Best Way to See Seattle is to Leave It

Take one of the Washington State ferries from Seattle.

The boats run frequently.. There may be waits for cars on weekends and holidays, but bikes and walkers always get on.

Panorama – Seattle waterfront skyline, downtown, Puget Sound, Pacific Northwest

Seattle waterfront skyline,with ferry, Puget Sound, Pacific Northwest

The ferries bound for Bremerton and for Poulsbo leave from the same dock in downtown Seattle.    Adult fares currently about $7 for adults, half that for seniors.  There’s a $1 charge for bicycles, and it costs about $15-20 for a car and driver.  On the return for some routes, passengers and bicycles are free.

When we bicycle, we park on the street either to the north or south where parking is free, then bike the mile or so to the ferry. Otherwise, you can park across the highway from the ferries and walk on or, if you plan to explore beyond the ferries, drive on.

After boarding, go to what will be the aft of the boat – the end attached to the dock – and go out on the viewing deck.  As you leave Seattle, there are great views back to the city skyline, showing the sprawling city from Seattle Center and Queen Anne hill, south to the still-unpaid-for stadiums and dockyards.  On a clear day, you can even see Mt. Rainier, over 50 miles away.

When you tire of these views, grab a coffee in the snack bar, and then walk the length of the ferry to the forward viewing decks.   Now you’ll get views of the many Puget Sound islands, and the Olympic mountain range in the distance.   The ferry is likely to be followed closely by seagulls, and cormorants can usually be seen on the pilings drying their wings.  Other shorebirds, coots, ducks are frequently seen.  There are whales in the area, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see one.

Once you reach the terminus, you have many choices.  You can stay on the ferry and return right away,

You can walk or bicycle in the small towns nearby, returning for the ferry. There may be a short steep hill to get away from the dock, but it flattens out after that.

You can drive to visit nearby cities of Port Gamble, Port Orchard or Port Townsend. The latter has several music festivals during the year and has many antique shops. It also has a ferry that goes to Whidbey Island so you can drive a loop trip. On Whidbey you can go north over Deception Pass bridge [the pass is the narrow bit of water under the bridge]. Or drive south to pick up another small ferry to Mukilteo, just north of Seattle.

Port Gamble also hosts an annual Civil War re-enactment that offers a fun weekend, with 2 battles scheduled every day, and the soldiers’ camps to visit in between.

These towns are also famous for their many Victorian houses.  Many of them are now open as Bed & Breakfasts. 

Yet another option is to drive to nearby Olympic National Park for hikes. There are trailheads near the Hood Canal bridge link up to Highway 101. The park headquarters is atop aptly named Hurricane Ridge, with the best views of this wilderness park. But, since there are no roads into the main parts of the park, unlike Yellowstone or Yosemite, you really need to hike to appreciate everything the park offers. You can hike in the rainforest to the glaciated volcano, Mt. Olympus and then explore the Pacific Ocean beaches in just a few miles, without leaving the park.

If you’re going to the Olympics, you’ll probably want to stay overnight. There are many campgrounds, and inexpensive motels in towns like Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks.

With a little forethought, you can come back into Seattle at sunset, or view the city lights at night.

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