In addition to sparkling light on the water and endless recreation activities, lakeside living also offers a community within a community. Coming home means entering a different ecosystem — both above and below water. Neighbors share docks, walks, and beach chores. Happy hour might mean a nightly boat ride at sunset instead of a cocktail at a bar.
The lake itself shapes the community: The moods of the water in different seasons and weather, the availability of access and activities, the shape of the shore. Dive into the following pages to learn more about the numerous lake communities our area has to offer.
Lake Whatcom residents speak fondly of visiting neighbors by kayak and watching Santa arrive by waterski — clearly, these are people who like to be on the water. Ten miles of lake means room for powered crafts to join sailboats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and more. Thirty miles of coastline means there are different communities in different areas, and total watershed management is always a top priority for this lake that supplies drinking water for about 100,000 residents of Whatcom County.
To give a thorough view of what life is like along the shores of Lake Whatcom, we’ve highlighted three distinct communities that all share access: Silver Beach, Geneva, and Sudden Valley.
“Having grown up here as a ‘North Shore kid,’ I still feel a sense of being family with our generation that grew up on or near the lake,” says resident Mikyn S. “A lot of us moved back to Bellingham to raise our own families, and it has always felt like a community of extended cousins.”
According to data, words to describe this neighborhood include upscale and family-friendly. Silver Beach has a high proportion of home ownership in single-family homes, as well as a relatively high proportion of families with young children, making it an excellent place to raise kids. Residents have relatively high levels of education, and close to 50 percent work in executive, management, and professional occupations.
The lake is the main attraction, and Silver Beach hosts fun for residents and non-residents alike. The 20-acre Bloedel Donovan Park is extremely popular for everything from boat access to beach volleyball.
Median property value: $565,930
Commute time: 11-20 minutes
- Running and walking trails
- Volleyball courts
- Basketball courts
Dues or HOA: $250 annually
- Easy access to Lake Whatcom
- Distant from I-5 (low noise)
- Big, open, windswept views
- Bloedel Donovan Park and facilities
- Close to shopping
- Close to schools
- Close to emergency services
- Expensive housing market
Lake access: Private and public docks, Bloedel Donovan boat launch
Sudden Valley has taken a unique approach to wilderness living, pairing pristine forest with all the amenities of civilization. One of the largest homeowner associations in the state, Sudden Valley residents enjoy a densely wooded, private setting along with amazing community resources. While few houses sit directly on the lake, the community enjoys access at the marina, and the overall vibe is one of adults living with the resources of summer camp.
Most residents can’t launch a kayak from their backyard, but they can meet for golf and then hit the sauna, wander miles of trails, join in a pickleball game, or have a doggy playdate at the dog park.
Median property value: $368,209
Commute time: 15-30 minutes
- Clubhouse with restaurant and pro golf shop
- Community Center with fitness area, children’s rooms, meeting and game rooms
- Marina with wet and dry slips
- Playgrounds and tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts
- Off-leash dog park
- Miles of mapped trails
- Outdoor pools
- Golf course designed by Ted Robinson
Dues: $144.31/month for developed lots
- Quiet, away from city life
- Family friendly
- Wilderness feel
- Easy lake access
- On-site recreational activities
- Icy in winter time
- Shaded, less sunlight
- Expensive HOA monthly dues
- Slow commute into town
Lake Access: Via marina
Although just up the road from the businesses on Lakeway Drive, Geneva has a quiet and secluded feel. Many homes along the lake boast private docks or share them with neighbors, while the houses inland feature views or enjoy larger lots. Great for families, Geneva has also attracted college-educated retirees. Add that to an unusually high percentage of people that work from home, and it means the neighborhood may feel quiet but never deserted.
According to resident Elizabeth R., Geneva is an “amazing, quaint neighborhood with tremendous trail access and delightful lake fun!”
Median property value: $440,600
Average commute time: 10-18 minutes
- Near many parks, trails, and mountain biking areas
- Close to city amenities
- No public boat launch
- Most areas along waterfront are private access
Located 6.5 miles southeast of Bellingham, Lake Samish is nearly four miles long and boasts more than eight miles of coastline. Although much of the coastline is developed with private houses, there are 26 lakeside acres that make up Samish Park with boat rentals, trails, a rustic lodge, and a fishing dock. There is also one public boat ramp, but the majority of on-lake activities happen by residents. This stunning setting includes Lookout Mountain to the east, Blanchard Mountain to the south, and Chuckanut Mountain to the west for amazing cross-water views.
