The San Juan Islands are accessible three ways, by ferry boat, plane, private boat and charters.
Let’s start with Driving Directions!
From Seattle or Seattle Tacoma International Airport:
From SeaTAC to Anacortes Ferry Terminal is 80 miles – allow 2 hours driving time, 3 during peak driving hours.
Follow the signs to San Juan Island ferry.
From Whidbey Island:
Take WA-525 N WA-525 N turns into Highway 20 E
Use the left two lanes to turn left onto WA-20 E/S Oak Harbor St Continue to follow WA-20 E
Turn left onto WA-20 Spur W At the traffic circle, take the first exit onto Commercial Ave
Continue straight to stay on Commercial Ave, follow the signs to the ferry terminal.
All about the Ferry!
Traveling by Ferry Washington State Ferry fares are round trip from Anacortes; i.e., there is no charge to return to Anacortes. Inter-island travel is free for walk-on passengers and a round trip fee is charged per automobile, current fares are here. You can find the ferry schedule here: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you make reservations for any ferry travel to and from Anacortes, reservations can be made here.
Parking & Vehicle Travel
You can either take your car on the ferry or park it at the ferry terminal and walk aboard, thus avoiding ferry lines. If you chose not to bring a car to the Islands from Anacortes park your car in the designated ferry parking lot(s) at or near the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Most recommend bringing a vehicle or renting a car or moped from Susie’s Mopeds in the islands. If you walk on the ferry there is cab service on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands. In the summer months on San Juan Island a shuttle van service runs to the most popular tourist spots. The distances from the Ferry Terminal to Towns Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is a located at the ferry landing. Eastsound, on Orcas Island, and Lopez Village, on Lopez Island, are roughly 15 – 20 minutes driving distance from their ferry docks.
From Seattle or Vancouver BC to Anacortes Ferry Terminal, plan on a two hour drive, three if driving during peak driving hours. The ferries are not frequent and the wait for the next is several hours long with only 20% of each sailing allocated to drive-up/standby travelers, if traveling with a reservation, you must be through the ticket booth at least 30 minutes before your sailing. if you need to travel at the last minute or can’t make a reservation you can travel standby. While you may not always get on the sailing of your choice, space becomes available when people don’t show up for their reservations or when reservation holders end up traveling at a different time. There aren’t many activities at or around the Anacortes ferry terminal however, there is a nice nature trail along the shore, some beach area, and grassy picnic and pet areas. There are rest rooms, and a gift shop and seasonal cafe. Please note that not all ferries have galley service, especially in the off-season, it’s a good idea to pack along something to eat. at the Friday Harbor Terminal – is located downtown, there are plenty of things to do while you wait! You can walk around, dine, and shop. The Orcas Island Terminal, there is a grocery store, and a few restaurants and shops. At the Lopez Island Terminal currently there is only a waiting room and finally Shaw Island Terminal there is the General Store and Post office.
For International travel to British Columbia, Canada
Travel to Vancouver Island, the city of Victoria or to the City of Vancouver on mainland BC from Friday Harbor (WSF route only runs from Anacortes and Friday Harbor to and from Sidney, BC), you must board the WA State Ferry to Sidney, north of Victoria, from Sidney you can then take a cab or bus into Victoria or to Swartz Bay for the BC Ferry to Tsawwassen and Vancouver.
The WSDOT bulletin page posts cancellations and changes to the scheduled sailings can be found here. Webcams at the Anacortes, Friday Harbor and Orcas Island ferry terminals provide current ferry line status and viewed here. You can setup WSF email alerts here.
Without a Vehicle
If you want to visit the San Juan islands without a vehicle, there are several ways.
1. The Victoria Clipper (passenger only) boat leaves from downtown Seattle and goes directly to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The trip takes about 3 hours each way.
2. The Airporter shuttle has daily year round service between SeaTac Airport, downtown Seattle, and the Anacortes ferry terminal. This shuttle bus makes several stops and involves a transfer to a connecting bus to get to the Anacortes terminal. You’ll need reservations.
3. The Island Airporter runs from/To Sea-Tac to Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor, on San Juan Island, only.
4. Kenmore Air takes passengers by van from SeaTac to one of their three Seattle area terminals for a land or seaplane bound for Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands. Kenmore Air – 866-435-9524.
5. San Juan Airlines has scheduled service to the islands from Bellingham and Anacortes.
From Bellingham, WA
There is passenger service to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) offered by San Juan Island Cruises, Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 335 Harris Ave. The round-trip fare is apx. $59 for adults and $39 for children ages 6 to 12. These passenger ferries operate between mid-May and early September.