The ferry ride to the San Juan Islands makes your Lopez Island vacation truly unique, but it can be confusing. Let’s go over the whole ferry experience, including the San Juan Islands Ferry Schedule and Reservation System so you know what to expect. We will also go over a few tips and tricks to make vacation to the San Juan Islands even better.
Anacortes Ferry Terminal
First off, to get the San Juan Islands you need to take a ferry from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Our ferries are huge and take 1000s of cars, foot passengers, and bicyclists to and from the islands each day. Lopez Island is the first stop in the San Juan Islands, and it takes 40 minutes. We recommend that you get a ferry reservation for your car, but we will go over how to do that later. Keep in mind that you don’t need a reservation to go back to Anacortes from Lopez Island—it’s a first come first serve line. To find out what time you should arrive to make the ferry home, you can call the ferry landing at 360-468-4095 to ask.
If you are coming from the Seattle area, expect your trip to Anacortes Ferry Terminal to take you a little over an hour on a typical day. When you enter the terminal, you will notice several drive up ticket booths. At the booth, a ferry worker will confirm your reservation if you have one, and then you will pay for your ticket. You will then wait in a line until your ferry arrives. If you plan on walking or biking onto the ferry but still are driving in a car, just follow the signs to the ferry parking instead of heading to the ticket booths. After you find a parking spot, just get a parking ticket from one of the parking payment machines.
San Juan Island Ferry Schedules and Reservations
The San Juan Islands Ferry Schedules and reservations can be a little confusing, so let’s go over the basics. There are different Ferry schedules depending on the time of year and you can find the current schedule on the ferry website.
While you don’t need a ferry reservation, we highly recommend getting one to avoid a long wait at the ferry line. Reservations for each sailing are divided into 3 parts and are released 2 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days prior to your sailing date. So, for example, if all of the 2 week out reservations are filled for your desired sailing, you can wait for the 2 day release and get your reservation then. Reservations start at 7am, and you can do them online or by phone. Do yourself a favor and set a reminder on your phone.
Make sure you arrive at least 40 minutes prior to your sailing. If you find yourself at the ferry land much earlier than your sailing time, you might be able to get on an earlier ferry to the islands. The ferry worker at the booth will let you know if you can do this; just let them know your situation.
But what if you plan a last minute getaway, and the ferry has no more reservations for the boat you want?
In this situation, we recommend that you get to the ferry landing as early as you can so you can get one of the spots that are left open for drive-ons. If there are spaces available on a later boat, we also recommend that you make a reservation for one of them just in case.
Final Ferry Tips
You don’t just have to wait in your car when you arrive at the ferry terminal. To the right of the lines is a sandy beach that eventually leads to a small boardwalk. We think a beach walk is a perfect way to stretch your legs after your long car ride. You can also head to the terminal building for a bite to eat, but we recommend bringing your own snacks or a meal, spreading out a beach blanket and enjoying the beach views. When your car is in line remember to relax, you are now on island time!