How to Access Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands

Welcome to Orcas Island, a tranquil oasis nestled within the captivating embrace of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. If you’re eager to explore this pristine haven, you’re in for a treat.

If you’re unfamiliar with these islands, you may be wondering how to get to Orcas Island and what your transportation options are when you’re there. In this guide, we’ll dive into these topics as well as provide you with recommendations for hotels on Orcas Island.

About the San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are a group of 172 individually named islands & reefs in Washington State that lie just North of Seattle in the center of the Salish Sea. Of the 172 islands, four stand out as the largest in landmass and most populated.

The San Juan Islands are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a diverse array of activities to indulge in. Kayak through calm bays, where sea lions curiously pop their heads above water. Hike along forested trails, leading to breathtaking viewpoints that overlook the majestic expanse of the Pacific.

A highlight of the San Juan Islands is undoubtedly the remarkable marine life that graces its waters and gives Orcas Island its namesake. Visitors will be delighted to witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of orca whales as they breach and play, captivating onlookers with their majestic presence.

San Juan Island

Just an hour’s ferry ride from Anacortes is the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The island is known to be the second largest, with a landmass measuring 56 square miles and a population of 7,500 people annually. But this number doubles in the summer as tourists from all over come to the island for a taste of the paradise that is San Juan.

Pay a visit to the San Juan County Park, Lime Kiln Point State Park, and the West Side Beaches, where you can see kelp beds along the shore. The kelp beds are the perfect habitat for fish that migrate and a hotspot for the other marine animals that feed on them. You can also explore South Beach, Jakie’s Lagoon, Cattle Point, and 4th of July Beach. Set a picnic in the evening as you enjoy the sea views and watch the sunset.

Orcas Island

Aerial shot of Deer Harbor on Orcas Island

If you’ve never visited before, you may be wondering where is Orcas Island located? Orcas Island is part of the San Juan Islands, located 85 air miles north of Seattle in Washington State, just above the northern entrance of Puget Sound. 

Orcas Island is the largest of all four central San Juan Islands, having 62 square miles for its land mass and a population of over 5,500 residents. The island is busy year-round as it is the center of many vacation homes and tourist attractions. So plan a picnic on the beach, spend the day whale watching, biking, or hiking up Mount Constitution to get a view of the San Juan Islands and the sea. 

Lopez Island

Lopez Island is the third largest of the San Juan Islands, having a landmass of 29 square miles. It is a 45-minute ferry ride from Anacortes and has a population of 2,500 people. Lopez Island is not as large as Orcas or San Juan Island, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to have as much fun.

Lopez Island is the perfect spot for taking in nature at places such as Spencer Spit State Park and Odin County Park. On the southern end of Lopez Island, there is walking access to Agate Beach County Park and Iceberg Point. Walk along the shorelines; there, you’ll find sea birds, seals, sea lions, and other interesting aquatic life of the Salish Sea. 

How to Access the San Juan Islands

Regardless of where you live, getting to the San Juan Islands is relatively straightforward. Coming from out-of-state? Fly into Seattle-Tacoma and find your way downtown as it is a 20-minute drive or taxi ride from downtown Seattle to the seaplane base in Kenmore on Lake Washington. The flight lands on the dock of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, where you will be directed to the waterfront office to check in.

If you wish to take the ferry from Seattle, drive on Interstate 5 south to the Burlington exit, #230. Take a left on Highway 20 leading to Anacortes. In downtown Anacortes, you only need to follow the San Juan Island Ferries signs to the ferry landing, then ride the ferry to any of the 4 San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries: Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and San Juan Island.

Airlines & Charters

Airlines and Charters allow passengers to leave for Orcas Island and Lopez Islands from many Washington, SeaTac, and British Columbia locations. 

These include Vancouver, Bellingham, Anacortes, and Victoria using Kenmore Air and Friday Harbor Seaplanes. Airlines and Charters also offer scheduled flights from Lake Washington, Lake Union, Boeing, and a shuttle service from SeaTac Airport.

Passenger Ferries & Water Taxis

Visitors can expect the ferries to be fully operational in late April to late September working from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. This is a great option for transportation around the islands.

Plan Your Visit

What are you waiting for? Book your stay in one of our fabulous Orcas Island hotel rooms and experience the magic of the San Juan Islands for yourself!

How to Access Orcas Island

Shor on Orcas Island

Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, however, there is no direct ferry from Seattle to the island. For this journey, you will have two options. You can either fly directly from Seattle to Orcas Island on a private plane or board a seaplane for the trip. 

The second option is a drive from Seattle to Anacortes. At Anacortes, drive down to the ferry terminal and board a ferry to Orcas Island. Orcas Island is at its busiest in the summer, and so are the ferries, so making a reservation as soon as you know your vacation schedule is the best way to go. 

Reservations for the ferry are best made before you get there as you won’t have to wait long at the terminal. With a reservation, you need to arrive 30 minutes before departure to board, and without, you need to be at the terminal at least 2 hours before the ferry starts to board passengers.

Book Your Stay at One of the Finest Orcas Island Hotels

After a full day of exploring the island, find solace and comfort at The Village Inn! Our Orcas Island lodging offers an ideal haven that complements the island’s tranquil beauty. Each of our hotel rooms on Orcas Island is thoughtfully adorned with cozy, sustainably sourced furnishings, including a snug window seat, an electric fireplace, luxurious bedding, and a functional desk, allowing you to draw inspiration from the island’s sights and sounds.

Furthermore, The Village Inn extends its hospitality with added amenities such as indoor and outdoor lounging spaces for guests and electric vehicle charging stations. We take immense pride in our dedication to environmental responsibility, making The Village Inn a sustainable Orcas Island hotel.

So what are you waiting for? Reserve your stay at The Village Inn today and prepare for an unforgettable adventure on Orcas Island!