If you have never traveled on a Washington State Ferry you will need some advice to plan a care-free trip.
One of the main things to know is that the ferry schedule may change due to weather, seasons, vessels being out of service for repair and even an unscheduled stop to on-load school buses! So get there early and be flexible.
And, especially if you are traveling by car, consider a reservation and be early. Once the ferry fills up, that’s it! If you arrive late, you may find yourself remaining in line for the next ferry.
Wait times are available online for each terminal. Letting you know how early to arrive for a ferry might cut down on the stress of waiting in line. And, if you are not familiar with how to get there, directions to terminals are available online.
It’s important to do what the crew tells you. They are experts at loading cars, trucks and buses on their ferry. Once you pass the ticket booth, a crew member will assign you a lane where you will wait. On board follow the crew members’ directions closely. Park and set your brake. On some ferries you stay in your car for the short ride. On longer crossings, you’ll be able to get out and head up to the passenger deck.
Things are much more simple when you walk on the ferry or bring your bike. You just need to get there in time to park and purchase your ticket. As with the cars, carefully follow instructions for boarding.
There is good news for pet lovers. You can bring your pet to the passenger deck if the pet is in a carrier or if you are just passing through (leash your pet) to an outside deck. If you pet is to remain in the car, you should too.
If you want a great on-the-water experience, take a Washington State Ferry as a walk on passenger, consult the schedule and return via ferry the same day. Years ago, I was in Seattle at a conference and longingly watched the ferries dock and leave during my meetings. Once I had free time I went to the ferry terminal and took a ferry to Bainbridge Island and returned on the next vessel. There is something very relaxing about being on the water and you’ll have a great opportunity to take photos of the skyline from a great vantage point. And, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the walk-on fares.
Oh yes, you are aboard a ship so expect the horns to sound and the boat to move during the crossing.
Information Agents are available by phone for more details. In Seattle call 206-464-6400 or toll free in Washington state only 1-888-808-7977. The best time to call is before 9 a.m. Pacific time or after 3 p.m. The Washington State Ferry website is full of up to date information including downloadable schedules.
Also, see our San Juan Islands Ferry Information