Insider Guide to the San Juans
Getting There: Beat the Ferry!
How to survive the hardest part of the San Juans: getting there
No, earlier than that. On summer weekends, car lineups for island-bound ferries in Anacortes can top five hours. It’s why San Juan veterans and residents pack a pillow.
Monitor the mess
The Washington State Ferry terminal website hosts live camera views of the lines. The Anacortes and Friday Harbor pages go one better by updating exactly how many car spots are left on each sailing.
Parking at the Anacortes ferry terminal is $10 per day, and the boats rarely reach capacity for walk-ons. Once on the island, vacation near the dock, hire a car, or, like a brave local, hitchhike.
Lake Union to Friday Harbor is just 45 minutes by float plane, sightseeing included. Plus Kenmore Air flights can land by the shores of islands that ferries never touch. kenmoreair.com
Shrink the boat
The Victoria Clipper does 3.5-hour trips from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor from May to September, traveling via scenic Deception Pass on the way up. Boats can carry bicycles and trips may entail on-the-fly whale watching. clippervacations.com
...Forget everything we just said
Reservations will be available for most San Juan sailings—westward from Anacortes, eastward from Orcas and Friday Harbor—starting January 5, 2015. The days of five-hour waits may be over, but there will still be spots saved for driveups.