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What Is The Best Ferry Ride In Seattle


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kacie Pegues



Seattle, known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant city life, offers a unique experience to both residents and visitors alike – ferry rides. Nestled between the majestic waters of Puget Sound and surrounded by picturesque islands, Seattle’s ferry system provides a leisurely and scenic way to explore the region.


These ferry rides aren’t just a means of transportation; they are a quintessential part of the Seattle experience. The Puget Sound is dotted with numerous islands, each with its own charm and attractions. Whether you’re in search of breathtaking views, wildlife encounters, charming coastal towns, or outdoor adventures, there’s a ferry ride in Seattle that will cater to your interests.


In this article, we’ll explore the importance of ferry rides in Seattle, highlight the factors to consider when choosing the best ferry ride, and provide an overview of the various ferry routes and destinations available in the area. So, whether you’re a Seattle local looking for a weekend getaway or a tourist planning your dream Pacific Northwest vacation, get ready to embark on a memorable ferry adventure in this enchanting corner of the United States.


The Importance of Ferry Rides in Seattle

Ferry rides play a crucial role in connecting the different communities and islands throughout the Puget Sound region in Washington state. Seattle’s ferry system is not only an essential mode of transportation but also a beloved local tradition and a popular tourist attraction. Here’s why ferry rides are of utmost importance in Seattle:


1. Scenic Beauty: Seattle’s ferry rides offer unparalleled views of the surrounding natural beauty. As you cruise through the shimmering waters of Puget Sound, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, lush green forests, and the stunning coastal landscapes. It’s a picturesque journey that allows passengers to immerse themselves in the region’s awe-inspiring scenery.


2. Island Exploration: Seattle is surrounded by a myriad of islands, each with its own unique character and attractions. Ferry rides provide a convenient and enjoyable way to explore these islands, from the charming Bainbridge Island with its quaint downtown shops and art galleries to the serene Vashon Island, renowned for its rural landscapes and vibrant arts scene.


3. Wildlife Encounters: The Puget Sound is teeming with diverse wildlife, and ferry rides offer the chance to witness some of nature’s wonders up close. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles soaring overhead, seals basking in the sun, and sometimes even orca whales gracefully swimming alongside the ferry. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to connect with the region’s rich biodiversity.


4. Cultural Experience: Seattle’s ferry system is deeply ingrained in the local culture and heritage. For many Seattle residents, taking the ferry is a part of their daily commute, giving them a sense of community and connection to the islands. It’s also a chance to meet fellow travelers, share stories, and learn about the history and traditions of the region.


5. Relaxation and Recreation: Ferry rides offer a respite from the bustling city life, allowing passengers to unwind and enjoy the journey. With comfortable seating, onboard amenities, and stunning views, it’s an opportunity to recharge and soak in the tranquility of the open water. For outdoor enthusiasts, ferry rides can also serve as a gateway to a wide range of recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking on the islands.


Overall, ferry rides in Seattle are not just about getting from point A to point B; they provide a remarkable experience that combines natural beauty, island exploration, wildlife encounters, cultural immersion, and relaxation. They are an integral part of the Seattle lifestyle, allowing locals and visitors alike to embrace the unique charm and wonders of the Puget Sound region.


Factors to Consider for the Best Ferry Ride

When it comes to choosing the best ferry ride in Seattle, there are several important factors to consider. Each ferry route has its own unique features and attractions, so here are some key factors to keep in mind:


1. Destination: The first factor to consider is the destination. Each ferry route in Seattle offers access to different islands and communities, each with its own charm, attractions, and activities. Determine what you’re looking for in a ferry ride – whether it’s exploring quaint coastal towns, indulging in outdoor adventures, or simply enjoying scenic vistas – and choose a route that aligns with your interests.


2. Scenic Beauty: One of the highlights of a ferry ride in Seattle is the opportunity to enjoy spectacular views. Consider the scenery along the route – from the majestic mountains to the tranquil coastal landscapes – and choose a ferry ride that offers breathtaking vistas. Keep in mind that some routes may offer more scenic beauty than others, so do your research and select one that aligns with your preference.


3. Duration and Schedule: Different ferry routes have varying travel times and schedules. Consider how much time you have available and the frequency of departures for each route. If you’re looking for a quick day trip, choose a route with a shorter travel time. On the other hand, if you have more leisurely time to spare, opt for a longer route that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the journey.


4. Onboard Amenities: While the scenery is a major draw for ferry rides, don’t forget to consider the onboard amenities. Some ferries offer comfortable seating, food and beverage options, restrooms, and even outdoor viewing decks. If you prefer a more comfortable and convenient experience, choose a ferry that provides the amenities you desire.


5. Seasonal Highlights: Depending on the time of year, certain ferry routes may offer unique seasonal highlights. For example, spring and summer months are ideal for wildlife spotting, with opportunities to see orcas, seals, and migratory birds. Autumn brings stunning fall foliage, while winter can offer peaceful and serene journeys. Consider the season and any special events or activities happening on the islands when selecting your ferry ride.


6. Local Recommendations: Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of local recommendations. Ask residents or fellow travelers who have experienced the Seattle ferry system for their insights and suggestions. They may have valuable tips and hidden gems that can enhance your ferry ride experience.


By taking these factors into account, you can ensure that you choose the best ferry ride in Seattle that aligns with your interests, provides stunning scenery, and offers an unforgettable experience on the enchanting waters of Puget Sound.


Ferry Routes and Destinations in Seattle

Seattle’s ferry system provides a wide array of routes and destinations, each offering its own unique experience and attractions. Here are some of the most popular ferry routes in Seattle:


1. Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry: This is one of the most iconic and frequently traveled ferry routes in the region. The picturesque 35-minute journey takes passengers from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island, famous for its charming downtown area, art galleries, and stunning waterfront views. It’s a perfect choice for a day trip or a weekend getaway.


2. Seattle-Bremerton Ferry: The Seattle-Bremerton route offers a scenic 60-minute ride across the Sound. Bremerton is known for its naval history, waterfront parks, and the impressive USS Turner Joy Museum Ship. It’s an ideal choice for history buffs or those looking to explore a different side of the Puget Sound.


3. Seattle-Vashon Island Ferry: Vashon Island, located just off the coast of Seattle, is a haven of rural beauty and artistic charm. The Seattle-Vashon Island ferry provides a tranquil 20-minute journey to this idyllic island, where visitors can enjoy nature walks, visit local farms and vineyards, and explore the island’s vibrant arts scene.


4. Seattle-Whidbey Island Ferry: The scenic ride from Seattle to Whidbey Island takes approximately 30 minutes. Whidbey Island offers a mix of natural beauty, historic landmarks, and charming seaside towns. Visitors can explore Deception Pass State Park, visit the historic Coupeville waterfront, or simply enjoy the island’s serene atmosphere.


5. Seattle-San Juan Islands Ferry: For a more adventurous ferry ride, consider the Seattle-San Juan Islands route. The journey takes several hours, but it’s well worth it to reach the stunning San Juan Islands archipelago. These islands are renowned for their breathtaking landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unique small-town charm.


6. Seattle-Port Townsend Ferry: The Seattle-Port Townsend route provides a picturesque 35-minute ride to the charming Victorian town of Port Townsend. Known for its historic architecture, art galleries, and stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, Port Townsend offers a perfect blend of arts, culture, and nature.


These are just a few examples of the various ferry routes and destinations available in Seattle. Each one offers its own distinct experience, allowing you to embark on an unforgettable journey, explore enchanting islands, and soak in the natural beauty of the Puget Sound region.


Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry

One of the most popular ferry routes in Seattle is the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry. This scenic journey takes passengers from the vibrant downtown Seattle to the charming Bainbridge Island, offering a perfect combination of natural beauty, small-town charm, and captivating attractions.


The ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island takes approximately 35 minutes, allowing passengers to relax and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding waters and the Seattle skyline. The journey is not only a convenient mode of transportation but also a delightful experience in itself.


Upon arriving at Bainbridge Island, visitors are greeted with a picturesque downtown area dotted with art galleries, quaint shops, and cozy cafes. The island’s vibrant arts scene is one of its main attractions, with local artists showcasing their talents in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, and glassblowing.


Bainbridge Island also boasts stunning natural beauty, with numerous parks and trails for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. A highlight of the island is the Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre public garden featuring beautifully landscaped gardens, hidden ponds, and tranquil walking paths. The reserve offers a peaceful retreat where visitors can immerse themselves in the serenity of nature.


For history buffs, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum is a must-visit. It showcases the island’s rich history, including the story of the Japanese-American community that was forcibly interned during World War II. The museum provides insights into the island’s past through engaging exhibits and informative displays.


Food lovers will also find plenty to indulge in on Bainbridge Island. The island is known for its farm-to-table dining experiences, offering fresh and locally sourced ingredients in a variety of culinary styles. From seafood delicacies to artisanal desserts, the island’s dining scene is sure to satisfy any palate.


Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat, an artistic adventure, or a culinary exploration, the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry provides the perfect gateway to Bainbridge Island’s myriad of attractions and activities. It’s a journey that combines natural beauty, cultural immersion, and a touch of small-town charm, making it an unforgettable experience for residents and visitors alike.


Seattle-Bremerton Ferry

The Seattle-Bremerton ferry route is a scenic and historic journey that takes passengers across the beautiful waters of Puget Sound. With its naval history, waterfront attractions, and stunning views, the Seattle-Bremerton ferry offers a unique and memorable experience.


The 60-minute ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton is not only a convenient mode of transportation but also a chance to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Sound. Passengers can soak in the panoramic views of the Seattle skyline, the majestic Olympic Mountains, and the sparkling waters along the way.


Upon arriving in Bremerton, visitors are greeted by a city steeped in naval history. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, located in Bremerton, is one of the largest and oldest shipyards in the U.S. Tours of the shipyard are available, offering a fascinating glimpse into the area’s maritime heritage.


Another highlight in Bremerton is the USS Turner Joy Museum Ship. This retired naval destroyer served in the Vietnam War and is now open to the public as a museum. Visitors can explore the ship’s interior, learn about its history, and gain insights into life aboard a naval vessel.


Bremerton’s revitalized waterfront area, known as Harborside, is a hub of activity and entertainment. It features a boardwalk lined with shops, restaurants, galleries, and the popular Kitsap Conference Center. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, savor delicious seafood, or browse through local artwork.


Beyond its naval heritage, Bremerton offers a thriving arts and culture scene. The Admiral Theatre hosts a variety of performances, including live music, comedy shows, and theatrical productions. The Bremerton Symphony also presents classical concerts throughout the year, showcasing local and international talent.


Nature lovers will appreciate the nearby parks and outdoor recreational opportunities. Just a short distance from downtown Bremerton, the Illahee State Park offers scenic trails, picnicking spots, and a beautiful beach. Visitors can enjoy hiking, birdwatching, or simply relaxing in the tranquil natural surroundings.


From its naval history to its waterfront attractions and cultural offerings, the Seattle-Bremerton ferry route provides a captivating journey that combines history, natural beauty, and vibrant city life. Whether you’re interested in exploring naval heritage, enjoying waterfront dining, or immersing yourself in the local arts scene, Bremerton offers a compelling destination for visitors of all interests.


Seattle-Vashon Island Ferry

The Seattle-Vashon Island ferry route offers a serene and scenic journey to Vashon Island, a peaceful and idyllic destination just a short distance from downtown Seattle. Known for its rural charm, stunning landscapes, and vibrant arts community, Vashon Island offers a tranquil retreat away from the bustling city.


The ferry ride from Seattle to Vashon Island takes approximately 20 minutes, allowing passengers to relax and enjoy the panoramic views of Puget Sound and the surrounding mountains. As you approach the island, you’ll notice the picturesque shoreline and lush greenery that define Vashon’s natural beauty.


Once on Vashon Island, visitors are greeted with a welcoming small-town atmosphere and a thriving arts scene. The island is home to numerous galleries, studios, and workshops where local artists showcase their work in various mediums, including painting, ceramics, and sculpture. Take a leisurely stroll through the downtown area and discover unique pieces of art that capture the essence of the island.


In addition to its artistic flair, Vashon Island offers opportunities to explore its natural wonders. The island boasts beautiful parks and trails, ideal for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife spotting. Maury Island Marine Park, with its stunning beach and dramatic cliffs, is a must-visit for nature lovers seeking to connect with the island’s rugged coastal beauty.


