Anacortes is a beautiful city halfway between Seattle and British Columbia and is often visited when people are headed out to the San Juan Islands. While I had been through it many times, I was guilty of never spending more than a few hours in the city. I decided to spend a weekend in Anacortes to truly experience the area.
The city is actually on its own island, Fidalgo Island. Most people either head north to catch the ferry to spend a weekend in the San Juans, cross the Deception Pass Bridge to Whidbey Island, or visit Orcas Island. They are missing out though – there are plenty of fun things to do in Anacortes!
This guide will help you figure out what to do in Anacortes, where to eat in Anacortes, and where to stay in Anacortes. I also provide a sample itinerary for 3 days in Anacortes based on my trips there.
Anacortes Weekend Travel Tips
Here are a few tips to help you plan your weekend in Anacortes, one of my favorite small towns in Washington.
How to Get to Anacortes
Anacortes is approximately an hour and a half north of Seattle. The easiest way to get to Anacortes from Seattle is to drive your own car there. That way you can explore the area as much as you want during your Anacortes activities.
If you’re coming from the San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island, you can also get to Anacortes by ferry (make a reservation in advance for your Anacortes weekend).
Where to Stay in Anacortes
There are a variety of places to stay in Anacortes during your weekend getaway near Seattle, whether you prefer a hotel or a vacation rental.
- Majestic Inn & Spa – If you’re planning a trip to Anacortes, I highly recommend staying at the Majestic Inn & Spa. It’s located right on Commerical Ave, where all the action is downtown, so you really don’t have to drive anywhere. I loved looking out at the water every morning, and really liked the fact the receptionist grinds coffee for you each day. (rates start at $140 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Nantucket Inn – The Nantucket Inn is a mix of a hotel and a bed and breakfast. This building is large so you’ll be able to spread out from the other guests. You can also choose which room you want based on what view you want. (rates start at $149 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Island Gateway Studio – This modern studio is close to the ferry terminal and has an outdoor veranda for sunny days. (rates start at $100 per night; book your studio here)
- Charming Downtown Home – If you’re looking for a central location, this home is situated in the heart of Anacortes. Shops and eateries are a short stroll away. This home has a kitchenette and allows pets. (rates start at $168 per night; book your home here)
Best Things to Do in Anacortes on a Weekend
You’ll have plenty of options when looking for what to do in Anacortes during your vacation.
There are so many hikes in Anacortes that I didn’t have time to do them all. Two of the most popular ones are Mount Erie and Washington Park, which are some of the more active things to do in Anacortes.
Mount Erie is 1270 ft high and provides amazing views from the top. Washington Park is another common area for hikes and a great place to stay if you want to camp for the weekend.
Explore Deception Pass
Deception Pass is probably the most popular thing to do in Anacortes. This is a strait between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. The bridge connects the two and is one of the most photographed places in Washington State. The name “deception” comes from when it was first explored by Joseph Whidbey and Captain Vancouver.
The pass was thought to be the mouth of a river due to the fast-moving water and the explorers didn’t bother going further, hence the name. Later, they got curious about it though, and went back to explore it further. I recommend adding this to your itinerary for your weekend in Anacortes.
There’s parking on either side of the bridge and a pedestrian bridge to walk across it. The area gives you stunning views of the ocean and the other San Juan Islands.
You can also follow the trail to get underneath the bridge. Just make sure to go down slow, as this can be slippery with rocks on it. I’ve seen it so many times, but have to stop every time I drive by for an Anacortes weekend due to its beauty.
Take a Boat Tour
I’ve driven over the Deception Pass Bridge many times on my way to visit Whidbey Island for the weekend but hadn’t ever gone underneath it. The waters are known for fast-moving water and whirlpools all over the area, so it’s not advisable for the average person to take a boat down there.
One of the most exciting Anacortes activities is to take a boat tour under the bridge, such as with Deception Pass Tours. My tour guide gave me the history of the area while we were going through and pointed out sea life along the way (like baby seals!).
As we got to the more narrow opening, I got nervous as I saw how fast the water was coming in and how close rocks were on either side. He sped up and turned at the last minute to go against the current, and suddenly we were safe.
He pointed out what the other islands were around us, and even showed Victoria B.C. off in the distance. It’s a fun thing to do in Anacortes to see the pass from a different perspective while learning a bit about it.
