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Vacation Tour of Seattle + Lake Union Homes from the Water

Updated on March 4, 2017
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Grayline Tour

Whenever we travel to a new location for the first time (as was this vacation trip which originated in Seattle), generally it is always a good idea to arrange for a sightseeing tour. One gets a general perspective of the area and can always go back and spend more time if one particular site engages one's interest, but at least one will have gained a general overall view and more knowledge of the area in which one is spending time. This post will address the portion of the Grayline tour package that offered a cruise of Seattle's waterways.

My mother, niece and I decided upon Grayline's Land and Water Excursion which combined the Centennial City Tour and the Adventure Water Cruise.

It was a 6 hour tour and back in 1989, the year of our visit, adult pricing was $29 and children's tickets (ages 2 - 12) cost $14.50. What we learned and got to see in that 6 hours was well worth our time and money!

Seattle skyline from the water

Seattle skyline in background as viewed from the water.
Seattle skyline in background as viewed from the water. | Source
Frommer's Seattle day by day
Frommer's Seattle day by day

I like using guides like this when planning vacations.


Sightseeing Tour

Join us on our sightseeing tour of Seattle's waterways that started at Pier 57.

After boarding the ship we started our 2 1/4 hour cruise into Elliott Bay which gives one a glorious view of Seattle's downtown area. Seattle is called the Emerald City for good reason. The temperatures are moderated by the Pacific Ocean and it is lush and green with foliage that thrives in this climate.

Seattle receives 35 to 36 inches of rain per year, with the Olympic Mountains protecting this Emerald City from bitter cold temperatures coming down from Canada, our northern neighboring country.

Water temperature is 32 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

Seattle Waterfront from Elliott Bay

Port of Seattle

Seattle is not only one of the most beautiful cities as viewed from the water, but is a busy seaport as well.

From Elliott Bay one can not only view the distinctive downtown buildings including the iconic Space Needle, but one's gaze also leads one up to the majestic Olympic Mountains which form a most dramatic backdrop.

If one were a choreographer arranging stage sets one could not do better than what Mother Nature has arranged for this seaside port city.

Churning the waters of Elliott Bay are not only water tours such as the one we were taking, but also shipping vessels from around the world mingling with cruise ships, tugboats and ferries.

Business and pleasure is combined in the Port of Seattle which was the 10th largest port in the United States in the year 2009.

Grayline Boat Tour of Seattle

Seattle waterfront
Seattle waterfront | Source

Edgewater Hotel as viewed from the water.

Large white building on the water is the Edgewater Hotel
Large white building on the water is the Edgewater Hotel | Source

Seattle Tour

Viewing Seattle by water was not only fun but the tour guide aboard our Grayline sightseeing ship kept up a running commentary.

We learned details about things that we would probably have never known were it not for this Seattle tour by water.

An example of what we learned is the following:

After the Beatles stayed at the Edgewater Hotel, the carpeting was pulled up and sold by the square inch!

Whether the above statement is true or not, it certainly makes for an interesting story and it is certainly plausible.

We were told other things regarding points of interest as our watercraft passed different views of Seattle. I'll share them along with the pictures that I took along the way.

Seattle Waterfront from North Myrtle Edwards Park

We were told that the million dollar homes along this Seattle shoreline suffer from a terrific erosion problem.

The year prior to our visit saw a garage from one of these homes slide right into the Bay.

Homes in Seattle as viewed from the water

Million dollar homes
Million dollar homes | Source

Seattle city marina

City Marina
City Marina | Source

This city marina charges $5 a foot for moor-age, according to what we were told, and there is a multiple year-long waiting list to gain access.

Of course these prices have probably changed by now as have the home prices that were being related to us in 1989.

According to our Grayline tour guide, the waterfront homes pictured below cost in the range of $200,000 or so.

Seattle waterfront homes
Seattle waterfront homes | Source
More homes on Seattle's waterfront
More homes on Seattle's waterfront | Source

Beautiful Seattle Waterfront video

Seattle drawbridge

One of Seattle's many drawbridges
One of Seattle's many drawbridges | Source

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

After traversing past the downtown and residential areas of Elliott Bay and rounding the West Point area of Shilshole Bay we made a right turn into the Lake Washington Ship Canal area of Seattle.

