The summer months may be winding down, but a Pacific Northwest autumn is still a beautiful time to get out on the water — and there’s no better place to go than Anacortes. In addition to being a well-known boating destination, Anacortes offers a wide variety of water sports and activities, such as paddle boarding, fishing, kayaking and swimming. And with organizations like the Anacortes Waterfront Alliance focusing on getting kids out onto the water, Anacortes is the perfect place for a family getaway to bid farewell to summer and hello to fall fun.

Read on for a guide to all the water activities Anacortes has to offer.

Sailing and paddle boarding

For sailing and paddle boarding, look no further than The Anacortes Waterfront Alliance, a nonprofit organization that aims to grow the maritime community in the area, specifically by offering programs for local middle school and high school students.

The AWA offers hourly rentals for paddle boards and sailboats on Tuesdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon-4 p.m. You can make a reservation online, and walk-ups are available as well. You can also book a three-hour private lesson on a dinghy or keelboat.

Matt Halliday, Community Boating Director at AWA, says one of the organization’s most popular activities is “open sail,” which occurs on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4 p.m. For just $5 visitors can rent either a sailboat or a paddle board and get out on the water. “It’s a pretty cheap way to come try some things out,” says Halliday. “Paddle boarding is pretty easy so not much experience is necessary; it’s just a great opportunity to get out on the water.”

When it comes to sailing, more experience is necessary, so AWA offers sailing clinics. The clinics are usually on Saturdays, but check the “Events” section of AWA’s website because scheduling varies. “If you’ve never been sailing before, you can give it a go,” says Halliday. “You’ll be on the water with experienced sailors so it’s a safe and fun way to learn the basics.”

Halliday says the open sail and sailing clinic events will continue for as long as the weather allows. He estimates they’ll conclude for the year in late September or even October.

Although there are other sailing and paddle boarding spots in Anacortes, AWA is a standout due to its commitment to getting local youth involved in water sports and activities. “Those of us living in the Pacific Northwest are blessed to be surrounded by water and it can be a great way to recreate for fun and relaxation,” says Halliday, noting that multiple studies have shown being on the water is beneficial to mental health. He adds that another reason AWA partners with local schools is because there are a lot of maritime jobs in the area, so exposing youth to different water activities — whether it’s sailing, paddle boarding, or a motor vessel — opens a door for potential future professions.


Fishing and boat charters

Jolly Mon Charters designs an offshore fishing experience that’s tailored to a guest’s interests. The charter trips, which are all private and can accommodate from one to six guests, can be adjusted depending on what you’re looking to do, whether it’s focus on fishing or simply enjoy taking in the scenery and the wildlife.

“This is a great activity to spend time with all ages in your group. It’s never too early to start your love for boating and fishing and the San Juan Islands are a great place to start,” says Chris Long, Captain at Jolly Mon Charters. “World-class fishing combined with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world make for an amazing adventure.”

Long adds that one of the best aspects of fishing trips in the San Juan Islands is the variety of experiences you encounter. This is a major perk when members of your group have different interests. For example, Long says frequently he takes out groups where one or two members are interested in fishing while the others are happy to spend the trip taking in the beauty of the landscape and looking out for amazing wildlife like seals, sea lions, and even the occasional orca whale.

“The most exciting aspect of these trips is that every day is different,” says Long. “You never know what you may encounter or experience, so no matter how many times you go out, it will never be the same.” Long has been on the job for over two decades and says that he still always sees something new and never tires of the scenery and wildlife experience.


Kayaking

When it comes to kayaking in Anacortes, Anacortes Kayak Tours is a solid option. This family-run company has been giving first-rate kayak tours for the past 15 years.

The tour groups are small (typically between six and eight people) and you can choose from tours that last 90 minutes, three hours, or five hours. The company also offers multiday trips that depart from Anacortes and take you to locations including Cypress Island the San Juan Islands.

Anacortes Kayak Tours is also beloved for its unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience: the bioluminescent tour, a three-hour kayaking experience that begins right at sunset when there’s a new moon. The tours are timed for when bioluminescence, light produced by living organisms, is forecast to be the most active, creating a magical glow in the water. 


Whale watching

Anacortes is also a premier whale-watching destination. Island Adventures Whale Watching tours departing from Anacortes last between four and five hours and run from March through October. Private charters are also available year round. 

Swimming and beaches

Beaches and lakes can be accessed from all sides of Anacortes. One of the most popular beaches is Sunset Beach, which includes a playground and is a good option for families.

Located in a small cove on the southwest corner of Fidalgo Island, Rosario Beach is particularly gorgeous in the summer due to the blooming wildflowers and diverse array of sea life. Be sure to explore the tide pools, too.

If you’re looking to take a swim, Long shared an insider tip: There are many small lakes scattered around Fidalgo Island. “If you’re willing to take a little hike, you’ll find yourself in a quiet, pristine beautiful part of Anacortes. These lakes will warm up just enough in the summer to take a swim in,” he says. “You may also find a few fish casting from shore.” Trail maps can be found at the Anacortes Visitor Information Center at the Chamber of Commerce.

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.