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The Islands are in the middle of the Salish Sea between Washington and Victoria, BC you have to reserve your ferry to the San Juan Islands
San Juan County contains over 150 islands. The Department of Transportation has three ferries that serve only Orcas Island, Lopez Island, Shaw Island, and San Juan Island.
This blog will help you plan your trip to San Juan Island or any other islands in the San Juan Islands cluster. If I were to give any advice, it is a trip that you have to plan ahead of time. It used to be easy to just drive up to the Ferry and catch a ride, but now you need to make a reservation ahead of time. It is also best to figure out your camping or accommodations ahead of time as well.
When you are ready to reserve your Ferry ride with the Department of Transpo, you head to the DOT website and go to “Make a reservation.”
You will have to book either two months ahead, 2 weeks ahead, or 2 days ahead when you book. They only allow a certain percentage to book and close it down until the next tier timeline.
Drive-up options – If there is room on the Ferry, they will let you drive up on the Ferry, but you’re running the risk of not getting on. Here is what is posted on the website.
On the Anacortes/San Juan Islands routes:
2 months before the season start date at 7:00 a.m. PST:
2 weeks before each sailing date at 7:00 a.m. PST:
2 days before each sailing date at 7:00 a.m. PST:
10% of the vehicle desk space is always held open for emergency and stand-by vehicles. Additional stand-by space may be available due to no-shows.
Some of the routes from Anacortes to Friday Harbor will stop at the other islands before finally getting to San Juan Island. Some routes do go straight to San Juan, which will save you time. They will lay it all out on the website schedule for you.
The one that goes straight to San Juan Island is about an hour ride on the Ferry. It took us about an hour and 30 to 40 minutes more to stop at Orcas Island, pick up some more cars and continue to Friday Harbor.
Between the Ferry schedule and the time it takes to go from place to place, I definitely wouldn’t go to island hopping for the day and then head back to Anacortes. I would suggest you find a place to stay on one of the islands and do some exploring. There is way too much to see & do on all these islands for one day.
When you purchase a reservation from Anacortes to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) does include a ferry ride to the other islands. We did this on our last trip. We took the Ferry from Friday Harbor to Orcas Island and spent the day there and then returned to Friday Harbor, where we stayed at the Earthbox Inn.
When you’re going from island to island, you don’t need to make a reservation. Try to get there an hour beforehand to make sure you don’t miss your Ferry. When we went from Friday Harbor to Orcas Island, the Ferry was pretty empty; it was the most empty I’ve ever seen. It was Easter Sunday, and so that might’ve played a factor, but it was a very quick and easy ride going to and from Orcas Island to Friday Harbor.
When you are on the Ferry, there is something different since Covid. On these longer Ferry rides, you are allowed to get out of your vehicle. The shorter Ferry rides they discourage you from getting out but not these longer ones.
When you are in the common areas upstairs, every other seat or booth is blocked off. There is no food or beverage available except on vending machines. You do have to wear a mask when you are in the common area. The restrooms are open.
The water fountains were disconnected, so you can not get water. We make sure we have water to drink on these rides. We like these kinds of water bottles.
Click photo before for a link to water bottles
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