Anybody who has visited Lopez Island knows that the special experience starts before you ever set foot (or tire) there. Unless you have a boat or a plane, the only way to get to Lopez is by taking one of the Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry fleet in the U.S. and third largest in the world. Rain or shine, a ferry ride from Anacortes to Lopez Island is one of the most beautiful 40-minute trips you can take in Washington State. On a recent return from Seattle, I decided to record on video the ferry journey across the Salish Sea to Lopez.
The experience, beautiful as it is, always comes with a cost: time. The Department of Transportation recommends arriving at the ferry terminal a full hour before the scheduled sailing time. It pays to heed this advice – Even for the most experienced ferry traveler, ferry traffic volumes can be unpredictable. This will change a bit in January 2015 with the planned ferry reservation system. So, plan ahead, and make sure you have something to keep you occupied while waiting in the ferry line. Handy snacks are advisable, too.
The Lopez ferry landing is on the extreme north end of the island. As you arrive, get ready to start waving to people you pass on the road. If you’re arriving by bike, know that the first half-mile of Ferry Road is uphill, so be ready to to get your blood pumping. There’s not much at the ferry landing itself. A small enclosed shelter will shield you from the weather.
Here are a few additional pieces of advice related to taking the ferry to and from Lopez:
- Walking or biking onto the ferry saves you both time and anxiety. Because foot and bike traffic is loaded first, you eliminate the long lines and associated stress.
- Short-term parking (up to 72 hours) is available at both Anacortes and Lopez, so leaving a car on one side is definitely an option if you’re only going for a weekend. Anacortes also has options for longer-term parking.
- Not all the ferries have operational cafeterias. Even when they do, the hours are limited. So, don’t count on food being available on the ferry. If you pack a meal there are many tables throughout the boat that offer amazing views.
- Don’t leave your luggage with strangers.
A ferry ride across the Salish Sea is perfect for a GoPro video. Perhaps it will inspire a few people to visit Lopez. And, for first-time participants in the Tour de Lopez, hopefully the video will make getting to the island easier.