San Juan Island Ferries
First get a copy of the schedule and rates from the ferry terminal(Most likely anacortes).
Next unless going all the way to Victoria or from Victoria you only pay tolls on West Bound trips. They don't take credit cards at most of the island ferry terminals except Anacortes so remember to have some cash.
For the more popular routes and days, get your car in line early. We did see some cars have to wait for the next ferry. We did weekday travel which didn't seem bad but we'll bet the weekend travel requires some waits. The ferries occasionally run late but I wouldn't count on it. Most of the one's we saw left within minutes of their scheduled time. If you are walking or biking you just need to get there in plenty of time to actually get on the ferry.
Finally if you are bringing your bikes, use a rear carrier not a roof carrier. Due to height restrictions you may be forced to pay a larger toll and are put in the oversized section(the middle of the ferry)
You can get to the San Juan...
You can get to the San Juan islands a number of different ways. If you are coming from Seattle you can fly here via either West Isle Air (phone info # 800 874 4434) or Kenmore Air Harbor(Seaplane) and their # is 800 543 9595. The private company Victoria Clipper has passenger ONLY boats from Seattle. They have a web site at http://www.victoriaclipper.com/san%20juans.html
The Washington State Ferry comes from the town of Anacortes. That's how most people get out to the islands. They have a web site at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/
If you can stand the waits in lines and have a few days to see the islands, it is best to bring your own car. For a day visit in the summer my advise would be to walk on the ferry and use the San Juan Transit shuttle van. They have a web site at
I haven't actually been to Friday Harbor except on the ferry from Anacortes to Victoria on a bus tour.
The web page is a harbor cam for Friday Harbor
Crossing Time: Approximately 70 minutes
.Vehicle & Driver (for vehicle under 20 feet): $39.50
Daily Leave Anacortes
AM 6:10 7:45 9:35
PM 2:40 5:05 6:00 8:25 9:30
All passengers boarding in Friday Harbor and their belongings are subject to U.S. Customs and Immigration inspections.
- Family Travel
Two Ways to Get Here
There are two great ways of transportation to get to the Island. The first is the Washington State Ferry System, which departs from Anacortes or Sydney BC. You can walk on, bring a bicycle, or drive your car on the ferry. The ferry goes to the four major islands in the San Juans. You can also fly in a small airplane or float plane, either arriving at the Port or at the Airport. This is quick and convenient, and you can rent a car when you get here. The flying experience is a senic ride that gives you plenty of time to learn about Friday Harbor.
A Popular Boating Destination
Friday Harbor is a great place to visit by boat. There is transient moorage at the Port or at Roche Harbor. There are also many State Parks in the county that are only accessible by boat. Seeing the islands by boat is a unique experience, whether you are staying in the area or passing through on your way to Canada or Seattle.
Popular Boating Destination
Friday Harbor is a great place to see by boat. There is transient moorage at the Port or at Roche Harbor. There are many beautiful State Parks in the area that are only accessible by boat. This is a great way to gain a unique view of the islands, whether you are visiting or just passing through.
They are really not kidding...
They are really not kidding when they say plan on a two to four hour wait if you are coming to and from the island via the ferry system with your car. Going back to Seattle, my friend and I were there three hours ahead of our desired 1 pm sailing and were turned away until the 5 pm sailing! Luckily, I was ever curious and we ended taking another ferry to Orcas Island, with a departure for Anacortes that ultimately got us back into the city earlier than if we had stayed in Friday Harbor. The ferry system is wonderful, comfortable, convenient, but really does get bogged down with all the summer tourism. Plan ahead.
I would not have wanted to be there without our vehicle... we might have missed so much of the island. However, we did see couples cruising around in cute little egg-shaped motorized carts. Looked fun. Maybe next time!
The Ferry! But walk on and...
The Ferry! But walk on and rent a car or moped here. It will minimize your wait time for the ferries dramatically.
