Halfway between Seattle and Vancouver lies the beautiful seaside city of Anacortes, Washington.
It sits on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, right in the Banana Belt region that enjoys more sunny days than the rest of the rainy state.
As the main dock and terminal for ferries to the San Juan Islands, the town is mainly known as a gateway into the archipelagos of the Pacific Northwest.
But it’s a great destination on its own, with an abundance of nature-related attractions, festivals, and manmade destinations.
Its name comes from the wife of Amos Bowman, Anne Curtis Bowman, and they were both some of the earliest settlers of the location.
From the time they arrived, their settlement has evolved into the idyllic and vibrant port town that it is today.
So when planning a quick weekend trip, make this your top choice.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Anacortes, WA:
Enjoy the Stunning Views at Cap Sante Park
Cape Sante Park is situated on the eponymous cape, a headland jutting out in the waters on the city's northern edge.
It’s an excellent place for those who want a quick escape from the city's noise below, as it’s relatively isolated, elevated, and forested.
When you’re here, you’d be treated to views of Anacortes’ marina, the surrounding islands, and Fidalgo Bay.
The rocky clearings of the park are the best viewing spots, and you can even take stunning landscape photos of the surroundings.
For those who are feeling a little adventurous, you can explore the trails that go deeper into the forests and to other lookouts.
You might even spot the small but friendly deer population that calls the park their home.
Just don’t try to feed them, as these wild animals are not used to human diets and processed ingredients.
Find Rare Items During Shipwreck Day
Shipwreck Day is a popular, single-day event that is highly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.
Every third Saturday of July, several city streets are closed and turned into a large venue for a garage sale/flea market event.
Throngs of people come over to see the various products on display, most of which are related to the city’s fishing industry.
With more than 200 stalls erected during the event, you’d definitely find an item here that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
From weathered but sturdy fishing gear to indoor furniture, from beautiful artworks to practical tools, there are so many things in store!
There are also a number of stalls that sell satisfying snacks and drinks for those who need to refuel during their search for a prized item.
Enjoy the Scenery at Washington Park
West of the city proper lies a scenic outdoor destination favored for its views of the San Juan Islands: Washington Park.
The 220-acre attraction abounds in forested trails, high-elevation meadows, mountain views, and campgrounds.
You’re welcome to explore the 2.3-mile hiking loop the goes around the park.
It’ll bring you to the best spots where you can view the archipelago or the snowcapped Olympic mountain range.
There are also picnic sites with shady areas and amenities that are ideal for a day-long visit.
But if you want to stay a little longer and watch the stars of the Washington night sky, you can set up camp on the designated grounds that cater to either RVs or traditional tents.
It’s a haven for nature lovers who still want to stay near civilization and modern conveniences.
Find Fresh Produce at Anacortes Farmers Market
When looking for the freshest vegetables, fruits, and other crops during your visit, then head over to Anacortes Farmers Market.
The weekly event is held every Saturday in the downtown district, and it goes from May to October.
Here, you’ll find the streets lined with stalls selling the bounty of the Fidalgo Island and the Skagit Valley.
Shop for various fruit cultivars, seasonal vegetables, fresh root crops, and other products that are native to the area.
There are also locally made products like preserved meats, freshly baked goods, artworks, and specialty foods sold by local businesses.
And since Anacortes is a seaside town, the market has stalls offering the seafood harvest.
You’ll find crabs, a wide range of fishes, shellfish, shrimps, and many other animals freshly taken from the nearby waters.
Head Out to the Waters of Strait of Juan de Fuca
The Strait of Juan de Fuca neatly divides the borders of the US and Canada in this region.
On the northern side lies the scenic Vancouver Island, and on the opposite lies the Olympic Mountains.
Known as the habitat of fishes native to the Pacific Northwest, this strait is a favorite because of the calm waters and abundant game.
Anacortes has many local charters and seasoned fishermen who offer day trips to portions of the strait closer to the islands.
Bring your family or friends along and have a relaxing time out in the sea.
There’s plenty of fish to catch, such as salmon, sea bass, halibut, and cod.
If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the whales that migrate to these waters.
Whale watching is an excellent alternative for those who don’t want to go fishing, and the best time to do it is during the summer months.
Explore the Trails of Anacortes Community Forest Lands
The forest lands south of the city proper are aptly called Anacortes Community Forest Lands, and it’s a great addition to your outdoor excursions.
If you’re wondering why it’s called a “Community Forest,” that’s because funding for the preservation of the area is partly taken from contributions of the Anacortes community.
They saw how important it is to preserve the forests, so logging was opposed, and recreational activity was encouraged.
