On the Water

Cut across Lake Whatcom in a sailboat, paddle up to a wooded beach and eat lunch by the sea, or explore hidden island-towns by ferry. Bellingham is the perfect port of call.

Salish Sea

Endless beaches, bays, and islands are yours to discover when you set out into the Salish Sea with paddle in hand. Rated the “Best Paddling town in the USA” by Outside magazine, Bellingham’s waterways are perfect for intermediate to expert sailors, kayakers, and canoers. Watersports aren’t for you? Experience the unique ecosystem and stunning beauty of countless accessible beaches. The Associated Students of Western Washington University also manages the Visqueen Lodge, an 800 square foot cabin on thirteen acres on the southwest of Sinclair Island in the San Juan Islands. 


Sail, canoe, paddleboard, kayak, swim, water ski, and kite surf on one of Bellingham’s three beautiful lakes. Swim across Lake Padden on a summer day, or jog the two and a half mile circuit around its wooded shore. Further south, Lake Samish is surrounded by hiking and hosts some of the best canoeing in the county. On the shores of Lake Whatcom, Western’s Lakewood facility offers equipment rentals, beach access, and fantastic watersports. Boat rentals are available exclusively to Western students for as low as $3 a day!


Bellingham is rich with many small waterways. Starting at Bloedel-Donovan Park on Lake Whatcom, Whatcom Creek creates a beautiful series of waterfalls. Whatcom Falls Park is a favorite location for Bellingham residents. A short walk south of campus, Arroyo and Fairhaven Parks and the creeks running through them are surrounded by trails and wildlife. In all three of Bellingham’s creeks, the annual salmon spawning is unmissable — thousands of wild salmon fight their way up waterfalls and through eddying pools to lay their eggs under the same stones where they were hatched.


Two rivers empty into the sea near Bellingham — the Skagit and the Nooksack. With the Nooksack to the north and the Skagit to the south, Bellingham residents are uniquely positioned to enjoy the outstanding recreation around these rivers, from the snow-topped Cascade Mountains to their sluggish lowland flows. In the alpines, backpack along the rivers’ tricking headwaters, in the foothills, kayak and raft down roaring rapids, in the wilderness east of Bellingham, fish the plentiful wild salmon and trout, and along the banks of the Skagit delta, explore the fields of vibrant tulips that bloom every spring.