Bicycle, car or moped. When you are in town, parking can be a huge challenge in the summer.
beware of taxi fares
I took a taxi out to Roche Harbor and didn't know that there are NO published rates on Friday Harbor, so they charged me $35.00 - two people, 2 bags. Unreal. Turns out there is another taxi that only charges $20.00 for the same trip, so be sure you find out the fare before you get into that cab!
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Susie's Mopeds (+ "scootcars" + other vehicles)
As a general rule, brining a car to the San Juan Islands comes with its own set of headaches, including trying to get it on the ferry during the peak periods.
You may be better off trying to rent something when you arrive. The rental choices are a bit limited in Friday Harbor, but Susie's Mopeds has a few choices for you. This includes mopeds, of course, as well as a somewhat larger three wheel vehicle called a "scootcoupe" and they also have full size car rentals.
It should be noted that the scootcoupe is by far the most expensive rental, even though it is a smaller vehicle, but they seem to be quite popular here and I saw many around town (or maybe the same several over and over and over again).
Reservations must be made by phone, and they do not offer any insurance of any sort - that must be proven upon rental. Renters must have a valid driver's license. For the "scootcoupe" the passenger must be at least 5 years of age.
Unfortunately, I did not have time to rent any sort of vehicle from Susie's but it certainly seems like a decent option compared to trying to bring a car over on the ferry.
Address: 125 Nichols, Friday Harbor. This is just uphill from the ferry landing. Go uphill one block on Spring Street, then left on 1st Street, then follow A street to Nichols Street. Due to the one way grid pattern in the area around the ferry terminal area this doesn't work too well if you are driving, but if you are driving you don't need to rent a moped as you brought a vehicle with you!
- Road Trip
Island Bicycles (Bicycle Rental)
There are considerable advantages to using a bicycle when visiting the San Juan Islands. It does mean being prepared for whatever the weather is throwing at the islands but at the same time you don't have to worry much about getting on the ferry as there is always room for one more bicycle (this is not so with automobiles).
Island Cycles seems to be the only bicycle rental place in Friday Harbor. At least it is the only one that shows up on Google Maps or in the common tourist brochures.
You will want to pay close attention to the rental office hours as the open hours depend a lot on the season. They are open 7 days a week during the peak tourist season but winter hours has them closed three days a week.
Rates range from hourly rates (two hour minimum) to weekly rates. They also rent bike racks, trailers (both child and cargo) and other accessories. However, it appears that helmets and certain other important gear must be purchased, so it may be best to bring your own equipment for this rental.
Their web site also features a few maps that may be useful for those visiting the island, by bike or otherwise.
Location: 380 Argyle Avenue, Friday Harbor, WA, Located somewhat up the hill from the ferry terminal. Two blocks up the hill on spring street, then left onto Argyle which runs at a diagonal to Spring Street.
- Budget Travel
San Juan Transit (Seasonal Bus Service)
NOTE: The photo above does not show the San Juan Transit bus stopped at the ferry terminal. It is stopped in traffic. The actual bus stop for the ferry terminal is to the left of this view, in the auto staging area of the ferry terminal. There is an actual bus stop sign at this location. Thee actual bus stop is shown in photos 2 and 3. In photo 2, this tiny strip of concrete between the auto staging area for the ferry (right) and the through traffic area (on the opposite side of the bus) serves as the bus stop here. As you can see from the various signs, it is reasonably well marked.
While most everything truly in Friday Harbor that is of any real interest is within walking distance of everything else, the vast majority of the island isn't within walking distance, and the roads are not at all suitable for walking once you leave the confines of Friday Harbor as they are very narrow and people drive like idiots on them.
NOTE: There are a lot of places that will give you a Friday Harbor address that is nowhere near the actual town.
Adding a bit more flexibility to this is San Juan Transit, which operates a seasonal bus service that has three basic routes:
+ Friday Harbor to Lime Kiln Point State Park (continuation to San Juan County Park must be made by reservation)
+ Friday Harbor to Roche Harbor, in a loop that includes English Camp of San Juan National Historical Park
+ Friday Harbor to American Camp of San Juan National Historical Park
All of these routes start operating during different seasons of the year, so read the timetables for them carefully. During the early part of the tourist season (May) (and sometimes September) they only operate a few days a week, during those times they operate at all. As the demand is highly dependent on the tourist traffic, unlike many transit agencies this means that reduced service is mostly oriented around weekends. For example, one year their service during May was Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. By peak season they switch to every day. During some years all routes stop operating completely by early September, but as of the 2014 schedule they will be offering some service in September.
