The San Juan Island Ferry Explained

Posted on June 8, 2024

Planning to take the Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor and San Juan Island and aren’t quite sure how to go about it? Find everything you ever needed to know on how to take the Washington State Ferry to your San Juan Island getaway here:

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The Washington State Ferry, part of Washington’s highway system, services the San Juan Islands year-round, several times per day. The trip from Anacortes to Friday Harbor takes between an hour and two and is simply stunning. The ferries feature a comfy galley for an easy snack or a cold glass of beer on the ride. There are puzzles on the tables for all passengers to play with. Contemporary art exhibitions adorn the walls. Every once in a while the ferry has to stop for whales, the sweetest traffic delay you’ll ever experience.

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Orca with Washington State Ferry in Background near San Juan Island, courtesy of Maya's Legacy Whale Watching
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Reservations

Walk on passengers and bicycle riders do not need reservations and will never be turned away.

If you are planning on bringing a car, reservations are recommended, especially in the busy Summer season. Make ferry reservations here. Be there 45 minutes before the sailing.

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San Juan Island, Washington
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What if you can’t get a reservation for your travel day?

Worry not. Reservable space is released according to the following schedule: 25% of standard vehicle space is released 2 months before your travel date starting at 10:00 a.m. An additional 25% of standard vehicle space is released 2 days before your travel date at 7:00 a.m. On the day of your travel 25% of standard vehicle space is available for drivers showing up without reservation.

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What if I don’t get on?

If you don’t get on the ferry because you had no reservation, you’ll be on the next one. Check out the Cheese Cake Café and gift shop at the Anacortes ferry terminal. Do the board walk around the gorgeous bay adjacent to the terminal and watch Blue Herons fish. Sit on the beach and read your book or have a picnic at the tables overlooking the water.

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What about cancelled sailings?

It is a huge endeavor to manage ten ferry routes on 20 terminals with 21 vessels around Puget Sound and in the San Juan Islands. And sometimes a crew member gets sick or a ferry needs repair. The first order of business is to relax. You are in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. Slow down. Get an ice cream. Know the ferry folks have been doing this for over 50 years. More often than not a solution is found in no time. 

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Friday Harbor, Washington
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Did you know?

The fare you pay in Anacortes is round-trip. 

 

WSF is the largest ferry system in the United States and the second-largest vehicular ferry system in the world behind BC Ferries. Treat yourself to a ride. Getting here is so much fun.

 

 

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Getting to the Earthbox Inn & Spa on San Juan Island