Bellingham is consistently rated as one of the best places in the U.S. to retire by publications like Forbes and Time, and to its residents, it’s no surprise! Bellingham boasts a little bit of everything, from its eclectic urban offerings to its incredible opportunities to get lost in nature.
Are you thinking about retiring in Bellingham, WA? Below, we’ve highlighted 12 of the top reasons why people choose to retire in our unique Pacific Northwest city by the sea:
1. Gorgeous natural scenery & opportunity for outdoor adventure
From its incredible biking trails and parks throughout the city to the lakes, state parks, and mountains that rest just beyond, one of Bellingham’s most popular features is its many opportunities for adventuring outdoors. The shimmering Bellingham Bay is a dream for those who love spending a day kayaking or boating, while nearby Lake Whatcom, Lake Padden, and Lake Samish are also close by.
If snow is more your style, Mount Baker and its surroundings are just about an hour away, while a myriad of forests provide miles and miles of trails to explore. Plus, the stunning San Juans await on the horizon (hop on a ferry at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal), making it easy to pack up and enjoy an idyllic weekend getaway. (Click here to see just how beautiful Bellingham’s natural scenery is!)
2. Easy train access
Fancy a short trip out of town for a change in scenery? There’s an Amtrak station in Bellingham, making it easy to hop on the train and head as far north as Vancouver, B.C. or as far south as Eugene, OR. Relax and take in the signature Pacific Northwest beauty instead of having to drive! (There’s even a 15% discount for those who are 65 years of age and older.)
3. Academic town
While some “college towns” are known for being a bit on the wild side, Bellingham has maintained its reputation for being quiet and laid-back. More than 16,000 students attend Western Washington University, which means it provides the city with a robust schedule of cultural and academic events to benefit from.
The many visiting lecturers, concerts, art exhibits, and other events only enhance the community, and WWU even offers the Academy for Lifelong Learning, a program fueled by the motto that “A curious mind never retires.” Take courses in a wide variety of fascinating subjects or participate in unique excursions!
4. Mild climate
With its marine climate, Bellingham’s residents enjoy mild weather all year long. The average daily high and low over a year are between 44 and 59°F, and Bellingham’s rainfall is just a little less than Seattle’s at an annual average of 34.84 inches.
5. Tons of entertainment
In addition to the many entertainment opportunities at WWU (click here and here for performance calendars!), Bellingham offers a wide range of performance types to choose from. Live theater events, concerts, and of course several cinemas are all in the mix, ensuring date nights and evenings out with friends never get old.
6. Medical services
Medical facilities are aplenty in Bellingham, and you’ll find everything that a major city would offer. PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is home to a robust staff of medical experts in every field and is the largest employer in the city. They even offer a special Center for Senior Health for specialized care. Unity Care NW is another large medical facility, and you can find several other Bellingham healthcare recommendations here!
7. Bellingham International Airport
You can fly direct to several different cities without having to drive down to Seatac! Take advantage of direct flights to Maui, Seattle, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and more. You can find info on ground transportation and flights here. As an added bonus, our airport is much quieter than Seatac, taking the headache and endless lines out of air travel!
8. Large retiree population
According to 2016 estimates of Bellingham’s approximately 84,000+ residents, 11,783 of these residents are over the age of 65. This means that it’s not hard to find others in the same age group who are also retired and looking to take advantage of the city and its many amenities. Residents love the small town feel you can still find in Bellingham, and how connected communities are.
9. Tons of golfing opportunities
In addition to its many other outdoor offerings, one of the most popular pastimes for Bellingham residents is golf. There are fourteen public golf courses to choose from, and a few favorites include Sudden Valley Golf & Country Club, Bellingham Golf & Country Club, Lake Padden Golf Course, Shuksan Golf Club, and North Bellingham Golf Course.
10. Ample dining options
Delicious, healthy eats and dining spots are not in short supply in Bellingham. (-find)A long list of different types of cuisines is available- everything from casual food trucks to fine dining. Beer is especially popular in Bellingham, and we hear that Bellingham has more breweries per capita than even beer-crazed cities like Seattle and Portland. Each Bellingham neighborhood has its own unique fare (find Barkley restaurant recommendations here!), and of course, coffee is a priority especially during our colder months.
11. Variety of shopping
Bellingham has a vibrant arts scene, and artists and art appreciators alike will love browsing galleries and checking out all of our funky shops. You can take a look at some of our independently owned shops here to get a quick insider’s look Bellingham’s fantastic shopping scene. (While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss out on some of Bellingham’s locally made food products, too!)
12. Perfect place to downsize
Bellingham’s old, centrally located neighborhoods tend to be full of beautifully maintained and updated historic homes. Many of the homes from the turn of the last century were much smaller, and are well-suited to anyone looking to downsize their home after all the kids leave the house. Not only are the homes in the historic neighborhoods great if you don’t want too much house or yard, but the value of those homes have been increasing rapidly, making them an attractive investment as well.
Those looking for condos will find lovely buildings updated with sleek new interiors in city centers, surrounded by our signature subdued excitement. Residents recommend the Columbia and Fairhaven neighborhoods for some of the best regions to find the perfect smaller home in!