Setting: On the inside Washington coast north of Puget Sound, Anacortes is 90 minutes north of Seattle and two hours south of Vancouver, British Columbia, via Interstate 5.
Attractions: Boats, boatbuilders, and boat-friendly waters. The small town (population 16,000) lies two hours or less from two major metro areas. Mild climate with one-third less rainfall than Seattle. A diversified economy. A stunning natural setting.
Drawbacks: High housing prices in comparison to local wages. Morning ferry traffic in summer.
Housing: A cannery-era cottage in old town might sell for $300,000 for a fixer-upper or $500,000 restored. As with all other properties in town, add another $100,000 for a water view. Homes in the brand-new San Juan Passage development range from $485,000 to $800,000 for bigger-view properties. Single-family houses dominate the market; condos range from about $250,000 for an older property with no view to $950,000 for a new one with a grand view.
Your next-door neighbors: A yacht designer, chemical engineer, teacher, artist, or telecommuting dot-commer. A Microsoft retiree, naval officer, or nurse.
How you’d spend your free time: Cruising the inland waterways. Volunteering with the arts festival or library, or rehearsing for the next play. Fixing your boat. Kibbitzing with friends around the communal table at Gere-a-Deli. Mountain biking, hiking, or kayaking. Watching the sun set from the deck of your boat in the marina.
(published in October 2008)