Cabin Fever: A spontaneous night in Anacortes
The May long weekend is the same weekend every year, but somehow it always seems to creep up on me. This year I forgot about it until a couple of weeks before, when a panicked Air BnB search revealed exactly two available pet-friendly properties within a reasonable distance and budget. Unfortunately they were both on the sunshine coast and the BC Ferries reservation system only showed how organized everyone else was at booking ferries in advance. Not helpful.
We decided to embrace our non-existent travel options and stay at home for a relaxing weekend in the city. After all, we’re supposed to be cutting back on trips this year and saving for the wedding. That’s what I told myself when I redid my Air BnB search just a few days before the weekend and this time came up with zero properties (didn’t fancy a trailer in a barn on Salt Spring Island).
Saturday morning came, and I decided that the man and I should write lists of possible things to do and then compare and come up with a super list to get us through the weekend. This exercise started well and we did enjoy some delicious Saturday night craft cocktails at Long Table Distillery, a gin and vodka tasting room a few blocks away that I’d never been to. Unfortunately this didn’t quite hit the spot, and we ended up doing another last minute search for a Sunday night getaway, this time on Hotels.com. I broadened my search to include the States and up popped Anacortes, a little harbour town in Western Washington that is known for being the launch point for ferries to the San Juan Islands. Google Maps said it was two hours away, TripAdvisor said there were some nice parks and viewpoints, Yelp said there was a decent coffee shop and a brewery and Hotels.com said there was a pet-friendly hotel right in the middle of the historic downtown. Done, done, done and done.
Anacortes turned out to be the perfect destination for a one-night getaway. It actually took closer to three hours to get there (apparently the rest of Vancouver decided to head down to the border at the same time as us) but we’d somehow left on time for once so weren’t in any rush. We stayed at the gorgeous Majestic Inn and Spa where we were given freshly ground coffee and a complimentary dog goodie bag on arrival. We saw and did a surprising amount in 24 hours and my highlights are below.
Washington Park is a bit like a much smaller version of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It juts out on the end of the peninsula and is just a 10 minute drive from Downtown Anacortes. We parked in the day use area and walked the tree-lined, 2-mile loop road around the outside of the park (you can drive it, but the sun was out and it’s an easy walk). We took the opportunity to explore some of the trails that branched off the main road and the spectacular views of the San Juan Islands made up for the very confusing, completely unmarked trails. Dogs are welcome on a leash and Dave very much enjoyed his walk.
While I was driving us to Washington Park, James saw what looked like a huge old ship growing out of the ground and sprouting trees. On the way back we took a number of very sketchy tracks down to the marina before finding what actually was a huge old ship that was practically growing out of the ground and definitely sprouting trees. A local drinking beer on the marina’s tiny beach told us that the La Merced was a Schooner that ran aground in the 1970s and was salvaged by the Croatian owners of the marina. They filled it with sand and turned it into their breakwater. It was pretty spooky looking and worth the abrupt roadside stop.
The downside of travelling with a dog during spring is that it’s rarely warm enough to eat outside and be 100% comfortable. We got very lucky on this trip as we found a pub with a pet-friendly, heated beer garden that was so good we went for both lunch and dinner. Dinner was a particularly awesome experience full of unexpected local flavour. From the excitable man who greeted us with ‘Oh you’re English? What’s the difference between afters and dessert?’ and the inebriated lady spending the night in a wheelchair after losing a dare to the woman who tried to prove James can look good in a hat (she failed) and the guy who whipped out a parrot from under his hoodie after half an hour of conversation, it was one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been. The deep fried mac and cheese wedges weren’t half bad either.
This little viewpoint is a 5 minute drive out of the historic district and gave us a great view of Anacortes. This is where most of the pictures of Anacortes that are on postcards and guidebooks were taken, so it was fun to see that in person. You don’t even need to get out of the car to see the view if you don’t want to, though I recommend a quick climb on the rocks.
Deception Pass State Park is only 20 minutes from Anacortes and was highly recommended on TripAdvisor, however we didn’t have enough time to explore to justify the $20 entry fee. Instead, we stuck to the highway and drove through the middle of the park to see what is actually two bridges that connect Fidalgo Island (where Anacortes is – not technically an island) with Whidbey Island. There is a little island right in the middle with free parking and a viewpoint with a plaque explaining how Capt. George Vancouver ‘discovered’ and named the area (he gets around). Here you can take the steps down and under the bridge, or walk across if you’re not terrified of heights and/or carrying a squirming Boston Terrier.
The final sight on our list was the top of Mount Eerie, another easy to access viewpoint with a road running right up to the top (you can also hike up from the bottom if you’re feeling energetic). The views were stunning and the windy drive up the switchbacks was well worth the 10 minute detour on the way back from Deception Pass.
Even though we were only in Anacortes for 24 hours, we did and saw a lot and felt like we were on a proper vacation. I’m a particularly intense travel planner, so for me there’s something so special about a spontaneous, last-minute trip where everything just falls into place. I would almost go as far as to say I enjoyed this get away more than our trip to California in April (no tattoos this time though). It was the perfect way to spend a long weekend.