Beyond Portland: The seaside charm of Anacortes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

It is my firm belief that every city has its own charm. When the opportunity to travel to Anacortes on Fidalgo Island in Washington presented itself, I was not sure what to expect. But as always, I knew I could count on a great adventure, traveling my way up and down the west coast, riding rails and buses the whole way. The western Washington coastal town of Anacortes resides on the only one of the San Juan Islands connected to the mainland by a bridge, making an easy sojourn for those on wheels.

UnionStationPhoto by Stephanie Paris

The journey began from Union Station in downtown Portland, where the Amtrak Cascades train departs, and travels approximately six hours north to Mt. Vernon, Washington. Let me just say, if you have never been on a train, remedy that stat! It’s such a fun way to travel, and can turn your trips into more relaxing experiences. Once the train arrived in Mt. Vernon, I took the Skagit Transit line 615 westbound to our home for the next two days: the Swinomish Casino & Lodge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

This was only my second stay at a casino, and although gambling is rarely a part of my life, I find the whole experience of a hotel with attached casino very entertaining. Our room was large and clean, and offered a beautiful view of Mt. Baker. Our stay happened to coincide with the Bite of Skagit, an annual fundraising event for the Skagit Food Distribution Center, which links farms to families in need to ensure that all residents have access to fresh local produce. At the event we sampled delicious food from various local restaurants, and the live music performed by the Shadow Creek Project Band made this an authentic summer experience. The casino’s restaurant, 13 Moons, got my vote for “best bite,” and on the evening that we chose to eat there, I had worked up my expectations as much as my appetite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

We started with a couple cocktails and appetizers. The White Truffle Sea Scallops were so good they alone could have justified my trip to Anacortes. The Dungeness Crab Cakes came in a close second for dish of the night, and were fresh and flavorful. My entree for the evening was Wild Chinook Salmon, cooked to a soft medium, just the way I asked. All three dishes featured Native Catch seafood, which is all natural, wild, and sustainably harvested and processed by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. The skit from Portlandia made it cliche, but I truly am interested in the origins of my food, and I love knowing that the local natives were the harvesting hands before the talented chef at 13 Moons made magic with the bounty.

GolfLinksPhoto by Stephanie Paris

Another wonderful feature of the Swinomish Casino & Lodge is the Swinomish Golf Links course about a mile down the road from the lodge. It features an 18 hole par 72 course with views of Mt Baker and Fidalgo Bay. Never having golfed before, this links-style course with open, tree-lined fairways and approachable greens was perfect for me. Skagit Transit Line 513 got me there and back without a hitch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

The next day we had planned to go whale watching with Island Adventures. Commuting by bus in a city where I am not familiar with the local transit system means that I have to plan my trips carefully and allow time-buffers so I don’t miss things like scheduled boat departures. I have found that this can actually enhance my travel experience by giving me more time to explore a particular area if I do end up being early and not needing the buffer. Taking Skagit Transit line 513 to line 410 got us there with plenty of time, and I was able to make some purchases in the gift shop, holding up my end of the deal I have with my boys when I travel without them. Once checked in, we walked to the docks for a pre-voyage talk with the captain, and then we boarded the vessel and set sail. If ever you find yourself anywhere near Anacortes, you must check out the Island Adventures whale watching trips. They guarantee whale sightings, and as promised, we saw whales from three resident pods as they swam and played, breaching multiple times throughout the morning. We also saw harbor seals, porpoises, bald eagles, and even had a rare puffin sighting. It was sunny and clear, Mt Baker was out in all her glory, and it could not have been a more enjoyable experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

The charm of Anacortes certainly caught my attention. The only fault in the trip is that I was only there for 2 days. I would love to return and spend more time wandering through historic downtown, visiting some of the 50+ antique dealers, discovering more local dining hot spots, and I’d definitely get another scoop at Mad Hatter’s Ice Cream shop. But unlike ice cream, the end of a trip is always bittersweet – I hate to leave, but I love coming home. At least now I know how easy it is to go back.

 

Article by Stephanie Paris

6 thoughts on “Beyond Portland: The seaside charm of Anacortes

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