Today, the nature destination encompasses many lakes, rivers, hills, and other beautiful attractions, all surrounded by thick pine forests.
The body of water nearest to the city is Little Cranberry Lake, a favorite location because of the tree-lined banks, mirror-like surface, and abundant wildlife.
You can swim during the warmer months, trek the trails along the lake’s banks, or go deeper into the surrounding woods for wildlife encounters.
Reach the Summit of Mount Erie
The most prominent natural feature of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands is Mount Erie, and it deserves a spot of its own in the list.
It’s an iconic destination, rising above the tree line to dominate the landscape on this side of Anacortes.
And as the highest point on the island, it is a popular climbing attraction.
The Mount Erie Trail Summit trail is easy enough for beginners, with mildly strenuous slopes and well-paved paths that make for a quick trek during the summer months.
Once you reach the top, you’d be treated to 360-degree views of the surrounding areas: the San Juan Islands gleaming under the Washington sky, the Olympic Mountains glowing white on the southwest horizon, and the lakes of Fidalgo island shimmering from gentle breezes.
It’s an unforgettable experience that you definitely shouldn’t miss!
Join the Rambunctious Oyster Run
As the largest motorcycle run in the Pacific Northwest, the Oyster Run is an event that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you’re a rider.
The event traces its roots back to 1981 when a group of friends traveled from California to Edison for oysters.
Little did they know that people would love this wild idea, so much so that more than 20,000 bikers are said to have participated during the past years.
The single-day ride is held every September, and back in the day, there were set routes and schedules.
But because of the sheer number of participants, the organizers have removed starting points and required routes to accommodate everyone.
However, the finishing point is still at Anacortes, where vendors wait to treat riders with the freshest oysters and other seafood.
One of the best aspects of the rally is the diverse group of people who participate.
You’d find riders in costumes, hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts, and other performers doing stunts while on motorbikes.
Whether you’re participating or just spectating, you’re guaranteed a thrilling experience.
Catch a Live Show at The Business
From its early beginnings as a retail store to becoming the best vinyl store in Washington, The Business has undergone a lot of change throughout its run.
Today, it’s the premier concert venue and music recording studio on this side of the state.
It’s located in the Alfred Olson Building, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Some of Washington’s famous musicians, such as Karl Blau and Phil Elverum, first started recording and producing their music here.
Today, The Business fiercely promotes music by independent artists and bands to help them thrive and achieve recognition.
You can catch some live shows of these performs at the venue, as The Business also has facilities for concerts.
It’s an ideal way to discover new music and artists that might just appeal to your taste.
Camp in the Wilderness of Skagit Island Marine State Park
For those who are feeling adventurous, then Skagit Island Marine State Park is the place to be.
This challenging destination sits on the waters north of Fidalgo Island, accessible only by boat or kayak when conditions are favorable.
Within the 25-acre islands, you’ll enjoy forested areas, rugged coasts, the ambiance of the San Juan islands without actually being in one.
There are many spots that make for a great camping experience, especially on the sheltered beaches.
You can stay overnight and experience isolation like no other, even though you’re still near Anacortes.
During the day, you can go deeper into the island’s wooded areas and spot the birds and small mammals that have found their way here.
It’s a good way to disconnect from busy lives and commune with nature in peace.
Learn the City’s Past at Anacortes Museum
The maritime and local history of the city and all of Fidalgo Island are featured and preserved at the charming Anacortes Museum.
So if you’re curious about the storied past of the town, then make a quick stopover to this quaint destination.
You’ll find artifacts, photographs, and other items on display among the shelves, all of which come together to tell the city’s story.
There are even life-sized boats that are commonly used for fishing before motorized watercraft become the dominant mode of transportation.
It’s an informative and engaging destination overall, a place where you can gain more context about the heritage and traditions of the city.
Marvel at the Mosaics of Causland Memorial Park
Since you’re already visiting Anacortes Museum, why not visit the adjacent Causland Memorial Park?
This urban green space has verdant grounds, small pockets of trees, and an amphitheater that serves as a venue for local events.
But the most distinctive sights of this park are the colorful mosaics used on the perimeter wall and the main gazebo.
These decorative artworks are made of stones and pebbles of various colors, shapes, and textures.
They all come together to create abstract patterns and images with flowing qualities, which resemble plants and flowers.
Because of this unusual sight, many visitors frequent this place for pictures and general appreciation of the mosaics.
So be sure to drop by here after your visit to the Anacortes Museum to see these marvelous displays.
Play With Wolves at Predators Of The Heart
Don’t let the name intimidate you—Predators Of The Heart is one of the most wholesome places you can visit while in Anacortes.
