Under the Starry Sky: Camping at Washington Park in Anacortes

By Lara Dunning

Want to know a secret? Washington Park, on 220 forested acres on the west end of Fidalgo Island, is one of my top camping locales. It has spectacular views of the San Juan Islands, wooded campsites, a sandy beach, a boat launch, a playground and tons of hiking trails. And, best of all—it’s open year-round. Situated less than four miles away from downtown Anacortes, and less than eight miles away from Deception Pass Bridge, it’s easy to sightsee and return to base camp.

On our camping weekend we are all about taking it easy, and it looks like everyone else has the same idea. At Sunset Beach dozens of people are taking advantage of the unusually warm weather. An extended family is grilling in the outdoor covered kitchen. A group of young men are throwing a football. Families with children are blowing up water toys, and I’m witnessing a rare sight—swimming in our 50’ish degree Pacific Northwest waters.

Sunset Beach 1_WEB

We throw a Frisbee for a while and then cool off in the shade while watching a group of kayakers head out for an afternoon paddle to Cypress Island. When the mouth-watering aroma from the grill becomes too much, we head back to our camp to start a fire and prepare dinner.

Washington Park has 22 tent sites and 46 sites with water and electrical hook-ups, as well as, group and hiker/biker campsites. Camping fees are $20 for a non-hookup site and $25 for a hook-up site; the pay station only takes cash. In the afternoon, park attendants drive around in a truck to verify guests and sell firewood.

Campsite 2_WEB

 

Reservations can be made online through the City of Anacortes and one of the nice features is the pictures of each campsite. If reservations aren’t your thing a total of 29 sites are available on a first-come first-serve basis. A major perk is the 1 p.m. check-out which gives campers plenty of time to have breakfast and go for a morning hike before tearing down camp. There are two restrooms with coin-operated showers; the one near the parking lot at the beginning of the loop road is newer and the better choice. For those going the RV route, the free sewer dump station is near the park exit. And, for beach lovers, Sunset Beach has large beach fire pits with island sunset views.

Green Point_WEB

 

Other hiking trails zig-zag around the coast and through the park to vistas like Juniper Point, where I’ve seen harbor porpoises curl through the surf, Burrows Channel Viewpoint, where you can climb a juniper tree and walk on Jurassic-age rocks, and Havecost Monument, which is the burial site for the parks’ founder Tonjes Havekost. If you’d prefer to drive a paved 2.2-mile loop road winds around the park, it’s open to drivers from 10 a.m. to dusk, and 6 a.m. to dusk for pedestrians.

Paved Loop Trail_WEB

For dessert, we pull out the chocolate and graham crackers and gather around the fire to heat up marshmallows for S’mores. If you happen to find yourself in need of S’more ingredients or other supplies and the 10-minute drive to Safeway doesn’t appeal to you, Old Salt’s Deli & Market at 1900 Skyline Way is a fifteen minute walk or 3-minute drive away. They have light groceries, snacks, beverages, sandwiches and toiletries.

Later that night after the park closes we grab a blanket, a flashlight and sneak back down to Green Point. We lie down on the blanket, listen to the surf and gaze up into the heavens to stargaze. As the stars twinkle above us on a black velvet sky we both agree this is Washington Park’s best kept secret.