It’s easy to fall into the trap of associating the word “beach” with the summer season only. You might have packed away the swimsuit, but the truth is there is no “off-season” for a remarkable collection of Anacortes beaches. No pun intended, but it is vital to check the “moderate weather” box on your list of reasons to recreate here year-round!
In addition to moderate temperatures, shoulder season attributes include smaller crowds, open vistas, and seasonal delights including shorebirds and a changing color palette. There are numerous public beaches on Fidalgo Island and neighboring islands, but this article will focus on three crowd favorites.
This historic corner of the city is busy year-round as it is home to a state ferry terminal, but spring and summer traffic drop dramatically with the start of the school year.
Located just a few miles west of downtown Anacortes, the beach at Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve (SHIP) boasts many features:
- A paved, level path that leads east along the Guemes Channel shoreline, with islands on the horizon and “eye candy” ranging from boat traffic to winged raptors seeking their next meal.
- A natural path parallel to the harbor, with several observation decks and entry, points to the beach. Keep your eyes open for wildlife including otters, rabbits, and deer. Grow your Northwest knowledge base via interpretive signs dedicated to local history, flora and fauna.
- A beach that offers and mix of sand and rocky upland areas. This beach walk in the neighborhood of the ferry terminal includes exposure to the city’s rich history: concrete and tin remnants of the days when Anacortes reigned as Salmon Canning Capital of the World.
- A brief “side trip” alternative from the beach to the boardwalk, a winding path through a wetland wonderland teeming with life.
Seafarers’ Memorial Park
This one-of-a-kind beach and public dock area is located downtown, next door to the renowned Cap Sante Marina and within walking distance to a vibrant business district that boasts shops, restaurants, boat-based sea life tours, and overnight accommodations. Features include:
- A mix of grass, sandy beach, rocky beach, and public docks.
- Interpretive signage introducing guests to history tidbits, including one-time operation of lumber and paper mills.
- Picnic tables, wi-fi, public restrooms, and indoor space available for rental.
- Level, paved pedestrian walkways that link to the public marina to the north and the miles-long Tommy Thompson Trail that winds along Fidalgo Island’s shoreline and across an abandoned trestle over Fidalgo Bay.
- Proximity (as in “sit back and enjoy the view from the car, path, lawnchair or dock”) to a parade of boating activity that includes commercial vessels, workboats, recreational powerboats and sailboats that ply local waters year-round.
- Host site of the Seafarers’ Memorial, a tribute to those who have been lost at sea over the course of the community’s maritime history. In addition to the ship’s wheel monument and flagpole, this corner features the photogenic sculpture titled: “Lady of the Sea” by Deborah Copenhaver.
This generational favorite among area residents is situated on the edge of Washington Park, a jewel at the top of a star-studded list of city parks. To reach the beach, continue west on Oakes Avenue beyond the turnoff to the state ferry terminal. Features of this beach include:
- Large, covered picnic areas that include grills (BYO fuel source, e.g. charcoal). Picnic tables scattered in a number of places including the beach’s edge. A children’s playground on a bark “island” in the center of a massive, grassy area.
- Proximity to a public boat launch and a rocky beach that features sea life periodically exposed by tides.
- A strip of sandy beach that often attracts picnickers, kayakers, paddleboarders and those (young and old) who can’t resist skipping stones in the surf.
- Driftwood collections for climbing or perching: a perfect vantage point to watch a parade of passersby that ranges from state ferry to yacht.
We love this trio of top shoreline destinations, but we encourage the adventurous to explore many more beaches in the area. Those include Deception Pass State Park, Rosario, Kukutali Preserve, Guemes Ferry and several “pocket parks” near the downtown district.
For more information, visit the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center at 819 Commercial Avenue.
By Steve Berentson
Are You Ready To Experience Anacortes?
Want to learn more about things to do in Anacortes, Washington? Our website has lots of information on Anacortes restaurants, activities, and special events to help guide your plans for an island getaway. You can also find our Experience Anacortes app in the Apple Store and on Google Play.