The company is a private company, and so prices are a little higher than what you would expect to pay for a fully publicly owned transit agency. At the same time, the prices are far cheaper than taxi fare or car rental: $5 one way, $10 round trip on any route, or $15 for a day ticket for any route. Exact change is desirable, but it isn't mandatory as the driver is able to make change. (Prices and status as of July 2013)
For additional photos including the bus stops at a few of the locations, see the tips I have also written at various locations served by San Juan Transit:
San Juan Island
Lime Kiln Point State Park
American Camp (San Juan Island National Historical Park)
English Camp (San Juan Island National Historical Park)
- Budget Travel
Fastest Way to Get Here: Kenmore Air
While Friday Harbor does in fact have an airport, many of the flights don't actually leave from the airport. Instead, they depart and arrive right on the water. Kenmore Air is the most frequent flyer in and out of Friday Harbor, with flights originating near downtown Seattle at the south end of Lake Union. They do offer some flights with wheels (which go to the Friday Harbor Airport, but those depart from the Boeing Field Airport (NOT SeaTac) in the Georgetown area of Seattle.
There are severe luggage weight restrictions of only 25 lbs per passenger total for those flights which use the water. Wheeled flights have a bit more flexibility.
The price is certainly the most expensive way of getting here, at $150 or so ($130 or so for wheeled craft). However, it is also the fastest and it is one way to see the San Juan Islands in a unique way. Considering the sometimes two hour or more wait in the ferry lines during peak tourist season if you drive, and the long series of bus transfers that can be necessary to make the trip by public transit, the 45 minute trip by plane from Seattle can make this a very economical option when the value of the time is taken. Perhaps it will give you an additional activity you can do before you leave, rather than an expensive overnight stay?
The only problem is that sometimes the weather causes cancellation of the flights. Remember: they land on the water, and if it is a bit rough they can't land on it. There are no runway lights on the water either.
Wheeled flights have somewhat fewer restrictions in terms of taking off and landing with weather problems, but even so the Friday Harbor Airport is very simple and resources are a bit more limited than a much larger city airport.
Faster than Ferry: San Juan Airlines
It is a good thing that someone is offering air service different than what is offered by Kenmore Air, as it does add a few options to getting around.
San Juan Airlines offers flights from island to island, as well as flights connecting Friday Harbor to Anacortes and Bellingham. Sometimes, a few other destinations are offered seasonally, such as Victoria.
These services do add to the locations you can get to and from from Friday Harbor, and currently the Bellignham - Friday Harbor price is being offered as a "red tag sale price" that is much less than the Kenmore Air price out of Seattle. If you happen to be visiting the Bellingham area this may be a good option for getting from Belllingham to the San Juan Islands. The Anacortes to San Juan Islands trip may be a good option if your other option is to wait a long time for the ferry.
Taxi Service is Available
Taxi services are available in the San Juan Islands, and especially in Friday Harbor. However, it should be noted that these services are primarily one person or two or three people operations. Winters here are long and hard with nearly no tourists. Taxis tend to be at the ferry terminal when ferries arrive, especially during the tourist months, but if you come off season then perhaps you might not find a taxi here.
As an additional source of income, many of the taxi services also offer tourist services of various types. See the various web sites.
I have not used any of the taxi services on San Juan Island, but here are a list of a few of the services here. You will find additional taxi services listed in various community postings on bulletin boards in local restaurants and at the hardware store (there is only one) and a few other places around town:
Friday Harbor Taxi
Charges $5 for anywhere in the core of Friday Harbor, and offers a complete tour of the island for $90 for up to 6 people.
San Juan Tours and Taxi
All vans have kayak and bike racks.
Bob's Taxi and Tours
Claims to be the longest serving Taxi service on the San Juan Islands.