75 miles N of Seattle, 39 miles S of Bellingham, 92 miles S of Vancouver, British Columbia

For many people, Anacortes is little more than that town you drive through on the way to the San Juan Islands ferry terminal. Actually, Anacortes has much more to offer than a driver late for the ferry could ever know. The route to the ferry sticks to roads that are fine examples of commercial and suburban sprawl -- strip malls, gas stations, aging motels, housing developments. However, if you have time to detour off the main road, you'll find a town that, while not nearly as quaint as those on the San Juans, does have some historic character and, perhaps best of all, plenty of good places to eat. A restored downtown business district; residential neighborhoods full of old Victorian homes; a large, forested waterfront park; and a mountain-top viewpoint are all worth a look. If you can, slow down and take a look at Anacortes before or after a trip to the San Juans.

Anacortes made its early fortunes on lumbering and fishing, and today commercial fishing, as well as boat-building, are still important to the town's economy. This marine orientation has given the town its character, which can be seen in the many restored buildings along Commercial Avenue.

Anacortes also makes a good base for exploring the San Juans if you either can't get or can't afford a room on the islands. Using Anacortes as a base and leaving your car here on the mainland, you can travel as a passenger on the ferries and, by using public transit, mopeds, or bicycles, still manage to see plenty of the San Juans. In any event, Anacortes is also on an island, Fidalgo Island, with plenty of water-views, the best of which are from Washington Park near the ferry terminal, from atop Mount Erie in the middle of the island, and from Deception Pass State Park at the south end of the island.