Blessed with abundant natural beauty, Bellingham, Washington sits on the shore of Bellingham Bay, in the shadow of snowcapped Mount Baker and the North Cascade Mountains. The city lies 90 miles north of Seattle and 20 miles south of the Canadian border. It is the northernmost city on the Washington coast and the county seat of Whatcom County.
Native Americans inhabited the 28 square miles that are now Bellingham when English captain George Vancouver visited in 1792. During the 1800s, small communities came and went along Bellingham Bay. Then, in 1904, the city of Bellingham was incorporated when four small bayside towns voted to consolidate. Today, Bellingham's past is visible in the numerous historic buildings throughout the city.
Bellingham is made up of 23 distinct neighborhoods, stretching inland along Interstate 5 from the coast to the foot of Mount Baker. The neighborhoods of Bellingham have a range of characteristics, from urban to suburban to rural. Some of the major neighborhoods include:
Bellingham's location near the Canadian border helps support businesses that deal with trade, transportation, and logistics. Additionally, its natural beauty is helping to fuel a growth in the tourism industry. In the past decade, tourism has risen to become a big business, especially as it relates to outdoor activities such as skiing and boating. Health care and government are also major industries. Some of the largest employers in Bellingham are:
Businesses in Bellingham have typically enjoyed a lower tax rate than those in Seattle and other nearby communities. Companies are also drawn to the area by its infrastructure. The city has an extensive fiber-optic cable network, and goods are easily shipped via Interstate 5 and the Port of Bellingham, the most diverse port in Washington. The port operates the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, Bellingham International Airport, Fairhaven Transportation Center (home to Amtrak and Greyhound), Bellingham Cruise Terminal, and two expansive marinas. Additionally, the port maintains several waterfront parks, administers three federally-designated foreign trade zones, and develops and owns a large amount of commercial and industrial property in Bellingham.
Bellingham is home to four colleges and universities, including Western Washington University. WWU is known for its unique environmental and economic research programs, as well as its highly regarded electrical engineering, plastics, and manufacturing programs. Bellingham Technical College, Northwest Indian College, and Whatcom Community College are also located in Bellingham.
The variety of outdoor recreational activities is one of the main reasons people choose to live and work in the Bellingham area. Hiking and biking trails are just minutes away and are popular after-work activities. Summer days are often filled with fishing in the bay, picnicking at one of the city's parks, or taking a swim at the area's many lakes and rivers. Canoeing, kayaking, river rafting, clamming, whale watching, golfing, and simply enjoying a beautiful sunset are other popular activities.
In the winter, nearby Mount Baker gets an average of approximately 600 inches of snow each year-that's the most in North America. Skiers and snowboarders enjoy a 1,500-foot vertical drop and a long season, which typically runs from November to April.
Bellingham is home to a thriving, exciting arts scene. Modern and traditional works are displayed in museums and galleries across the city, and Bellingham residents are proud to support the arts. Some of the more prominent institutions include: