I'm a born and raised, 6th generation, resident of Bellingham. I've seen a lot of places and Bellingham still ranks near the to, esp during Bellingham summers. The geography is a bay rapped around by a hill or two. These hills have many beautiful view homes, nothing built after 1950, and most built before the Depression. At opposite ends of town are two more ports, one with the Alaskan Ferry Terminal sports a tiny, real, 19th cent town. On the other a bluff with even more victorian mansions.
Great place to live, unless you NEED the sun or if you are too ambitious. Bellingham is Northwest at it's core. Until 1950 or so most citizens felt that Western Washington was their country. We received news about New York and Peking with equal disinterest. The world forgot us, and we forgot it. There is a gut disbelief in success. Developments and new stores are viewed with suspicion. They secretly believe that the university there belongs to them, like a lake or something, ("doesn't every town have a college?").
People come here expecting action, and wonder why no one is smart enough to have thought of this before. This attitude wears newcomers out. Yes, they are crazy. Life is slower. They accept the poor as people, but are less sure about the rich.
Recently, retirees hoping to "house-up" again, discovered Bellingham. Their friends who inherited the big bucks discovered Port Townsend. The town lacks business, housing is cheap, soo retirees come; some locals feed, the rest complain about the impossible housing situaition.
Last point. Most people here aren't here by accident; most chose to come, many work to stay. There are a few special towns around the Sound; Seattle, Tacoma etc, and Bellingham is one of them.