Riding the Washington State Ferries

Washington State Ferries is an integral part of the transportation system; most of the routes are to destinations within the Puget Sound area of Seattle. While the ferry system is used as daily transportation for many commuting to work in Seattle, the ferries are also a great way for tourists to see the city and the surrounding areas. I’m always an advocate of seeing a city by water if available, as you get an entirely different perspective of your surroundings.

On a clear and sunny day, riding a ferry in Seattle is an awe-inspiring experience. With the sun on your face, and the wind at your back, you’ll see the white-capped peak of Mount Rainier, as well as wildlife playing in the Puget Sound. In the mornings when the tide is out, the shimmering light off the still water is a sight to behold.

  • From downtown Seattle you can take the West Seattle water taxi to Alki Beach, one of the best beaches in the city. From West Seattle you can get to the downtown waterfront and the famed, Pike Place Market.
  • Also from the downtown Seattle ferry terminal, you can board a vessel to Bainbridge Island, where you’ll find a host of museums, art galleries, parks, beaches and much more to explore. In 2005 CNN and Money Magazine named Bainbridge the second best place in the country to live.
  • From the West Seattle Fauntleroy terminal, you can get to Vashon Island, which is a wonderful place to take a bike and a picnic lunch and go explore. Or, you can continue on that same ferry to Southworth/Bremerton and visit maritime and naval museums, stroll the boardwalk, or attend one of the many festivals.
  • The Edmonds ferry is located in northern Seattle and takes you across the Sound to Kingston, which is one of the entry points to the Olympic Peninsula area. There are many wonderful things to see and do in this region of the state, click here to read the many destinations I’ve written about. From Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Rain Forest, Poulsbo, Dungeness Spit, Hansville to Whidbey Island and many others.

Riding the Washington State Ferries can be a bit intimidating for those who’ve never traveled on a ferry before.

Here are a few tips to make your Washington State Ferry ride a pleasurable one:

  • Depending on the season and the time of day, Wait times for vehicles can be quite long, so be sure to take that into consideration. Pedestrian and/or bike riders typically will have no problem getting on the next ferry.
  • Be cautious not to cut in line. During times of heavy volume, the line of cars can be extensive, often spanning intersections. For ferry riding newbies, the vehicle lines can be uncertain and drivers will often inadvertently cut in line. Trust me, you do not want to do this. One of two things will happen. 1) You’ll get in a fight or shouting match.  2) An attendant will ask you to go to the back of the line.
  • There are ferry departures throughout the state and the Puget Sound, here is a link for terminal locations.
  • Terminals are set up in such a way that you’ll drive up to a tollbooth and pay the fare. You’ll then be directed to a holding lane and wait there until the vessel is ready to load.
  • Once you get on board, a crew member will direct you where to park. Some of the car decks may feel tight, so drive carefully and watch out for other passengers getting out of their cars. Oh, and be sure to set your parking brake as there can be a lot of movement/shifting during the ride.
  • Click the following link for a complete schedule of the Washington State Ferries.

If you’re a seasoned Washington State Ferry rider and have some destination or other trip advice, please leave a comment below and share with my readers and me.


Mike Shubic

Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.