Located just an hour and a half from Seattle, Anacortes is a scenic enclave rife with outdoor activities on both land and water. From exploring the forest on your own to booking a whale watching tour, there’s no shortage of possibilities for enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you’re dreaming of heading to Anacortes for a day trip or for a longer excursion, it’s never too early to start planning so your itinerary is in hand when it’s time to travel.


Anacortes boasts 50 miles of woodlands and many hiking trails of varying difficulty. The Tommy Thompson Trail, which is 6.6 miles round trip, is a fairly flat hike around the shoreline that treats you to stunning views of the Cascades. In the Cranberry Lake area, there are a number of trails, the main one being a 1.5-mile loop. At just under 3 miles, the Heart Lake Trail winds through gorgeous cedar and hemlock forests. This is a favorite hike for families, and so is the lake itself where there are opportunities to go fishing and kayaking. For a longer hike that offers higher viewpoints, head over to the Whistle Lake Trail system.

It’s only 2.6 miles, but the Sharpe Park and Montgomery-Duban Headlands Trail offers more rugged terrain if you’re looking for a challenge. You can also head to Washington Park or Deception State Park, both of which have a number of trails.


There’s access to beaches from all sides of Anacortes. Sunset Beach offers a play area complete with a playground, making it ideal for families. Located in Washington Park, West Beach is the place to go if you’re looking for sea life; on the rocky beachfront you’ll find sea urchins and starfish. You’ll also find a diverse array of sea life at Rosario Beach, including glimpses of orcas on a clear day. Surrounded by wildflowers in the summer, explore the beaches and tide pools. If you have your own kayak, head over to Bowman Bay — it’s one of the best beaches for kayaking. Other parks on the coastline include Kiwanis Waterfront Park, Cap Sante Park, Rotary Park and N Avenue Park.

Kayak Tours

For the full kayaking experience, book a tour with Anacortes Kayak Tours. “You get all the experiences of anything in the San Juan Islands without traveling all the way there,” says Erik Schorr, who owns and runs the company along with his wife, Megan.

The tours are given in small groups, typically six to eight people, and you can choose between tours that last for 90 minutes, three hours, or five hours. One of the unique options, offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is the Bioluminescent Tour, a 3-hour kayaking experience that begins right at sunset when there’s a new moon. “We first did it on a whim two years ago not knowing if it would be popular,” Schorr says. It’s now one of the company’s most popular tours. 

Anacortes Kayak Tours also offers multiday trips that leave from Anacortes and take you to locations including Cypress Island and the San Juan Islands.

Whale watching

Anacortes is also known for being a whale-watching destination. Island Adventures Whale Watching offers four- to five-hour tours out of Anacortes from March through September.

Matt Plier of Island Adventures explains that in springtime you’re most likely to see orcas, because they don’t have migratory patterns. In the summertime, you’re likely to spot humpback whales. Many people and families return to Island Adventures every year because each and every whale-watching experience is different.

“A lot of people come back year after year because every single tour is different, so we’re seeing different things every time we go out and that can change daily,” says Plier. “In the morning and the afternoon what we see can be completely different. People get excited the first time, but also the thousandth time.”

Rock climbing and tree climbing at AdventureTerra

AdventureTerra promises “unique experiences” and it more than delivers. In Anacortes, the two most popular activities are rock climbing and tree climbing. The latter is the more unique experience, according to tour operator Leo Fischer — in fact, AdventureTerra offers the only tree-climbing experience in the entire state of Washington.

In tours that last between three and four hours, tour guides take you all the way up to the canopies of trees that are over 200 feet high. No experience is required, and it’s open to children as young as 7, so it’s a popular family activity.


Fischer says that more people are familiar with rock-climbing because they’ve done it indoors, but of course the outdoor experience is completely different. There are rock-climbing tours at every level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced, and each lasts between four and eight hours.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone in Anacortes — and it’s never too early to start planning your next adventure.

Anacortes offers everything from casual cafes to elegant dining, quirky to sophisticated shopping, art galleries to antique shops and unique accommodations. Anacortes has something for everyone: Whale-watching tours, kayaking excursions, sailing, boating, birding, fishing, crabbing, hiking, biking and more.