Wandering Bellingham, Washington’s Historic Fairhaven District

Written by Elizabeth Rose

December 4, 2017
Home >> Destinations >> North America >> United States >> Washington >> Wandering Bellingham, Washington’s Historic Fairhaven District

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.


Next to the Fairhaven train station was the Alaska Ferry dock. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.

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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.

Fairhaven Inn

Enjoy this boutique inn right in the middle of the Fairhaven Historic District. Photo by: Elizabeth R Rose

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.

Fairhaven Inn

Comfortable, homey rooms at the Fairhaven Inn. Photo courtesy Fairhaven Inn

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.


A cocktail at Galloway’s was an ideal way to unwind after a day of walking historic Fairhaven. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.

Fairhaven History

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 buildings of historic Fairhaven were constructed to impress railroad officials. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


In the Village Green Park, you’ll find a bronze of Daniel Jefferson Harris, founder of Fairhaven. No doubt you’ll hear many stories about “Dirty Dan” during your stay in Fairhaven. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.

Shopping Fairhaven

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.


The yellow banners led us to the Whatcom Artists Cooperative. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


We fell in love with A Lot of Flowers. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


You have to explore the twists and turns of downtown Fairhaven. We encountered artist Sarah Stamps working in an alleyway. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


Good Earth Pottery was one of the first art galleries to locate in historic Fairhaven. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

They represent 50 local potters.


Intriguing message pottery. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.

Dining 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.


Lovitt Restaurant can be found in the lower level of a historic brick building. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


Be sure and add a pasta course to your dinner at Lovitt. It’s house-made and excellent. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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!


Kristen and Norman Six have a reputation for excellent farm to table food. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


Enjoy views of activity on the bay when you walk the South Bay Trail. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


The Taylor dock trail over the bay is part of the fun of walking toward downtown Bellingham. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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.


I warmed up with hot chocolate while waiting for the rain squall to pass. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

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

Find out more about visiting the Bellingham Washington area and read what Wander writers have to say about the Bellingham area.

Bellingham has a commercial airport and, as I mentioned, the Amtrak Cascades train stops right at Fairhaven.

With views of Bellingham Bay, tree-shaded streets and farm to table dining, Fairhaven makes for a #wonderful weekend getaway or #vacation destination. #PNW #washington #foodie #fairhaven #bellingham #pacificnorthwest #northwest #travel

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.

Written by Elizabeth Rose

Elizabeth Rose is back again in the Phoenix area after more than a decade living in New Mexico and Washington state. She travels throughout the West and beyond writing about destinations, accommodations, festivals, and restaurants, especially farm to table cuisine. As an expert in cultural tourism, her writing reflects that passion. She has won awards for her photography and accompanies her articles with her own images. She also provides photos for magazine covers, web sites and magazine articles (both print and online).

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