Want to see plenty of marine life with little effort? Try this pretty Bellingham beach.

Looking to have a family picnic at the beach? Marine Park in Fairhaven might be your choice

At Marine Park in the Fairhaven section of Bellingham, WA, you’ll find easy access to the water, marine life galore at low tide and places for a family picnic.
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At Marine Park in the Fairhaven section of Bellingham, WA, you’ll find easy access to the water, marine life galore at low tide and places for a family picnic.

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If you go to Marine Park only when it’s time to watch the end of the annual Ski to Sea race, you’re missing out on all the other things this Port of Bellingham green space has to offer.

Here are some reasons why you should put this 1.9-acre waterfront park in Fairhaven on your list of places to visit.

Why you’ll like it: You’ll get beautiful views of the sparkling water of Bellingham Bay, as well as lovely Lummi and Portage islands.

Access is easy. You don’t need to hike for this view, unless you want to (see below). Just park in the lot, get out of your car, walk (or roll) a little way and there’s the gently sloping, pebbly beach.

There’s plenty of space to enjoy a nice picnic.

If you’re into trains, the Amtrak passenger train and freight trains roll right past one edge of the park. With that said, keep an eye on your children and pets.

You can launch your kayak from here. Or, if you’re lucky, watch a guy and his dog glide across the water in their kayak.

Marine Park 1.jpg
Neko Goodman kayaks with his dog Kobe at Marine Park on in Bellingham. The park offers a gently sloping, pebbly beach, marine life galore at low tide and places for family picnics. Evan Abell evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

This is a great place to look for marine life in the tide pools that are revealed during low tide.

As for what marine critters are here, we’ll let Casey Pruett, director of the Marine Life Center, tell you like she told us in a fun and breathless email from July 17.

“Marine Park is rad! The sand dollar bed is big. Eelgrass beds shelter juvenile and mature crabs. Red rock crab, Dungeness, graceful kelp crabs, flat top crabs. Pipe fish galore! Tons of baby fish, like various sculpin species, flat fish like starry flounder, gunnels and high cockscombs. Spaghetti worms under the rocks. Breeding plainfin midshipman fish under rocks right now, with hatching eggs.”

She continued: “Chitons galore. Sand shrimp. Small shrimp species. Juvenile large shrimp species. Dog whelks. Bittium snails. Periwinkle snails. Ringtop snails. Mottled stars. Ochre stars. Six-ray stars. Green urchin. Burrowing cucumbers. Ribbon worms. Flat worms. Lots of ulva seaweed. Turkish towel seaweed. Lots of reds and greens and some brown kelps.”

And there’s more from Pruett: “Olympia and Pacific oyster. Heart cockles. Butter clams. Manila clams. Gaper clams. Varnish clams. Bread crumb sponge. Aggregating anemones. Stubby rose anemones. Moonglow anemones. Barnacle-eating nudibranchs, opalescent nudibranchs, sea lemon nudibranchs, hooded nudibranchs, cross jellies, red eye medusa jellies, gregarious and sausage jellies, three-spined sticklebacks and more.”

You get it. There’s a lot to see here.

As for bird life in the area, that includes great blue herons, bald eagles and oystercatchers, Pruett said.

Users: Young and old. Families with children seem to love it.

Difficulty: Easy.

Getting there: From downtown Bellingham, drive or ride your bicycle on North State Street and stay on it as it turns into Boulevard and then South State Street. It will curve and turn into 11th Street, which you’ll stay on until it hits Harris Avenue. Turn right and follow Harris to where it ends at Marine Park. It’s about 2.9 miles one way from downtown Bellingham.

Or, if you want to add a scenic walk or ride, get part of the way there via the South Bay Trail.

Start at East Laurel Street, between North State Street and Railroad Avenue, to hop onto the South Bay Trail. The route to Boulevard Park through to Taylor Dock is easy to follow. If you want to keep going, turn right after you get off Taylor Dock to head south to Fairhaven.

The trail is wide, easy to follow and marked along the way with interpretive signs that explain Bellingham’s history and fishing and lumber heritage. But it does go over railroad crossings, so keep a close eye on children.

If you take the trail, it will be at least a 4.6-mile round trip.

Want to explore Bellingham Bay? If you know what you’re doing on the water, you can rent a sailboat, kayak, paddle board or rowboat from the nearby Community Boating Center, 555 Harris Ave. More at boatingcenter.org and 360-714-8891.

Amenities: Restrooms and a covered picnic area, which includes interpretive signs about the history of Bellingham Bay and the park. There also are big trees that will shade you from the sun, if that’s what you want.

Before you go: Check the tides by going to tides.net/washington. On phones, try apps like Rise for iPhones and Tides Near Me for Androids. It’s best to arrive about an hour before the low tide if you’re there to look for beach critters and want the best experience.

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Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea