Getting to the San Juan Islands is half the fun aboard a Washington State Ferry. Reservations are available online. Here are some tips for making your ferry travel stress free:
The San Juan Island Visitors Bureau recommends making a reservation, especially from May through September and for holiday weekends.
You’ll need to make 2 reservations — one coming to the islands (west bound) and one leaving the islands (east bound) if you’re visiting Orcas or San Juan islands. The system will prompt you to make a round-trip reservation. (Lopez and Shaw islands only have west-bound reservations.)
If you can’t get a reservation on your desired day or sailing, no worries, reservations are released in 3 tiers to accommodate long and short-term planning by visitors and residents. Walk-ons don’t need a reservation; see below.
The first 30% are released 2 months before the start of each of the four seasonal sailing schedules, for all sailings during that season, meaning that these reservations may be
available up to 5 months in advance.
The second 30% are released 2 weeks prior to the specific sailing date. The third 30% are released 2 days prior to the specific sailing date.
Each tier release of space opens online and by phone at 7:00 a.m., the Take a Ferry Website or 1-888-808-7977.
The remaining 10% on each sailing is set aside for those without reservations, emergency vehicles, and customers with medical documentation.
Approximately 15-20 drive-up/stand-by spaces are often available on most ferries, so if you don’t have a reservation, don’t let
this stop you from visiting. If you don’t get on, you will be in line for the next ferry.
Arrive in line for your reserved sailing 45-90 minutes in advance of the sailing departure time due to staging requirements and possible long lines, and bring your printed reservation sheet with barcode for easy scanning. You must check in at the toll booth 30 minutes ahead of your sailing time or you will lose your reservation and will travel
There is no extra charge for a reservation, however, to secure a reservation you must provide a debit or credit card which will only be charged $10 if you are a ‘no show.’ (Ferry tickets are purchased separately at the Anacortes terminal or online. Tickets include a round trip, although be sure to make 2 reservations — one coming and one leaving the islands, as mentioned above.)
There are several sailings each day to and from each of the 4 islands which almost assures that you’ll get your first, second or third choice of sailing time with a reservation.
Reservations are available to all 4 islands from Anacortes, but only from Orcas Island and Friday Harbor/San Juan Island returning to Anacortes. Reservations are not available, or typically needed, on the inter-island ferry.
You can make a reservation up until 2 hours prior to a sailing, provided there is space available. Changes and cancelations can be made within specific timeframes; please see info at the Take a Ferry website.
In the event that a sailing is canceled, WA State Ferries will communicate the cancellation(s) via travel alerts to your mobile phone or email address you submitted when you made the reservation. Those who choose to travel will still be prioritized once service is reinstated. If you choose not to travel you won’t be charged a ‘no-show’ fee.
Walk-ons don’t need a reservation. You can leave your vehicle at the Anacortes terminal (charge) and walk on the ferry with your luggage and/or bicycle or kayak. You’ll find parking rates and a variety of island transportation options, including a seasonal transit bus and car, bicycle and moped rentals.
Pets on leash or in a carrier are allowed on the ferry. Leashed pets must spend the crossing time on an outside deck with their owner. Carriers are allowed on the passenger deck. Pets remaining in the care are to be accompanied by their owners.
If you’re headed to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the ferry arrives within easy walking distance to activities, attractions, lodging, dining and shopping. If you’re headed to Orcas Island or Lopez Island (or somewhere other than Friday Harbor on San Juan Island) you’ll want to check into transportation options.
Questions about reservations? Call WA State Ferries at 1-888-808-7977 (or call the Visitor’s Bureay office at 888-468-3701 ext. 1)
To help plan your trip, you’ll find everything you’ll need on the Take a Ferry Website. From this page, you can also find more information about Washington State Ferry terminals, including addresses and directions, ferry cams, amenities and ADA information to make your trip go more smoothly. Web cameras are also available to view the ferry lines at Anacortes, Orcas Island, Friday Harbor/San Juan Island, and Lopez Island. You can also view an aerial image of the Anacortes terminal to find parking, toll booths, and more.
Directions to the Anacortes ferry terminal from Seattle
Take I-5 north
Take Exit 230 to Burlington/Anacortes (or Exits 221 or 226 through scenic Skagit Valley)
At the first light, turn left toward Anacortes onto Highway 20 west
Follow Highway 20 west to Anacortes for about 16 miles
Once you reach Anacortes merge right into the traffic circle and another right onto Commercial Ave.
Take a left at 12th St,, where signs point you to the San Juan Islands ferry, and follow for about 2 miles to the terminal
Allow a comfortable 1-1/2 to 2 hours to enjoy the drive and the scenery.
(Information courtesy: San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau)