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How Long Is The Ferry Ride From Anacortes To San Juan Islands


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lanni Rondeau



Welcome to the picturesque Pacific Northwest, where the lush greenery meets the sparkling waters of the Salish Sea. Nestled in this pristine corner of Washington state lies the enchanting San Juan Islands, a haven for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those seeking a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And to reach this island paradise, you must embark on a delightful ferry ride from Anacortes.


The Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route is a gateway to an archipelago consisting of 172 islands and islets, each with its unique charm and allure. Whether you are visiting for a weekend getaway, a family vacation, or a romantic retreat, the ferry journey itself is an exciting part of the adventure.


As you set sail from Anacortes, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding fjords, rugged coastlines, and distant mountaintops. Keep your camera ready, as the journey offers numerous opportunities to capture stunning snapshots of the natural beauty that surrounds you.


This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to the Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry ride, including information on the ferry schedule, duration, amenities, and tips for a comfortable journey. We’ll also delve into the enchanting world of the San Juan Islands, highlighting some of the must-visit destinations and attractions.


So, sit back, relax, and let us take you on an unforgettable journey through the Salish Sea as we explore the wonders of the Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route.


Overview of the Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route

The Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route is a vital transportation link connecting the mainland with the charming archipelago. Departing from the lovely coastal town of Anacortes, located about 80 miles north of Seattle, this ferry route provides convenient access to the San Juan Islands.


The Washington State Ferries operates multiple daily sailings from Anacortes to four main islands: San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island. Each island has its distinct character, offering a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.


The ferry journey takes you through the protected waters of the Salish Sea, offering stunning views of the surrounding natural beauty. As you depart from Anacortes, you can expect to pass by lush forests, rocky shorelines, and possibly catch glimpses of marine wildlife such as seals, porpoises, and even whales.


The distance covered during the ferry ride will depend on the specific island you are headed to. For example, the journey to San Juan Island takes approximately 1 hour, while Orcas Island is approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes away. Lopez Island and Shaw Island can be reached in around 40 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively.


Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned island-goer, the Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route provides a memorable way to enter this picturesque archipelago. So sit back, relax, and prepare to embark on a scenic adventure through the Salish Sea as the ferry takes you towards the delights of the San Juan Islands.


Ferry schedule and frequency

The Washington State Ferries operate a reliable and convenient schedule for the Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route. The schedule varies throughout the year, so it’s essential to plan your trip accordingly and check for any updates or changes.


During the peak summer season, which runs from May to September, the ferry service is more frequent, with several daily sailings. This allows for greater flexibility in planning your travel to and from the islands. In contrast, the off-peak season, from October to April, may have reduced sailings, especially on weekdays.


It is advisable to arrive at the Anacortes ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before your desired departure time, as the ferries operate on a first-come, first-served basis with no reservations available. However, it’s important to note that reservations are available for vehicles on specific sailings, which can save you time and guarantee your spot if you plan to bring your car.


To find the most up-to-date ferry schedule and plan your trip accordingly, you can visit the official Washington State Ferries website or contact their customer service for any inquiries. It’s always recommended to check for any alerts or delays that may affect the ferry service.


During peak periods, the ferries can get quite busy, especially on weekends and holidays. It’s advised to plan your trip in advance and consider traveling during non-peak hours if possible. This will help ensure a smoother and more enjoyable journey, with less congestion and shorter wait times.


Overall, the ferry schedule and frequency for the Anacortes to San Juan Islands route are designed to accommodate the needs of both locals and tourists alike. With proper planning and awareness of the schedule, you can make the most of your trip and experience the magic of the San Juan Islands without any hassle.


Duration of the ferry ride

The duration of the ferry ride from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands varies depending on the destination island. Factors such as distance, weather conditions, and other external factors can also slightly impact the duration of the journey.


On average, the ferry ride from Anacortes to San Juan Island takes approximately 1 hour. This scenic journey allows you to soak in the breathtaking views of the Salish Sea while anticipating the adventures that await you on the island. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of marine wildlife along the way.


For those heading to Orcas Island, the ferry ride from Anacortes typically takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes. While the duration is slightly longer than the journey to San Juan Island, the additional time on the ferry allows you to appreciate the stunning panoramic vistas and relax amidst the tranquil surroundings.


If you’re traveling to Lopez Island, you can expect a quicker ferry ride of approximately 40 minutes. Despite the shorter duration, the journey remains just as picturesque and enjoyable, offering glimpses of the island’s natural beauty as you approach its shores.


The ferry ride to Shaw Island, while the shortest among the San Juan Islands, still provides a delightful journey of around 30 minutes. This gives you ample time to savor the tranquility and prepare for the unique experiences that await you on this peaceful island.


It’s important to note that these durations are approximate and can vary depending on factors such as vessel speed, current weather conditions, and passenger and vehicle loading times. It’s recommended to check the latest information regarding ferry schedules and any delays before embarking on your journey.


Regardless of the specific duration, the ferry ride to the San Juan Islands is an integral part of the overall island experience. It allows you to disconnect from the mainland, immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Salish Sea, and start embracing the slower-paced island life.


Scenic views and landmarks during the journey

The ferry ride from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands offers a feast for the senses, with stunning scenic views and landmarks dotting the picturesque route. As you sail through the Salish Sea, be prepared to be captivated by the natural beauty and unique landmarks that make this journey truly unforgettable.


One of the highlights of the ferry ride is passing by Deception Pass, an iconic bridge connecting Whidbey Island to the mainland. This engineering marvel spans the swirling currents of Deception Pass and offers breathtaking views from the water. Keep your camera ready to capture the impressive architecture and the rugged beauty of the surrounding cliffs.


As the ferry makes its way towards the San Juan Islands, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the shimmering Salish Sea. Watch for the interplay of light on the water’s surface, creating a mesmerizing display of colors. On clear days, you’ll also have the opportunity to admire the snow-capped peaks of the North Cascades in the distance, further enhancing the breathtaking scenery.


As you approach the islands, keep an eye out for notable landmarks such as Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island. This park is renowned as one of the best whale-watching spots in the region, so scan the waters for the majestic Orca whales that frequent the area. The historic Lime Kiln Lighthouse, perched on the cliffs of the park, adds a touch of charm to the scenery.


Another prominent landmark is Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. The highest peak in the San Juan Islands, it offers panoramic views from its summit. On a clear day, you can see the Canadian Gulf Islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and even Mount Baker, a towering volcanic peak visible from the distance.


Throughout the journey, you may also spot various wildlife, including seals, sea lions, and bald eagles. Keep a lookout for these incredible creatures as they go about their natural habitats, adding an extra layer of wonder to your ferry adventure.


With every passing mile, you’ll realize that the beauty of the San Juan Islands extends beyond the main destinations themselves. The journey itself is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural splendor of the Salish Sea and witness the remarkable landmarks that create a memorable backdrop for your island experience.


Onboard amenities and services

As you embark on the ferry ride from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands, you’ll find that the Washington State Ferries strive to provide a comfortable and enjoyable experience for passengers. The ferries are equipped with an array of onboard amenities and services to make your journey as convenient and pleasant as possible.


One of the main amenities you’ll find on the ferries is a cafeteria or snack bar, where you can grab a quick bite to eat or enjoy a hot beverage. Depending on the ferry, you may have options such as sandwiches, salads, burgers, and other light refreshments. It’s a great opportunity to fuel up before reaching your destination or to satisfy your hunger during the journey.


In addition to the dining options, you’ll also find comfortable seating areas throughout the ferry. Whether you prefer a cozy spot by the window or a communal seating area, there are plenty of seats available for passengers to relax and enjoy the journey. Most ferries also provide restrooms, so you can freshen up during the ride.


For those who want to enhance their ferry experience, some vessels offer outdoor viewing decks. These decks provide a chance to breathe in the fresh sea air and get an unobstructed view of the surrounding scenery. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture photos or simply enjoy the sensation of the wind in your hair as you sail through the Salish Sea.


While onboard, you’ll also have access to important safety information and announcements. The crew members are trained to ensure your safety and will provide instructions in case of an emergency. Additionally, they are available to answer any questions you may have and assist with any needs during the journey.


It’s important to note that ferry amenities and services may vary depending on the specific vessel, so it’s advisable to check the Washington State Ferries’ website or seek information from the crew for the most up-to-date details.


Overall, the onboard amenities and services provided by the Washington State Ferries aim to make your journey to the San Juan Islands as comfortable and convenient as possible. Whether you want a light snack, a comfortable seat, or a breath of fresh air on the outdoor deck, these amenities enhance your travel experience and ensure that you arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to explore.


Tips for a comfortable ferry ride

Embarking on a ferry ride from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands is an exciting adventure, and with a few tips in mind, you can make your journey even more comfortable and enjoyable. Here are some helpful suggestions to enhance your ferry experience:

  1. Arrive Early: To avoid any stress or potential delays, it’s recommended to arrive at the Anacortes ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before your desired departure time. This allows you ample time to park your vehicle, purchase tickets if needed, and position yourself for boarding.
  2. Pack Snacks and Drinks: While the ferries offer onboard dining options, bringing along your own snacks and drinks can be convenient, especially if you have specific dietary preferences or restrictions. Be sure to bring reusable water bottles to stay hydrated throughout the journey.
  3. Dress in Layers: The weather on the water can be unpredictable, so it’s wise to dress in layers. This way, you can easily adjust your clothing according to the temperature onboard or the changing weather conditions outside. Don’t forget to bring a light jacket or sweater even on warm days.
  4. Bring Entertainment: While the journey itself provides stunning views, you may want to bring some entertainment options like books, magazines, or electronic devices to keep yourself engaged during the ride. Just make sure to bring headphones for any audio-related entertainment.
  5. Explore the Ferry: Take some time to explore the various decks and seating areas on the ferry. Find a comfortable spot and enjoy the views from different angles. If the weather permits, venture outside to the viewing decks to get an uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape.
  6. Connect to Wi-Fi: Many Washington State Ferries offer free Wi-Fi on board, allowing you to stay connected during the journey. You can use this opportunity to catch up on emails, browse the internet, or share your experiences on social media.
  7. Respect Other Passengers: During busy periods, ferries can get crowded. Be mindful of other passengers and try to keep your noise levels to a minimum. If you’re traveling with children, ensure they are entertained and well-behaved to create a pleasant environment for everyone on board.
  8. Plan your Time: Use the ferry ride as a chance to plan your activities and explore the San Juan Islands. Check out maps, guidebooks, or local resources to familiarize yourself with the must-visit attractions, hiking trails, and dining options available on the islands.
  9. Enjoy the Journey: While it’s exciting to look forward to reaching your destination, remember that the ferry ride itself is part of the adventure. Take the time to relax, appreciate the stunning scenery, and embrace the sense of freedom that comes with traveling across the Salish Sea.

By following these tips, you can ensure a comfortable and memorable ferry ride from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands and make the most of your island getaway experience.


Exploring the San Juan Islands

Once you arrive at the San Juan Islands via the ferry from Anacortes, a world of exploration and adventure awaits you. With their pristine natural beauty, charming coastal communities, and abundant wildlife, the San Juan Islands offer a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to indulge in.


One of the most popular activities on the islands is whale watching. The waters surrounding the San Juan Islands are home to a variety of whale species, including the iconic Orca whales. You can join a guided whale-watching tour and have the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, creating memories that will last a lifetime.


If you prefer to explore the islands on land, there are ample hiking trails that showcase the islands’ diverse landscapes. San Juan Island, for example, offers trails like the American Camp and English Camp National Historic Park, where you can immerse yourself in history while enjoying stunning views. Orcas Island boasts Moran State Park, featuring Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands, and numerous trails that lead to breathtaking vistas.


For those seeking relaxation and tranquility, the San Juan Islands also offer pristine sandy beaches where you can soak up the sun, go for a swim, or simply unwind with a good book. Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island is a popular beach destination, known as the “Whale Watch Park” due to its stunning views and ideal whale-watching spots.


No visit to the San Juan Islands would be complete without exploring the charming coastal towns and villages. Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is the largest town and offers a range of amenities, including delicious seafood restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops. Orcas Island features the idyllic Eastsound Village, where you can stroll along the waterfront, sample local cuisine, and browse through unique shops.


When it comes to dining, the San Juan Islands offer a delectable culinary scene, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. From seafood shacks serving up the catch-of-the-day to gourmet farm-to-table restaurants, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the flavors of the islands, including locally harvested oysters, Dungeness crab, and farm-fresh produce.


With so much to see and do in the San Juan Islands, it’s best to plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time. Whether you’re interested in outdoor adventures, exploring the rich history and culture, or simply embracing the laid-back island lifestyle, the San Juan Islands offer something for every traveler.



The Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route is not just a means of transportation; it’s an experience that immerses you in the beauty and tranquility of the Salish Sea. From the moment you step aboard the ferry, you’ll be captivated by the stunning vistas, landmarks, and the anticipation of discovering the wonders of the San Juan Islands.


As you embark on the journey, take the time to appreciate the scenic views of the rugged coastlines, snow-capped mountains, and the sparkling blue waters. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, including seals, sea lions, and even whales that call these pristine waters home.


The ferry ride itself offers onboard amenities and services, ensuring your comfort during the journey. From dining options to comfortable seating areas, you’ll have everything you need to relax and enjoy the trip.


Once you arrive at the San Juan Islands, a world of adventure awaits. Explore the diverse landscapes, hike through lush forests, relax on beautiful beaches, and indulge in the local cuisine and charming coastal communities. Engage in activities like whale watching, kayaking, or simply immersing yourself in the laid-back island lifestyle.


Remember to plan your itinerary to make the most of your time on the islands and consider the tips to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable ferry ride. Dress in layers, bring snacks, and explore the various decks to fully embrace the journey.


The San Juan Islands offer a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and charming coastal towns. With their proximity to major cities and the ease of access provided by the Anacortes to San Juan Islands ferry route, these islands serve as an ideal destination for a weekend getaway, family vacation, or a peaceful retreat.


So, whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a break from the ordinary, the San Juan Islands await. Let the ferry ride from Anacortes carry you to this enchanting archipelago, where you can create lasting memories and immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the Salish Sea.