If you recently moved to Washington state, you may not be used to taking ferries. In fact, the entire process can be intimidating. What ferry routes are there? Do ferries require reservations? How do I make reservations? Is it worth taking the ferry or driving around? What do the locals do?
The Washington state ferry system is the largest ferry operator in the United States, and the second largest system in the world. Taking a ferry is a quintessential activity in the Pacific Northwest, and a beautiful way to take in local scenery (maybe even an orca!). No matter how long you’re stationed here, we encourage you to take a ferry at least once.
Here’s some information to help get you started:
Know Before You Go:
- Be patient and prepared for delays. The ferry system has been suffering as a result of the pandemic. The ferries are struggling with low staffing, boat maintenance, employee protests over vaccine mandates, etc. Monitor the news and watch out for alerts, which brings us to the next tip.
- Sign up for travel alerts. If you do plan to travel by ferry, make sure you sign up for travel alerts and rider updates. The website offers real-time maps and cameras, to watch for capacity levels. You can follow @wsferries on Twitter for realtime updates, as well.
- You do not need reservations. The only ferries that require reservations are to the San Juan Islands and to British Columbia. Reservations are also strongly encouraged on the Port Townsend/Coupeville routes.
- Fares vary by route, sailing time and size of vehicle. Fares are collected either for round trip or one-way travel, depending on the departure terminal and if you are bringing a vehicle on board. To calculate your exact fare, click here.
Kitsap County Routes:
In Kitsap County, there are seven ferry routes including three fast, foot ferries.
Kingston to Edmonds:
If you’re traveling north of Seattle, you might consider taking the Kingston/Edmonds ferry. The ferry departs from the town of Kingston, near Poulsbo, and travels east across the Puget Sound to Edmonds, Washington. The crossing is about 30 minutes each way. This journey allows you to completely bypass the cities of Tacoma and Seattle, which can save quite some time.
Kingston to Seattle:
If you live in North Kitsap County and commute to Seattle, you might consider the express foot ferry. In 2018 Kitsap Transit added a Fast Ferry to the Kingston terminal, which holds 350 foot passengers. The crossing time is 40 minutes and takes passengers directly to Downtown Seattle Pier 50. For ticketing and pricing information, click here.
Bainbridge Island to Seattle:
A popular ferry option is the Bainbridge Island to Downtown Seattle ferry route. A direct way to downtown, the 30 minute ferry departs from Bainbridge and takes passengers right before the sweeping views of Downtown Seattle. If you plan to visit the city for the day, you may want to walk on to save money. If you leave your car at the ferry terminal, cost is $11/day and $15 for overnight.
Bremerton to Seattle:
The Bremerton to Downtown Seattle ferry route is popular option for those who live in central and southern Kitsap County. The route offers two ferry options, a faster 30 minute crossing and a longer, 60 minute option.
Bremerton to Seattle:
Kitsap Transit also operates a Bremerton Fast Ferry to Seattle, for passengers traveling by foot. The ferry service is offered Mondays thru Fridays, departing about every 30 minutes. Bicycles are welcome on a first-come, first-serve basis. The crossing time is 30 minutes.
Port Orchard to Bremerton:
For those who live near Port Orchard, Kitsap Transit operates a Bremerton Foot Ferry, making for easy ferry connections. There are two docks on the Port Orchard side, Port Orchard Ferry Dock and Annapolis Ferry Dock/Park & Ride. The ferries operate every 30 minutes or so, and cost $2.00 round trip.
Southworth (Port Orchard) to Fauntleroy (West Seattle):
And finally, another south Kitsap ferry option is the Southworth to Fauntleroy. The 40 minute ferry takes you from Southworth (just East of Port Orchard) to Fauntleroy, the edge of West Seattle. Be sure to check the schedule, some routes take longer and stop at Vashon Island, while others go direct to West Seattle.
For more information on Washington State Ferries, click here.