Vashon Island is also known for its strong sense of community and its commitment to sustainability. The island is home to numerous organic farms and local food producers, offering farm-to-table dining experiences and farm stands where you can purchase fresh, locally grown ingredients. Visitors can indulge in delicious meals made from locally sourced produce, supporting the island’s sustainable agricultural practices.


For those seeking a taste of island history, the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association and Museum provides insight into the island’s past through exhibits, artifacts, and historical photographs. Learn about the Native American heritage, early settlers, and the island’s unique cultural history that have shaped Vashon into the vibrant community it is today.


Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat, an artistic escape, or a glimpse into a close-knit island community, the Seattle-Vashon Island ferry route offers a delightful journey to a destination that is both serene and captivating. Immerse yourself in Vashon’s natural beauty, embrace the artistic spirit, and discover the island’s unique charm.


Seattle-Whidbey Island Ferry

The Seattle-Whidbey Island ferry route provides a scenic and unforgettable journey to Whidbey Island, the largest island in Washington state. With its stunning natural landscapes, charming coastal towns, and rich history, Whidbey Island offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy.


The ferry ride from Seattle to Whidbey Island takes approximately 30 minutes, offering passengers breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the surrounding mountain ranges. As you disembark the ferry and step onto Whidbey Island, you’ll instantly feel a sense of tranquility and be captivated by its beauty.


Whidbey Island is a haven for nature lovers, boasting magnificent state parks, beaches, and hiking trails. Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, located on the island’s western shore, offers sweeping views of the Sound and small farms nestled between rolling hills. Visitors can take leisurely strolls along the beach, embark on scenic hikes, or simply relax and enjoy the serene natural surroundings.


The island is also home to several charming coastal towns, each with its own unique character and attractions. Coupeville, the island’s oldest town, exudes historic charm with its Victorian-era buildings and picturesque waterfront. Visitors can wander through the town’s art galleries, sample fresh seafood, or explore the history of the area at the Coupeville Historical Waterfront Association.


Langley, another delightful town on Whidbey Island, offers a blend of art, culture, and small-town charm. Its vibrant arts scene is evident in its numerous galleries, theaters, and live music venues. Visitors can also enjoy boutique shopping, indulge in local cuisine, or simply enjoy the panoramic views of Saratoga Passage from the town’s waterfront.


For history enthusiasts, Whidbey Island offers significant historical landmarks. The Fort Casey State Park, featuring the iconic Admiralty Head Lighthouse, provides a glimpse into the island’s military history. Visitors can explore the fort’s battery, take a tour of the lighthouse, and learn about the island’s strategic significance during World War II.


Whidbey Island’s natural beauty, charming towns, and rich history make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a blend of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and relaxation. The Seattle-Whidbey Island ferry route offers a convenient and scenic way to explore this enchanting island, ensuring a memorable journey that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the beauty and charm of Whidbey Island.


Seattle-San Juan Islands Ferry

The Seattle-San Juan Islands ferry route offers a breathtaking journey through the Salish Sea to the stunning archipelago of the San Juan Islands. Comprised of over 170 islands and islets, the San Juan Islands are renowned for their pristine beauty, outdoor adventures, and abundant wildlife.


The ferry ride from Seattle to the San Juan Islands is a longer journey, usually taking several hours, but the scenic vistas along the way are well worth it. Passengers are treated to panoramic views of the rugged coastline, lush forests, and sparkling waters of the Salish Sea. Keep your eyes peeled for marine wildlife such as orcas, seals, and seabirds that often make appearances during the journey.


As you arrive at your destination, you’ll be enchanted by the charm and natural splendor of the San Juan Islands. The islands offer a variety of activities for nature lovers, including kayaking, whale watching, hiking, and exploring picturesque harbors and secluded beaches.


Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands, is a popular destination that offers an array of outdoor adventures. Visit Moran State Park, with its towering forests, pristine lakes, and panoramic views from the summit of Mount Constitution. The island’s quaint villages, such as Eastsound, provide opportunities for shopping, dining, and experiencing the island’s unique culture.


San Juan Island, the second-largest island, is known for its rich history and vibrant wildlife. Visit the historic town of Friday Harbor, where you can explore boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Take a trip to Lime Kiln Point State Park, known as the “Whale Watch Park,” and marvel at the orcas swimming close to the shoreline.


