Situated on the most accessible island in the San Juan archipelago, Anacortes is a thriving seaside town.
Come see for yourself with the help of our five sample itineraries below. They’re great for visiting Anacortes solo or with a group and can be mixed and matched to fit your personal schedule. For additional information on activities, phone our Visitor Center, (360) 293-3832, located at 819 Commercial Avenue. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Anacortes is located on Fidalgo Island, eastern-most of the San Juan Archipelago and with easy access via bridge to the mainland. The city itself comprises 15.4 square miles, and the island is just over 41 square miles – almost half of which is public park and recreational lands and waters. The community boasts 12 miles of shoreline and 67 miles of public trails, some of which are located in one of the last old-growth forested areas on the coast. Anacortes is home to thousands of boats, with close to two million visitors each year using local ferry connections to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island. The city is centrally located, roughly equidistant from Seattle to the south and Vancouver, BC to the north. The weather is relatively mild year-around, with average rainfall of 26 inches.
Greet the day: Anacortes has a wide variety of inviting accommodations to fit any budget, ranging from clean and affordable to luxurious, from hotels to B&Bs. Click here to see a full listing of available lodging and the Visitor Information Center can provide additional guidance. For that morning pick-me-up, as befits any Washington town worth its salt, we have more than our share of coffee outlets, any of which will supply the ingredients necessary to get started. After a healthy breakfast at any one of a number of excellent restaurants, you’re ready to begin your adventure!
Whale watching: You embark on your first adventure. Anacortes serves as home port to one of the world’s largest whale watching fleets, with two daily sailings in prime-time. Each sailing typically lasts a half-day, during which riders are treated to a wonderful introduction to the beauty of the San Juan Islands. Educators provide a running commentary about geography, island history, and Puget Sound’s rich biology. Oh, and you’ll also see local orca pods, along with dolphins, seals, and other resident wildlife. Deposited back to the dock after lunch on board, get your land legs back with a stroll.
Cap Sante Marina: One of the most beautiful, accessible and active marinas in the state, Cap Sante Boat Haven is named for the promontory you see across the harbor. Unlike all other major marinas in the state, this one is open to the public, with no locked gates. You are free to wander the docks, explore the fishing fleet, and converse with boat owners, some of whom live on board. Continue north along the promenade, take a right on Fourth Street and it’s a short walk to the top of Cap Sante point, with a commanding view of the city, Fidalgo Bay, and volcanic Mount Baker in the distance.
Restaurants: Dining spots abound in Anacortes, ranging from fast food to a number of award-winning gourmet restaurants. The Skagit Valley, which adjoins the city, is a major source of fresh fruits and vegetables. The waters around Fidalgo Island are a significant fishery. Bonded, organic meats appear on many menus. Various cuisines are well-represented-prepare yourself for an excellent meal.
Anacortes Community Theatre: After a leisurely dinner, take in a play at the community theater. This award-winning venue, built around volunteer talent, has been in operation since 1964, producing six plays annually and meeting a wide range of audience tastes with dramas, musicals, and comedies. With its intimate setting, ACT accomplishes a great deal despite its small stage. The Visitor Center can provide you with schedules and show times.
Day Hike: More than 50 miles of trails throughout Anacortes and Fidalgo Island encompass Mount Erie, four fresh-water lakes, old growth forest and a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles. Trail maps may be purchased through the Visitor Center. After breakfast, put on your walking shoes and spend a few hours exploring the northern woods. At any time of the year, it’s a beautiful trip. Typical daytime temperatures in the summer months: mid-70s, with little humidity. Also important for the hiker: these woods have few bugs and no poison oak/ivy. Trails are well maintained by city staff. Bring along a swim suit for a lake swim, but be careful – the water’s cold. Or bring a fishing pole; the lakes are stocked each year with trout and permits are available in town. For the truly adventuresome, climb Mt. Erie via trail or rock face. It’s one of the most after rock climbing venues in the region.
Flight: After returning from the woods, your next adventure: charter a flight. Several reputable companies offer scenic trips out of the local airport. Flights typically last 30-45 minutes and include Fidalgo Island, the San Juan Islands, and Deception Pass (the most popular state park in Washington, but we’ll get to that a little later.) There is no better way to get a “bird’s eye” view of the Northwest’s natural beauty. The city airport is located less than five miles from downtown, along a scenic drive that runs parallel to adjoining Guemes Channel.
Spa Treatment: Back from flying over the island (or maybe you skip the fight and go right to the spa), pamper yourself. Anacortes offers several full-service spas with everything from massage to facials to nail care. A great way to spend an hour (or more) in relaxation mode.
Live Music: After dinner, enjoy music at one of several venues throughout town. Live entertainment is offered most nights, generally with no cover. You have an excellent opportunity to hear regional and local musicians in a relaxing environment, a walk or short drive from your hotel room.
Ferry Trip: Anacortes is the terminus for two major state ferry routes, as well as a county ferry that travels to adjacent Guemes Island. All ferries service both vehicle and walk-on traffic. Note: vehicle traffic is heavy in the summer months and subject to delays. Unless there is a specific reason to take a car, we recommend walking on whenever possible. Outlines below are ferry routes served via Anacortes.