Median property value: $478,168
Commute time: 15-19 minutes
- Dockside houses
- Homeowners association
- HOA community enrichment events
Dues or HOA: $20 annually
- Secluded, yet close to Bellingham
- Access to shopping and local businesses
- Beautiful natural scenery
- Close to I-5
Lake access: Samish Park, Public Boat Launch
Situated on both sides of Guide Meridian Road near Lynden, Wiser Lake is small but scenic. Set in a rural population with stunning mountain views, this lake feels like a bit of recess amidst the daily chores of farming life. While there is a local boat launch, most lake activity is non-motorized and done by residents.
“We moved to the lake so that we could have more recreation opportunities… Fishing, paddleboarding, sailing, and wakeboarding are all in our backyard, and when we aren’t on the water, the view is pretty spectacular too,” says Andy H., a resident of Wiser Lake.
The community of the lake spills into Lynden’s Greenwood neighborhood, and is known for being family-friendly. Other interesting stats: 18 percent of residents have Dutch ancestry, and 30 percent of households own four or more cars.
Median property value: $405,023
Commute time: 20-30 minutes to Bellingham, 10 minutes to Lynden
- Rural but accessible off major road
- Incredible views
- Calm waters, you’re never far from shore
- Size, restrictions for power boats
- Some weeds & algae reported
Lake access: Boat ramp on east side
BAKER LAKE/ LAKE SHANNON
Baker Lake and Lake Shannon blossom into neighboring lakes along the path of the Baker River, partially thanks to upper and lower dams. Completely within Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, these forested gems are celebrated for camping, fishing, and various forms of boating.
The nearby community of Concrete provides city resources, and is a scenic 35 miles east of Mount Vernon. Going north from Concrete, Lake Shannon stretches for about seven miles, and then Baker Lake continues for another nine miles.
Median property value: $254,024
- Boating and fishing
- Baker River Hydroelectric Plant
- Concrete History Museum
- Baker Lake
- Lake Shannon
- Beautiful natural features
- Access to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
- Near North Cascades National Park
- Large properties
- Very small community
- Remote from some emergency services
- Limited wireless/phone providers
Lake access: Boat ramps and trailer parking at four points on Baker Lake, PSE has a boat launch on Shannon Lake
Fun fact: This gorgeous little lake boasts an island, and the lake itself also sits on an island. The coastline has mostly private homes with their own dock access, but visitors and residents can use a public boat ramp off Campbell Lake Road.
If you like water, Fidalgo Island is a natural fit. Aside from being surrounded by various bays and straits, Anacortes boasts four lakes. All of this floating fun is tied to land with 50 miles of forested trails and tons of cultural activities. While lakeside living on Campbell might feel private, it is smack in the heart of a really fun community.
Population (Anacortes, total): 17,283
Median property value: $501,371
- Sea and lake water sports
- Bowling alley
- Dog park
- Pool and fitness center
- Public parks
- Public library
- Restaurants and bars
- Art galleries
- Places to wine and dine
- Easy access to the outdoors
- Ocean views
- Small town vibe
- Access to larger amenities via car
- Long commute to larger towns
- Remote from some emergency services
Lake access: Fishing and public boat launch at Lake Campbell
“Every day is spectacular on Big Lake. The lake is constantly changing and is beautiful in a different way,” says Kym L, resident.
Living in Big Lake is like taking a step back in time. Lush trees surround the lake, nestled in the heart of Skagit County, and residents can easily spend the day boating and fishing on its clear blue waters. With amenities like Big Lake Lodge, a private venue for quaint weddings, and the Big Lake Bar and Grill, an “unpretentious” neighborhood watering hole with pub food and local beer, it’s easy to feel right at home. Best of all, residents get a mix of rural and urban. With Mount Vernon just a short drive away, there are restaurants, bars, small businesses, and a natural grocer within arm’s reach — but at the end of the day you can return home to a cozy lakeside cabin away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Median property value: $422,600
Commute time: 12 minutes (to Mount Vernon)
- Boating and kayaking
- Walker Valley ORV
- Pilchuck Falls
- Fishing for seven species of fish
- Golf course
- Nursery and elementary school
- Quaint, rural vibes
- Lake-centric society
- Beautiful homes a short walk from the water
- Close to a larger city
- Relatively remote
- Most amenities require a drive
Lake access: Public boat ramp provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Photos Courtesy of: Brandon Nelson Partners, Dean Davidson, Kym Larvie, Lyle Jansma, Loren VanCorbach, Windermere Realty, and Steve Berenston.