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San Juan Island
I-5, Exit 250
This bustling historic district is definitely not stuck in the past.
Fairhaven, once its own town founded by Dirty Dan Harris in 1883, is now a district of Bellingham, but this bustling district deserves a trip of its own. With its historic brick buildings and cobbled streets, Fairhaven is a reminder of days long past, inviting visitors to enjoy a slower pace.
The antique looks belie Fairhaven’s role as a major regional transportation hub. Fairhaven is the southern terminus of the Alaska ferry, a port for cruises to the San Juan Islands, and an Amtrak stop on the Vancouver to Portland run, as well as a Greyhound bus depot.
Fairhaven has lots of shops and restaurants. Thanks to pedestrian friendly streets, walking from shop to shop is a breeze, making this district a shopper’s haven. The bookworm will be happy here as well. Village Books offers four stories of reading paradise in its little nook on 11th street.
A myriad of wonderful food choices ranging from a quick bite on the street to an elegant dinner awaits the hungry traveler. Grab fish and chips from the double-decker bus on the corner, or duck down into the Cheers-style bar, Archer Ale House, for a unique twist on pub fare and an incredible selection of global brews. Make sure you have your ID handy, though. It’s 21 and up only.
Wednesdays in the summer feature the Fairhaven Farmers Market across from the Fairhaven Village Green. Vendors from all around the county show up to sell fresh produce and locally made arts and crafts. The market also features live music. On Saturday evenings, enjoy outdoor movies and live acts on the green.
Come evening, Fairhaven offers a music scene quite distinct from that found in Bellingham. For example, Skylark’s Hidden Cafe features a jazz open mic night on Thursdays at 8 p.m. Anyone with their own instrument is invited to play, but you might have to fight with the regulars for a spot in the line-up.
If you need a place to stay, Fairhaven Inn will keep you close to the action. Just across from the Village Green, this old-world hotel pays attention to the details and offers a comfortable respite for the weary traveler.
Fairhaven is a great spot to launch your kayak. Put in at the public boat launch and paddle north through the bay to get a waterside view of Bellingham, or head south to Chuckanut Bay to find beautiful sandstone formations sculpted by the waves and wind. The Community Boating Center at 555 Harris Avenue is a great place to find a rental.
Fairhaven harbor is also the place to board a whale-watching tour boat if you want to get a good look at the orcas that cruise the waters of the San Juan Islands.
The Taylor dock is a quarter-mile boardwalk and restored railway trestle that takes pedestrians and cyclists over the bay from Fairhaven to Boulevard Park. Walk or ride your bike on South Bay Trail or stop at Boulevard Park for a picnic, to toss a frisbee around or just enjoy the view of the bay.
For more info, visit fairhaven.com.
Think outside the Box.
TEA FOR TWO: Creativitea pottery painting studio and tea bar is a unique stop, with a full tea bar and pottery painting, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
CHEESE, PLEASE: Quel Fromage at the corner of 12th Street and Old Fairhaven is a purveyor of foodie delights, with artisan cheeses and accoutrement.
A TASTE OF BRITIAN: Fairhaven Fish & Chips at 10th Street and Harris Avenue serves meals and soft serve ice cream out of an old double-decker bus.
OUT OF SIGHT: Venture downstairs into the basement at 1212 10th Street to the hidden Archer Ale House, featuring upscale British pub food and an extensive beer menu.
CINEMA ESCAPE: Take in a movie at the Village Green on Saturday nights from June through August.
JAZZ IT UP: Skylark’s Hidden Cafe has live jazz Thursday through Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m., accompanied by a late night supper menu.