- San Juan Islands: The state ferry terminal services the major San Juan Islands-Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan. Riders may either take a route that hits each stop or can travel directly to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Friday Harbor is the primary town in the island chain and is a great spot for day-trippers. While there, you can rent a moped or bicycle to explore Roche Harbor and other points on the island. The direct route to Friday Harbor is approximately one hour.
- Vancouver Island: Also leaving from the state ferry terminal is a direct connection with Sidney, BC-Anacortes’ sister city in Canada and an intriguing place to spend some time. Public transportation provides links to Victoria to the south, as well as to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens. Sailing time to Sidney is approximately 2.5 hours. As with the San Juan Islands cruise, the scenery is spectacular. It is possible to make this a day trip, though most travelers choose to spend the night in Canada and return the following day. Passports are required.
- Guemes Island: The third route leaves from the Guemes Island ferry landing a short distance from downtown. Guemes Island is located six minutes from Anacortes and features a general store, several galleries, and scenic views of Mount Baker, Anacortes, the Guemes Channel, and the San Juan Islands.
Casino: After returning from your ferry cruise, consider visiting the Swinomish Casino. Located close to town, the casino offers a full range of gaming and entertainment opportunities.
Farmer’s Market: From May to October, take in the Saturday Anacortes Farmers Market. Open from 9:00 – 2:00, it’s an Anacortes tradition that stretches back many years. Located next to the city’s historic train depot, the market offers wares from dozens of vendors.
Take a drive: Alternatively, sight-see Fidalgo Island and its surroundings via car. Coastal Living magazine recently rated the Chuckanut drive north to Bellingham as one of the top 10 water-view drives in North America. Pack a picnic lunch from one of the many restaurants in Anacortes, or stop in Bellingham for a meal, exploring the historic Fairhaven district. Easy to navigate, with many turnouts, affording incredible “Kodak moments.”
Visit our museums: Anacortes is home to two special museums. The primary museum building was originally designed as a Carnegie Library and was built between 1909 and 1911. It became home to the Anacortes Museum in 1968 and in 1977 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This beautiful building, now fully restored, houses museum offices, a research library, and a variety of exhibits. Anacortes’ second museum is the W. T. Preston, the last stern-wheeler to work in Puget Sound and one of only two snag boats remaining in the contiguous United States. Built in 1882, the Preston removed navigational hazards from the bays and harbors of the Sound from 1885-1914. Also placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Preston Heritage Center includes artifacts, models, and graphic displays, as well as tours of the boat.
Go golfing, bowling, or for a swim: A first-rate and challenging 18-hole municipal golf course is located within easy driving distance of your hotel. San Juan Lanes presents a vintage bowling experience, as well as restaurant facilities. Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center offers an Olympic-sized swimming pool that provides an opportunity for both laps and activities for the kids.
Kayak trip: Anacortes enjoys some of the most picturesque kayaking in the Northwest. Several companies in town provide both the equipment and expertise to make this a special experience for kayakers of all ages, including everything from instruction to guidance to trip planning. Spend a couple of hours to a full day paddling the waters around Fidalgo Island.
Old Town: After visiting the market, take a few hours, walk the city’s old town district and browse the shops. You’ll find a wide variety of boutiques, antiques, book stores, coffee shops, and art galleries. Period architecture reflects the city’s roots. From spring to early fall, verdant flower baskets hang from street posts. During the winter, white lights highlight downtown trees. At the base of Commercial, the oldest continuously operated hardware store west of the Mississippi-Marine Supply & Hardware-remains open for business. Across the street, you can watch a ship being built at Dakota Creek Industries.
Deception Pass: After lunch, take a drive out to Deception Pass State Park, the most popular in Washington State, which is located on both sides of Deception Pass, connected via an historic bridge. Continue across the bridge to Whidbey Island and enjoy several pristine beaches and miles of forest trail. The bridge which links Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands was built in 1935 and is a major thoroughfare of the island. The view is spectacular. Continue across the bridge to the park (park is on both sides of pass), the most popular in Washington State, which features several beaches and miles of forest trail. A local company offers hourly boat trips through the pass, affording visitors a view of this landmark from water’s-edge.
Washington Park: Finish your day watching the sunset at Washington Park, constituting several square miles at the tip of Fidalgo Island. The city park offers sweeping views of Guemes Channel on one side and Burrows Bay on the other, beach areas and a 2.2-mile loop, ideal for either hiking or a car ride. This is a great spot for some quiet time and an opportunity to plan your next trip to Anacortes.
Need more ideas? Here are some itineraries custom build for specific themes!
After Work Hours Itinerary – get out and about before, during, and after work hours
Explore the Outdoors Itinerary – the weather here is just right for outdoor explorations
Summer Vacation Itinerary – spend the summer here, and let your troubles melt away
Couples Extended Stay Itinerary – perfect for anniversaries, honeymoons, or just some “us” time
Family Weekend Itinerary – pack a week of adventures into a few days
High Impact, Low Budget Itinerary – people have said that the best things in life are free – we’d like to add “or low cost” to that