Whatcom County in Washington holds many attractions and destinations for those traveling for a day trip, or longer, from the Greater Vancouver region. Moving beyond the shopping malls and grocery stores of Bellingham, there’s much more to discover and enjoy. Two of such destinations is the Hovander Homestead Park and Tennant Lake Park, perfect for cyclists, families, history buffs, picnickers, and anyone who likes exploring the great outdoors.
Heading south across the border and into Washington State, take the Main Street exit in Ferndale, before you get to the airport or Bellis Fair exit. Just 25 minutes from the border (an hour from Vancouver proper) you’ll find the 96 acre park at the Hovander Homestead.
Hovander Homestead Park consists of a large field area, gardens, a 60-foot barn, farm animals, recreation area, and the Hovander’s home which was built in 1903 by Hokan Hovander who immigrated from Sweden with his family.
People are drawn to the park for its fields (perfect for picnics), trail network, tours of the Hovander home, and special events like the annual Highland Games. The home, barn, and grounds are very well cared for and you could spend hours exploring every corner of the park.
When I visited, my group was guided through the house by a volunteer docent who pointed out the incredible woodwork and Scandinavian touches that were built into the home over 100 years ago. Cedar ceilings protected with linseed oil looked better than new as we wound through rooms furnished with original pieces brought from Sweden. The collection and memorabilia in the household was maintained by the Hovander’s last remaining son Otis until he passed away in 1969.
Hovander Homestead Park includes over a mile of waterfront land along the Nooksack River, 60 acres of farmland, and borders Tennant Lake Park and its Fragrance Garden.
Tennant Lake Park (which is over 250 acres) is just down the road from the homestead area and features an interpretive centre (inside a heritage home), a 50-foot tower lookout facing Mount Baker in the distance, and a Fragrance Garden. Follow your nose through this sweet sensory experience that is accessible to all. Braille name cards help the visually impaired identify the scents of hundreds of herbs and flowers.
A boardwalk leads you around Tennant Lake where you can spot wildlife including a variety of waterfowl. You could easily park the car at the Hovander Homestead and bike over to Tennant Lake, walk or cycle the wetland loop and return back to the farm. Dogs are also welcome, on leash or off – where marked by signs.
The parks are open every day from 8:00am until dusk. The Hovander House is open to the general public from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 12:30pm to 4:30pm. Hovander Homestead Park is located at 5299 Nielsen Avenue in Ferndale, Washington and the entrace to Tennant Lake Park is also on Neilsen Avenue. Follow @WhatcomCounty on Twitter for official visitor information.