Washington State Ferries
The Washington state ferry system (206/464-6400, www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) is the largest mass transit system in the state, carrying more than 26 million passengers and 11 million vehicles each year. This is the most scenic way to see the Sound, but the system also serves many commuters who ride the ferry to work each day in Seattle, Tacoma, or Everett. Ferries operate every day, including holidays.
The best sightseeing is on the Anacortes–San Juan Islands route, which once a day continues to Sidney, British Columbia. Ferries also connect Port Townsend with Keystone (Whidbey Island); Clinton (Whidbey Island) with Mukilteo (southwest of Everett); Edmonds with Kingston (on the Kitsap Peninsula); Seattle with Winslow (Bainbridge Island) and Bremerton; Fauntleroy (southwest Seattle) with Southworth (southeast of Bremerton) and Vashon Island; and Tacoma (at Point Defiance) with Tahlequah (at the south end of Vashon Island).
The ferry system operates on a first-come, first-served basis, with reservations available only for the international routes from Anacortes to Sidney, B.C., and from Orcas Island or San Juan Island to Sidney. Foot passengers never need to wait, but those in vehicles may find themselves watching several ferries come and go before they can get onboard at peak hours.
The larger ferries have food service, vending machines dispensing candy bars and junk food, and beer; the smaller boats have vending machines only. Pets on leashes are allowed on the car decks or in carrying containers on passenger decks. Bikes, kayaks, and canoes are also allowed onboard for a small surcharge.
A number of small Washington ferries provide service around the state, including service to Anderson Island, Guemes Island, and Lummi Island within Puget Sound, along with three Columbia River ferries.
Several private companies offer ferry connections to Vancouver Island. Take the MV Coho (360/457-4491, www.cohoferry.com) from Port Angeles to Victoria, B.C., across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. From Seattle, the Victoria Clipper (800/888-2535, www.clippervacations.com) has passenger-only service to Victoria daily in summer.
Independent tour and charter boat companies in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellingham, the San Juan Islands, Westport, and other coastal cities offer sight-seeing, fishing, and whale-watching tours throughout the year.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition