For a small town, Anacortes has developed a very good public arts program, and you will see evidence of this arts program in a number of sculptures and other works scattered through the downtown area.
I suggest exploring the city's web site as well, as some of the proposals for public art as well as information on proposed changes and relocations are there as well. Therefore, any specific information that I could add about most of these public art efforts may have changed by the time you read this.
Explore, enjoy, and enjoy the inspiration (even if the inspiration experienced is only a head-scratching bunch of questions).
Look for smaller artworks along Commercial street, but also in the various public parks in the city. You can find a few in the industrial area of town as well, such as seen on the side of a warehouse near the Port of Anacortes in photo 5.
The web site below is a general web site of the arts community in Anacortes, and is a good starting point for further exploration.
Along with the public art, you will also find a small art museum and several stores selling artistic creations of various kinds.
Preserving the history of Anacortes has involved more than just murals, but also placing life size cutouts of historic figures in a number of places. These figures are not just located along the primary throughfares in downtown: some of them are located in some very obscure locations, but are put there because the particular figure was important to that location. For example, one of the well-known railroad conductors has his cutout on an industrial building near the water as at one time the railroad line ran where the building now is, and that was the location in town he was primarily associated with.
However, it is also true that a number of these cutouts and murals may be discovered by wandering through downtown Anacortes. This is particularly true along Commercial Avenue.
If you get off the beaten path in Anacortes, you will find that a number of the older houses near the downtown core have been well preserved, including all the intricate woodwork on many of them.
The bulk of these houses are close to the center of the commercial district, but away from the commercial center. For example, a walk through the area west of Commercial Avenue and north of 8th Street should yield quite a few older homes still in their original delicate woodwork and well maintained.
On the west side of the ferry that connects Anacortes with Guemes Island you will find this small park with a small beach, a picnic table, a short paved pathway, and a few other amenities. From the west end of the park it is possible to get a decent view of the foothills of the Cascades. This view will be partly blocked soon due to the construction of a new ferry terminal building.
The beach is mostly sea gravel rather than sand.
Getting Here: From downtown Anacortes, go west on 6th Street to I Avenue. The park is located on the west side of the road to the ferry.
Deception Pass is the link between Fidalgo and Whidbey Island. There is a great bridge that towers over the water. Beaches can be found on each side, whether it's Rosario or Bowman's on Fidalgo or Deception Pass state park on Whidbey. Lots of trails to hike and beaches to sit on (when the sun is actually shining!). Great place for a day outing and picnic.
Well, I forget the name of this park, and it's fairly tough to find and not well-marked. So this may not be so helpful. But if you take the road from Skyline to Deception Pass, about half way there there's a parking lot on the right. If you park there, there's a loop trail that takes you to some amazing views. Sunset shots don't get much better.
Crabbing / Fishing -- again, this requires a boat, but if you ask the locals where the crabs are and/or the salmon are running (Silvers are my personal favorite), you can (in the case of the salmon, with a little luck), in just a few hours, catch more than you could possibly eat.
If you're an oyster fan, then this MUST be done. Go to the Taylor Shellfish (oyster) farm on Chuckanut Road, between Bow and Bellingham. Buy several dozen Kumamoto oysters for next to nothing. Buy several local beers. Combine.
Currently the only real attraction that is within walking distance of the ferry terminal is the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve. There isn't much connecting the ferry terminal directly to the trail into the preserve as of yet. Construction of the boardwalk continues today in August of 2013.
However, it is still possible to get to the trail from the ferry terminal, so long as you don't mind a bit of scrambling over obstacles. There are informal trails between the auto staging area and the beach at Ship Harbor. All you have to do is look for a trail headed downhill from the sidewalk that runs along the eastern edge of the parking area. Take one of these trails down to the beach, and then walk back towards Anacortes along the beach. After a short distance, you will come to a wooden observation deck that marks the current end of the boardwalk that is being built through the wetlands.
From here east the trail is gravel.
The trail itself is perhaps 0.75 km / 1/2 of a mile in length. There are several viewpoints overlooking Ship Harbor and allow for a view of the tidal waters and perhaps some wildlife (depending on how many people are on the beach). Sea otters and great blue heron are not unusual here, as well as various other birds.
The trail has its official beginning at Ship Harbor Blvd, which comes down to the waterfront from a new housing development being built off of Glasgow Way.
The eventual plan is for a trail to go all the way from the Washington State Ferries auto staging area to downtown Anacortes. The trail has almost reached the auto staging area, as of this writing.
The intention of this trail is to serve as a bike and pedestrian connector between the ferry terminal and downtown Anacortes.
However, only about 1/2 a mile (3/4 of a km) have been completed at the far end of the proposed trail. At some point it promises to be an interesting place to walk or bike, but today (August of 2013) it is simply that: promises for sometime in the future.
The trail segment starts at the very end of Ship Harbor Blvd., which is in a new housing development still being built on the downhill end of Glasgow Way. At the very end of the road you will find the start of the trail, and its only public entry point.
There are certainly some grand plans for this trial, and it is wide and pleasant. However, after a fairly short distance it abruptly comes to an end. From here on out the trail has to cross private land, and naturally that is going to be a difficult proposition. Therefore, don't expect this trail to be extended any time soon.