Anacortes, Washington – A town you have never heard of in the San Juan Islands!

View from high on the mountain looking down on the bay

Now when most people first hear about the San Juan Islands, they immediately think of Puerto Rico or the Caribbean.  But, no!  The San Juan islands are at the very opposite corner of the United States.  Head to Seattle, Washington, rent a car, and drive the best part of two hours due north and you will find the San Juan Islands and the small town of Anacortes.

We spent five days there in early JPicture3uly.  The weather was beautiful—cool and clear.  Anacortes is that type of small town where you think the time has stopped a number of years ago.  You know what I mean— when people were laid back, friendly, and trustworthy.  It’s got a great little downtown area that is full of local shops (not chain stores) and is very walkable.

Now for a brief history lesson.  Anacortes was founded in 1877 by a guy named Amos Bowman.  Bowman thought this would be a great place for the Pacific terminus on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Real estate boomed from 1888 to 1890, but then the real estate bubble burst and the town failed to become the New York of the west.  So Amos took his daughter’s name, Anne Curtis Bowman and named the town after her (Anacortes) and left town!  True story!  But don’t worry, after the bust, the town became prominent in the area of a fishing tradition, thriving canning industry, and timber mills.

Washington State Ferry boat pulling into Friday Harbor

The Washington State Ferry has a terminal in Anacortes, so there are lots of other places around the islands that can be visited from there.  We boarded the ferry one morning and cruised to Friday Harbor, another great little town with quaint little shops and eateries.  Again, Carol and I along with our good friends spent a wonderful day together.

Seals along the shore in Deception Pass


Another day, we took a cruise out to spot whales, see the seals laying along the shores and view the Deception Pass Bridge—180 feet above the water at Deception Pass.

Of all the things to do in and around Anacortes, one of the most fun activities was provided by our friend, Scott, who lives there.  He invited us to his house for a GREAT Salmon dinner.  But before dinner, he invited the owners of Anacortes Candles over and we had a “candle-making” party.  Now that might sound strange, but it was SOOOOO much fun, using all kinds of colors and scents to create your own, individual, unique candles.

So now for some final facts on Anacortes:

  • “Shipwreck Day” is a popular single-day, flea market/town garage sale.
  • “What the Heck Fest” was held annually from 2001 to 2011
  • The first weekend of August hosts the “Anacortes Arts Festival” and shuts down the main street for all the vendors
  • Probably the most famous person from Anacortes is Burl Ives – Folk Singer, Author, and Actor