Ok, so I’ll let you in on a little secret. Anacortes is our hometown. But this means we really do know the best things to do here. We recently did a little staycation here and had a blast falling back in love with our little island town. We feel so incredibly blessed to get to live here, and the summers really can’t be beat.
Days in the summer are long- about 16 hours of daylight and temperatures are perfect with highs in the low 70s. We do get quite a bit of rain in the winter, but, generally, it doesn’t rain hard enough to keep us from going outside, and temperatures are mild. Exploring Anacortes with kids of any age is going to be a great experience.
This tiny town has no shortage of amazing things to do. These are our favorite things to do in Anacortes with kids!
1. Go out to breakfast at the Calico Cupboard
The food is amazing- my favorite is the granola yogurt parfait. Sometimes, I’ll even enjoy it with a grapefruit mimosa- YUM. My kids love the chocolate chip pancakes, from the kid’s menu. This place has excellent service and is super kid-friendly. I’m generally pretty terrified of taking my twins out to eat alone (without another adult) but I’ll do it at Calico Cupboard. If you are going to eat breakfast in Anacortes with kids, do it here!
And even if you aren’t up for actually going out to eat, stop by and pick up one of their cinnamon rolls- they are DIVINE. And also family-sized! Definitely you’ll be able to at least split one of these wonderful rolls with one other person, if not more!
2. Explore Rosario Beach and Rosario Head Viewpoint.
The beach is very rocky, which actually ends up being a good thing. My kids love checking out all the different types of rocks and throwing them into the water, and I love the sound of the water makes as the waves go out- very relaxing and different from the sound the ocean makes on a sandy beach.
Keep walking down the beach to the tide pool area. There are yellow ropes to guide you along the tide pools, as some of the tide pools have been damaged from too much foot traffic. The area you are allowed to explore is fairly small, but teeming with life and well worth exploring.
After the beach, head back up to the huge carving of Ko–Kwal-alwoot, the Maiden of Deception Pass, and read the Samish story about here printed on a sign in front of the statue.
We love to continue up the hill for the Rosario Head Loop hike. The loop is perfect for young hikers at about 1.5 miles long, and the views at the top are amazing.
The area is huge, so toddlers and young children can be kept very far away from the edge of the overlook if that worries you. We choose to stay FAR away from the edge, and check out a huge dead tree, perfect for climbing on and in- we call it the tree ship, and we love it!
3. Grab some lunch at the Shrimp Shack
This local favorite and tourist hot spot has a variety of seafood options, including po’ boys, fresh boiled shrimp, fried seafood, and standard non-seafood fare like burgers. The offer outdoor seating (only) or to go, and it’s a great lunch stop on your way out to Deception Pass State Park.
4. Check out Deception Pass Bridge and State Park
If you are terrified of heights like me, maybe don’t walk on the bridge walkway with your little guys. You can drive over the bridge- my husband assures me it’s safe to do. Then head over to Deception Pass State Park, where you’ll get an awesome view from the ground near North Beach.
5. See the sunset at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park
This beach is also called ‘sunset beach’ because it’s such a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. The sand is so soft and fine, and my kids love playing on this beach. Cranberry Lake is JUST inland of the beach, and from the road, looking west, you can see the sunset reflecting off of the perfectly still lake, and setting over the ocean. It’s quite a view.
While we love this view for sunset, I have to admit, I just love going to this beach anytime. It’s a perfect picnic spot, and a great spot to just play in the sand, or take a nice beach walk.
6. Washington Park
Washington Park is a SUCH a huge highlight of Anacortes. If you are anywhere near Anacortes, it’s a park you just must check out.
When you first pull into the park, there is a great sandy beach with picnic tables, lots of grassy space, and a playground.
You can head into father into the park by either driving or walking the single-lane road 2.25-mile road. If you drive, you’ll find plenty of pull-offs where you can park and take a short walk around.
While walking, you can walk along the road (cars can only drive 10 mph and are typically pretty careful around families), or head off onto some of the smaller trails. Either way, you’ll see thick forests, numerous beautiful overlooks, and rocky shorelines with some of the best tide pools around.
Exploring the rocky shorelines never really gets old- they are teeming with sealife, and always changing. The kids LOVE picking up rocks to find millions of tiny crabs crawling everywhere.
7. Walk through the Heart Lake Trail System
This area is an unexpected treat- quiet and beautiful and a great place for ‘fishing’ with sticks or of course real fishing, building little fairy houses, and just exploring.
You can’t walk all the way around the lake, but you can make it most of the way, and explore basically all of the shoreline, and surrounding hills.
At the main parking lot, you’ll also find a great place to put in a kayak or paddleboard. This quiet lake is a great place to head out paddling.
8. Walk along the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve trail and nearby beach.
My kids particularly love the boardwalk portion of the trail and walking along the beach. We enjoy playing in the sand, collecting seashells, sea glass, or even crab shells (my kids, not me- YUCK) and watching the ferries come and go.
