Whatcom County has many distinguishing traits: beautiful scenery from mountains to sea, northwesternmost points in the contiguous United States, and statewide record numbers of golf courses and drive-up espresso stands. For all its wonders, it’s no wonder Whatcom County has been featured in multiple roadside attraction guides.

“Roadside attractions” differ from standard travel guide fare. They may be avant-garde art, historical curiosities, eccentric characters, and other offbeat oddities bestowing a unique spirit of place. Guides such as Atlas Obscura, Roadside America, and Washington Curiosities, by Harriet Baskas, can lead the way.

Many roadside attraction guides recount experiences you can’t visit. Weird Washington, by Al Eufrasio and Jefferson Dale Davis, describes Bellingham and Seattle’s windshield-pitting epidemic of April 1954: a suspected mass panic. Haunted Washington, by Adam Woog, details favorite ghost hunting (and haunting) grounds at Mount Baker Theatre, Bayview Cemetery, and more. Washington Curiosities lists two former Fairhaven features: James Wardner’s legendary black cat ranch and the late Gordy Tweit’s museum in the preserved Fairhaven Pharmacy building.

Let’s take a ride along the highways, byways, and backroads of the I-5 corridor and see what wonders await.

The City of Subdued Excitement

SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention is one of Bellingham’s most popular tourist destinations, appearing in Atlas Obscura, Washington Curiosities, and Roadside America. SPARK started informally in 1985 with Jonathan Winters’ collection of radio and television paraphernalia. In 2001, John Jenkins added his collection of electronics and books on electricity dating back to 1560. Visitors can see the “MegaZapper” Tesla coil, original Edison lightbulbs, and a replica of the Titanic’s radio room.

SPARK Museum is one of America’s biggest museums dedicated to radio, television, and the history of electricity. They sponsor educational events, regular shows, and local radio. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

For the curio crowd, Roadside America features the “Flash Gordon Rocket” at 306 West Holly Street. For nearly 20 years, this illuminated Space Age-inspired sculpture adorned Rocket Donuts until its closure in 2019. As the building prepares for new tenants, the rocket now accompanies a new mural.

Of Western Washington University’s internationally renowned sculpture collection, Atlas Obscura spotlights Nancy Holt’s 1978 “Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings.” Built from local schist, these traversable structures align with the North Star and each other.

Atlas Obscura also explores the Fairhaven historic markers originally started by the Historic Fairhaven Association and Tyrone Tillson in 1988. Over 50 plaques along Harris Avenue recount historical sites and episodes — some sensational, some mundane. They describe archaeological finds, Fairhaven’s “Wild West” saloon culture, and morbid anecdotes of “unknown dead men” and a “city drowning pool” for dogs.

Fairhaven’s historic markers describe curious events ranging in dates from thousands of years ago to the early twentieth century. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Fourth Corner Countryside

As Washington Curiosities and Roadside America describe, Lynden is an unexpected “Dutch Oasis” in the heart of Whatcom County. A working four-story windmill is the centerpiece of Dutch Old Town, which features Dutch bakeries and shops with traditional clothing. Visitors can learn more about the region’s heritage at Lynden Pioneer Museum and the Holland Days festival in May.

Lynden’s Dutch history dates back to early founders and immigration in the nineteenth century. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Roadside America also notes that Sumas has a gold prospector statue on Cherry Street, less than a mile from the Canadian border. In 1897, the town grew around the Mount Baker Gold Rush as prospectors passed through it on the way to Lone Jack Mine and other claims.


The crowning peak of Whatcom County tourism, Mount Baker holds a world record for the most snowfall in one year. As Washington Curiosities describes, it received 1,140 inches of snow in 1999 — surpassing Mount Rainier’s 1,122 record from 1971-1972.

As a former mining region, the North Cascades today see new prospectors: hobbyists on the hunt for ghost towns. Atlas Obscura describes how Barron, lying in ruin today, boomed with gold miners for two years from 1894 to its sudden desertion. Visitors to Hart’s Pass today may see preserved and dilapidated cabins and mineshafts, heeding the private owners’ wishes to leave everything intact.

For ambitious vacationers, Washington Curiosities recommends Ross Lake Resort. This remote lodge offers 15 cabins floating on log pallets over the water. Visitors are advised to reach Ross Lake by boat and bring their own food. From there, you can enjoy hiking, fishing, and kayaking on the 20-mile lake.

Two Newhalem attractions require visitors to reenter Whatcom through Skagit County on State Route 20. Atlas Obscura and Roadside America describe the Temple of Power: a 1930s industrial gazebo monument commemorating the company town’s history of providing electricity to Seattle. Atlas Obscura spotlights another Seattle City Light creation: Ladder Creek Falls and Gardens, a garden illuminated by LED bulbs since the 1920s.

The 49th Parallel

At Whatcom County’s border with Canada, two notable attractions defy boundaries of local and international character.

Washington Curiosities and Roadside America spotlight Peace Arch Park in Blaine and Vancouver, BC. Dedicated in 1921 by Samuel Hill, the monument commemorates 100 years of peace between the United States and Canada. Visitors may cross national borders freely within park boundaries.

The Peace Arch reads “Children of a common mother” on the American side and “Brethren dwelling together in unity” on the Canadian side. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Point Roberts stands aside as American land only accessible through Canada. As Atlas Obscura and Washington Curiosities describe, the Oregon Treaty dividing national boundaries along the 49th Parallel did not account for its five miles. Despite locals’ limited access to schools and stores, they benefit from summer tourism and record low crime rates.

To discover the greatest guide of all, go adventure on the open road!

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