Walk, Drink, Eat: Fairhaven to Bellingham via the South Bay Trail

Day 47 (September 14)
Bellingham, Washington

This is the third in our series of Bellingham posts. If you’d like to read back…

Part 1: Larrabee State Park
Part 2: Downtown Bellingham, Ye Olde City of Subdued Excitement

Walk. Take pictures. Eat. Drink. Repeat. So goes our last (long, super-fun) full day in Bellingham.

Taking the scenic Chuckanut Drive from Larrabee State Park to Boulevard Park (north of Fairhaven’s historic business district), we decide park the car here and walk for the rest of the day. The South Bay Trail is our main north/south route.

South Bay Trail between Boulevard Park and Fairhaven historic district Bellingham, Washington
South Bay Trail between Boulevard Park and Fairhaven historic district

The South Bay Trail is a beautiful urban walking and biking trail that links the two business districts of Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham. The 2+ mile-long trail switches from boardwalk to pavement to gravel in different sections, with open bay views and shrubby/wooded views.

We head south first, through Bellingham Bay-side Boulevard Park to downtown Fairhaven.

Fairhaven Fish & Chips double-decker bus in Bellingham, Washington
Fairhaven Fish & Chips

Fairhaven’s several blocks of late 19th-century and early 20th century brick buildings are  dotted with sculptures of literary figures, and lined with pretty flowerpots and deciduous trees already showing a bit of fall color.

View from the patio at Fat Pie Pizza in Bellingham, Washington
View from the patio at Fat Pie Pizza

We didn’t make it to the famous Rocket Doughnuts in Downtown Bellingham, so of course when we find another location in Fairhaven we have to stop in for a sweet snack. Their “monster” doughnuts are the size of a child’s head! Knowing that we’d be eating out all day, we choose something a little less gluttonous. These are some seriously great doughnuts!

I’m in heaven in an indie book store. Bellingham has no shortage of these. We peruse two excellent independent Fairhaven bookstores: Village Books and Eclipse Bookstore & Fine Art.

Mark Twain Sculpture in front of Village Books in Fairhaven, Bellingham, Washington
Village Books in Fairhaven

With our doughnut energy waning, we decide to stop for a bite before the walk north. Fat Pie Pizza serves up tasty Detroit-style (Sicilian) square and Chicago-style deep dish style pies. We opt for the Chicago-style. Yum!!!

Fairhaven’s relaxed vibe is perfect for just sitting & watching the world go by. Be on the lookout for the living statue. She is amazingly realistic. (We were too caught up in watching her to photograph her).

Fat Pie Pizza in Fairhaven, Bellingham, Washington
Robert sporting a mustache in tribute to Burt Reynolds

Time to burn some of those calories off! Almost too full to walk, we pry ourselves away from lovely Fairhaven and start walking north on the South Bay Trail toward downtown Bellingham.

South Bay Trail between Boulevard Park and downtown Bellingham, Washington
South Bay Trail between Boulevard Park and downtown Bellingham
Fuchsias (?) along the South Bay Trail
Fuchsias (?) along the South Bay Trail

We pause a few times along the way to shoot pictures of interesting places, exploring blocks of dilapidation and gentrification along the way. Progress isn’t always pretty for small businesses seeking affordable rent. The Hub Community Bike Shop lost their lease on this groovily painted building, though thankfully they were able to move to another location.

The Hub Community Bike Shop, Bellingham, Washington
The Hub Community Bike Shop

The metal building that housed the film photography lab Positive-Negative is in rough shape. I imagine we will see condos in place of this building the next time we’re here. I was happy to read on the company’s website that they are planning to relocate to the basement of Quicksilver Photo Lab in 2019. I really hope they can make that work. Long live film!

Positive-Negative Photo Lab in Bellingham, Washington
Defunct Positive-Negative Photo Lab

During our walk around Downtown Bellingham on our first day in town, we got a good idea of some places that we wanted to stop in for an adult beverage. At the top of the list was the The Horseshoe Cafe & Ranch Room. I mean, seriously. Just look at that Mural!

Horseshoe Cafe and Ranch Room in downtown Bellingham, Washington
Horseshoe Cafe and Ranch Room in downtown Bellingham

The Horseshoe Cafe dates back to 1886, and is the oldest continually operating cafe and cocktail lounge in the state of Washington.  The inside has been updated over the years but the owners have kept the mid century decor. This cafe+lounge is a total time capsule, frozen in 1969. Sipping on a craft beer feels wrong in this place. We both order a tall draft Rainier, the finest cheap beer in the land. 

The Ranch Room bar lounge at Horseshoe Cafe, Bellingham, Washington
The Ranch Room lounge
Mural at the Ranch Room bar at Horseshoe Cafe in Bellingham, Washington
Mural at the Ranch Room bar

The cafe and bar are almost empty mid-afternoon on this Friday , and I’m curious what the vibe and crowd are like at night.

I wish had some high-speed film loaded in the Nikon F2, because this place is begging to be photographed with a period-appropriate film camera!

Time capsule: The Horseshoe Cafe in Downtown Bellingham, Washington
Time capsule: The Horseshoe Cafe

A few more miles of walking: up to the marina, through some residential areas, and treasure hunting at some really good antique malls.

Red Rum tiki bar opens at 5, and although we are there by 5:30, we snag the only table available. The bar is small, but the tiki theme is nicely done. It is a little dark and crowded for me to inconspicuously take pictures, but you can see some great pics on Yelp. We enjoy our zombies and delicious happy hour appetizers, and lament that we don’t have friends here with us to enjoy this cool little bar.

Zombies at the Red Rum tiki bar in Downtown Bellingham, Washington
Zombies at the Red Rum tiki bar

We arrive back at Boulevard Park near dusk. The park seems like a great place to spend a Friday night unwinding, letting your cares from the week melt away. I hear this is a great place to take in the sunset, though the clouds will make for a lackluster one tonight, so we head on back to camp with full bellies and hearts warm with affection for this special city on the bay.

Looking out at Bellingham Bay from Boulevard Park, Washington
Looking out at Bellingham Bay from Boulevard Park

The reality of this being our last night here sinks in. I find myself envying that kayaker’s view of Bellingham and the San Juan Islands from the bay, though I know that I’ll return one day to experience that same view for myself.

Kayaker in Bellingham Bay
Kayaker in Bellingham Bay

Being a late addition to our itinerary, I didn’t have time to research Bellingham much before we arrived. On top of that, the rainy forecast played a factor in our plans, and we spent two full days on side trips to Deception Pass State Park and Friday Harbor (blog posts to come).

I enjoyed every minute we spent in this area, but we definitely missed out on a lot of the “best” things to do in Bellingham. I’m sure the list below will have 20 new additions before we are able to take our next trip to Bellingham. Here are some things we hope to do on our next trip:

I’d love to hear restaurant and activity recommendations from you, dear readers!

If you’d like to catch up on our Washington travels so far, click here to see our series of Washington posts



4 Replies to “Walk, Drink, Eat: Fairhaven to Bellingham via the South Bay Trail”

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