Washington State Ferries serves four major islands in the San Juan Islands. From east to west, they are Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and San Juan. Travel from Anacortes to the islands, as well as among them, is on a first-come, first-served basis. Be prepared to wait, especially in summer. Friday afternoons and evenings and Saturday mornings often see two- to three-hour waits at Anacortes. Expect similar wait times coming back on Sunday from the islands. Be prepared to wait. Pack busy things for the kids, snacks or as Information Agent Nicholas advises "bring along a good book or good company."
Expect to have three or four sailing choices in the morning, and at least a couple of sailings each in the afternoon and evening. If you plan to stay overnight, be sure you have confirmed reservations for lodging, especially in the busy summer season and on holiday weekends.
Not all sailings stop at all four islands. In fact, in the summer you're more likely to catch a sailing that goes directly, or stops only at one other destination before reaching your island. Take time to read your schedule carefully so you can get the most out of your trip.
Many resorts will arrange to transport guests from the ferry landing. Car, bike or moped rentals, as well as taxi and limousine service, may be available. For details check with your lodging, or contact the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau at 888-468-3701 ext. 1 or 360-378-9551 ext. 1.
When traveling from the San Juan Islands back to the mainland, vehicle space on the ferries is allocated for each island. Ferries may depart with empty space to accommodate vehicles at other stops.