San Juan Islands Visitor Information

Recently voted one of the world’s most exciting ferry rides and Washington State’s newest Scenic Byway, your trip through Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands promises beautiful views of mountains, forests and an intimate connection to the ocean and its inhabitants. Glimpses of Orca Whales, Harbor Seals, Porpoises, and Sea Lions are not uncommon. The driving tours take you through groves of rich green cedars and moss-covered rocks with eagles soaring above. Moderate temperatures and very little rain during the summer months make the islands ideal for all kinds of activities, such as bird watching, boating, fishing, kayaking and hiking. There’s no place more beautiful for recreation, relaxation and rejuvenation.

How do we get to the San Juan Islands?

The San Juan Islands are accessible only by scheduled ferry or plane service, or via private boat or plane. If you drive, you’ll take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes which is a two hour drive north of Seattle. You can fly into Sea-Tac International, Bellingham, and Everett (Paine Field) airports.  Land and sea planes are also scheduled daily from Seattle (Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Boeing Field) and Bellingham on Kenmore Airlines and San Juan Airlines that will fly you directly to the islands. 

How frequently do ferries run

Usually every three–five hours during the day and early evening, but the schedule changes seasonally. Click on the link above to view the current schedule. How long is the ferry ride? Between one and two hours, depending on time of day and number of stops. (By the way, the journey is rated as one of the most scenic in the world.)

Can I make a reservation for the ferry?

Yes, through Book ahead! Otherwise, it’s first in-line, first on-board. Lineups can be lengthy during weekends, holidays, and peak summer months so plan to arrive two hours prior to the sailing time. (The wait is part of the adventure. Read a book, take a walk, have a snack. Island time begins when you arrive at the ferry dock.)

Do I need a car when I’m on the islands?

Unless you are only visiting the Town of Friday Harbor, we do recommend a car for touring the islands. Should you arrive by plane, private boat, or “walk-on” the ferry vs drive on with a car, you might reserve a taxi, shuttle, or rental vehicle. What’s there to do when I get there? Bicycle, bird-watch, golf, hike, kayak, putter around in a moped, scuba dive, shop, visit museums and art galleries, dine, go to first-rate community theater, visit other islands, see Victoria BC, take a whale-watching and wildlife excursion. (Those with busy lives often find that solitude in nature and the company of a good book is enough activity.)

Should I make a reservation at the restaurants?

If you are visiting the Islands in our Summer High Season we strongly recommend you make restaurant reservations well in advance of your stay. The Islands have a limited number of eating options and wait times can be long.

When do the whales show up?

Anytime they feel like it. These magnificent creatures swim through the open sea, not a marine park. They are most frequently observed in the summer on the West Side of San Juan Island, just offshore of Lime Kiln Park. We can recommend boating excursions with responsible tour operators and naturalists to provide you with a greater appreciation of these threatened species and other wildlife. 

Does it rain every day?

No. The beautiful Islands are in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains. We enjoy an average of 247 days of sunshine per year with daylight until ten PM in the summer. Great weather is normal during July, August, and September; daytime temperatures rarely exceed 80 degrees. The weather is less predictable and cooler in May and June, but a visit in those months means you share the islands with fewer tourists.

Can I swim in the ocean?

Some hardy souls do – but be prepared to turn blue and shiver if you join them without a good dive suit. The summer water temperature averages 52 degrees.