Kayak Around the Coast
If there’s ever an option to explore an area by kayak, I’m on it. It’s an active way to see an area and gives you a different point of view. You can rent your own kayak or go on a kayaking tour when looking for things to do near Anacortes.
On my tour, my guide took me along the coast and showed me different sights that I hadn’t noticed before, like a small cave and what some of the smaller islands were.
Halfway into the tour, we were surrounded by porpoises! I’ve never seen one in the wild – they were so cute and tiny. It was a surprisingly still day on the water and perfect weather with not a cloud in sight.
Rent a Sailboat
If you really want to enjoy a sunny day in Anacortes, head out on a sailboat. If you have a boat, the Cap Sante Marina has the best prices for fuel. This gives you a base for exploring the San Juan Islands during the day.
If you don’t own a boat, you can hire a charter for the day during your weekend in Anacortes. This is one of the best things to do in Anacortes in my opinion! There are several sailboats and yacht charter companies when you want a relaxing day on the water.
Enjoy the Sunset
A local told me to visit Cap Sante Park after dinner one night, and I’m so glad I did. I’m not sure there’s a better view in Anacortes for a view of the entire city.
I highly recommend going at sunrise or sunset to capture the gorgeous colors of the sun setting behind the mountains. It’s an ideal place to just think and reflect, or impress someone on a first date.
Discover Local Shops
Once you lure yourself away from the comfort of your hotel, you’ll easily be distracted by all the shops downtown Anacortes has. I got lost in the travel section of a bookstore for quite awhile! They have adorable boutique shops too, where you’ll be tempted to buy way too much.
Since it was the holiday season when I was there, decorations were everywhere I looked. I loved that this store was selling “Santa Claus dust!” You’ll want to add this to your list of things to do in Anacortes in the winter.
Taste Local Beers
There are several different breweries in Anacortes to choose from.
Anacortes Brewing shares the building with the Rockfish Grill, so make sure to stop there after dinner. They have a variety of regular beer on tap, as well as a good selection of seasonal beer. My favorite was the porter, although it was hard to pick.
Bastion Brewing isn’t downtown, but a few miles east on the main highway. It’s worth the drive during your weekend in Anacortes, though – they had pretty decent sized samples on their tasting trays. I loved the northwest ale, although it was hard to pick a favorite.
You can also order burgers and other food from the restaurant next door when you get hungry. This is a kid-friendly brewery, so feel free to bring your kids.
As soon as I walked into Brown Lantern Ale House, I knew this was my kind of bar. They had old sports memorabilia everywhere and a full bar with local beers on tap. The bartenders also took the time to have a real conversation with each other even when they were busy.
It was packed when I went in around 5 PM, and many of them seemed like they were locals. If it’s where the locals drink, you know that’s the place to go.
Rock Out to Live Music
I used to see live music often when I was college and really miss those days. There is plenty of live music in Anacortes, it seems that almost every weekend bands are playing somewhere, so I decided to check out a few.
At The Brown Lantern, Three for Silver played a very entertaining set. The next night at H2O, The Fabulous Roof Shakers played to quite an energetic crowd. I think I was the youngest one in the place, yet the older crowd had way more energy than me (and better dance moves!).
Celebrate the Holidays
I’ve been to Anacortes in every season, but going during December is a magical time. The night I got there was the night of Anacortes’ annual tree lighting. This was no ordinary tree, though – it was made out of crab pots!
I got a kick out of that – we love all things nautical up here in the Pacific Northwest! It goes back to the town’s history of fishing, which dates back to the early 1890s.
Fish processing plants employed a large number of people through the first part of the 1900s, after which they started shutting down.
The next morning, it felt like it was Christmas. Horse carriage rides were going up and down the streets to everyone’s delight. There was a holiday parade later in the day, which I was able to see from my hotel room. I was so glad I decided to come up this particular weekend.
Admire Art Around Town
You don’t even need an itinerary when visiting Anacortes for the weekend. You could easily entertain yourself by just walking around and exploring. For example, look at how cute their garbage cans are below! I’ve never described a garbage can as cute in my life.
Take some time to walk through the town when you’re looking for fun things to do in Anacortes on the weekend.
Walk down to the water to check out all the boats while you’re at it. These were huge ones that were being worked on while I was there. I never knew how big these boats actually were out of the water!
