So, you are planning a getaway to the San Juan Islands and you need to know when to leave Seattle to catch the Washington State Ferry in Anacortes? Here is the lowdown on your car ride from Seattle to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Plus, pick up a few travel tips that will make your first leg of your San Juan Islands vacation a little easier and a lot less stressful! Don’t hesitate to reach out to Edenwild Boutique Inn if you still have questions after this read.
*Winter/Spring 2022 Ferry Update. so the state has provided the San Juan Islands with an additional ferry to help our island travel needs but we are still experiencing some crew shortages. This has caused some cancelations and because of this the state has decided to not allow ferry reservations for many sailing dates. That said, ferry ridership has been very light so reservations are simply not needed in most cases. Summer is looking more promising so don’t be afraid to plan a trip the islands, everyone of our visitors have made it on and off the islands!
Be on Time to the Anacortes Ferry
It takes about 1.5 hours to make the trip from Seattle to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal by car. If you are renting a car from the SeaTac Airport to head to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, just add another 10 minutes to your journey. You can make the trip from Seattle in little over an hour with no traffic, but we highly recommend you plan on allocating 2 hours of travel time just in case you do hit a major traffic.
Also keep in mind that if you make a ferry reservation, you will need to show up at least 45-60 minutes before your ferry’s departure time. If you show up to the ferry terminal late, you will most likely lose your reservation to someone who is waiting in the drive-up line. If you have a ferry reservation but are too late, you will be sent to the back of the drive-up line and hope the boat does not overfill. In the worst case scenario, you will have to have to wait for the next ferry to get to the San Juan Islands.
For example, if you make a ferry reservation for the 3:05 departure to Lopez Island, you will want to leave Seattle at 12:05. This builds in 2 hours for travel time and gets you to the ferry landing 1 hour before your departure time which is required for your reservation to be honored.
Extra Time Before the Ferry
Once you are north of the Marysville exit on I-5, it is very unlikely that you will see any traffic jams or slowdowns for the rest of your trip to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal . If you are good on time at this point, you might want to call in a takeout order from one of the many restaurants in Anacortes. There are not many food options at the Anacortes ferry terminal, so picking something up in Anacortes means you can eat while waiting at the terminal. We recommend having a picnic on the beach after you are lined up and waiting for the ferry. The beach at the ferry landing is to the right of the lines.
Running Late to the Ferry
Oh no, you are running late from Seattle on the way to the Anacortes Ferry. First of all, you are going on vacation, not starring as a stunt driver in an action film. Please do not speed or drive dangerously if you are late—though we know it is so tempting to do so. The police in Anacortes know the ferry schedule very well and will be waiting for you just as you speed past trying to catch your ferry. There is a better way than speeding to make up for some of your lost time, and we hope this next tip helps you catch your ferry.
Here is the ‘secret’ route that most San Juan islanders use to avoid the traffic lights that could cost you up to 5 minutes in downtown Anacortes and help you make up lost time. While traveling on Route 20, most ferry traffic heads to Commercial Avenue Anacortes. If you have plenty of time we recommend going this way because you will pass lots of cute shops and eateries going this way. If you are running late, take a right on R Avenue which is the exit before Commercial Ave. By doing this, you will avoid all the traffic lights in Anacortes. Now that you are on R Avenue, take a left on 17th Street and then a right on K street. When K Street intersects with 12th street, you take a left. Congratulations, you have bypassed all the traffic lights and are now heading directly to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal!
You’re on Vacation in the San Juan Islands
Oh no, you are running so late from Seattle that you know you will not make your Anacortes Ferry! So what? You are on vacation. San Juan Islanders make light of missing a ferry by saying, “Now you’re just extremely early for the next boat.” Missing a ferry happens and part of being on island time is just being laid back about it.
If the next ferry does not depart for several hours, you now have time to stop in Anacortes. Have a nice meal or do some shopping before you head to the ferry terminal. Or you can just get in line early, so you know that you will absolutely catch the next boat. While waiting in line you might want to do the Anacortes shore trail that starts at the ferry landing beach and follows the water back toward the city. You can easily stroll an hour away on this trail, and you might enjoy stretching your legs after the long car ride.
Now that you are in the ferry line in Anacortes, you will almost certainly make the next boat. Seattle and the anxiety of city life and traffic is behind you. Relax, that is why you came to the San Juan Islands on vacation in the first place!