Thanks in large part to an extensive public park system, visitors to the Anacortes shoreline can enjoy “bonus time” – a rare opportunity to take a window seat to this island community’s working waterfront. From restaurant table to picnic table, marina esplanade to historic wooden pier, the city extends opportunities to view some of the water-based businesses and industry that represent vital infusions into the local economy. Among local favorites are Port of Anacortes Pier 1 and Port tenant Dakota Creek Industries (DCI), both located within walking distance of downtown.
Take Commercial Avenue, the city’s main street, all the way north to the end. Look for cranes and the pilothouses of ships under construction to locate the DCI shipyard. Viewpoints to a shipyard buzzing with activity year-round are available from Commercial Avenue, and from 3rd Street between Commercial and Q Avenue. This is an active industrial site, so a chain link fence line stands between operations and observers, but viewpoints abound from sidewalk and parking spots around the perimeter. See teams of DCI employees move massive sheets of steel into position for cutting and shaping. Watch as shipyard professionals send welding sparks flying as they seal hull seams high above the ground.
Just two blocks north on the Guemes Channel park your bike or vehicle at the historic Transit Shed. Here there are options: walk to the west and you will discover a beach and benches. This area, made user-friendly as a result of an environmental mitigation project, stands between the Cortland rope manufacturing company and Port tenant operations including a Dungeness crab business. Again, businesses are protected by fences and gates, but operations are often visible from the outside.
If you exercise Option 2 at the Transit Shed you will walk past Port offices to Pier 1. From this dock you can observe ship maintenance and repair crews at work in the DCI dry-dock. Occasionally the dry-dock serves as temporary home to large vessels including state ferries. Stroll west on the dock and you will walk past a crab business and across a stainless steel bridge to historic Curtis Wharf. This upgraded dock area serves as home to a number of large Crowley tugs, and during the spring and summer season, to an American Cruise Lines ship that ties up periodically as passengers disembark to explore downtown Anacortes and environs.
Watch a stream of marine traffic traveling east and west on the Guemes Channel: from County-operated ferry to whale watching ships, recreational sail and power boats. On occasion tugs swing into action to escort massive oil tankers delivering or transporting fuel products from the two refineries on March’s Point. This area is also visible from the rooftop dining area at the Majestic Inn & Spa on 4th Street and Commercial Avenue (open weather-permitting). Enjoy a meal or liquid refreshments from one of the most talked about venues in the city. This rooftop facility is part of a second building addition to the historic Majestic Inn, which also features a cupola with sweeping views.
Slightly to the northeast there are viewing options from the vicinity of Cap Sante promontory. Take 4th Street east from Commercial Avenue to “T” Street, which leads to Secret Cove Restaurant and service boat launch facilities operated by the Port of Anacortes. Enjoy a meal or the view from the upstairs lounge at Secret Cove Restaurant, which overlooks marine loading facilities known as Pier II. Primary activity at this pier centers around the loading of petroleum coke, a refinery byproduct used by aluminum smelters in Canada. Longshoremen have long since moved out of the water in this neighborhood, but they still handle ship activity here, operating equipment including a specially designed conveyor belt system used to load pet coke from trucks to ship with minimal air emissions. A recently completed surface recovery system prevents product from falling into the water below.
From a small parking area just off 2nd Street in the Cap Sante neighborhood, you can access a public viewing area created as part of a Port mitigation project. From here you can watch boat traffic round the corner en-route from local marinas to the San Juan Islands. Regular customers at the modest dock facility below include work vessels that help to transport fuel and other products to the islands. From this area, one of the most popular public shoreline areas is Cap Sante Marina, a taxpayer owned facility with open docks and amenities including benches, tables – even over-sized, outdoor sets for chess and checkers players!
Take the esplanade through the marina, always bustling with activity but particularly busy during spring and summer months. Visit Anthony’s Restaurant, where indoor and outdoor dining tables offer a relaxed view of marine activities including the comings and goings of commercial fish, crab and shrimp boats and crews. Walk or drive to nearby Seafarers’ Memorial Park, a park dedicated to locals who have lost their lives at sea. Visit the Port fuel dock (Fido’s) near the Lady of the Sea sculpture for an ice cream treat, or bring your lunch to enjoy at a picnic table overlooking Fidalgo Bay.
It is a true Northwest adventure to watch traffic in and out of local marinas including Cap Sante, which serves as base for two whale watching businesses, a marine service business, Dunlap Tugs and marine spill and recovery vessels. It is not uncommon to see marina guests such as tall ship “Lady Washington” and sailing excursion ship “Adventuress.”
Other view-rich public access points on the Fidalgo Island shoreline include a new trail near the state ferry terminal at Ship Harbor on the west side of town. Take 12th Street to the San Juan Passage residential development, take a right and wind down the street to a shoreside cul-de-sac. Walk to the west and you will discover a wetlands boardwalk and open beach, both offering ringside seats to state ferry operations serving the San Juans and an international route to Sidney, British Columbia.
Anacortes is proud of its efforts to partner recreation, business and industry. Enjoy the benefits of this partnership – and don’t forget to stop into the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center (VIC) at 9th and Commercial Avenue for answers to your questions about our island community.
originally written July 23, 2015 by Steve Berentson, updated October 2018