Escape to Anacortes, Washington

Anacortes, Washington, is a boater’s gateway to the San Juan Islands in a region filled with marine services.
Cap Sante Marina
Cap Sante Marina in Fidalgo Bay is located in the heart of downtown Anacortes, Washington. [tanner mcqueen]/

About halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, the city of Anacortes, Washington, stands as a terrific jumping-off point for some of the best cruising in the Pacific Northwest. And it’s not just geography that makes Anacortes a great stopover; it’s also the region’s marine services, which offer just about everything.

More than two dozen boatyards and service centers are here or close by, focused on electrical systems, carpentry, re-powers and more. Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard handles gelcoat repair, plumbing, mast rigging and other needs. Over at CSR Marine, boaters can find a pair of 70-ton Travelifts for haul-outs of boats as big as 80 feet length overall. Lighthouse Marine has outboard engines in stock for yachtsmen whose tenders need a boost. Others offer upholstery repair, paint jobs, prop work and additional specialty services.

One reason there’s so much dedicated marine knowledge here is that Anacortes has a busy marine terminal. Recreational boaters should be prepared to see—and steer clear of—shipping and ferry traffic in these waterways.

But just beyond the main routes, there are beautiful spots to explore, including the San Juan Islands. They’re about 20 miles away as the crow flies, making them accessible for day cruises as well as longer itineraries. Yachtsmen have long loved the San Juans for their scenic beauty, with occasional whale sightings, great hiking trails and memorable views of Mount Baker.

Salish Sea
Viewing a sunset over the Salish Sea can be one of the best experiences for boaters in this part of the Pacific Northwest. [patricia thomas]/

But don’t give Anacortes itself the short shrift; the historic downtown has buildings that date to the 19th century. One that sells marine supplies today used to house an eclectic mix of groceries, cigars and shooting galleries. Some of the restaurants are worth a stop too, for a sit-down meal or for takeout. The menu at Adrift includes burgers made with locally sourced cod, salmon or oysters, just in case you get skunked out on the boat trying to catch your own fish.

Check Out More: Yacht Towns

Cap Sante

This marina is within walking distance of historic downtown Anacortes. Amenities for boaters include free wi-fi, along with showers, laundry, pump-out and loaner bicycles. A dog park is across the street. The on-site restaurant is Anthony’s, which serves lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch featuring smoked salmon scrambled eggs.

City History

Anacortes is named for Anne Curtis Bowman, whose husband, Amos, was a railroad surveyor who founded the town in 1879. Fishing was a mainstay of the economy from the start, with the town eventually growing into a city whose nickname was the Salmon Canning Capital of the World. Steamships and launches known as the Mosquito Fleet helped people get around Puget Sound in the days when water travel was preferable to traveling by road. Today, the most frequently visited destination for many visitors is the Washington State Ferries terminal, which provides access to several of the islands in the San Juans as well as to British Columbia.