Seven Ways to Experience Anacortes in Late Spring

Like boaters taking advantage of the exceptional harbor to drop anchor for a few days, those with plans to attend the Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show in May are encouraged to extend the boundaries of their charts to explore this unique seaside community.

Build an unforgettable Fidalgo Island getaway around the new Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show at Cap Sante Marina.

Boat shows are a long-standing tradition in this historic Fidalgo Island community, but this year the May 17-20 event will be extraordinary as it will be produced for the first time by the powerhouse Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA). The Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show will make a great “base” during this visit to Anacortes. Like its big brother, the Seattle Boat Show, this event will feature several hundred new and used vessels of all shapes and sizes. Vessels range from trailer-size to a 68-foot yacht!

Special attributes for guests include the fact that hundreds of boats are part of an in-water display. Cap Sante Marina has 950 slips and accommodates vessels to 120′ with 150-200 berths used for guest moorage. The public marina is close to any marine service a boater could want, and customer services include WiFi, restrooms, showers, laundry, and competitive fuel rates. Some of the parking challenges associated with an urban event are missing here (Hurrah!). In addition, there will be free shuttle rides available between the marina and nearby boatyards.

Tickets are modestly priced at $10 per person (age 17 and under free, veterans half-price). The bargain hunter’s option, however, is a $15 unlimited ticket good for all four days of the show. Oh, and if you are a yacht club member admission is free on Thursday and Friday! Just a few yards away from the marina docks guests will find an upland area featuring boats on trailers and a Big Tent populated by vendors offering marine-related services, accessories, and electronics.

Those who choose to stay for a few days can piggyback off the boat show for a myriad of memorable adventures.

Glance to the north from Cap Sante Marina and you will see the stern-wheeler W.T. Preston.

In 1981, the U.S. Army Corps retired this workboat from duty and solicited proposals to preserve the snag boat. The Corps transferred title to the City of Anacortes in 1983, and the city allocated $40,000 to prepare a waterfront site for the stern-wheeler beside an old Great Northern Railroad Depot. After being towed to Anacortes, the W.T. Preston was taken out of the water and on June 22, 1983, hauled overland to her new resting site. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, serving as an important reminder of Puget Sound maritime and riverine history.

The W.T. Preston and the Anacortes Marine Heritage Center next door are open for tours on weekends in May: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The stern-wheeler and interpretive center are located at 703 R Avenue, just a quick stroll down the marina esplanade. Admission to the Heritage Center is free. Preston admission is $3-$5.

The ever-popular Anacortes Farmers Market is in the same neighborhood, located on a beautiful brick plaza at the former train depot.

The Saturday market will be buzzing with activity just into the opening of its summer season. An array of booths features goodies ranging from organic vegetables and fruit to fresh baked goods and handcrafted merchandise. Grab a meal or dessert and coffee, pull up a chair and enjoy live music provided by local musicians and vocalists.

Remaining in Fitbit mode, consider a bit more ambitious walk (or bicycle ride) to downtown Anacortes.

Consider treasure maps/guest guides available at the marina and many shops. Alfresco dining options include sidewalk, rooftop and deck venues. As you would expect, fresh seafood dishes populate local menus. There are also numerous ethnic food restaurants on or near the city main street. Look for local brewpubs, wine, and coffee shops as well.

If the maritime adventure at the W.T. Preston inspired you to learn more about this city’s century-long love affair with the water, find your way to the north shore of the downtown. Stop in at Anacortes Marine Supply & Hardware, a fascinating mix of history and marine related merchandise. A number of antique/vintage shops also feature items you would expect to see in a community where recreational and commercial boating have been vital elements of the local economy.

For a rare glimpse of a Pacific Northwest shipyard, peek over the fence into Dakota Creek Industries (DCI), situated on the Guemes Channel. Stroll to the end of Commercial Avenue to a public dock operated by the Port of Anacortes. Here you will enjoy a prime view of boat traffic including sailboats, powerboats and tugs.

If this community’s shoreline and related activities float your boat, consider a drive to Washington Park and the SHIP Interpretive area adjacent to the state ferry terminal on the city’s west end.

In each case, these public facilities can be enjoyed on foot or from the comfort of your vehicle. For walkers/hikers, each park area offers both natural and paved pathways. Interpretive signs shed light on the history of each neighborhood. Keep your binoculars and/or camera handy as shorebirds and raptors (eagles and osprey) call these places home.

To reach the SHIP area and Guemes Trail, drive west on 12th/Oakes to the San Juan Passage neighborhood, where you will take a right hand turn and wind down to a cul-de-sac on the water. Washington Park is just a mile further west. Travel straight down 12th/Oakes and past the turnoff to the state ferry terminal to reach this popular park. Either park is the perfect place to picnic with a meal prepared “to go” from a local restaurant or pub. Back in the marina neighborhood, recreational options range from boat charters to kayak and paddleboard rentals.

If walking or biking is still on your itinerary, enjoy the marina esplanade that links with the Tommy Thompson Trail.

This paved, level path follows the shoreline of Fidalgo Bay, all the way to March’s Point via a retired railroad trestle. Interpretive signs along the way will provide insights into natural and historic elements of the area. An ambitious walk (1-3 miles) takes you past commercial fishing docks, whale watching berths, beach park, marinas and RV campground. Upland areas feature boat storage facilities, maintenance yards, and marine services.

Stop by the Visitor Information Center (VIC) on the corner of Commercial Avenue and 10th Street.

There, you’ll find local counsel and informative brochures including a guide to outdoor murals. It is an excellent source of information for other local adventures, including visits to Port, City, County, and State parks and forest lands. And don’t forget a trip to the iconic Cap Sante viewpoint on the promontory overlooking the city and islands beyond.

by Steve Berentson

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