Seattle ferries are operated by the Washington State Ferries, one of the largest automobile ferry fleets in the world. It boasts 20 ferries, the largest of which can carry up to 2,500 passengers and 202 vehicles. The two ferry lines operating out of Colman Dock in Seattle carry an estimated 8,549,000 passengers every year. These ships are open-ended on both sides so they do not need to turn around.
There are many boat services operating from the Seattle waterfront, such as Argosy Cruises, the Victoria Clipper, and the King County Water Taxi. However, they are not to be confused with the ferries themselves. There are currently two ferry routes operating from Seattle: a 35-minute ride to Bainbridge Island and a 60-minute ride to the city of Bremerton. Bainbridge Island is known for its picturesque towns, beautiful waterfront homes and stunning views of the Seattle skyline across the Puget Sound. You can tour a Bainbridge winery or wander through Bainbridge's many art museums; or, consider a photography tour of the many parks and beaches. Bremerton is an excellent starting point for visits to many of Washington state's other attractions, including the picturesque Scandinavian town of Poulsbo, historic Port Gamble, and the unique ecosystems of Olympic National Park.
The easiest way to buy tickets for Seattle ferries is through the Wave2Go system. Purchase tickets online through the Washington State Department of Transportation website and pick them up at the Wave2Go kiosk or purchase them directly from the kiosk once you arrive. Tickets for youth, seniors and persons with disabilities must be purchased in person at the terminal tollbooth to provide proof of eligibility. Once purchased, tickets are good for 90 days.
The Seattle ferry terminal, also called Colman Dock, is located on piers 50 and 52. Holding lanes organize automobiles waiting to board the ferries, while passengers without vehicles wait inside the terminal. The Seattle ferry terminal is a major transportation hub for the city, and it can get very busy. Passengers are advised to arrive to the terminal at least 20 minutes prior to sailing unless it is a busy commuter time, such as between 3 pm and 7 pm, on weekends and whenever there is a sports game in Seattle. During these busy times, vehicle passengers are advised to arrive 30 to 60 minutes before departure time. Passengers can also use the Washington State Department of Transportation website to look up current wait times for specific terminals.
Passengers waiting to board a ferry can take advantage of several food options within and surrounding the Seattle ferry terminal. McDonalds and World Wrapps serve full meals, while Caffe Appassionato and Commuter Comforts offer coffee and pastries. A popular—and frequently recommend—option, however, is to take advantage of the waterfront location and go next door to Seattle's famous Ivar's Acres of Clams for cod, chips, and chowder.
One of the best views of the Seattle skyline is from the open passenger decks of the Seattle ferries. There is also plenty of other indoor seating for those who wish to enjoy the view from the warmth behind the ferry's large windows. Hungry passengers can take advantage of a fully serviced galley or vending machines. The price of food is not included with the ticket. Passenger decks include tables for enjoying your meal.