Travel Seattle: Washington State Ferries

 •  5 min read



Rachel Rowland

About Author
Washington Ferries

For a scenic, convenient way to travel to points of interest around Seat and far beyond, it's tough to top Washington State Ferries. In total, the fleet travels across the Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea. It's the largest operating ferry system in the United States, with destinations that range from Tacoma to British Columbia. 

Tips for Making the Most of Your Next Journey

If you're new to the Seattle area, then planning your first ferry ride may feel a little overwhelming, with so many routes, vessels, and destinations available. Here are some tips to help you learn the system.

  • Always Plan Ahead
    Before you set out for your trip, make sure to plan ahead to avoid any unexpected surprises. You can easily check the routes and schedules online, then purchase tickets in advance. For up-to-the-minute news, check the real-time map for live statuses and travel alerts for important updates.
  • Purchase Tickets in Advance
    It's easy to purchase tickets for Washington State Ferries online, and buying your tickets before you leave means one less thing to worry about when you set out for your journey. For busy routes like Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, British Columbia, it's also wise to make vehicle reservations to ensure that your car has a spot on the ferry.
  • Plan to Arrive Early
    In order to ensure that you can board on time, it's best to arrive a bit early before your next trip. Washington State Ferries recommends arriving at the toll booths 20 minutes early if you will be bringing your vehicle on the trip and arriving 5 minutes early if you plan to board as a walk-on passenger.
  • Enjoying Your Journey
    Once you get on the ship, you're free to leave your vehicle, explore the ship, and see the sights. It's recommended to engage your emergency brake, turn off your car alarm, and listen for directions so that you know when it's time to return to your vehicle. Many ships offer a dining area with food, drinks, and cocktails, as well as vending machines when you're in the mood for a quick snack.

Accessibility on Washington State Ferries

Washington State Ferries are designed to be accessible to everyone, including riders with disabilities. Terminal and vessel personnel are trained to assist riders with disabilities, and there are many accessibility systems built into the entire system. People with disabilities may also be eligible for reduced fares. There's also a medical preferential loading procedure designed to make it easier for riders with certain medical issues to board the ship before the larger crowds.

Traveling to Canada on Washington State Ferries

The Anacortes to Sidney, British Columbia route was once one of the most popular routes for travelers and is expected to reopen in 2023 after a multi-year hiatus. Remember that for passengers age 16+, identification like a passport, passport card, or enhanced driver's license (EDL) will be required to enter Canada. Anyone crossing the border will also need to pass through US or Canadian customs.

A Look Behind the Scenes at How Washington State Ferries Operate

As you might expect, for the largest operating ferry system in the United States, it takes quite a crew to ensure that everything operates at peak efficiency. There are around 1,800 people working for Washington State Ferries every day, from the crews on each ferry to the phone operators who can help you plan your next journey.

Each ship has an extensive crew, starting with the captain, who oversees the entire operation from the pilothouse, and the chief mate, who helps the captain with a variety of key tasks throughout each trip. The quartermaster generally oversees the steering of the ship, while countless deckhands work throughout the journey to provide an excellent experience for passengers. Meanwhile, below the main deck, the chief engineer and oiler work to ensure that all of the machinery is running smoothly. So next time you take a trip on the ferry, spare a thought for the complex system of employees and machinery that work together to provide a safe, enjoyable experience for every passenger.

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Seattle WA, Things to do, Area info, Local attractions, Local businesses, Seattle, Anacortes

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