And this beach is really special at low tide. The water stays shallow forEVER, so you when the tide is low, you can walk WAY out there. It’s actually kind of shocking how close the ferry is when you finally reach the water’s edge at low tide!
9. Go to Padilla Bay Interpretive Center
This great little aquarium and informational center is free and totally fun for sea life-loving kids! They have brightly colored sea stars, anemones, shrimp, and more. Outside, you’ll find some trails to continue exploring.
10. Head downtown for dinner
Downtown Anacortes is oh-so-tiny and also oh-so-cute! Head down for a stroll around town, check out some of the cute shops and book stores, and a great, kid-friendly meal!
Most of Anacortes is super casual, so nearly any restaurant is totally appropriate for families with children. But our favorites is probably Rockfish Grill. It’s totally casual with fun, rockfish decor inside. My kids LOVE spotting all the rockfish in the restaurant. The menu includes lots of local seafood options, and plenty for those in your group who many not love seafood. Even the children’s menu has lots of options. Parents will also love their huge beer list, including tons of local options.
Another favorite is Adrift. Kids love the boat and ship-themed decor, ESPECIALLY the detailed model sailboat. The menu includes tons of locally sourced dishes and includes a fun (but small) kids menu. There are also some great cocktails for the adults.
11. Pick Berries
Fresh northwest berries, eaten right off the vine are not anything like the stuff you typically buy at the grocery store. They are so sweet and full of flavor. Even if you don’t think you like berries, you are probably going to like these. Plus it’s fun for adults and kids to get out to a real working farm and do this ‘work’. We love Schuh farms for strawberries, and Bow Hill Farms for Blueberries. Also, check out this simple recipe for blueberry ice cream we tried after a recent blueberry picking trip!
12. Get Ice Cream at Mad Hatter’s
Super great ice cream, served in a super cute little shop, with a great area with grass, chairs, and shade to relax and eat your treat. This cute little shop is only open seasonally, so you’ll have to enjoy it in the summer!
13. Go to the Tulip Festival
Every spring, typically for the whole month of April, the Tulip Festival brings 1 million people to Skagit County. So yes, it certainly gets crowded, but go off-peak hours and the colorful gardens and fields. We love Roozengaarde for manicured gardens and muddy fields.
14. Check out the View at Cap Sante
Cap Sante park is a another local favorite. It has a beautiful overlook with big ocean views. There are a some great little trails with some easy to climb (and kid-approved) rocks and beautiful wildflowers in the summer. T
hought it might SOUND a little scary for parents of younger kids/anyone afraid of heights, the area is sloping everywhere, and most places feel completely safe.
15. Explore the Cranberry Trail System
We love the Cranberry Lake trail system. There are lots of shorter, but fun (think rocks to climb over and jump on) trails that my toddlers can do. The lake is also a great spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.
You can easily do a short, 1 mile loop, or spend your day out hiking. This great park has a variety of trails for all energy-levels.
16. Take the ferry out to Friday Harbor
To fully explore the island, you’ll need to make a reservation to bring your car on the ferry. It fills up fast, so plan early. Check out Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, Lime Kiln State Park (you can often see porpoises from the shore), and the San Juan County Park.
Or, make your trip a bit easier, and walk on to the ferry, then explore Friday Harbor on foot. Check out the Whale Museum, window shop at all the unique shops, and try one of the unique ice cream flavors at the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co.
17. Go whale watching!
Anacortes is a great place for whale watching. A large pod of orcas lives in the area year-round, and you are almost guaranteed to see them (many whale watching companies do actually offer a guarantee!). Plus, transient orcas, grey whales, humpback, whales, and more frequently pass through. Porpoises, harbor seals, and otters are very common in the area as well.
We love R&R because they have smaller boats, and you get a more individual, private tour experience.
18. Go to John Storvik Playground
This park is half the reason we moved to Anacortes. This is probably the thing we do in Anacortes with kids most frequently. I’m not even kidding about that. It’s a huge park, suitable for kids of all ages, interests and skill levels. And there is even a wonderful spray park in the summer months.
19. Check out the view at the top of Mount Erie
Mount Erie is the highest point on Fidalgo Island, and of course, a great spot to take in the whole island. You can drive all the way to the top and plan to take about half an hour walking visiting each viewpoint. Or, take the 5-mile round trip hike up from the base. The views on the top are well worth the effort!
20. Pick up some ULTRA fresh seafood
If you are in the area around the Cap Sante Marina and Seafarers Memorial Park, keep your eyes peeled for signs for seafood for sale. Local fishermen will often have crab, salmon, or other fresh-caught seafood for sale there. Not only is it fun to buy your seafood DIRECTLY from the fisherman right off the boat, but it’s also guaranteed delicious!
Also, check out Seas the Day traveling Oyster Bar. You won’t find them EVERYDAY, but when you do, their oysters are quite a treat. Check them out on Instagram to find their location.
Any other favorites things in Anacortes? We’d love to hear about it!