The North Anatolia Fault Zone (NAFZ) is a transform zone 1600 km in length representing the plate boundary between the westward moving Anatolian Plate and stable Eurasia. Almost the entire fault zone has failed during the last century except for the Sea of Marmara section, which is located in direct vicinity to the city of Istanbul. In this study, we investigate the crustal anisotropy along the eastern Marmara section of the NAFZ based on shear‐wave splitting. We measure seismic anisotropy parameters, namely, the fast polarization direction (PD) and time delay (TD), by analyzing local seismicity recorded at selected seismographs operated throughout the eastern Sea of Marmara region. Our shear‐wave splitting (SWS) observations indicate a predominant northwest–southeast‐oriented PD, which is sub‐parallel to both the orientation of the regional SHmax in northwest Turkey and the local NAFZ strike along the Princes’ Islands segment. Toward the south, at the Armutlu Peninsula, we find a different PD pattern reflecting local fault strikes, SHmax as well as strain asymmetry between different crustal blocks across the fault zone. Applying strict quality criteria enables us to identify robust, preferred fast PDs, which suggests that initially observed PD heterogeneities are sometimes caused by second‐order effects in the data rather than by varying PDs. Comparing TD and hypocentral depth distribution, we find the depth extent of the anisotropy is confined to the uppermost 10‐km depth of crust. We combine our SWS results with those from previous studies conducted along the San Andreas fault (SAF) and NAFZ in order to investigate the relation of angular deviations of the PDs from regional SHmax and local fault strikes with fault‐zone distance. We find that fast PDs are mainly controlled by the local fault structure in close proximity to a fault zone (5 and 10 km) while they are controlled by crustal stress at off‐fault locations (5 and 10 km).