonally.
They keep things hopping at Lovitt. With live music and weekend brunches, they have become a Fairhaven gathering place. During the art walk, they hosted an artist and hung paintings throughout the brick-walled restaurant. Lovitt… a must-dine when in Fairhaven!
Out and About
Fairhaven is made for walkers. While it's fun to walk and shop in the historic district, you’ll find opportunities to walk down to the water and watch the kayakers and boat traffic. The South Bay Trail and Taylor Dock (a boardwalk over the water) is Bellingham’s most popular route for walking, biking and running.
You can take the two-mile trail along Bellingham Bay into downtown Bellingham. One day we walked the trail to go to the Bellingham Farmer’s Market. It’s accessible right from the Fairhaven Village Inn.
Another day I walked the trail to Woods Coffee in Boulevard Park. It’s not as far as Bellingham and made for a perfect hot chocolate stop when the rains dampened my walk. I sat back in one of their leather chairs in front of a fireplace and enjoyed the bay and the Salish Sea views.
Fairhaven provides a nicely balanced mix of outdoor recreation, arts and culture, and dining for the visitor.
When You Go to Fairhaven
Like most places in the Pacific Northwest, Fairhaven is casual. Bring your walking shoes and dress in layers. Check the Fairhaven website for one of their many festivals and events. And keep in touch with the area by reading WhatcomTalk.com
Bellingham has a commercial airport and, as I mentioned, the Amtrak Cascades train stops right at Fairhaven.
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.