Lake Washington is a fresh water lake as is Lake Union which we would later see after passing through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1917.

The locks were named after a Seattle District engineer, Mr. Chittenden, who was overseeing the project for several years and now bears his name in honor of his work.

Lake Washington ship canal and locks

Approaching the locks
Approaching the locks | Source
Note the large and small lock placement
Note the large and small lock placement | Source

Lake Washington Ship Canal

The next photos show us progressing through the locks which help separate the salt water from the fresh water and ultimately keep the fresh water lakes of Lake Washington and Lake Union 20 to 22 feet above sea level.

Two locks, one small and one large, move the boats and ships through this more narrow passageway of Lake Washington into the wider Lake Union which is surrounded on all sides by the City of Seattle.

Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks joined other notables on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

There is also a fish ladder which enables salmon (Chinook, Coho, Sockeye and Steelhead) to migrate from the sea water into fresh water to spawn each year and renew the life cycle.

We would later see this fish ladder again on our Grayline land tour of Seattle and actually get to see the swimming fish looking through large glass windows which were provided.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

These boats were following us through the locks
These boats were following us through the locks | Source
Passing under another draw bridge
Passing under another draw bridge | Source

These poplars pictured below were planted as a living World War One memorial.

Poplars planted as living WWI memorial in Seattle on waterway.
Poplars planted as living WWI memorial in Seattle on waterway. | Source

Lake Union

Totally surrounded on all sides by the City of Seattle, Lake Union is a great recreational place.

Originally a place of business with shipyards, sawmills and the like and also housing the remaining vestiges of floating homes which sprung up as a less expensive housing option after the Great Depression, Lake Union is a scenic and multipurpose lake.

Photos taken on Lake Union in Seattle

Commercial and pleasure boats co-exist on Lake Union
Commercial and pleasure boats co-exist on Lake Union | Source

Notice the lights on top of the boats below?

These are crab boats.

We were told by our Grayline tour operator that many commercial boat captains like to steer their vessels through the locks and enter Lake Union because the fresh water helps to kill the barnacles.

Crab boats on Lake Union hoping to diminish barnacles
Crab boats on Lake Union hoping to diminish barnacles | Source

The Relief

The Relief which was moored in Lake Union we were told was supposed to have been turned into a floating lighthouse museum.

Apparently that effort failed but the highlighted link tells an interesting history of these floating lighthouses.

There are very few floating lighthouses left and the ones that remain for the most part are now museums.

The Relief, a floating lighthouse museum
The Relief, a floating lighthouse museum | Source

Floating Homes

There are only about 450 floating homes leftover from the Depression Days on Lake Union.

According to what we were told the owners pay no taxes but do pay mooring fees.

The movie Sleepless in Seattle was filmed using one of these floating homes as a location.

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were the stars of that movie.

Do you remember seeing Sleepless in Seattle?

Floating homes on Lake Union
Floating homes on Lake Union | Source

Great History & Photos in the Video Below!

Have you taken a water tour of Seattle?

See results

From Lake Union we were transported by bus back to Pier 57 where our Grayline tour of Seattle's sightseeing from the water had begun.

If you travel to Seattle and are on vacation, be sure and take not only a land tour but a water tour as well. We were certainly happy that we had done so!

Although we were not there at the right time of year to enjoy the fireworks over Lake Union, I have found a video for you readers of this article for a bombastic ending. Enjoy!

Lake Union fireworks at 5 X speed!

Location of Seattle, Washington

A markerSeattle, Washington -
Seattle, WA, USA
get directions

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 22 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello georgescifo,

      Hope you get that chance to visit Seattle someday. Am sure you would enjoy it! Glad you liked reading this and seeing the pictures and videos.

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 22 months ago from India

      Hi Peggy, Really enjoyed the pics and videos of Seattle through this hub and really loves to visit this place when I get an opportunity..

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi poetryman6969,

      It is a fun way to experience seeing parts of the Seattle area from a water perspective. We thought that it was definitely worth the price of the tour ticket. Hope you get to see it that way someday.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I missed this one when I was first in Washington state. I may have to take a ride if we are ever up there again.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi vespawoolf,

      Glad that this could be of some help when planning your vacation trip to Seattle. Enjoy!

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