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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 2 years 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 2 years 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!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      I was looking for info on what to do in Seattle and My search brought me to you! I agree that a water tour is a good idea to get a general idea of the area and its sights. Thank you for another interesting overview from your vacation experiences.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Stacy,

      It would take more time to drive up along the coastline of California, Oregon and Washington...but oh so scenic!!! I have written a hub about an Oregon Coastline Vacation in case you are interested in seeing that. My husband did some driving along the California coastline in the wine country and it was curvy, scenic but also slower than if taking the inland roads. So it would all depend upon how much time you have for a vacation. Enjoy Seattle when you get there someday! Am sure that living on a floating home would take some getting used to but it would be fun to experience sometime. Thanks for your comment + share.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I have always wanted to visit Seatle. After reading this, I now want to go even more than ever. Since I am on the West Coast it probably would be a fun trip to travel up the coastline. And the floating houses, I don't know if I could do it, but I would love to see how it would feel to step on one of those! Great hub!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello calico Stark,

      Half the fun about vacationing (for me) is reading about the places ahead of time. Often I learn even more about the places I have visited after the fact...especially when writing about them because of doing more reading and research. Of course taking tours like we did in Seattle and seeing it from the water perspective, we hear things about the city that we might never ordinarily know. Glad that you liked this hub. Thanks for your commnent.

    • calico Stark profile image

      calico Stark 5 years ago from Earth for the time being

      Wow, what a hub! You told about things I didn't even know about and I lived in Seattle for over 37 years before moving to the south. Great info! Vote up!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi jaclin,

      It seems that we agree on the way we like to explore and travel. had a great trip!!! Sometime you should come back and travel the southern route from Florida to California. Totally different scenery. Getting back to your Seattle travel, nice that you were also viewing Seattle from the water. Different look, isn't it! Thanks again for the comment.

    • profile image

      jaclin 6 years ago

      Me again... Our road trip in 2010 ended in Seattle... having started in Boston three months prior... we made a decision to steer clear of the interstate so as to see as much of the country as possible along our chosen route... and we traveled 9000miles in total - so by the time we reached Seattle it was time for a much needed break - but with still so much to see - there was no time to rest... I do agree with you that on reaching a new city it is always best to do one of the city tours, either on land or the sea... and like you - if both are on offer - i like to do both... so thank you once again for sharing your experiences on such a wonderful and diverse city...

      I'm off in search of your other travel hubs... I am on leave from work today - so you may find numerous comments dotted around your pages that originate from me today!!!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Kosmo,

      What a summer that would have been! Seattle, Port Orchard...that entire area for that matter is surrounded by water. Boat racing and seeing the Blue Angels perform on and over Lake Washington must have been quite a sight! Were you vacationing that summer? Glad you liked this hub and thanks for the comment.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 7 years ago from California

      Back during the summer of 1978 I lived in Port Orchard, which is across the Sound from Seattle. I loved Seattle; it reminded me of San Francisco. I also went by boat through the locks to Lake Washington and watched some boat races and the Blue Angels. What a summer, perhaps my best ever! Thanks for the wonderful hub. Later!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi James,

      Wow! That is quite the compliment! " travel Hub." Glad to hear that you enjoyed this view of Seattle as seen from the water. It was the start of a wonderful vacation for us and was just the beginning...but a great beginning it was! Thanks!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      This is perhaps your best travel Hub. You presented a plethora of interesting facts and wonderful photographs. I could not have enjoyed this journey more. Thank you for this pleasure.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi agusfanani,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on this vacation hub of Seattle as viewed from the water. I also think that the floating homes are quite unique and interesting.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 7 years ago from Indonesia

      Those are very beautiful pictures you show in this hub. The the floating homes are amazing.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Good morning Hello, hello,

      Seattle is not only pretty as viewed from the water, but the scenery on land is beautiful as well. Will show more of our vacation tour in another hub. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      This was alovely trip you took me on. I never knew Seattle is so beautiful. Thank you for the pleasure.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks Prasetio for your interest and comment after reading this hub about viewing Seattle from the water. Obviously there is much more to be seen on land as well. Will write more about our impressions in the future.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Beautiful my friend. Good to remind me about this movie, Sleepless in Seattle. With Tom Hanks as an actor. This hub impressed me much. I love the city near the water. The pictures makes me difficult to blink my eyes. I thought I'll put Seattle in my list when I go to USA someday. Thank you very much. Vote this Up.


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello kingkhan78,

      Thanks for taking the time to read this Seattle Travel, Vacation Tour and Viewing Seattle from the Water hub and also taking the time to leave a comment. Yes...our hubpage community has a lot to offer people in just about any subject in which they might have interest. :-)

    • kingkhan78 profile image

      kingkhan78 7 years ago

      interesting information in hub page community thanks for sharing

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello ExpandYourMind,

      Happy to hear that you enjoyed this portion of our vacation to Seattle and the tour of it viewed from the water. Enjoy your next trip to Seattle! Thanks for the comment.

    • ExpandYourMind profile image

      ExpandYourMind 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      This is a great tour of the Seattle area. I've only been there once for a short time. I plan to return and will use your tips. Thanks.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Micky,

      Glad that you liked this Seattle travel / vacation hub about seeing Seattle from the water on our tour. Thanks for taking the time to watch the videos. I thought the ones about the floating homes and the one about Lake Union were especially good and informative.

      Those floating homes may have been an inexpensive or less expensive housing alternative originally, but I found some videos advertising 2 bedroom, 1 bath ones for $900,000+! Guess times have changed! As Realtors would point out.........location, location, location!!! :)))

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Troi Sirtis,

      We don't have to travel to Seattle to get a Starbucks as they seem to be on every other corner (slight exaggeration) of our city. Ha! Many good things have emanated from Seattle, Starbucks coffee being just one. Next time as you sip your latte do it from the water in Seattle. Might add to the experience! :)))

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Very nice as always Peggy. I watched all the videos (as always) and they are great. Thanks for putting this together.

    • Troi Sirtis profile image

      Troi Sirtis 7 years ago

      If I go to Seattle, I really just want Starbucks. :))))

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mike,

      It would be wonderful to have friendly relatives living in the Pacific Northwest if they would be willing to open their home for a few overnight stays. Helps with expenses! Vacationing in Seattle was wonderful. Seeing Seattle from the water as well as on land was also good. Different perspective entirely...

      Great idea...planning vacations for Hubbers! That would be fun. If you have 20 friends who want to travel together and have a specific area of the country that they would wish to explore...let me know. :-)

      Appreciate your comment.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      I've never been to Seattle although I have relatives who live in the Pacific Northwest. The tour cruise sounded fun, and I would love to do something like that someday. You have been to so many beautiful places, you should plan vacations for Hubbers on the side!

      Thanks for another great look at America.


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dahoglund,

      That is an interesting bit of trivia and I guess it makes sense. Seattle has it all...salt and fresh water and lots of it everywhere one looks. We really enjoyed the start of our vacation in Seattle and certainly enjoyed our tours. What we saw on the land tour will follow in another hub. Thanks for the speedy first comment.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      You give a very good word and picture tour. Oceans always seem appealing to us landlocked mid-westerners. I was once told that the highest number of Navy enlistments come from the Midwest.