Vacation Tour of Seattle + Lake Union Homes from the Water
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
I like using guides like this when planning vacations.
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
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
Edgewater Hotel as viewed from the water.
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
Seattle city marina
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.
Beautiful Seattle Waterfront video
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
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 poplars pictured below were planted as a living World War One memorial.
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
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.
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.
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?
Great History & Photos in the Video Below!
Have you taken a water tour of Seattle?
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
© 2010 Peggy Woods