Point yourself in just about any direction in Anacortes and you’ll find yourself mere steps away from being surrounded by water, water everywhere. Whether landlubber or old salt, a kid or a kid at heart, choices abound.
Pick up a boxed lunch at any of the local eats downtown and walk on over to Seafarers’ Memorial Park—the perfect place to picnic on the lawn while the kids splash on the gradual beach, hunt for agates, and skip rocks. It’s also an easy place to launch a kayak, and the venue for some rockin’ summer concerts. Or discover N Avenue Park, a small pocket beach at the end of N Avenue on Guemes Channel—front-row seating for passing tankers, yachts, and rowing crews—and they’re just the beginning. How many different kinds of boats can you count?
For instantaneous (and budget-friendly) island gratification, walk, drive, or roll your bike onto the little Guemes Ferry at 6th Street for the five-minute ride to rural Guemes Island. Walk up the road for ice cream or lunch at Anderson’s Store, or pedal your way around the island. For a top-o’-the-world experience, ask for directions to the Guemes Mountain Trail. A one-mile hike leads to a 360-degree view of the San Juan Islands and Olympic peaks from the island’s highest point (now gratefully preserved by local land trusts).
For those itching to get out on the water, kayaking, whale watching, and charters out of Anacortes let you make the most of a day in the San Juans.
Skillful, friendly kayak guides welcome anyone from kids to experienced kayakers for trips that last from 1.5 hours to five days. Undeveloped and less traveled, the area’s eastern San Juan destinations, including Deception Pass Park, offer gorgeous natural shorelines and vistas in the middle of a wildlife playground. Harbor porpoises are being studied right here in Burrows Bay!
Watching the three local pods of orca whales at play is a must for most every bucket list. Excellent companies operate half-day whale watch tours out of downtown Anacortes, leaving you the rest of the day to explore. On-board naturalists, spacious viewing decks, guaranteed sightings, free binocular use, heated cabins and snacks, and respect for the whales are just some of the amenities you’ll enjoy. Also keep your eyes out for harbor seals, Stellar and California Sea Lions, harbor and Dall’s porpoises, Bald Eagles, and a wide variety of seabirds.
Yet another way to get up close to the paradise of the Salish Sea is aboard your own bare-boat charter (no crew, provisions, or technical services provided). Anacortes is homeport to one of the largest bare-boat charter fleets in the Northwest. Just add your own crab traps, fishing gear, camera, and friends for an unforgettable adventure.
Or make like a local and pull out of the marina at first light aboard an all-day fishing charter. The waters of the Pacific Northwest have supported sport and commercial fishing families since the 1800s. Most local charter skippers grew up baiting hooks and telling tall tales. Their knowledge of the habits, cycles, and haunts of the area’s salmon, halibut, and ling cod comes as naturally as the change of seasons—and gratefully, there’s never a season without fish.
Even annual Anacortes events play up the city’s salt-sprayed surroundings. From the Waterfront Festival, held at Cap Sante Marina, to Bier on the Pier and Spring Wine Festival held at the unique setting of the Port of Anacortes historic warehouse (the Transit Event Shed), the Anacortes waterfront is the place to coast in and hang out.