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Daytripping by ferry

Moving around the Pugert Sound on a big boat

Passengers aboard both the Seattle to Bainbridge Island ferry and Seattle to Bremerton ferry have a view of the Olympic Mountains during their commute. JBLM PAO photo

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Whether you are wanting to see the majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains on a sunny day or spend some time bicycling or driving around on Vashon Island, the Washington State Ferry System offers ways to see and enjoy much of the region’s natural and community beauty.

Much of western Washington is close enough to enjoy Puget Sound waterways and the state ferry system as well as the King County Water Taxi, providing opportunities to glide across those area waters for an interesting family or individual outing for a small fee.

The Tacoma to Vashon trip is a good way to, proverbially, get your feet wet on local ferry trips. It begins at the Point Defiance Park Terminal and transports you, or your vehicle and you, to Tahlequah, Vashon Island for a fee. The service runs about every hour throughout the day and evening, so there’s plenty of opportunities to explore Vashon before your return trip.

The ferry system also offers a variety of trips to: Anacortes, Sydney, British Columbia and the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend and Coupeville, Edmonds and Kingston, Seattle and Bremerton, West Seattle/Fauntleroy and Southworth, Mukilteo and Clinton, Seattle and Bainbridge Island.

For more information, including schedules and fare, visit

If you’d like a short ferry ride between West Seattle’s Seacrest Dock and the downtown Seattle area, at Pier 50, the King County Water Taxi run by King County Metro is your best bet. The water taxi also has service to Alki Beach, for about $5 each way.

The main difference between the water taxi service and the state ferry service is the water taxis are smaller vessels and only offer service for people and bicycles; whereas, for a fee, the state ferries also accommodate vehicles.

The King County Water Taxi had a ridership of more than 380,000 riders in 2016. The highest number of riders board between June and August — between 45,000 and 62,000 people ride in each of those months. The water taxi operates most days except holidays.

The water taxi operates two fairly new vessels: the MV Doc Maynard, built in 2015 at a cost of $6.25 million, and the Kingston a catamaran that holds up to 145 passengers, captain, crew and up to 16 bicycles. The Doc Maynard is named after an early Seattle pioneer. That 104-foot long vessel can carry up to 278 passengers and has a large capacity for bicycle storage.

The Spirit of Kingston is a 65-foot long vessel that was built in Bellingham, Wash., and was acquired in recent years by the King County Ferry District as an eight-year-old vessel through an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration for the West Seattle/downtown Seattle route.

The water taxi used to only sail during the spring and summer months, April to October, but has been a yearround operation since 2010. There’s been a ferry system in place linking West Seattle to the downtown area since 1888. West Seattle is considered the city’s oldest neighborhood, according to the water taxi website.

The water taxi also has a Seattle to Vashon Island trip for $6.25 per person — children and adults. Children ages 5 and younger are free. That’s about a 30 minute ride. And, as with the Washington State Ferries, it’s free to bring along your bicycle.

There’s a planned 10-day shutdown of the water taxi in early August this year in order to move the Pier 50 float from the south end of the Coleman Dock to the north end, near Ivar’s Acres of Clams, during renovation of that dock. Riders also need to be aware that water taxi ridership likely will be high in August due to that renovation and its affects on buses and bus passengers in that area, according to a Seattle Times report earlier this month.

The new water taxi terminal will have a weather-protected terminal and a pedestrian bridge to the adjacent Washington State Ferries terminal, according to the Times’ report. Planned service of the water taxi from Seattle to Kitsap County and Bremerton also are expected to be added next month.

Although the water taxi’s West Seattle to Seattle route has been around so long that its captains and crew can make it a quick trip, there is still sufficient time for passengers to take advantage of the many spectacular photo opportunities on a clear day. For more information about the King County Water Taxi, visit

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