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Best Vacation, Travel and Retirement Sites in Bellingham, Washington

Updated on May 27, 2015
Mount Shuksan overlooking Baker Lake
Mount Shuksan overlooking Baker Lake | Source

Beautiful Bellingham

Bellingham is not only one of the nicest places I have visited in the US, but also one that is recommended as a top retirement town by the likes of CNNMoney magazine (Top 25 Places to Retire) and (the Top 100 Best).

Top Retirements goes on to name Bellingham among the best six places in the State of Washington to retire. Part of the reason for all this acclaim is that Bellingham is located just northeast of the San Juan Islands and Anascortes, all on the Washington Ferries lines.

The area enjoys a temperate climate, historical installations of several First Nations and early European settlers - even the Spanish - and a large number of water and mountain related activities. Life around Puget Sound is peaceful and relaxing. Bellingham is quite near Canada and visits to Vancouver Island to popular locations such as Victoria and to the rest of British Columbia are convenient.

A markerBellingham WA -
Bellingham, WA, USA
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First Nations Washington History: Lummi Nation

The Lummi Nation is home to several master cedar pole carvers who create ceremonial and memorial poles for sites such as the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. That cemetery is on the US National Records of Historic Places. The memorial pole installed by the Lummi Nation carvers such as Jewel Praying Wolf James and Charles Miller creates a gateway topped horizontally by the 500-pound log carving. Its carvings honor the 184 individuals that died on 9/11 in the Pentagon attack.

Another carved pole, the Lummi Nation Healing Pole was carried by James from Washington State to NYC after 9/11. Along the 3.5 week journey, various Native Americans prayed over the pole for healing in America and protection of all of our children.

Jewel James, a direct descendant and nephew of Chief Seattle, founded House of Tears carvers of the Lummi Nation to provide a variety of healing, memorial and character poles in the 21st Century. Carving cedar poles (totem poles) is new to the Lummi since the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s. In their own innovations, they include even Eastern Woodlands power characters such as Medicine Woman In the Moon in their carvings, embuing the poles with poignant stories.

Chief Mungo Martin of the Kwakiutl and his wife, who worked with founder of anthropology Franz Boas in studies of the Pacific Northwest Peoples, taught younger generations in the 1950s - 1960s to add their own innovations to carved pioles, makes, and other installations; and they would be happy to see James's work and the fact that these new poles are spreading from coast to coast in America.

Additionally, nine new carved poles are in stages of compelteness, to be installed on Kingman Island in or near Washginton DC, but poles often take 9 months to a full year to carve.

Lummi Healing Poles in DC.
Lummi Healing Poles in DC. | Source

Pacific Northwest Nations Around Bellingham

show route and directions
A markerLummi Nation -
Lummi Nation, Bellingham, WA 98226, USA
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B markerNooksack Tribe -
Nooksack Tribe, 5016 Deming Road, Deming, WA 98244, USA
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Lummi Nation Gathering

Paddle To Squaxin Island 2012, with Paddle Song

Lummi Island, Washington

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A markerLummi Island -
Lummi Island, WA 98262, USA
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B markerBellingham WA -
Bellingham, WA, USA
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Additional Native North American Cultures Around Bellingham

  • Welcome to the NookSack Indian Tribe -- Our Tribe is located in Deming, Washington, just 15 miles east of Bellingham, 12 miles south of the Canadian Border, nestled amongst majestic mountains, lush forest, and the meandering and dynamic Nooksack River.
  • Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council - Lower mainland BC; one of three councils of this larger nation. Located also on Facebook.
  • Squaxin Island Tribe - The reservation of the Squaxin Tribe is about 100 miles south of Bellingham. Access the website for several years of newsletter archives as well as history and other items of interest. See the Canoe Paddling celebrations in the videos above.
  • The Tsimshian Peoples Of the BC Coast and Southward - Coming to the fore in public interest and anthropology courses that look at First Nations, the Tsimshian People of British Columbia are prolific in arts and perhaps more so than other Pacific Northwest Peoples, such as the Haida and Haisla.

Retirement Living

The city is divided into 23 well maintain neighborhoods, each with its own theme. A number of high quality living options for retirees are supported in Bellingham, from Independent Living to Assisgted Living, Nursing Homes, and Memory Care centers. Many are found at the website at

Properties are also available for purchase. At the end of 2012, Zillow listed these:

  • Price Range for Single-family Home, Condo, etc.: $12,000 (Mobile Home) to $4.5 Million (Mansion).
  • Median Price: $350,000
  • Number of Listings: 640

Best Places To Retire In Washington

  • Bellingham
  • Centralia
  • Olympia
  • Port Towndsend
  • San Juan Islands - This is the site of Lummi Island and an interesting historical and cultural complex. Movies have been filmed here, such as "Snow Falling On Cedars."
  • Walla Walla

Haxton Trail - Lummi Nation Reservation


Six different airlines fly to and from Bellingham, with additional shuttle flights available. Ground transportation includes taxis, limos, buses, and Amtrak trains. A border crossing into Canada is very close to Bellingham.

On water, several ferry lines operate in the area, including Washington, BC, and Alaska Ferries; and Lummi island Ferries. The latter carries visitors to historic Lummi Island and its attractions in the San Juan Island group.

Additional boat cruises combine historical and local interests, whale watching, bird watching, and scenic journeys. The ferry trips and whale watching cruises are wonderful fun and Ive enjoyed both. However, the city has 40 miles of hiking trails for exercise and bird watching, along with popular golf courses.

Senior Centers

Whatcom County supports eight separate Senor Centers for various services and recreation that senior citizens require. One of the largest is located in Bellingham. Programs are individual to each different center. The other centers are located in Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Point Roberts, and Sumas. All centers usually have at least one meal per day and a variety of classes and other activities to enjoy.

Lesser Snow Geese gathering at Mount Baker
Lesser Snow Geese gathering at Mount Baker | Source

Local Job Market

Solme retirees prefer to continue working in retirement and Bellingham has some approriate jobs available. At the end of 2012, 2,900 job vacanices posted included these that were highest in demand:

  1. Occupational Therapists and Assistants - Part-time and Full-time
  2. Shift Supervisors
  3. Travel Registered Nurses
  4. IT Engineers
  5. Truck Drivers - CDL
  6. Electrical Engineers
  7. Warehouse and Inventory Jobs
  8. Baristas - Starbucks and other shops
  9. Physical Therapists and Assistants
  10. Nurse Practitioners

Top Hiring Companies

  1. Peace Health Hospital
  2. Western Washington University
  3. Peace Health Services
  4. Advanced Medical
  5. PETCO
  6. Career Management Services and Staffing
  7. HKA Enterprises
  8. Express Services Personnel
  9. Starbucks
  10. Medical Staffing Network

Largest Employers:

  1. Bellingham School District
  2. Whatcom Community College
  3. Western Washington University

© 2012 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I enjoy the whole atmoshpere if Bellingham and all around Puget Sound and over on Victoria Island. You are lucky to live near there, Ruby!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      One of my favorite stomping grounds! Haven't been that far north for awhile, thanks for a marvelous hub about Bellingham. Only a couple of hours north, so I have no excuse, Chuckanut Drive is one of my favorites.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I am so happy for Maureen to be getting well! The Pacfiic Northwest is totally fascinating and I love the sounds and smells near the water. It's like another planet.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family everywhere!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      It IS beautiful country - altho - i prefer sunnier warmer climes..

      Totem poles amaze me...i've never seen them in washington but close enough - BC, Canada...

      I lived in oregon for a couple years - and we visited washington more than son works for microsoft and he spends a great deal of time in redmond AND - my cousin maureen - who has just been told she is in remission from stage 4 colon/liver cancer - lives in portland and visits her sister in washington...

      amazing how small the world truly is..

      Happy Holidays, Patty..

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Maybe I can write a new guidebook after my next visit to Bellingham!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Wow! The tourist guides at Bellingham, Washington will be coming after you Patty. this is a great hub. So much interesting information, very enticing opening picture and amazing videos!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.