Lopez Island offers a more relaxed and rural atmosphere, with quiet country roads ideal for cycling, stunning beaches perfect for picnicking, and charming farm stands where you can taste locally grown produce.


Shaw Island, the smallest of the ferry-served islands, is a peaceful retreat ideal for enjoying scenic walks, birdwatching, or simply soaking in the tranquil surroundings of this unspoiled island.


The Seattle-San Juan Islands ferry route provides an opportunity to explore the natural wonders and rich biodiversity of the San Juan Islands. From breathtaking landscapes to up-close wildlife encounters, the journey to the San Juan Islands promises a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with lasting memories of this Pacific Northwest paradise.


Seattle-Port Townsend Ferry

The Seattle-Port Townsend ferry route offers a scenic and nostalgic journey to the charming Victorian town of Port Townsend. Located on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend is known for its historic architecture, vibrant arts scene, and stunning views of the Olympic Mountains.


The ferry ride from Seattle to Port Townsend is a leisurely and picturesque experience that takes approximately 35 minutes. Passengers can relax and enjoy the panoramic views of Puget Sound, passing by scenic coastal landscapes and even the possibility of spotting marine wildlife along the way.


Once you arrive in Port Townsend, you’ll be transported back in time with its well-preserved Victorian-era buildings and picturesque waterfront. The town is renowned for its arts and culture, with numerous galleries, theaters, and art studios showcasing the works of local artists. Stroll through the downtown streets and discover unique shops, boutiques, and antique stores.


History buffs will appreciate the rich heritage of Port Townsend, which was once a bustling seaport during the late 19th century. The Port Townsend Historic District is a designated National Historic Landmark, boasting a remarkable collection of well-maintained Victorian homes and commercial buildings. Take a self-guided walking tour and immerse yourself in the town’s architectural and cultural history.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Port Townsend offers a wealth of recreational opportunities. Visit Fort Worden State Park, a former military base turned state park that offers stunning beaches, hiking trails, and historic buildings to explore. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains while engaging in activities such as camping, picnicking, or beachcombing.


Port Townsend is also home to a vibrant maritime community. Visit the Northwest Maritime Center and learn about the region’s seafaring heritage, or take a sail aboard one of the local schooners for a unique and memorable experience on the water.


Food lovers will delight in Port Townsend’s diverse culinary scene, with an emphasis on farm-to-table dining. The town boasts numerous restaurants and cafes that showcase locally sourced ingredients, including fresh seafood harvested from nearby waters.


Whether you’re drawn to its historic charm, cultural vibrancy, or natural beauty, the Seattle-Port Townsend ferry route offers a remarkable journey to a town that feels like stepping back in time. Immerse yourself in the captivating allure of Port Townsend and discover why it has become a beloved destination for visitors from near and far.



Seattle’s ferry system offers more than just a means of transportation; it provides a gateway to explore the stunning landscapes, diverse communities, and rich cultural heritage of the surrounding islands. From the picturesque Bainbridge Island to the tranquil Whidbey Island, and from the serene Vashon Island to the majestic San Juan Islands, each ferry route offers its own unique experience.


The importance of ferry rides in Seattle cannot be overstated. They connect communities, provide breathtaking views, and offer opportunities for island exploration, wildlife encounters, and cultural immersion. Whether you’re seeking natural beauty, small-town charm, outdoor adventures, or artistic experiences, there is a ferry route in Seattle that will cater to your interests.


When choosing the best ferry ride, factors such as destination, scenic beauty, duration, onboard amenities, seasonal highlights, and local recommendations should be considered. Each ferry route has its own allure and attractions, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy.


Whether it’s the stunning views, the tranquility of island life, or the sense of community and connection, ferry rides in Seattle provide an enchanting experience. They allow residents and visitors alike to embrace the beauty and wonders of the Puget Sound region.


So, if you find yourself in Seattle, don’t miss the opportunity to embark on a memorable ferry adventure. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty, explore charming islands, discover vibrant arts scenes, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Plan your ferry ride, pack your sense of adventure, and set sail on an unforgettable journey through the wonders of the Seattle ferry system.