San Juan Islands ferries provide a cost-effective way to get to the islands, and you might be happy to know that most allow passengers to bring a bike, motorcycle, car, or truck along if needed. The main ferries that serve the San Juans are offered by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and they embark from a mainland terminal in Anacortes. Anacortes is about 85 miles north of Seattle and is generally regarded as the main jump off point for San Juan Islands excursions. Its ferry terminal is found on the northwest side of the city at 2100 Ferry Terminal Road, and there are more than 1,200 parking spaces close by for those who need them.
San Juan Islands Ferries
If departing from Anacortes isn't convenient for you, then you might consider the other San Juan Islands ferry options. At least one company offers excursion boats that travel from Seattle to Friday Harbor, for example, and during the peak April to October season, ferry passenger service to the San Juans is available in the mainland Washington destinations of Port Townsend and Bellingham. The ferries from Seattle take about three and half hours to get to the San Juans, and ferry from Port Townsend to the islands take about two and a half hours. Depart from Bellingham instead, and the voyage out to the San Juans should only take about 40 to 60 minutes.
Victoria Clipper is the Seattle company that offers additional San Juan Islands cruises, and these cruises depart from the Port of Seattle at Pier 69. The Port Townsend ferries that visit the San Juans are offered by Puget Sound Express, and they depart from the Port of Port Townsend at 227 Jackson Street. San Juan Island Commuter offers passenger ferry service in Bellingham, and the Bellingham Curise Terminal can be found at 335 Harris Ave.
The main San Juan Islands ferries that are offered by the Washington State Department of Transportation serve four specific islands. One of these islands is the most populous island of San Juan. Take a San Juan Island ferry, and you will arrive at Friday Harbor. The Friday Harbor ferries are most often the same ferries that visit the other islands, and generally speaking, Friday Harbor is the last stop. This is due to San Juan Island's westerly position. There are some ferries from Anacortes that travel directly to Friday Harbor, however. Interestingly enough, if you are planning on visiting all four main islands and you have a vehicle, you can save money by starting your vacation on San Juan Island. Fares aren't required for the eastbound ferries. As a side note, the Friday Harbor ferry terminal is located in the heart of town at 91 Front Street S. No parking is available at this terminal.
For anyone who is interested in an Orcas Island ferry, there is limited parking at or near the Orcas Island terminal, and it tends to fill up fast during the summer. As such, when planning to stay for more than one day, you might leave your vehicle behind. Of course, you can always park at your Orcas Island hotel or vacation rental. For those without a vehicle, shuttle service is available, and it's also possible to rent a car once you arrive. The Orcas Island ferry terminal is situated on the southeastern side of the island near the West Sound area. 8365 Orcas Road is the more exact location, and you might be interested to know that the Rosario Resort is just fourteen miles away. This resort is one of the best resorts in the San Juans.
On a San Juan Islands Anacortes ferry, the first stop that you will usually make once you get to the islands is the Lopez Island ferry terminal. From there, you will make stops at the other three main tourist islands. Thus, anyone in need of a Lopez Island ferry and nothing else will enjoy a shorter transit when departing from Anacortes. No parking is available at the ferry dock on Lopez Island, but since the island is so ideal for cycling, you might forget about bringing a vehicle and bring a bike instead. The trip from Anacortes to Lopez Island on a ferry takes about 40 minutes. If this is too long, you can always fly to the San Juans. Flights are available from a variety of regional destinations, including Seattle, and they are often seaplane flights, so you can land in a number of different spots throughout the island chain. The Lopez Island ferry terminal, should you be wondering, is found on the island's northern tip at the terminus of Ferry Road.
Shaw Island is the only other island that is served by Washington State Department of Transportation ferries. Most visitors who arrive by way of ferry to this island only plan on spending a few hours or less before they hop back on another ferry and venture off to another island or to the mainland. That's because there aren't any hotels on Shaw Island. Just a few vacation rentals and a small campground.
As a side note, anyone who is planning on taking a Washington State Department of Transportation ferry to the San Juan Islands should know that there can be significant delays during the peak summer season. It can take a while to board all the passengers, not to mention all the vehicles. As such, if you are visiting in the summer and you want to avoid such possible delays, you can arrive by some other means. Numerous boat charters in the region offer cruises to the San Juan Islands, and you can customize an itinerary to fit your needs with some of these operations if you wish. Taking your own vessel out to the islands is also an option if you don't want to fly or take a ferry, and if you don't have a private boat, you can always look to rent one.