Car Travel

Most visitors arrive by car, which is the best way to explore these mostly rural islands comprehensively, especially if you plan on visiting for more than a couple of days. You can also park your car at the Anacortes ferry terminal ($10 per day or $40 per week high season, and half that fall through spring), as fares are cheaper and lines much shorter for passengers without cars. B&B owners can often pick guests up at the ferry terminal by prior arrangement, and you can rely on bikes and occasional taxis or on-island car or moped rentals (on San Juan and Orcas) for getting around. Also, in summer, a shuttle bus makes its way daily around San Juan Island and on weekends on Orcas and Lopez islands. From Seattle, it’s a 90-minute drive via Interstate 5 north and Highway 20 west to reach Anacortes.

Island roads are narrow and often windy, with one or two lanes. Slow down and hug the shoulder when passing another car on a one-lane road. Expect rough patches, some unpaved lanes, deer and rabbits, bicyclists, and other hazards—plus the distractions of sweeping water views. There are a few car-rental agencies on San Juan and Orcas, with daily rates running about $60 to $100 in summer, and as much as 25% less off-season. You’ll likely save money renting a car on the mainland, even factoring in the cost of ferry transport (which in high season is about $45 to $65 for a standard vehicle including driver, plus around $14 per passenger, depending on which island you’re headed to).

Rental Car Contacts

M and W Rental Cars. This agency has an office on San Juan Island and also rents cars by arrangement on Orcas Island. 725 Spring St., Friday Harbor, Washington, 98250. 360/376–5266; 360/378–2794;

Orcas Island Rental Cars. This agency on Orcas Island rents both cars and vans; staff will leave a car off for you at the Orcas ferry landing. Orcas Island, Washington, 98280. 360/376–7433;

Susie's Mopeds. This company with offices on San Juan Island in both Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor rents cars and mopeds. 125 Nichols St., Friday Harbor, Washington, 98250. 360/378–5244; 800/532–0087;

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