Take a Ferry Ride

Washington State Ferries are owned and operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and serves communities on Puget Sound and in the San Juan Islands. It is the largest fleet of passenger and automobile ferries in the United States and the third largest in the world. The system carries 11 million vehicles annually, the service is also the largest in the world based on the number of vehicles carried.

There are 20 ferries on Puget Sound operated by the state. The largest vessels carry up to 2500 passengers and 202 vehicles. They are painted in a white and green trim paint scheme, and feature double-ended open vehicle decks and bridges at each end so that they do not need to turn around. Most Washington State Ferry routes are legally part of the state highway system.

Here's what you'll see:

Ferries are a fun way to experience Seattle! Here is the best way to experience a Washington State Ferry:


The Seattle Ferry terminal


Unless you are planning on driving to the towns on the islands or the Olympic peninsula on the other side of the water, we would recommend that you leave your car parked in Seattle. This will save you some money and still give you a great experience. As a walk-on passenger, you will only pay one-way – from Seattle to your destination. The return is free. (If you drive your vehicle on the ferry, you must pay for the vehicle both ways, but passengers ride free on the return.) When you get to the terminal you will walk up the ramp and purchase a walk-on ticket.


Inside a ferry


It's nice to relax, get something to eat and enjoy the fresh sea air while you ride on the ferry. You also should watch the ferry dock and load and unload the cars. If you drive on to the ferry, you need to be in your car when they are docking so you don't hold up the unloading process.


Bremerton Naval Shipyard


If you have the time, take the Bremerton Ferry. The crossing takes about an hour and terminates in Bremerton where there is a Naval Ship Yard. This is where navy vessels and mothball ships are refurbished. It is really fun to see all of the old navy ships and aircraft carriers that are moored there as well as ships that are being worked on. The ferry ride is also more scenic as it winds through various islands on the way to Bremerton. When you get to Bremerton, you can walk off the ferry and then turn around and walk back onto the ferry. You will be surprised at how quickly the hour long crossing passes.


Bainbridge Island Ferry terminal


If you have less time and just want to experience a ferry quickly, then Bainbridge Island is still a nice ride. The crossing is a mere 30 minutes and terminates in a quaint little town on Bainbridge Island. In fact, it is so close that you can see Bainbridge Island from Seattle. You can spend some time visiting shops, eating at restaurants and generally browsing in the town of Bainbridge Island or turn around and walk back on to the ferry back to Seattle.


View of Seattle at sunset from the Ferry


Either way, you should take a late afternoon sailing so that your return comes back to Seattle around dusk. You will get the most gorgeous views of Seattle as the sunset and reflects off the buildings and the lights of the city begin to turn on.