Washington state has always been known for its natural wonders, cultural gems and rainy coast. While all of that is absolutely wonderful, there are some very underrated pieces of the state that remain under the radar. One of these incredible places is the town of Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. Locals from Washington may have been to the San Juan Islands (accessible via ferry boat on Fidalgo), but few have actually explored or gotten out in Anacortes itself. This is an absolute shame, because as far as towns go, this one is pretty much impossible to beat.
Now That You’re All Settled In…
There are so many delicious eateries right there in Anacortes, but this one is by far the most locally loved- Gere A Deli! This sandwich stop is plastered with mid century tin signs and boasts lovely natural lighting thanks to their huge glass windows. The ambiance is fresh, and their food is unbelievably good. Think sandwiches piled high with favorites like local sprouts and heirloom tomatoes and smeared with the creamiest pestos and sauces. Their menu is extensive, their breads are all to die for, their specials range widely and their desserts are just as good as their heaping sammies.
Try their Fresh Mozza sandwich and Carrot Cake for a taste of their best concoctions, or try out the daily specials (which can be found written in rainbow colors on their chalkboard right up front). Without a doubt, this is the best sandwich shop not just in the state, but in the country.
Where to Stay
Anacortes is full of the quaintest little bed and breakfasts, seaside motels and guest houses. That said, The Ship Harbor Inn is absolute perfection. Located above the ferry landing, this stay offers breathtaking morning views of surrounding islands and drifting ferries. Not to mention the fact that the inn itself is beautiful beyond compare.
The white structure dons nautical architecture, big windows, adirondack chairs and a red tin roof. Talk about picturesque! Just minutes from the downtown area, The Ship Harbor Inn is a great place to rejuvenate. Guests can walk down to the beach, get a spa treatment, watch for whales from their decks and enjoy an amazing breakfast every morning. Drink in the ocean side views with a cup of orange juice, indulge at their bistro and espresso counter and check out their evening bar! Plenty of the rooms are pet friendly, have fireplaces and even jacuzzis.
Things to do Downtown
From this point on, there are many ways to spend the day, just sticking around the downtown area. Anacortes is a melting pot of artists, fishermen, gardeners, musicians and outdoors people, making this small town a hit for anyone and everyone. As far as your Saturday goes, there are so many options, so mix and match to plan a relaxing day!
Explore Causland Park and Surrounding Neighborhoods
Feeling the need for some blooms? Walk a few blocks over to Causland Memorial Park– a flowering park surrounded by a seashell wall near the library and community theatre in town. Even the neighborhood around the park is worth the short walk! The houses are all historic and covered in vines, and their yards are full of flowering bushes.
Walk Through The Historic District
The historic district is a highlight for those who enjoy window shopping, snacks, gardens and art. Try to find all of the gorgeous murals painted all over the walls downtown, and play on the spectacularly colorful pianos distributed on various corners.
Pop in to stores like The Red Snapper (great stop for whimsical gifts and gags) and Elisabeth’s Cottage by the Sea (enchanting shop full of shells, beads, turquoise, and nautical treasures), marvel at the beauty of the luxurious Majestic Inn and Spa and sample various olive oils at Anacortes Olive Oil and Vinegar Tasting Bar. Step in to Pelican Bay Books for the best latte of your life, vintage armchairs, a crackling stove, good conversations with strangers (thanks to their long community tables) and wooden shelves of previously loved books stretching seemingly for miles.
Head Over to Cap Sante Marina
If you’re feeling up to a little longer of a stroll, this is a great option. Walk a few blocks to the boat filled marina. Weave through the walking paths along the docks, and enjoy looking for seals, as well as soaking in the beautiful views of sailboats against the sky. If you’re wanting an incredible view, head up the hill to Cap Sante Park. It begins at the bottom with a dog park (a great stop for those traveling with pets) and stretches up to the rocky cliffs above (it is possible to drive up it instead). Enjoy panoramic views of the town, Mt. Baker and the islands below. This view is best enjoyed at sunset, but is also great for stargazing!
There are many favorite spots in Anacortes as far as dinner goes. This town is full to the brim with talented chefs and creatives, so there is never a shortage of good food to go around. When it comes to your first dinner in A’town though, here are a few spots to consider.
Rockfish Grill is a fantasitc option for those wanting to get a taste of local fare. From their flatbreads crammed full of kalamatas and the like, to their hummus platter, to their veggie bistro burger, their food is as gourmet as it is satisfying. Live music from local bands fill the brick restaurant, and their drink menu is the best in town. Travelers cannot go wrong with this hometown favorite.
If you’re in the mood for something classy, A’Town Bistro is the place to go. This high dining experience offers local flavors, warm decor and of course, gloriously tasty food. Their green salad is made from produce grown at the nearby Moondance Farms, their soups are all flavorful beyond belief and their spinach ravioli is divine. Be sure to call ahead to guarantee a spot- this town may be small, but this eatery has gained a faithful following.
This is perfect for anyone wanting to get into the nautical culture of Anacortes. Adrift doesn’t just have a sailor-worthy name, but dons ropes, knots, anchors and all kinds of local ship wear. Their menu reflects that with an extensive array of seaside specialties, and not just in terms of seafood. The local soil is very fertile, and combined with its coastal nature, makes for perfect gardening soil. Celebrate that by munching on their famous fries, beet tacos, colorful salads, steamed artichoke hearts and coconut mousse- all made from local ingredients. This is great for those wanting to eat sustainably while traveling.
Waking up in Anacortes
Sunday mornings in Anacortes are always a dream, especially on the water. The crisp oceanside air is awakening as it floods your lungs with refreshment and pine scented breezes. Wake up early and take a little walk. Take some coffee with you down to the beach, and watch for whales and sea life on the shore. As far as breakfast goes though, there are quite a few options.
The Donut House
If you’re looking for something sweet, heartwarming and colorful, look no further than The Donut House. This purple painted bakery is a huge hit with locals, with many hitting it up before work or classes, so get there early. Try their strawberry doughnuts and cappuccinos for something that will hit the spot perfectly, or their blueberry fritters for something deliciously sweet. They also have heavenly croissants, Italian sodas, muffins and an array of daily specials. No matter what you order, there is no wrong way to go.
Don’t let the simple name fool you- this bakery is a gold mine for good breakfast food. Earthy bagels, buttery croissants, muffins, french toast and granola galore! The Store is full of hearty options for any kind of breakfast eater. Everything in there represents some aspect of the town, from the way their sandwiches are named after local geographical features, to the way that they only sell local fare. Eating here is a fantastic way to understand Anacortes culture better.
Now you may not be big into walking, but this town could change your mind. There are so many beautiful walks to take here in town, and not taking advantage of that would be such a shame. Plus, you get to see more of the town than you ever would have otherwise. The best walk is to go from town to Washington Park. Walk through the cutest neighborhoods, pass boats on the water, pick berries as you go and soak in the at-home feeling that Anacortes brings to everyone who takes the time to wander there. Be prepared to see plenty of deer and all kinds of adorable wildlife. You may even see a bald eagle or too, so be sure to look at the treetops and skies above you. People are very friendly too, so if you end up needing directions, don’t be afraid to stop and ask.
As you get closer to Washington Park, you will hit a neighborhood called Skyline. There is a marina, beach houses and a few boat repair shops. This is a fantastic time to take a break and walk down to the water. This might be the best place on the island to take a dip, thanks to the sheltered water, and sandy beach. Enjoy views of Burrows Island across the water and look out for whales! The beaches here are dog friendly, so if you have a dog with you, this is a fantastic place for some quality time together.
Once you get to Washington Park, there are a few things you can do at this point. You can turn around and head back, play at the beach there or walk the two mile loop. That last option is great because the views are pretty hard to beat. The forest there has plenty of hikes within, and the lookouts are stunning. No matter what though, make sure to get down to a beach at some point to look for seals. The local celebrity is a seal named Popeye (named for his one blind eye), so hopefully he comes up to say hello! There are loads of options here, but the best ones are the ones at Washington Park, Cranberry Lake and the Mt. Erie trail (which comes with some pretty insane views).
Take a Drive
There are a few spots that absolutely must be seen while in Anacortes, some of which are too far to walk to. One of the best views is the one at the top of Mt. Erie. Whether or not you plan to see Mt. Erie this second, the view at the top is considered by many to be the best view on the islands thanks to its panoramic viewpoint. The other outstanding view is on the drive to Deception Pass Bridge, complete with woodland views on both sides, until the ocean and bridge are seen. Either way, these two spots are not to miss.
Feeling hungry after a day of exploration? End the day with a belly full of local food. Try hitting up one of the other two restaurants listed for Saturday, or try out Village Pizza! This restaurant is great because their pizza is so filling, flavorful and heartwarming, which is perfect for a day spent adventuring. This eatery is beautiful thanks to its old photos of the town and brick architecture as well, and their cake is also mouthwatering.
If you’re feeling the need for something more luxurious, you can’t beat the splendor at 5th Street Bistro, atop the Majestic Inn. Enjoy starlit views of the town below, as you’re surrounded by fairy lights strung around the roof. Get cozy next to their outdoor fires and of course, fill up on their amazing food. Try out their heirloom tomato appetizer with their vegan bistro burger. For dessert, nothing beats the Coconut Panna Cotta! This is the perfect delicious meal to finish out your weekend in Anacortes.