Our San Juan Islands kayak tours begin from Friday Harbor, Washington. Seattle is the main gateway city for travel to San Juan Island. Seattle is close enough to Friday Harbor that many of our guests are able to participate on a one day whale watching kayak trip and travel back on the same day.
You can jump to the main sections of this page by clicking these links:
- About Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands – Some general information about this popular travel destination in Washington state near Seattle.
- Travel Information: How to Get to Friday Harbor & San Juan Island – All the travel advice you need for getting to the starting point of our San Juan Islands kayak tours.
- Washington State Ferry Travel Tips & Advice – The vast majority of travelers arrive via the ferry and its the only way to get a vehicle to the islands. If you plan to use the ferry please read our very important tips!
- City Specific Travel Options to San Juan Island – A breakdown of all your travel options grouped by the regional city you will be traveling from. The ferry isn’t the only way to get to San Juan Island!
- Accommodations in Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands – A helpful list of your accommodation choices from luxury to camping.
- Some Things to do on San Juan Island after a Sea Kayak Tour – Suggestions for other activities to round out your San Juan Islands kayaking vacation plans.
The San Juan Islands are located in the northwest corner of Washington State, north of Puget Sound. This group of over 400 scenic islands and wave swept rocks is characterized by an extremely rich marine environment and a rural countryside. Friday Harbor, the largest town in the islands (pop. 2500), is located on San Juan Island, the namesake of the entire archipelago. The state ferry terminal, located in the center of Friday Harbor, is where we meet you for your sea kayak tour. Friday Harbor has many stores for purchasing groceries, deli meals, some camping supplies, and other items you may need to get before your kayak trip.
By far, the most popular way to get to San Juan Island is to drive or take the bus to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal and ride the Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor.The ferry is the least expensive way to get to the San Juan Islands and offers the greatest schedule flexibility. The Washington State Ferry is the only way to get a vehicle to San Juan Island, although it is not necessary to bring one. See our detailed ferry information down the page.
Of course, there are many other options for travel to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. All eventually require either the Washington State Ferry, a passenger-only excursion boat, or small aircraft to make the final leg. Visitors can connect with local travel services by several combinations of car, bus, train, and major airline. Your local connections for boat or air travel can be made from either Seattle, Anacortes, Bellingham, Everett, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Victoria or Vancouver B.C. Each of these cities is listed below with the various travel options to San Juan Island from that location.
Air Flights to Seattle and Vancouver We suggest using an online reservation booking website for securing your airline reservations. There are many to choose from today but Orbitz and Kayak are two that will find the cheapest fares. Use their flexible date tool to really dig out the good deals.
Air Flights to the San Juan Islands Air travel into the San Juan Islands can be spectacular on a clear day! Flights may be expensive but they are quick, easy, and worth it just for the views of the surrounding mountain ranges and volcanoes. Flight reservations on the small island carriers should be made as far in advance as possible during the summer months. However, you can often find last-minute seats on many scheduled flights. Charters are always available to suit your personal needs and time requirements. Groups of three or more may find private air charters to be as economical as regularly scheduled flights or even cheaper!
Most people reach San Juan Island via the wonderfully scenic ferry from Anacortes. The San Juan Islands ferry has been rated the 4th best ferry ride in the world by the Society of American Travel Writers! This ferry is the only way to get a vehicle to Friday Harbor and other locations in the San Juans. However, most people find that they don’t need a car in the San Juan Islands as buses, taxis, and bicycles are readily available. Sea Quest provides courtesy transportation from the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal to our kayak tour beaches.
You can access up-to-date ferry schedules here or by calling 800-84-FERRY or 206-464-6400.
Driving directions From either Seattle, Vancouver, or points between, travel on Interstate 5 until you see signs for Exit 230 / WA-20 / To San Juan Island Ferry. Go west on WA-20 into Anacortes. WA-20 ends at Commercial St where you turn right (west). Continue to 12th St and turn left (at the stoplight in front of Safeway). The Anacortes Ferry Terminal to the San Juan Islands is four miles ahead and can’t be missed.
Leave your Car Behind! We recommend that you park your car on the mainland and travel as a foot passenger. You will save both time and money. Be sure to allow a minimum of one hour for ticketing, parking, and boarding. Ferry parking lot fees are roughly: $10 up to 24 hours; $25 up to 3 days/72 hours; $40 one week; RVs $20 for 24 hours.
There is a reservation system for the ferries if you wish to bring a vehicle. We strongly recommend making a reservation for your vehicle if you must bring it. Without a reservation your car may have to wait in line for 3 to 6 hours during the summer!
Walk-on passengers can buy ferry tickets online. We recommend that you buy your tickets in advance so you can by-pass lineups at the toll booths and go directly to parking. Walk-on passengers can also skip the long lines at toll booths by parking and then buying their tickets in the terminal building.
Bringing a Vehicle to San Juan Island Have your vehicle in line at least 30 minutes in advance of sailing or you will lose your reservation. If you don’t have a reservation, you must have your vehicle in the ferry line-up at least one to three hours in advance of sailing at the best of times. The longest wait times are for ferries sailing weekday afternoons / early evenings and any time Fridays and Saturdays. Peak vacation times like holidays and mid-summer weekends (Friday and Saturday in particular) may require even longer wait times.
Parking in Friday Harbor is free, but you must drive several blocks from the ferry terminal to find an unrestricted parking spot. Our kayak trip confirmation email that you receive after making your tour reservation has a link to parking map of Friday Harbor.
Ferry Travel within the San Juan Islands – The Inter-Island Ferry & Local Flights For visitors who have already made it to one of the other ferry-served San Juan Islands, which includes Orca Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island, travel to Friday Harbor can be done via the inter-island Washington State Ferries or on quick commercial flights. The inter-island ferry is free for foot passengers and cars generally only pay if they are moving eastbound. Air flights between the islands are also frequently scheduled on Island Air, Kenmore Air Seaplanes, and San Juan Airlines, and take only a few scenic minutes. There are also several water taxi services you can use for inter-island travel among the San Juan Islands.
Passenger-only Excursion Boats such as the “Victoria Clipper” are an alternative to the Washington State Ferry. Depending on the city you are traveling from, you may not need any land transportation and avoid all highways, instead enjoying the relaxation and scenery of water travel the entire way. However, passenger-only boats don’t always work for all travel itineraries as extra nights in Friday Harbor may be required before and/or after your kayak trip.
The travel information already provided on this page is usually enough to get the average vacation kayaker underway. But if you’d like some city specific travel options from the major and minor cities in our region, please click on the links below.
- Travel Advice from Seattle, Washington or SeaTac Airport
- Travel Information from Anacortes, Washington
- Travel Choices from Bellingham or Everett, Washington
- Travel Advice from Port Angeles and Port Townsend, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula
- Travel Tips from Victoria, B.C. and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Your choices are incredibly varied, and your main decisions will be determined by your vacation budget and the preference for an in-town or rural location. To obtain the widest choice of options, reservations for all types of accommodations should be made as far in advance as possible! Click on the following links to obtain more information on accommodations in Friday Harbor and elsewhere on San Juan Island:
- Bed and Breakfast Information for Friday Harbor and San Juan Island
- Guest House Information for Friday Harbor and San Juan Island
- Hotel, Motel, Inn and Resort Information for Friday Harbor and San Juan Island
- Camp Grounds and Camping Information for San Juan Island
We encourage you to spend some time on San Juan Island either before or after your sea kayaking vacations. The archipelago is a popular recreation area for boaters of all types, bicyclists, divers, fishermen, and general tourists. Click here for some recommended Things to Do on San Juan Island.