In the field of drug delivery to the articular cartilage, it is advantageous to apply artificial tissue models as surrogates of cartilage for investigating drug transport and release properties. In this study, artificial cartilage models consisting of 0.5% (w/v) agarose gel containing 0.5% (w/v) chondroitin sulfate or 0.5% (w/v) hyaluronic acid were developed, and their rheological and morphological properties were characterized. UV imaging was utilized to quantify the transport properties of the following four model compounds in the agarose gel and in the developed artificial cartilage models: H-Ala-β-naphthylamide, H-Lys-Lys-β-naphthylamide, lysozyme, and α-lactalbumin. The obtained results showed that the incorporation of the polyelectrolytes chondroitin sulfate or hyaluronic acid into agarose gel induced a significant reduction in the apparent diffusivities of the cationic model compounds as compared to the pure agarose gel. The decrease in apparent diffusivity of the cationic compounds was not caused by a change in the gel structure since a similar reduction in apparent diffusivity was not observed for the net negatively charged protein α-lactalbumin. The apparent diffusivity of the cationic compounds in the negatively charged hydrogels was highly dependent on the ionic strength, pointing out the importance of electrostatic interactions between the diffusant and the polyelectrolytes. Solution based affinity studies between the model compounds and the two investigated polyelectrolytes further confirmed the electrostatic nature of their interactions. The results obtained from the UV imaging diffusion studies are important for understanding the effect of drug physicochemical properties on the transport in articular cartilage. The extracted information may be useful in the development of hydrogels for in vitro release testing having features resembling the articular cartilage.