The Washington State ferry system is the fourth largest in the world and the largest in the United States. Not only is it a relaxing way to travel, but it’s also beautiful. With such an abundance of marine life at our fingertip’s ferries are the best way to see marine life while you travel. For example, whales can be seen any time of the year, but they are most frequently spotted from April through September from the ferries!
Ferries are fun, like a vacation in and of themselves. You can go out on the open water, stand in the breeze and float with the seals while on deck. Make sure to bring snacks and enjoy the ride threading through magical islands with mountain views while riding the waters of the Sound like the whales. If you can score public transportation you might be able to hop aboard without even paying for parking. And note that you can even bring a bike on, which is great because you can arrive in town with your own transportation and enjoy dozens of parks on neighboring islands.
No matter where you go, ferry day trips feel like mini vacations, you’ve stepped off of dry land onto another planet. Although the ferry destinations are close to Seattle, island life is different, laid back, slow moving and a little bit funky. Leave the hustle and bustle for the day and enjoy a complete change of pace right at your fingertips.
From the Seattle Port, you can head to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton. Bainbridge Island is also just a quick 35-minute ferry ride away, lots of little eateries and restaurants are within a few blocks walk off the ferry in the historic downtown, with museums, art, and recreational parks.
- Come out for First Friday, you can hop right off the ferry terminal and appreciate wine and art on the First Friday of every month.
- Pegasus Coffee is a darling little coffee shop to try out in a redbrick building covered with ivy and oozing with character, it’s been serving up coffee for 40 years.
- Bruciato is a beautiful venue with pizza to match, this place alone is worth the trip.
- Saturday mornings from April-September you’ll find a farmer’s market with fresh colorful local ingredients, artwork, bread, fresh caught fish and flowers.
- Parks, Parks, and more Parks. This island is loaded with trails and parks. Lakes, forests, coves and beaches, you’ll find hiking, camping, boating, kayaking, biking and even scuba diving here. Including Fort Ward Park 137 acres of waterfront park with an underwater park for scuba divers. Bike trails connect Fort Ward to 40 acres of Blakey Harbor Park.
- Bainbridge Island Museum of Art the architecture and exhibits here are beautiful, it’s free admission and definitely worth a visit. Check out their schedule, they often have live music and other events. The café inside is delicious and activities are available for children.
Bremerton hop on the ferry for a one-hour ride to Bremerton, the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula. Bremerton is the largest Naval base on the West Coast with thousands of crew members and a palatable Naval vibe. If you’re into U.S. history, this is your ferry. This area has been home to the men in white since 1891.
- USS Turner Joy is a U.S. Naval Destroyer ship that has been converted into a museum. This is a fun museum for kids and history buffs to wander the halls, climb into the gun mount and check out the engine room. It paints a picture of what life was like on board.
- Puget Sound Navy Museum is completely run by volunteers and free to visit. This beautiful old building is revamped with hands-on activities and plenty to keep visitors of all ages happy.
- Parks and trails, it wouldn’t be the PNW without parks. Come and enjoy dozens of them with disk golf and green spaces without the crowds of Seattle.
- Harborside Fountain Park is over two acres of a downtown plaza. What’s impressive about this plaza is five giant fountains with wading pools at their bases. Kids love to splash and play at the base of the fountains in the summertime and they’re lit up beautifully at night.
From Fauntleroy (Just Northwest of White Center) head to Vashon Island.
Vashon Island is a true release from the city, if you really want a day to get back to nature this is the place to do it. Accessible only by boat with a population under 11,000 people. You’ll need to bring your car unless you’re ready for a challenging five-mile uphill bike ride to town. Vashon is a darling little funky town with artsy restaurants and a great live music scene, but for the most part, it’s pretty sleepy.
- Point Robinson Lighthouse, the lighthouse itself is not open to tours but is a beautiful building to visit and makes a perfect focal point for photos sitting on top of a 10-acre shoreline park featuring sandy beaches, a saltwater marsh, woodlands and views of the East Passage and Mount Rainer on a clear day.
- 19 stunning parks and recreation areas with all of the benefits that you’ve come to expect from Washington’s thousands of meticulous parks and trails.
- First Friday, an eclectic group of artists lives on the island, and you can find them with their artwork at nine participating galleries and locations on the First Friday of the month.
- VIGA Farmer’s Market April through the fall they offer a Saturday farmers market with live music.
- The Vashon Island Coffee Roastery is a must visit while on the island, it’s a landmark in a 100-year-old building and character seeps out of its fragrant, old island, fir pores.
Seattle not only is an incredible city, but the opportunities for stay-cations and micro-adventures just outside your door are endless. With so many opportunities you should never stop exploring.