Sunday Drive to Historic Fairhaven and Chuckanut Dr. - Bellingham, Washington

by Dad


How could you go wrong with a name like Chuckanut Drive...just south of Bellingham, lies a pretty stretch of road that winds along the ocean.  Pretty vistas, sharp corners, and narrow stretches make this the perfect stretch to be driving one of those old Triumph TR6s (aah shucks...the kids can't fit in the car).  Start by exploring the old historical district of Fairhaven in Bellingham.  Lots of quaint shops in Fairhaven, and our favourite place to stop for lunch is the Colophon Cafe/Village book store, or Dos Padres Mexican restaurant for dinner.  A great spring, summer, or fall drive.

Age group:

All ages

Expense rating:

The "Loonie" (Canadian dollar) is not doing too good these days, so whatever it takes for gas and a bit of lunch.


Just a great drive, with a bit of history, and great scenery.  Even better if the car you're driving is a one of those old British sports cars.


There could be line up at the border so listen to the traffic report on the radio as you proceed down to the 49th parallel.


We usually take the Aldergrove crossing down into the U.S. but you can do the Peace Arch crossing into the U.S.  Here's our directions.

Take Highway 1 (TransCanada Highway) from Vancouver.  About 44 km from Boundary Road (the border of Vancouver and Burnaby), take exit 73 (264th St., Aldergrove, U.S. border).  Take highway 13 south towards the U.S. border.  About 1 km down highway 13 is the Greater Vancouver Zoo.  Check out the elephants as you drive by.

The US border is about a 10 minute drive.  After crossing the US border, drive south along highway 539.  About 5 minutes from the border is the town of Lynden that comes with a Dutch flavour.  Continue along highway 539, and for the next 17 kilometres enjoy a real hodge podge of shops and scenery: farms, horses, cows, nurseries, junkyards, trailer parks, car dealerships, Bob's Burger and Brew, farm equipment dealers, and the vintage Thunderbird and parts (12 km mark from Lynden).

Just before you leave highway 539 (now called Meridian Road), and go south on the I-5, you past the huge Bellis Fair Mall.  Resist the urge...I repeat, resist the urge to stop at Bellis Fair Mall.  It's a great mall, but today is not about shopping.

Take the I-5 freeway south for about 9 kilometres, and then take exit 250 (Chuckanut Drive/Old Fairhaven Historic District) off the I-5.  Drive south on the Old Fairhaven Parkway.  About a half a kilometre or so along, notice on your right the sod roof of the Fairhaven Dog Kennel.  Neat huh?

You will soon come to the intersection with 12th Street.  Take a left onto 12th street to go to Chuckanut Drive.  Take a right on 12th street to go into historic Fairhaven district.  Let's go right into the Fairhaven District.  Fairhaven is an old district (circa 1880s) of Bellingham, much like Gastown is to Vancouver.  I can never figure out why but there always seems to be hippyish (1960s) flavour to the area.  We usually eat at the Colophon Cafe/Village Bookstore.  They make a great ham sandwich, and Nathan loves the Mexican corn chowder.  Another favourite restaurant is the Dos Padres Mexican restaurant.  Lots of antique/furniture/garden/country-neo hippie stuff.

After chowing down, and getting the shopping out of your system, head back along 12th street towards Chuckanut Drive.  Chuckanut Drive is about 17 km (give or take a km or two) from start to finish.  About 2 km into the drive, visit the Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Studio for crafts and garden stuff.  Continue along Chuckanut enjoying the vistas of the ocean, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic mountains in the distance.  At about the 8 km mark stop at Larrabee State Park.  Get out of the car and wander down to the shoreline to enjoy the gorgeous windswept arbutus trees and sandstone cliffs.  Continue on the fantastic winding road (remember your driving a TR6 or so you imagine), until you reach the Taylor Shellfish Farm and the Oyster Creek Inn Restaurant.  Oyster cocktail?  A couple of kilometres from here the Chuckanut Drive turns into a incredibly flat and straight road (like totally diametrically opposed to the winding, hip hugging, white knuckle Chuckanut) that goes for about 15 km.  (that TR6 now turns into a Mustang Cobra or so you imagine).  Enjoy the gorgeous farmlands, and country antique stores for next 15 or so km along highway 11 until it intersects with the I-5 freeway.  At this point take the north exit back to Vancouver, or continue south to Seattle.


Washington State


All seasons

Educational highlights:

Chuckanut Drive was the first highway in Washington State to be built exclusively as a scenic drive.

Fun for the adult?:

Great fun for the adults (scenery, eateries, antiques, etc.).  Kids will enjoy beach combing at Larrabee State Park.