Ferry Tips and Tricks

Getting to and from the island is, as they say, part of the fun. The Washington State Ferry system, if you’re unfamiliar with it, can be a bit tough to navigate successfully.

Quick Links:
Winter 2017 Schedule (January 8-April 1, 2017)
Spring 2017 Schedule (April 2, 2017-June 24, 2017)
Online Ferry Reservations (mobile)
Current Fare Information
Anacortes Terminal Cameras and Today’s Availabillity
Orcas Island Terminal Camera


Do I need one?

If you are traveling in a car from Anacortes to any of the islands, you can reserve a space on the boat (and we encourage you to do so). If you are traveling in a car to Anacortes from Orcas Island or Friday Harbor, you can reserve a space on the boat (and we encourage you to do so in that case as well). Those are the only sailings for which you can make a reservation on the Anacortes-San Juan Islands route. This means if you’re traveling from any of the San Juan Islands to any other San Juan island, you cannot make a reservation on that ferry. Walk-on passengers do not need a reservation.

How do I get one?

There are two ways to get a reservation: on the phone or online. In our experience, going online is much quicker but how you make your reservation is up to you! The phone number is 1 (888) 808-7977 or, if you’re in the state of Washington, just call 511. Agents are available from 5:00AM to 8:15PM Pacific Time. To make a reservation online, click here.

What if the boat is full?

They release space on the boats in waves: 30% 1-2 months before departure, 30% 2 weeks before departure, and 30% 2 days before departure (e.g. if the sailing is on Wednesday evening, the last tier of spaces would be released at 7:00AM on Monday). So if, in your extensive (or not so extensive) planning, you call or check online and there is no more space on the boat you wish to take, fear not if you are more than 2 days out. Just wait for the next wave of spaces to be released. Note: on the Anacortes-San Juan route only 90% of the boat is available for reservation and the remaining space is available for emergency vehicles and for standby customers so you still have a shot at getting on the boat even if you don’t have a reservation.

What if I don’t use my reservation?

When you make your reservation, they will take your credit card information. This is because there is a No Show fee (if you make a reservation on a ferry and don’t utilize it). You can cancel your reservation or change your reservation for free up until 5:00PM the day before your scheduled sailing. After 5:00PM the day before departure, you have one free change to the reservation. No changes can be made within 3 hours of your reserved departure. If you arrive early enough and there is space for you to get on an earlier sailing, make sure you still give them your reservation information so they can count your reservation as used. Otherwise, you will still get charged a No Show fee.

What if I lose my printed confirmation?

When you pull up to the toll both, all they need is the name on the reservation. If you lose your confirmation or reservation number, don’t stress about it.


Tips and Tricks

  • Looking to explore more than just Orcas? Something not everyone knows is that, if you’re a walk-on passenger, traveling between the islands is free. That means that you can walk down to the ferry dock from the cottage and hop on the boat to Shaw, Lopez, or San Juan Island (Friday Harbor) and the ferry ride won’t cost you a thing!
  • Early morning ferry or just in a rush? Another benefit of our location is that you can pull around and get in line as soon as the toll booth opens in the morning –or– as soon as the previous departure for Anacortes leaves and be first in line to board your boat which means you’ll have a good shot at being one of the first to get off the boat as well.
  • Don’t have a ferry reservation for the trip back to Anacortes? We can’t always plan departures enough in advance to be able to snag a reservation. If you pull around to the ferry line just after the previous departure for Anacortes leaves and say you want to travel standby, you’ll be first in line once all the folks with reservations board. We won’t guarantee that you’ll make it onto the boat but we will say that this hasn’t failed us yet! The best part is that, after you park your car in line, you can come back to the cottage and relax until about 15-20 minutes before the boat is scheduled to leave.

Keep in mind…

  • That sailing times are (usually) very prompt so make sure you show up in plenty of time to make it onto the boat if you’re driving on. If the boat is full especially, don’t show up 5 minutes before sailing time and expect to make it on even with a reservation. Plan to arrive at least 35 minutes before your boat is scheduled to depart (30 minutes before the scheduled departure, they release the reserved spaces and you’ll end up in the standby lane anyhow).
  • Not all boats that leave Anacortes make stops at Orcas. Unfortunately, we have had guests scramble to get on boats that then sailed past Orcas and took them to Friday Harbor. This made us and them very sad.
  • Not all sailings are made every day. Some routes are only taken on certain days. Make sure the route you want to take is available when you want to take it.

For more details on the Washington State Ferry system, check out their FAQ sheet.