Riding the Washington State Ferry

The Washington State Ferry in San Juan County, Washington at Dawn
The Ferry Yakima at Dawn

Riding the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor: A Pacific Northwest Adventure

The Washington State Ferry system is an essential part of Pacific Northwest culture. With its iconic green and white vessels, the ferry system connects Washington’s many islands to the mainland.  It provides a vital transportation link for residents and visitors alike. For those looking to explore the San Juan Islands, one of the most popular routes is the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at this journey, from the breathtaking views to the practical logistics of boarding the ferry.

Sunrise over Rosario Straits with a pretend welcome sign and a map of Washington showing the location of San Juan County
San Juan County, Washington

Planning Your Trip

Before embarking on your ferry journey, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s always a good idea to check the Washington State Ferry schedule ahead of time. This is true especially during peak travel times. The Anacortes to Friday Harbor route is one of the busiest in the system, so be sure to plan accordingly. You can also make a reservation for your vehicle or walk-on spot–a good idea during busy periods.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the San Juan Islands are a delicate ecosystem.  Visitors are encouraged to practice Leave No Trace principles. Pack out what you pack in and respect the natural environment during your stay.

Boarding the Ferry

The ferry terminal in Anacortes is easy to find and well-signed. As you approach, you’ll see the green and white vessels of the Washington State Ferry system docked at the terminal, waiting to take passengers on their journey. If you’re driving a vehicle, follow the signs for the appropriate lane and pay your fare at the toll booth. If you’re walking on, head to the passenger terminal to purchase your ticket.

Once you’ve paid your fare, it’s time to board the ferry. Follow the signs to your designated lane or seating area, and be sure to arrive early enough to find a good spot. The ferry can get crowded, especially during peak travel times, so if you want to snag a prime window seat, be sure to arrive early.

Onboard Amenities

The Washington State Ferry system offers a variety of onboard amenities to make your journey as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. There are multiple seating options, including indoor and outdoor areas, as well as reserved seating areas for an additional fee. There are also restrooms, a cafeteria, and a gift shop onboard, so you can grab a snack or souvenir during your journey.

However, the real highlight of the journey is the stunning scenery. As the ferry leaves Anacortes, passengers are treated to views of the surrounding islands and the distant mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including whales, seals, and eagles. 

Arriving in Friday Harbor

The Ferry Terminal at Friday Harbor, Washington as seen from a ferry
Approaching the Ferry Terminal at Friday Harbor

After a relaxing journey through the Salish Sea, the ferry will arrive in Friday Harbor, the largest town in the San Juan Islands. As you disembark, take a deep breath of the fresh island air and soak in the views of the harbor and surrounding mountains. The ferry terminal is located just a short walk from the town center, where you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions.

Exploring Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is a charming town with a lot to offer visitors. There are plenty of shops and galleries to peruse, as well as a variety of restaurants serving up fresh local seafood. The Whale Museum is a popular attraction, offering visitors the chance to learn about the resident orca population and the conservation efforts underway to protect them.

If you’re looking to get out and explore the island, there are plenty of options. Rent a bike and pedal around the island. And if you’re looking for Pacific Northwest wall art, the photo at the top is available at my Etsy shop.

The San Juan County Courthouse, Friday Harbor, Washington
The San Juan County Courthouse Friday Harbor, Washington