Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Anacortes, Washington

“Coast in. Hang out” is the well-suited motto for Anacortes, an island town located in the midst of jaw-dropping scenery in the Pacific Northwest.  You will find Anacortes just 80 miles north of Seattle, just a short ferry ride from Vancouver, British Columbia and within eyesight of the San Juan Islands.  Here you will find the perfect mix of old growth forests and dramatic coastline and plenty of activities for those that visit. 

We started our visit by heading downtown to check out the historic district and soak in the salt air and to count the masts in the harbor.  A quick drive up to Cap Sante provided a spectacular view of the downtown, marina, and neighboring islands.  Oh, and you also get a view of the humongous refinery that kills the gorgeous view but you just have to look the other way and it disappears. 

The name "Anacortes" is a consolidation of the name Anna Curtis, who was the wife of an early settler. 

There is quite the history in this coastal town dating back 10,000 years when explorers encountered the Swinomish Indian Tribe.  It has gone through many industrial transformations and the economy has been driven by the usual suspects - the railroad, logging, and fishing. 

Decorating the downtown buildings and illustrating the town’s past is one of the uniquely characteristic Anacortes charms - the historic murals.  The murals were (and still are) painted by the local artist, historian, and “colorful character,” Bill Mitchell.   Starting in 1984, Bill has painted 120 life-sized murals from his wheelchair and is still going strong as he is still commissioned for more murals.  The murals have a whimsical way of interpreting the city’s past and representing the many trades that have kept the town afloat and the people that have called this city home.

But you don’t have to look just at the murals to grasp the city’s history, you
can look at the garbage can where you are throwing your empty coffee cup.  Anacortes was once crowned the “Salmon Capital of the World” and has the garbage cans that pay homage to the industry.  Today, the canning industry has virtually disappeared as most products are fresh or frozen when they reach the market.  No canneries exist today but there are three fish-processing plants and the legacy lives on through the eye-catching labels adorned by the all-important trash receptacle.

It is only fitting that Anacortes would have a maritime museum and a boat plunked down in the middle of town.  This eye-catching site beckoned us in as we have never had a close-up look at a “snag boat.”  The W.T. Preston was used to remove snags (mostly large pieces of logs or driftwood) from waterways deemed navigational hazards.  This boat was instrumental in maintaining the waterways that were so vital to the fishing and maritime industries.  Remarkably this paddle-wheel driven boat (which was commissioned in 1929) remained in service until 1981.  The W.T. Preston continues her service to the community and visitors by interpreting some of Anacortes past.

In 1972, the W.T. Preston was recognized for her historic value and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Maritime Museum is a great place to get acquainted with the city's nautical past. 
We are finding lots to do in this maritime town and the perfectly sunny and cool weather is keeping us busy…but I’ll save some for another post.


  1. How interesting how that little town got its name. Looks like you're in for a great time exploring the town. :c)

    1. An thanks the mural project, we got to see what she looked like.

  2. We love Antacortes and San juan islands. Don't forget about the wooden boat festival in Port Townsend. We are taking our airstream for the weekend.

    1. We LOVED Port Townsend but are not sure if we will make it back in time for the boat show. Seems like it is the biggest game in town.

  3. I'm jealous! I really wanted to go to Anacortes when we were in WA, but we didn't make it. Can't wait to hear more about it.

    1. You'll have to put it on your list for next time.


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