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.
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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.
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 no longer recommend any travel agent because after 20+ years in the travel business we have yet to find an agent that gives consistently good service. If you have an agent you like, please use them. We use the following internet resources for all of our personal flights to find the best airfares:
Booking Buddy - Compare multiple suppliers while only entering your dates and cities once.
Orbitz - Tip: we suggest using the "flexible dates" option at the bottom of the search box for the best airfares.
Yapta - Tracks flight prices before and after you buy to get the best fares or refunds from your airline!
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. Money saving flight tip: If you are using Alaska Airlines to reach Seattle, ask them for a joint fare on Kenmore Air. You can also use Alaska Airlines mileage to get to Friday Harbor.
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.
In case of another temporary closure, we recommend a scenic detour through the valley farmland and tulip fields. Northbound vehicles attempting to reach the Anacortes Ferry Terminal take Exit 221 (Conway), go west on SR/WA 534 (Fir Island Rd), north on SR/WA 9 (Best Rd), west on SR/WA 20 to Anacortes. Click here for a map. This detour adds about 20 minutes to the normal drive time from Seattle. Click here to see the detour map.
We suggest avoiding the "primary" detour that transits the commercial zone as it is experiencing extreme delays during commuting hours. Northbound traffic detours at Exit 227; go east on E. College Way, then north on Riverside Dr / Burlington Blvd, then west on George Hopper Rd back onto I-5.
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: $10 up to 24 hours; $25 up to 3 days/72 hours; $40 one week; RVs $20 for 24 hours. Ask the attendants where to park when purchasing your tickets.
To avoid the parking fee and holiday congestion at the terminal, use the free Skagit Transit parking lot outside Anacortes at the intersection of WA-20 and March Pt Rd. Watch for signs and turn right at the Texaco refinery. Park, then catch their bus on Skagit Transit Route 410 (not available Saturday or Sunday), which brings you to the Ferry Terminal. Bring a $1 bill or four quarters for bus fare! More information at www.skat.org or 360-757-4433 or 877-584-7528.
Bringing a Vehicle to San Juan Island: You must have your vehicle in the ferry line-up at least one to three hours in advance of sailing. 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.
If you've decided to brave the ferry lines and bring your car to San Juan Island, you will find that parking is free anywhere in Friday Harbor. Just drive several blocks from the ferry terminal to find an unrestricted parking spot. Our kayak trip email confirmation 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. And please don't forget to use the link above to Transportation Connections as it can be extremely helpful!
Your choices are incredibly varied, and your main decisions will be budget and either 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 informaton on accommodations in Friday Harbor and elsewhere on 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.