People Watch in a Coffee Shop
Make a stop at Portal Coffee during your weekend to Anacortes. The barista working behind the counter was super friendly, and it seemed like he knew everyone who came in. I got an Americano and it was made perfectly (according to my standards).
What I liked about this cafe is there’s an art gallery connected to it, so head to the back after you get your drink. It’s in the middle of downtown so you can grab a cup of coffee, look at the art, and keep walking down the street to explore cute boutique stores.
Stop at the Saturday Farmer’s Market
The weekend I arrived was also the first day of the Anacortes farmer’s market for the season, and everyone was more than excited about it. They have everything here, from fresh fruit to jam to flowers.
Skip the grocery store and take the time to meet the local vendors at the market to purchase directly from them. Your food will be much fresher, and you’ll be supporting the local community.
The farmer’s market runs every Saturday during the summer and every 2nd Saturday during the winter.
Grab a Bowl of Chowder
For some of the best chowder you’ve ever had, stop at Bob’s Chowder Bar & BBQ Salmon. This restaurant is small but offers a huge selection as far as their menu goes. I got a salmon caesar salad one day, and even went back on my last day to get the clam chowder.
The prices are very reasonable, the service is fast, and it’s at the edge of town, making it convenient to stop in as soon as you get in or on your way out. It’s also worth it to note that many options can be made gluten-free.
Have a Scenic Happy Hour
The Majestic Inn has its restaurant 5th Street Bistro that has an outdoor lounge. This is one of the tallest buildings in town, so it’s a great place to see the water during your 3 days in Anacortes. Stop here if you’re looking for what to do in Anacortes during the sunset.
You can see the whole town, the ferries going back and forth, and even the mountain range on a clear day. Go right before the sun goes down, grab a glass of chardonnay, and enjoy one of the best views in Anacortes.
Treat Yourself to a Fancy Dinner
I heard Adrift was one of the nicest restaurants in Anacortes, and I’d have to agree. They had a great variety of seafood, and I had a hard time picking what I wanted.
I settled with the steamed artichokes to start and a poke bowl with seaweed salad as my entree, both of which I was pleased with. Service was great here, as I expected it would be.
How to Spend a Weekend in Anacortes
Day 1 – Visit Deception Pass
Once you get settled into your hotel, grab a snack and then head back in your car for the 15-minute drive to Deception Pass. This area gets crowded on the weekends, so it’s best to go early on Friday.
When you’re done, stop at Bastion Brewing Company for a beer and appetizer. If your kids are hungry, they have 50% off kids’ meals on Fridays.
For dinner, I recommend stopping at Bob’s Chowder Bar. This is on the edge of town and you can either sit outside and enjoy it or take it to go during your 3 days in Anacortes.
Day 2 – Explore the Outdoors
Starting your morning at the farmer’s market is the perfect way to begin the day and is one of the best things to do in Anacortes.
Your second day during your weekend in Anacortes is a great time to explore the outdoors in the area. I recommend booking a whale watching tour in the morning, as the waves tend to be calmest during this time. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see plenty of sea life during your ride.
For lunch, I suggest stopping at Union Tavern. They have a variety of pub food like pot pie, sandwiches, and even build your own hot dogs. There’s also a full bar available if you’re in the mood for a drink.
In the afternoon, enjoy the outdoors again by going hiking. There are a variety of places to go depending on how far you want to hike or what your skill level is.
Treat yourself to a nice dinner by making a reservation at Adrift for the night. You can try some local seafood and enjoy a tasty cocktail.
Day 3 – Shop Downtown
This is your last day during your weekend in Anacortes, so enjoy it. Once you’re dressed, stroll over to Portal Coffee for coffee and a pastry for your breakfast.
Once you’re done, the stores downtown should start to open for the morning. I love nothing more than going to a bookstore on Sundays, and I recommend stopping at Watermark Books Co.
You’ll probably need to check out of your hotel at this point. When you’re ready for lunch, visit Brown Lantern Ale House. They have a variety of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and more.
If you have more time during your 3 days in Anacortes before you need to leave, you can spend the rest of it exploring the other shops. There are plenty of fun things to do in Anacortes in the downtown area. When it’s time to head home, wave goodbye and start planning your next weekend in Anacortes!