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San Juan Island
The laid-back, artsy city of Anacortes puts visitors into island mode.
while known as the “gateway to the San Juans,” Anacortes itself has plenty of island-style atmosphere and amenities. It should – it’s situated on Fidalgo Island.
Town founder Amos Bowman named Anacortes using his wife’s maiden name, Anna Curtis. John Conner did a similar thing when he came up with the name for La Conner. It makes you wonder what kind of trouble those boys got themselves into that required them to name the towns after their wives. Hope it got them out of their doghouses.
Locals describe Anacortes as a city within a park. With a population more than 15,000, Anacortes is surrounded by approximately 3,000 acres of city-owned forestlands and parks and more than 12 miles of saltwater shorelines. Lake Campbell, one of the five freshwater lakes on Fidalgo Island, contains one of the few islands within an island in the world.
If you’d like to get the lay of the land, bike or drive to the top of 1,300-foot-tall Mt. Erie for a great view of Lake Campbell and the rest of Anacortes. Less strenuous is a hike up to the scenic Cap Sante lookout, which offers a 360-degree view of the town, harbor and nearby islands. A frequent sight are military jets flying out of the nearby Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
Summer means outdoor festivals in the waterside communities, and Anacortes is no exception. The Anacortes Waterfront Festival is held June 2 to 3, and showcases Anacortes’ marine heritage. Some 14,000 people are expected to attend for the music and food. The long-running What the Heck Fest wrapped up in 2011, but 2012 will offer a new festival – the Anacortes
Unknown Music Series. The festival will feature more than 40 bands and performers, films, art and literature readings and takes place from July 13 to 15. July 14 is Shipwreck Day in downtown Anacortes. Described as a giant garage sale, the day-long event gives tourists and locals alike the chance to browse a wide variety of treasures and trinkets sold by street-side vendors.
Come August 3 to 5, Anacortes comes alive with the 51st Anacortes Arts Festival, which attracts more than 100,000 people each year. Artisans, food vendors, entertainers and more will all set up along Commercial Avenue, and three exhibitions of fine art will be on display at the north end of the festival.
The last Sunday in September brings the annual Oyster Run to the streets of Anacortes. The event is touted as the largest motorcycle ride in the Pacific Northwest and attracts bikers from all across the state. This year’s run happens on Sunday, September 23.
After hiking or touring the various art galleries in downtown, be sure to visit one of the city’s many high-end eateries along Commercial Avenue, such as Cafe Adrift, or sample microbrews at the Rockfish Grill and Anacortes Brewery. Friendly inns and motels abound on the island, so don’t rush to get to other places.
For more info, visit anacortes.org.
Things to do in Anacortes:
Get Snagged: Visit the W.T. Preston Snagboat Heritage Center to learn about the vessels that kept the area’s waterways clear.
Get High: Drive to the top of Mt. Erie for panoramic views or explore the 20 miles of trails within the Anacortes Community Forestlands.
Get Lost in Bric-a-brac: Browse the shelves at Anacortes Marine Supply and Hardware for antiques, curiosities and more.
Get Smoked: Sample smoked salmon at the Seabear Smokehouse.
Get Out On The Water: Take a whale-watching cruise to explore the surrounding waters. Alternatively, rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard.