Destination Anacortes

In Anacortes, the past, present and future blend together in a blossoming downtown.

For years Anacortes was a quick stop on the way to and from the San Juan Islands. With the many improvements to Cap Sante Marina in the past few years, a walk through a thriving downtown reveals a destination in its own right worth a couple days in the float plan.

Cap Sante Marina is located in town and is operated by Port of Anacortes. The marina has been substantially upgraded over the last few years, with new floats, improved power, excellent Wi-Fi, and remodeled restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. The marina staff is friendly and helpful. There are pumpout facilities as well as a full-service fuel dock. Located at the head of the main gangway are the harbor office and an Anthony’s Home Port and Cabana.

The marina keeps a fleet of available bicycles for visiting boaters to use at no charge. Port of Anacortes sponsors a Summer Concert Series Friday evenings, July through August, at Seafarer’s Memorial Park, at the south end of the marina. Need to provision? Two large supermarkets and a West Marine are within a short walk of the marina, no more than a few minutes.

Anacortes is a bustling small town of fewer than 17,000 residents, and two city blocks from the marina is downtown, which is adorned with life-sized murals of colorful characters from the town’s past — including turn-of-the-century luminaries Ann and Tommy Thompson, founders of the Anacortes Railway — painted by local artist Bill Mitchell. Wandering through charming downtown on Commercial Avenue, we are soon surrounded by red brick buildings, antique shops, bookstores, florists, eateries and specialty shops. Large flower baskets hang from the light poles.

Beautiful surroundings and restaurants are ubiquitous in town. Dad’s Diner is the town’s premier barbecue stop. Calico Cupboard makes a tasty breakfast. For pizza, it’s Village Pizza. Family-owned and operated since 1981, Gere-a-deli is a popular community lunch stop. The Adrift creates a unique dining experience that combines a love of art and camaraderie with the bounty of the Pacific Northwest and presents it in an atmosphere that will nurture both body and spirit. Old world food and a rustic feel defines A’Town Bistro, one of the most recent restaurants to call Anacortes home. Care for a bite of Southern comfort food? The 5th Street Bistro, in the Majestic Inn and Spa, fuses both Southern and Northwest flavors. For fine-dining Mexican cuisine, it’s Frida’s Gourmet Mexican Restaurant. Of course there is the Brown Lantern, a cozy tavern known for its burgers and live music. Don’t miss the Rockfish Grill and Anacortes Brewery, which, in addition to music, serves local seafood and other Northwest cuisine, as well as pizza from a wood-fired oven.

Anacortes hosts more than its fair share of festivals. The Spring Wine Festival, Anacortes Waterfront Festival, Kids-R-Best Fest, and Anacortes Art Festival are a few notable ones.

Beyond the festivals, there is always something going on in this boating town. March brings the Anacortes Salmon Derby. April is time for the Vintage Market, which features antique, vintage and repurposed treasures for home and garden. June brings Bark in The Park, where canines and their humans gather for a pet parade, demonstrations, games and more. The Fourth of July celebration begins with a town portrait, then a parade and music followed by fireworks over Fidalgo Bay at dusk. Also in July is Shipwreck Day, a garage sale on Commercial Avenue that stretches 10 city blocks.

On the fourth Sunday of September Anacortes is over taken by more than 10,000 leather-clad bikers during the largest motorcycle run in the Pacific Northwest. There is Bier On The Pier, a brew and cider festival in October. The first weekend in December is the town’s Holiday Celebration, with a tree lighting, a parade, music and a gift show.

The Depot Plaza is bustling on Saturday from May through October, as people stock up on fresh veggies, fruits, artisan cheeses, baked goods, craft items and more at the Anacortes Farmers Market. It has evolved into the Saturday gathering spot, with people meeting for breakfast or lunch and lingering to enjoy live entertainment.

For a little exercise, hike up Cap Sante Head on the northeast side of the marina for a stunning view of the marina and town beyond. On summer nights, the view of the sunset is outstanding.