Best neighborhoods for kids and families in Bellingham

If you’re moving to Bellingham, you are likely wondering where you might want to live. Other questions include:

  • Where can I get an affordable home in Bellingham?
  • Should I rent or buy when I move?
  • Is there crime in Bellingham?
  • What are the best schools in Bellingham?

Trust me, I’ve been there! The questions are heavy. Moving is hard! Four years ago we packed up and moved our young family to Bellingham from Seattle. It tends to be a bit overwhelming to move to a new community, especially with children, so I’ve compiled some advice – largely informed by my own move.


When we moved to Bellingham, we decided to rent first. Buying and selling homes is a big commitment, so we wanted to “test the waters” with our move first. We wanted to make sure we liked our jobs, and that the move overall seemed right for our family. So we rented our Seattle home for six months and signed a lease for a cute home in the Silver Beach neighborhood, near Lake Whatcom.

The Silver Beach neighborhood was great. Pros: it’s gorgeous and has easy access to Lake Whatcom. (We had a little community beach a walkable distance away that we could go to, but Bloedel Donavan Park was also convenient.) There’s a great, flat trail nearby that’s wonderful for an easy hike or a jog. It only takes 12-15 minutes to get to downtown Bellingham. One of Bellingham’s best restaurants, The Fork at Agate Bay, is nearby. The Silver Beach area is quiet, peaceful, and the community was welcoming and sweet. We could walk to see cows! (No, it's not rural, but we lived near a rare couple-acre parcel where the landowners kept a couple grazing cows.) 

Our oldest daughter on a walk to see the cows in the Silver Beach neighborhood near Lake Whatcom.

Our oldest daughter on a walk to see the cows in the Silver Beach neighborhood near Lake Whatcom.

Silver Beach cons: not many. For us, we missed being super close to a variety of grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops. We realized through living out near Lake Whatcom that we really are city people, and we could get a little bit more of an urban vibe by being closer to downtown.

A little less than a year later, we moved to the South Hill neighborhood of Bellingham. We were lucky to be able to buy a fixer upper with a fantastic view of Bellingham Bay. The view alone was probably enough to woo us, but we were excited about other perks. My husband could get to his work downtown in just a few minutes. There were many great parks for kids nearby (Bellingham’s park game is strong!). The south end schools were known to be fantastic from elementary school all the way up to high school.

Our youngest daughter at Squalicum Park in Bellingham.

Our youngest daughter at Squalicum Park in Bellingham.

I wasn’t sure how many families my age would be nearby in South Hill. Many of the homes are sizeable, and have views. It's desirable, and the prices in the neighborhood reflect that. In the last 12 months, the average annual median sold price in South Hill is over $575,000—not exactly entry level for most young families. 

The Columbia neighborhood tempted us because it’s known to be magical for children. Halloween is an epic event in Columbia. The elementary school has a great reputation, and we had good friends that lived there. At times, I second guessed our decision to go south during this super kid-centric phase of our lives, but now I’ve realized that it’s so easy to join the fun family-friendly events in any neighborhood in Bellingham. And once our oldest went to kindergarten, we met a whole bunch of families with young children that reside in the south end.

In fact, there are many great schools and many idyllic places to live with children in Bellingham. Since settling in here, we’ve had our kids enrolled in a few different preschools in a few different areas, so we’ve managed to meet families that live all over town in a variety of neighborhoods.

Like any community, there are pros and cons to each neighborhood and you have to figure out what’s most important to you.

If you can sacrifice on size, and love the charm of older homes, York or Sunnyland neighborhood might be a nice fit for you.

If having a large, flat chunk of land for a garden or swing set is important, the Birchwood neighborhood, known for its large lot sizes, might be a good place to start your search.

Love the lake? Try Geneva, or aforementioned Silver Beach, or head south to the Lake Samish area.

Want an International Baccalaureate program that offers instruction in a second language during your children's primary years? Wade King Elementary has it, so you'll want to focus on sections of Whatcom Falls neighborhood, and/or the Urban Growth Area near Yew Street and Lake Padden.

Want to run out your door to tons of trails? Whatcom Falls and Samish/Lake Padden areas also offer that.

I know—there are a ton of considerations. But I can tell you that you can’t really go wrong here. And that's not just realtor-speak, I promise. Bellingham is an awesome place to raise kids.

Finding a good real estate agent—someone in the same stage of life—is a good first step. Since moving to Bellingham, it has become my passion to help other people—families especially—integrate into this remarkable community that I now call home. Give me a call or send me an email so we can chat more!

Follow me on Instagram @hearthomesbellingham

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