The population was 11,415 at the 2010 census. It is the third largest city in Whatcom County.
First settled in 1872, Ferndale was given its name because of the ferns that once grew around the original school house. Ferndale was originally called Jam because the town was located next to a log jam on the Nooksack River. The original schoolteacher decided it needed a more picturesque name. Ferndale was officially incorporated on March 19, 1907.
One colorful figure in Ferndale's pioneer past is "Blanket Bill" Jarman (1820–1912) who was once ransomed for a stack of blankets (1848?) and acquitted of homicide (1871). He is buried in Ferndale's Woodlawn Cemetery.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.69 square miles, of which, 6.61 square miles is land and 0.08 square miles is water.
Marietta-Alderwood is south, and Bellingham is to the southeast. Bellingham is less then ten miles southeast of Ferndale. Laurel is east. Custer and Blaine are north. Mountain View and Neptune Beach are directly west and Sandy Point is southwest.
Ferndale experiences a mild climate, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F (22.0 °C). Ferndale is colder and wetter overall than much of the rest of Whatcom County, and has more extreme weather.
Originally, Ferndale's economy was based on timber, and shortly after, agriculture of the surrounding land. Dairy processing was a significant employer for the town, and the old Carnation dairy plant has since been converted to offices. The construction of the Ferndale Refinery west of town in the 1950s caused a population boom in the town. The Cherry Point Refinery was constructed to the northwest in the 1970s. The city also serves as a bedroom community for Bellingham.
Ferndale holds numerous events throughout the year.
- Downtown Trick or Treat in October
- Community Wide Garage Sale (Always the First Saturday of May)
- Annual Citywide Cleanup – Headquartered at City Hall, hosted by the Ferndale Downtown Association (a Saturday in May)
- Chamber of Commerce 'Street Festival' & 'Music Festival' (Held the last weekend of August)
- Old Settlers Picnic, Grand Parade, 5k race (last weekend in July every year)
- Muds To Suds Race
The main highway serving Ferndale is Interstate 5. There are no other state highways in the town.
The town also receives industrial rail service through Burlington Northern.