Catching the Ferry Home From Orcas Island Washington

Walking the ferry dock as we waited 5.5 hours for our ferry to arrive

We’d had an incredible Saturday on Orcas Island, but on Sunday we had to head home. We debated the 12 noon or the 3:30pm ferry. In the end we decided on the 12 noon ferry. It would give us time to unwind at home, have dinner and get Dek to bed on time.

Did we learn nothing from our trip over on Friday? Apparently not. If I thought the Friday trek over had been long, it was nothing compared to our Sunday.

We dutifully showed up for the ferry not 1-hour as it is recommended but a whole hour and a half early. That should have been plenty of time. The line we saw at the ferry did not look promising though. In fact, it wasn’t. The nice man in the booth informed us that we would be on the 3:30pm ferry. For all of 3 seconds I considered turning around and going out for lunch and then coming back. Then I remembered our ferry luck. If we left now, we may not even make the 3:30pm ferry. An hour later we heard the nice man telling people they would be on the 5pm boat. Good thing we stuck around.

Shops to entertain travelers lined the hills around the harbor

Unlike the Anacortes side of the ferry on the mainland, the Orcas Island side had built an entire village around their ferry. Yes it was full of gift shops, a few over-priced restaurants, a coffee hut and a convenience store, but at least there was something to do. There was a nice hill with picnic tables and trees. Kids ran around while their dads congregated with coffee chatting about the week ahead. A few little girls sat on a rock making plastic bracelets. Most passengers just accepted that they were in for a long wait and made the best of it. We decided to do the same.

Dek ran around the hill for a while, climbing rocks and trying to chase after the older kids. He played hide and go seek behind trees with his dad. We all listened to two musicians who had pulled out an acoustic guitar and stand up bass for an impromptu jam session.

The water was cold but at least the view was spectacular

Mike and I led Dek down to the docks to see the inter-island ferry pulling in that would take passengers to Friday Harbor. We peered down into the water looking for starfish and other seafaring creatures. Once again Mike held onto Dek’s hood so he wouldn’t dive in. That water wasn’t so warm and it would have been up to me, the family swimmer, to save him.

By lunchtime we were starving and out of ideas to entertain the little guy. We headed over to the Orcas Hotel to grab a burger and pulled pork sandwich at the café. There was plenty of seating outside, but we opted to be toasty warm inside. Have I mentioned how much I don’t like to be cold yet?

After lunch we were all pooped. We headed back to our car. In desperation we plopped the laptop on the armrests of the two front seats and let Dek get lost in Cars, while we got lost in our books.

Finally the ferry arrived and only 30 minutes late. If you are unfamiliar with ferries, you park your car below and can either stay in your car or go above to the passenger area where there are tables, vending machines and restrooms. In super fancy ferries you may even get a cafeteria. Ours did not have one, but that was OK. This time I came prepared with loads of snacks and protein in the form of a fresh loaf of bread from Rose’s Bakery, Brie and Muenster cheese (I had a mini cooler in the car) and apples.

The smaller inner-island ferry takes passengers from Orcas to Friday Harbor while we wait for our larger boat to Anacortes

Dek ran around the passenger area for a while. We even saw a couple that had stayed at the Resort at Deer Harbor with us. They already loved Dek from breakfast and were happy to chat and play some more.

Once Dek was 4 hours past nap time, he started to shut down a little. We headed back to the car to enjoy our fruit and cheese snack and do a little resting. When the ferry pulled into the dock at Anacortes, Dek was more than ready to pass out. Two minutes off the ferry and he was gone for the rest of the ride. Even though we were now close to bedtime, he had no problem going to bed again an hour after we got home at 7:30pm.

So overall, the commute back and forth from to Orcas Island was not ideal. We missed naps and bedtimes. We all had frazzled nerves by the end of each ferry crossing. Would I do it again? Yes, I think I would. I might plan a little differently and not just travel with weekend traffic, but I do have hope that the travel time will be better. I guess we can only try again and see.

3 thoughts on “Catching the Ferry Home From Orcas Island Washington”

  1. Mom

    It’s a good thing your Mother wasn’t there. Should would have gone insane with the wait! All the pictures from the last few blogs have been gorgeous, though. So, thanks for going for those of us who can’t stand long waits for ferries!

  2. Wow – it sounds like they need to add another ferry to cut back on the wait times – it must be even worse in the summer season. Chronic waiting does seem to be an issue with many ferries though unless you are a passenger without a car who can just walk on.

    1. I’m starting to think maybe next time we will just fly. Of course at $60 a day for a rental car (plus plane tickets), it isn’t exactly worth it since it cost us $45 total to take the ferry back and forth with the car. Happily our next boat ride will be on the Victoria Clipper and you have to have reservations. It’s a scheduled machine I hear.

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