This is not your typical zoo; it’s a rescue and rehabilitation center where animals are taken care of, especially if they can’t venture out into the wild anymore.
So most of the species here are native to the region.
The staff is passionate about these animals, so they are pampered and given the utmost attention for their comfort and happiness.
One of the favorite activities here is Wolf Encounters, where you get an opportunity to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures.
You can hug them, pet them, take selfies, or simply enjoy their friendly demeanor.
It’s a rare experience that truly makes your trip to the city worth it.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Once you’re done with your tour of Anacortes, be sure to check out these other places in the vicinity.
See Orcas at the San Juan Islands
It’s been mentioned frequently in this list, so you must already be wondering why the San Juan Islands is a famous attraction.
It’s an archipelago on Northeast of Anacortes and accessible via short ferry transports from the city.
Aside from the scenic island landscapes and charming communities, the archipelago is famous for orca sightings.
Visiting here during the peak seasons will guarantee you a close encounter with the intimidating yet beautiful marine predators.
Trek the Trails of Deception Pass State Park
While Deception Pass State Park still has parts on Fidalgo island, the main access points to this Washington treasure are from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.
The vast outdoor destination is composed of ancient forests, swift streams, tide pools, and hiking trails.
And because of the beauty of these features, the park has become one the most visited natural sites in the state.
The most prominent feature here is probably Deception Pass Bridge, a scenic crossing that connects Whidbey and Fidalgo Island.
From the shores of the park, you can get amazing views of the bridge for stunning landscape photos.
Explore the City's Maritime History at Maritime Heritage Center & W.T. Preston
Maritime Heritage Center provides an exciting look into the city's maritime past.
The open museum in Anacortes is a treat, with exhibits and displays highlighting the city's naval economy, boating and milling history, and transportation.
It features various antiquities and relics, including images, old equipment, and reproductions of wheels and boats.
If you want to see what a vintage ship looks like, check out W.T. Preston sternwheeler next door.
The Corps of Engineers removed her from service in 1981 and called for preservation options for the snag boat.
National Register of Historic Places included W.T. Preston in its list in 1979.
Have a Retreat at Swinomish Casino and Lodge
Swinomish Casino & Lodge in Anacortes, Washington, is a Pacific Northwest haven perched on a bluff over Padilla Bay.
It provides the best entertainment, lodging, gambling, and food options.
The 98 large suites at its comfortable Lodge are perfect for unwinding and recharging after a long day.
Each room at the hotel features traditional Native American elements and artwork from the area. A
All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in an abundance of sunlight with stunning views of the San Juan Islands, Mount Baker, and Swinomish Channel.
An entertainment facility and a 24-hour casino are available at this establishment.
It also features a fitness facility and entertainment venue, a casual restaurant and sports bar, and RV parking.
Celebrate Local Art at Anacortes Arts Festival
An estimated 90,000 people visit Anacortes each year for the annual Anacortes Arts Festival, one of the Northwest's oldest and largest festivals.
Participating in a wide range of artistic pursuits throughout the year is possible thanks to the active involvement of several cultural groups in the area.
City streets, waterfronts, parks, and forests all have significant collections of public art that contribute to the city's overall aesthetic.
The festival usually takes place every August.
Port Event Center on Guemes Channel hosts a museum-quality fine art display and 200 booth artisans.
Musical performances will take place on three stages, close to beer and wine gardens serving local Northwest beers and vino (plus other spirits).
Explore the Working Studios section, where artists demonstrate classic, modern, and folk art styles.
Learn Environmental Preservation at Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve
Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve features 2,000 square feet of sandy beach and subtidal eelgrass beds in addition to the 25 acres of freshwater wetlands.
There is a well-defined path system that protects vulnerable regions while also educating visitors about the beach's and the wetlands' importance.
There are additional sections on Samish people and Europeans.
The exhibits also include Fidalgo Island's substantial salmon fishing and canning business history.
Visitors may unwind on a 2,000-foot beach with subtidal eelgrass beds and a diversity of marine life at the end of the informative walk.
Stroll along Tommy Thompson Trail
The Tommy Thompson Trail is a unique paved walkway that crosses Fidalgo Bay on a land bridge.
While the route is only 3.3 miles long, it twists through Anacortes and the surrounding areas.
This simple path takes around 1 hour and 35 minutes to complete.
However, you may still get away from the crowds if you go during the off-peak hours of the day.
You may bring your dogs along the trail but ensure they are on a leash at all times.
Washington may have a reputation for being rainy, but Anacortes is one of the rare exceptions.
So if you want to enjoy the rugged ambiance of the Pacific Northwest with good weather, then the city is the best place to be.
Reference this list so you won’t miss the top spots during your vacation!