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6 Fun Things to Do on the San Juan Islands Ferry

Riding the San Juan Islands Ferry always provides a scenic journey. Your vacation truly starts when you step onboard, befo

re you even reach your destination. With gorgeous views and fun things to do on deck, you won’t get bored during your ferry ride. Here are a few things to do during your ride to keep you entertained and having fun with your friends, family, and fellow passengers.

San Juan Islands Ferry Activities

Spot Some Sea Creatures

The interisland ferry trip is one of the state’s only water scenic byways, so not only will you be able to take in spectacular views on the water, but you will also be able to see marine life and birds. Seals and porpoise are often spotted from the boat, and you might even get lucky and see a whale fin on your journey. In the air, look for cormorants, peregrine falcons, and even bald eagles.

Close-up shot of orcas in San Juan Islands

Play Games

Though you’ll be distracted by some beautiful views, don’t miss out on the chance to bond with your boatmates over some good old fashioned games. There is a local group that consistently plays Mah Jongg, a rummy-like game with tiles rather than cards. You might get invited to join in if you catch the ferry at the right time! There is also a giant puzzle onboard that provides an interactive frontier for adults and children alike.

Catch some Z’s

We said the San Juan Islands Ferry ride wasn’t boring, but if you catch the boat early in the morning, it might be wise to close your eyes and catch up on some sleep before landing and adventuring. Same goes for late at night after a long day of exploring the islands. The Red Eye, the first boat from Friday Harbor at 5:45 am, or the Milk Run, the last boat that leaves Anacortes and takes two hours before docking in Friday Harbor for the night, often sports locals with pillows and blankets sprawled out in the passenger cabins or resting in their cars. You will usually spots many kids in pajamas as well.

Pack a Picnic

Local high school students take the ferry to compete in sporting events with other school districts, so they often celebrate a victory by eating pizza with their coaches onboard. You can pack a lunch or buy food onboard if you’re feeling hungry during your ride. If you stay at Tucker House Inn of Friday Harbor, you can even get them to pack you a personalized picnic basket to enjoy during your trek! There’s nothing like enjoying a nice meal on the deck surrounded by an awe-inspiring landscape.


You don’t have to spend your time onboard sitting or standing. Especially for those who have spent their workdays at a desk, the boat offers spaces to move around even though you are on a confined vessel. A lot of people exercise onboard by walking laps through the passenger cabins. You might even try some deck yoga if you brought a mat!


You can book parties on board the San Juan Islands Ferry and even schedule a private charter for special events such as birthday parties or even weddings. What better place to tie the knot with friends and family than on the ocean?! Also, during the holidays, many celebrate on the ferry with big spreads of food and caroling.

Tickets & Accommodations

Be sure to check out the San Juan Islands Ferry schedule to book your boat trip today! You can make reservations online to guarantee your San Juan Islands Ferry tickets or snag your passes when you arrive at the loading dock if there is room onboard. Before or after your ferry ride, Tucker House Inn of Friday Harbor is a great home base for your island adventures! For more information on what to do in the San Juan Islands, download our free vacation guide.


Photo credit: Michael Bertrand Photography

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