With beaches, a bustling downtown shopping district, annual festivals and 50 miles of multi-use trails, Anacortes has something for everyone. The town of about 17,000 is located on Fidalgo Island, and is connected to the mainland by a bridge over the Swinomish Channel. It is also the gateway to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island via Washington state ferries.
Water surrounds the town, and several pocket parks along Fidalgo Island’s north shore are prime destinations for gazing over gleaming blue water and breathing salt air. Farther afield on a peninsula on the western edge of the island, Washington Park is a 220-acre park with a beach, boat launch, camping and more.
The Cap Sante Marina, in a quiet cove on the east edge of town, offers a home base for several whale-watching tour companies that all but guarantee seeing at least one of several species of whale. The marina also hosts white tablecloth restaurants, more than 100 berths for guest moorage, repair facilities, fuel docks, complimentary bicycles, and more, all just blocks from downtown.
While the town’s water access is outstanding, the forests surrounding it are just as special. Anacortes Community Forest Lands comprise 2,800 acres of woods, wetlands, lakes and meadows, all within city limits. The rocky dome of Mt. Erie and idyllic Heart Lake are particular woodland gems. Mt. Erie’s summit offers a spectacular view of the San Juan Islands and you can even drive to the top if you are not up to hiking one of the trails to the 1,273-foot peak. If you do decide to hike, a map is a must, as trails tend to intertwine. Maps are available online and at nearby businesses.
Downtown, red brick buildings, antique shops, restaurants, marine supply stores and bookshops line Commercial Street. Dining options range from delis and pizzerias to upscale seafood restaurants. Anacortes also has a surprising nightlife and local music scene that pumps energy onto Commercial Street in the evening hours.
Life-sized murals of characters from Anacortes’ past add splashes of color to the city center. You can stroll past paintings of turn-of-the-century luminaries such as Anne and Tommy Thompson, who founded the Anacortes Railway. The muralist himself, Bill Mitchell, who passed away in 2019, is depicted on O Avenue. Mitchell gave back to the city in many ways, from his ambitious mural project to collecting town history and working to save historic buildings.
Anacortes hosts an array of festivals. The Spring Wine Festival in April, Waterfront Festival in early June and Oyster Run motorcycle rally in September are a few highlights. The Anacortes Arts Festival, held in downtown Anacortes on August 2-4 this year, has celebrated art in Anacortes since 1962. The festival features an organized run, nearly nonstop music performances, and artists and craftspeople displaying sculptures, textile art, jewelry, photography, paintings and more.
For more information, visit anacortes.org.
Adventures begin early in the morning, so head on over Anacortes Farmers Market starting at 9 a.m. for a little breakfast and grab some food to go for lunch later.
Then for some fresh air and exercise, head off to the Ship Harvest Interpretive trails (or for a more advanced hiker, Juniper Point’s 2.25-mile loop might just do the trick). If climbing is more your thing, Mt Erie Climbing walls has a range of difficulty from novice to expert.
Next up, head back into town, grab a little java and check out the murals and shops downtown. Check in at Marina Inn by 3 p.m. Take a time to relax or nap.
In the evening, Frida’s Gourmet Mexican Cuisine can give you excellent food and service.
Begin day two with a continental breakfast by the Marina Inn any time from 6 to 9:30 a.m. Around 10 a.m. head on over Outer Island Excursions for the first Whale watching tour of the day, which casts off at 11 a.m (book in advanced).
Take a little time afterwards to try another restaurant in Anacortes for lunch and head on home with a weekend full of memories.