Photograph by Edmund Lowe, Alamy
GPS: 48°45’N; 122°28’W
Ignore, if you can, snow-draped Mount Baker, rising above Bellingham—this is a paddling town first. Canoeists and kayakers race across Lake Whatcom every Wednesday evening in summer (www.soundrowers.org), and their access to stunning Bellingham Bay is getting easier, too, as the shoreline morphs from an industrial wasteland into a sprawling green space. Inland, 15 percent of the sea-sprayed college town is set aside for parks, and when winter hits, 10,778-foot (3,285-meter) Baker is a bankable powder destination; in 1999, it set the standing world record for most snowfall ever in a single season at 95 feet (29 meters).
Elakah Expeditions’s “Paddle and Pedal” day trips are a good intro to the region: The morning kicks off with an hour-long kayaking trip along the sandstone cliffs of the Salish Sea (watch for river otters, seals, and eagles). Then, it’s a brief stop at Chuckanut Island to see native Salish archaeological sites. From there, you’ll paddle to Larrabee State Park for lunch followed by an afternoon bike trip on the fern- and cedar-cloaked Interurban Trail ($110; www.elakah.com). In winter, fresh powder is close at hand; the Mount Baker Ski Area’s runs are an hour drive east ($44 for a one-day lift ticket; www.mtbaker.us).
Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro—a Bellingham icon—has hearty pub fare and an astounding array of beers on tap. After a summer day out on the water, try the crisp Bellingham Blonde; après-ski, order a rich, malty Boundary’s Cabin Fever (www.bbaybrewery.com).
The Chrysalis Inn and Spa has one of the town’s best views of Bellingham Bay. The hotel is a short walk from Fairhaven, Bellingham’s upscale food and shopping neighborhood, and equips all rooms with a gorgeous bay window and fireplace (doubles from $209, including breakfast; www.thechrysalisinn.com).