Close your eyes on any shoreline of Fidalgo Island and listen. You will likely hear evidence of a water adventure, from the roar of a boat motor to the slap of oars on the surface of a lake or bay – from the distinctive blast of a ferry horn to the shouts of a sailboat skipper to crew. If your summer “to do” list includes fun on the water, put Anacortes at the center of your itinerary!
It is no accident that many of this maritime city’s businesses and special events focus on the water. Since its incorporation in 1891 the backbone of the local economy has been marine-oriented business and trades. That rich maritime history is obvious everywhere, from restaurant menus to shop inventories.
The free, family friendly Waterfront Festival overflows with opportunities for fun on the water. Sign up for a free boat ride on Fidalgo Bay with volunteers from the Anacortes Yacht Club. Grab a hammer and free components to help your child build his or her own toy sailboat, and then watch their eyes light up as they “launch” their boat in a large pool of water nearby. This community celebration is packed with marine-oriented events, from delivery of salty sea shanties on the Main Stage to remote control boats that can be viewed from marina docks or esplanade. And you won’t want to miss the always-exciting Quick n Dirty boat demonstration featuring custom-built vessels of questionable seaworthiness! It is also at Cap Sante Marina that many other water adventures are offered on a daily basis. From this marina, and from Skyline Marina on the west side of the city, whale watching boats boast a full seasonal schedule. Also based at local marinas are fishing charters and boat rentals operated by outdoors-men whose passion and knowledge of the region guarantee a memorable Northwest experience.
If you own your own boat, from kayak or canoe to dinghy or cruiser, public launches are available for lakes and Sound. City, county and state offer public boat launches on lakes including Campbell, Heart, Pass, Erie and Cranberry. Saltwater launches range from the ramp at scenic Washington Park to small- and large-boat launches at Cap Sante Marina.
Kayakers love the city’s Seafarers’ Memorial Park, which features a pristine cove and its own small boat dock. Husband and wife team Eric and Megan Schorr launch many of their kayak adventures from this location. On the Fidalgo side of Deception Pass State Park, many kayakers choose to launch from Rosario Beach. Also popular among those interested in the south Fidalgo area is the jet boat operated by Captain Brett Ginther of Deception Pass Tours.
If you don’t want to leave your car behind on your water excursion, options include Washington State Ferries, with a local terminal serving the renowned San Juan Islands and Canada (Sidney, B.C.). A small county-operated ferry also links Anacortes with Guemes Island. Also associated with behind-the-wheel excursions are two breathtaking viewpoints: Mt. Erie, with a view of Lake Campbell and North Whidbey Island and Cap Sante, with a view of the city, the mainland and the San Juan Islands. Each viewpoint also offers a network of trails. Oh, and don’t forget your camera.
In celebration of the seasonal combination of warm weather and water, the Port of Anacortes hosts a series of live music events including Wednesday Big Band performances and Friday Night Concerts at Seafarers’ Memorial Park overlooking Fidalgo Bay. These summer schedule events start on July 4, running into August.
Come to Anacortes, where it’s all about the water!
originally written May 12, 2014 by Steve Berentson – updated June 2018