Ferries / Ships / Boats, Seattle
15 May - 5 Sept.
11:30 AM; 5:30 PM; 7:00 PM
2:15 PM; 7:30 PM; 9:45 PM
Note: Additional departures may be available on select dates, as needed. Schedule subject to change.
*No Service January 5-16, 2004 and December 25, 2004
2004 Seattle/Victoria Fares:
(one way/round trip)
(1-11 yr): $35/$58
*Prices are in US dollars.
If you are headed to the greater Seattle area, or out to one of the many islands in and around the Puget Sound, you should definitely look into the Seattle Ferry system. Most run every half hour to various different locations around Northern Washington, and are a very effective mode of transportation for you and your vehicle!
There are ferries that can take you to different islands-Bainbridge Island, Whidbey Island, Orcas Island and the San Juan Islands. If you are in the city for a week, you can even have a side trip to Victoria, Canada by getting into the Victoria Clipper.
More next time...sorry...
With my Go Seattle Card I was entitled to a free Argosy Cruise but based on everything I was trying to do the May schedule and I never connected. I was determined to get a view of Seattle from the water so I overheard someone mention they were catching the ferry on my tour back from Mount St. Helen’s. This family living on Bainsbridge Island let me just run and follow them. We were running to catch the 6:20 ferry. It was less than $5 for the round trip. It was about 30 minutes over, 15 minutes in port and 30 minutes back .
Most of the people on the ferry were commuters who worked in Seattle. On board there was plenty of room for seating and give observation areas. It looked like there was even wireless internet onboard. It got a little windy out on Elliot Bay that day and was a little chilly. But in the end I got what I was looking for and that was a great view of Seattle from the water.
During that time of day the ferry was busy. For example the family I chased on board, I never seen them at all on the boat! On board there were also come characters from medieval times playing violins and acting. I am not sure if this was a daily activity or I just got on at an odd time when these guys were passing through?
Glide across Puget Sound on a ferry to scout Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Kingston, Vashon Island, or just to enjoy a beautiful and relaxing ride, with or without your car.
I used to take either the Bremerton or Bainbridge ferry roundtrip every day in the spring & summer of 2001, and it was a relaxing, scenic, and beautiful ride in the wind & sun. It still is.
Some of the larger ferries have a live galley with cooks where they serve fish & chips, burgers, beers, etc. so you can sit outside on the deck and enjoy your food while you cruise the sound & slide through the scenic passages and inlets along the way. At this website are all the ferry schedules in PDF format if you have Adobe installed:
Seattle Ferry Schedules
Don't forget to look up occasionally to see the gulls "drafting" on the breeze above the ferry as they appear to float in midair & escort you to your destination.
And the ferry is not just for daytime transportation. Here's a way to enjoy a Seattle evening with a Cheap Date on the Ferry
You can't go to Seattle and not ride the ferry.
All year around various ferries/ships operate out of Seattle. Most numerous are the many cargo ships coming mostly to/from Asia.
You also can see the Washington State ferries going to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island, these both leave from the waterfront in Downtown Seattle.
The Victoria Clipper also operates out of Pier 69, to Victoria BC all year.
In Summer, several large cruise ships leave from Seattle to Alaska.
Take a mini0cruise ($3.00 each way) across beautiful Elliott Bay from downtown's Pier 55 to West Seattle. Ride the connecting FREE shuttle van service (route 773) to explore West Seattle and Alki Beach. May-September. For informatin on all Metro service go to http://transit.metrokc.gov.
Almost since the beginning of Seattle there has been a boat connection between Seattle and West Seattle, as the community known as Alki on the tip of the peninsula West Seattle sits on was actually the first non-Native settlement in the area. After some unfortunate incidents the local tribe had mercy on the settlers and they moved to what is now Seattle. Decades later, the beaches of west Seattle became popular tourist attractions (there being no beaches left in Seattle due to development of the waterfront port complex), and there also developed commuter suburb traffic for those deciding that living away from downtown was the place to be.
Today, the West Seattle to downtown Seattle service is one of a handful of "Passenger Only" or "Foot Ferry" or "Water Taxi" services operating in Puget Sound - the sheer number of such routes operating in decades past were so numerous they were once called "The Mosquito Fleet". For quite some years this was referred to as the "King County Water Taxi" but today King County Water Taxi has expanded to also serve the downtown Seattle to Vashion Island service. This tip only relates to the older route operated in this fashion: downtown Seattle to West Seattle.
The water taxi route offers the closest view of the Port of Seattle and on a clear day it is possible to see Mount Rainier poking out above the various port cranes, container ships, and other port machinery and industrial structures. The view of downtown Seattle is also quite good, and this is the cheapest water trip out of downtown Seattle you will be able to find.
For the 2010 season, much has changed with the King County Water Taxi service between West Seattle and downtown Seattle. These changes are covered here, because if you ask about the King County Water Taxi some of the information you may get will be outdated, as it refers to the service as it existed in 2009 or before.
The most important change since last year is that the decision has been made to accommodate the King County Water Taxi departures at Pier 50, at the far southern end of the Seattle waterfront. This means that both passenger-only services are now accommodated at pier 50. It also means that to find the King County Water Taxi information, you no longer have to sort through the various and sundry signs that are located at the Argosy Cruises Pier 56 location, which is where the West Seattle route departed in 2009.
Please see my Seattle Pier 50 tip for information on that departure location:
There has also been a significant change in equipment used on both the Vashon Island Route and the West Seattle Route. Both routes now use catamaran craft with engines between the hulls, which supposedly causes less degradation of the area around where the ferries operate due to the reduced and better propeller currents and wake. The boat interior, however, does not offer drink and snack sales like the former equipment did. See my King County Water Taxi 2009 tip to see what the service was like then, but this tip covers what is currently the situation (which may change in the future). In reality, this is probably no great loss, since the trip is very short in length and there are places to purchase snacks and drinks at the Seattle waterfront. There is also a small restaurant and gift shop in Seacrest Park very close to the ferry terminal there, and it is possible to get certain drinks and snacks there as well.
The fares are somewhat higher this year. In 2009, the fare was a straight $3 ticket price, while in 2010 the price is $3.50 cash fare. As of March 1, 2012 the fare will become $4. The fare is $0.50 lower if the rider uses an ORCA card (which most tourists would NOT want to use due to it being a $5 card purchase fee - it is really designed for those who regularly use transit in and around Seattle).
Another change has been a significant rebuilding of the ferry pier in Seacrest Park at the west end of the route, which now includes quite a bit better access, and no longer has trouble meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements at low tide.
About the only thing that remains the same between my 2009 trip on the Water Taxi and the service now offered in 2010 is that it still connects downtown Seattle with West Seattle.
There are also still two free shuttle buses that connect with the water taxi in West Seattle and offer connections to the rest of West Seattle and the Alki Peninsula.
However, the fact is that the King County Water Taxi is handled by a contract boat operator. The West Seattle to downtown Seattle operation could, in future years, look much like it did in 2009 as it does in 2010 should the contract, funding, equipment operator, or equipment availability change. Therefore, I have left my old King County Water Taxi to West Seattle tip in place, so that it is possible to see what the service looked like in 2009, should things abruptly change in some future year to the former situation.
The Elliot Bay Water Taxis travel from Seacrest Park on the far side of the Bay to Pier 55 on Alaskan Way. They are relatively cheap ($3 each way for adults; kids under five are free) so if you want to take a boat ride or just check out the shoreline from the Bay it's a good option. They are also a fast way to get across the Bay without driving.
Cars are not allowed on the water taxis but bicycles are. See the website for a schedule.
Since so much of the Seattle area consists of islands, there is quite a bit of ferry traffic. Some of the ferries carry cars to and from the islands and serve commuters.
I took three ferries - two of them were up to Victoria. The third one was this one that went to Tillicum Island. We went by the seals resting on the buoys in the harbor and got a good view of Seattle from the water.
This, like the Seattle waterfront trolley, is a Grey Lines tour. 2011 Rates & Schedule
Note: Schedule subject to change on major holidays.
Your 4-hour event includes: A Narrated Cruise to Blake Island, Steamed Clam Appetizers upon arrival, a Salmon Buffet, a Native American-inspired Dance Show, Exploration Time on the island and a Return Cruise
Adults Seniors Kids
$79.95 $72.95 $30.00
Please note: A variable fuel surcharge of 50 cents per adult is in effect beginning May 1, 2011
Located at the far southern end of the public access part of the Seattle Waterfront, pier 50 is currently being used exclusively by the King County Water Taxi. This service currently operates weekday trips from Pier 50 to Vashon Island, and daily service from downtown Seattle to West Seattle. This is a change from the 2009 season, when the two services were operated by two completely different agencies.
The second section of this tip describes some of the changes between 2009 and 2010. This should give you some idea as to how severe the changes have been, and make you aware that things could just as easily change again in a fairly severe fashion.
Pier 50 is located just south of the intersection of Alaskan Way and Yesler Way. There is a traffic light here for crossing Alaskan Way. This can be an easy intersection to cross, and it can also be a very busy intersection to cross. It all depends on how much traffic to and from the ferries there is. If a ferry has just arrived, there will be long streams of traffic coming out of the Washington State Ferry Terminal.
There is a single archway entrance with a number of signs that tell what boat services operate out of Pier 50. If the service you want is not listed on those signs, it may be that the service is not operating (the West Seattle Route is only seasonal, but there has been a long term effort to make it all year) or has been taken over by a different subcontractor and moved to a different pier (such as 2009, when the West Seattle service operated out of pier 56).
Through the archway, there is a walkway that goes out to the area where you actually board the boat. Be sure to follow the signs and directions given on the signs. The current procedure is that there is a middle walkway for those
Currently, what used to serve as the covered waiting room and ticket booth has been closed off. It is no longer possible to purchase tickets before boarding, and the system operates much as you would expect a bus: exact fare, no change given, and pay when entering. The passenger waiting area is currently a tent-like structure that appears to be semi-temporary, but at least it is covered.
Rest room facilities for passengers are two portable toilets, and those inside the building are now entirely closed off from use by passenges.
If the weather is good, you can go out to the boats past the waiting area. Be sure to follow the instructions on the signs. The current process is there is a center area for passengers leaving the ship, the left side of the walkway is reserved for passengers heading for West Seattle, and the right side of the walkway is reserved for those heading for Vashon Island.
Wait to board until the crew on the boat says that it is safe to do so. You pay the fare as you board, just as you would on a bus or streetcar line.
Until September of 2009, Pier 50 was used exclusively by the Washington State Ferries passenger only service, but Washington State Ferries has now exited that market. At that time, the King county Water Taxi departed from the Argossy Cruises pier (Pier 56).
However, King county Water Taxi is currently operated by a sub-contractor, and it should be noted that the boats formerly used on the Vashon Island route are for sale.
Therefore, the entire situation with the passenger only ferries could change from one year to the next, depending on the operator, the equipment being used, and the source of funding.
This tip only reflects the situation of things as they were in August of 2010.
Photo 1: This is how the entrance to Pier 50 looks from the south side. Most people will actually come at this from the north, as that is where most of the transportation and tourist attractions are. However, as you can see, the traffic in the background was very heavy and there was no way to get a photo from the north side.
Photo 2: The structure on the right is the waiting room, which is currently a tent-like annex to the old ticket booth. The old waiting room structure is currently completely closed to the public.
Photo 3: Boats operated by the King County Water Taxi, which currently serve both West Seattle and Vashon Island, depart from the far end of Pier 50.
Photo 4.: Middle section of walkway is for passengers disembarking, left side is for waiting to board for West Seattle, and the right section is for those waiting for Vashon Island. When you see the ship approaching off in the distance, it is time to start waiting in line at the entrance to the docking area.
Photo 5: There are dozens of signs giving all sorts of information and instructions, and it is up to you to follow them.
My Travelogue of the Seattle to Vashon Island Ferry route in 2009 has a photo of Pier 50 from straight on, so the different angle may be helpful in seeing the pier.
My Travelogue of the Seattle to Vashon Island Route in 2010 shows the route in better lighting and better weather.
Vashon Island Ferry goes from Seattle to Vashon Island from Pier 50, as of 2010.
Several cruise lines depart from Seattle en route to Alaska. Some lines including Holland America utilize Terminal 30. Terminal 30 is a little off the beaten path. It is a bit far from amenities and a bit in the boondocks. Those spending time in Seattle before their cruise would be advised to take a taxi to the pier. After the ships return, a battalion of taxis will line the streets to take people to their destinations.
A wide variety of ships ply Elliott Bay each day, many of the larger ones auto and passenger ferries or cargo ships with their destination the Port of Seattle.
Ferries run from downtown Seattle to Bremerton, Vashon Island, and Bainbridge Island. These routes are part of the state government's Washington State Ferries which operates 28 Puget Sound ferry boats on 14 routes.
The Port of Seattle actually includes the seaport and the SeaTac airport. The port organization was created in 1912 and controls cargo facilities, cruise ship terminals, a marina, and more around Elliott Bay and Harbor Island.
The ferry system is pretty comprehensive in and around Seattle. There are a few departure points in Seattle that take you across the Puget Sound to the Kitsap Peninsula, Vashon Island, and the Olympic Peninsula. Some are as short as 1/2 hour while some are as long a 1.5 hours. There are also boats that run out of Anacortes through the San Juans to Victoria and from Pt Townsend to Victoria as well. I always like to stand out front with the wind whipping around, just looking at the area. Pretty nice and definitely a must do in Seattle.
We took the ferry to Bremerton as we were heading to Astoria. Blessed with glorious weather - blue skies and sunshine - it was a lovely way to leave the city avoided the hassles of traffic. Probably about an hour to cross - time not important on our vacation - with lovely views of the city skyline and the islands plus wildlife basking on the buoys and a great opportunity to pass the time chatting to locals.