The Seattle to Bainbridge Island Ferry
A Ferry Trip Across Puget Sound
The Bainbridge Island Ferry
As a resident of the Seattle area, one of my favorite things to do is to take a trip on a Washington State Ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry departs approximately every hour from the terminal at Colman Dock on the Seattle waterfront and for me is a great way to relax and get an attitude adjustment.
The journey takes approximately 35 minutes each way and offers spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains, Cascade Mountains, Mt Rainier, ships passing by and a totally different view of Seattle from Puget Sound. Upon arriving at the dock on Bainbridge Island, all passengers disembark and can immediately re-board the ferry for the return trip to Seattle or enjoy some of the sights of Bainbridge Island and return on a later ferry.
The Bainbridge Island ferry route is the most heavily used in the Washington State Ferry system and is serviced by two of the largest and newest vessels in the fleet - the Wenatchee and the Tacoma.
Vehicles including cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles can be transported on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, but it is less expensive and relaxing to merely walk-on as a passenger. On this page I'm sharing my experience of what it is like to take a trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, WA on a Washington State Ferry.
All photos by the author, Vicki Green - PNW Travels, unless otherwise credited.
The Ferry Terminal at Colman Dock - Pier 52
Beginning the Voyage to Bainbridge Island
The journey to the island begins at Colman Dock located on Seattle's Pier 52 at 801 Alaskan Way toward the south end of the Seattle Waterfront. Another access point is a convenient pedestrian walkway and overpass across Alaskan Way that can be found by walking west along Marion Street from 1st Avenue.
The Seattle Ferry Dock Webcam
- Live Camera Images from the Washington State Ferry Dock in Seattle
Live camera images of the vehicle holding area at the Washington State Ferry terminal at Colman Dock in Seattle, WA.
Have you ever taken the ferry to Bainbridge Island?
Where is the Ferry Dock? - A Map Showing the location of Colman Dock on the Seattle Waterfront
The Washington State Ferry terminal in Seattle is on Colman Dock at Pier 52.
The Washington State Ferry System - A little history about the largest ferry system in the United States
Enjoy photos and learn more about the history of the Washington State ferries with the book, Ferries of Puget Sound.
About the Washington State Ferry System
The Washington State Ferry System is the largest ferry system in the US and the third largest in the world. The vessels of the Washington State Ferry system carry 10 million vehicles per year and is the largest ferry system in the world for number of vehicles carried. The system serves eight counties within Washington state and the Province of British Columbia in Canada. The Washington State Ferry System currently has 9 routes, 20 terminals and 28 vessels serving about 23 million passengers per year.
Upon entering the Seattle Ferry Terminal at Colman Dock, the wall along the ramp has a mural of old photos showing the time-line and history of ferries as a mode of transportation in Washington since before 1900.
Initially ferry service was provided by several private companies using small steam powered boats which became known as the "Mosquito Fleet." Over the years, companies consolidated or went out of business. By 1929, the number of companies had been reduced to just two - Puget Sound Navigation Company (commonly called the Black Ball Line) and Kitsap County Transportation Company. In 1935 the Kitsap County Transportation Company went out of business leaving the Puget Sound Navigation Company the only major ferry transportation company left.
In the late 1940s, increasing costs made it unprofitable for the Puget Sound Navigation Company to continue to operate the ferry system. Since a reliable ferry service was a necessary transportation need for so many communities, the State of Washington purchased nearly all of the facilities and ferries from the Puget Sound Navigation Company 1951. The only route retained by the Black Ball line was the Port Angeles to Victoria, BC ferry. The purchase of the ferries and docks was intended to only be a temporary solution that would be managed by the newly created Washington Toll Bridge Authority. The plan was for the Washington State Highway Department to build bridges to the areas serviced by the ferries to be paid for by bridge tolls.
In 1959, the Washington State Legislature decided against building bridges to all areas serviced by ferries and the ferry system eventually became part of the Washington State Highway System under the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
Where's the Ferry?
- Ferry Tracker
Washington State Ferries Vessel Watch shows you the location in real time of where each ferry is located.
Washington State Ferry System Trivia
Created June 1, 1951
Largest ferry system in the U.S
Third largest ferry system in the world
Nearly 23 million passengers per year
Carries more than 10 million vehicles per year
20 auto-passenger ferries
2 passenger -only ferries
20 Ferry Terminals
450 trips per day
Seattle/Bainbridge Island Route is the most used with 6 million passengers per year
Buying Ferry Tickets
Washington State Ferry Fares to Bainbridge Island
Passenger fares are only paid in the westbound direction from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The eastbound trip from Bainbridge to Seattle is free! Passengers may purchase their ticket at the ticket window inside the passenger terminal or purchase tickets in advance online. Walk-on passengers should arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled ferry departure time to allow adequate time for boarding. Vehicle fares are considerably more expensive. Tickets for vehicles and their passengers can be purchased online or at a drive-through ticket window at the dock.
For current passenger and vehicle fares, visit the Washington State Ferry System website.
Boarding the Ferry - Passengers, bicycles, motorcycles, cars and trucks!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Washington State Ferry Wenatchee - Statistics and facts about the Wenatchee
About the Wenatchee Ferry
The Wenatchee (Wen-at'-chee - rhymes with "when AT sea") is one of two ferries that serves the Seattle to Bainbridge Island route. The Wenatchee is one of the newest and largest vessels in the fleet of Washington State Ferries. The other ferry that usually services the Bainbridge Island route is a sister ship of the same class named the Tacoma. Here are the stats about the Wenatchee obtained from the Washington State Ferries website:
Class: Jumbo Mark II
Type: Auto/Passenger Ferry
Length: 460' 2"
Propulsion: DIESEL-ELECTRIC (AC)
Draft: 17' 3"
Speed in Knots: 18
Max Passengers: 2500
Max Vehicles: 202
Gross Tonnage: 3138
Built in Seattle, WA at Todd Shipyards
Auto Deck Clearance: 15' 4"
Year Built: 1998
Where's his ticket?
The Upper Deck of the Wenatchee
After boarding, I was greeted on the upper deck by a Glaucous-winged gull who was either hoping for a hand-out or was considering taking the voyage from Seattle to Bainbridge Island on the ferry. He must have decided to stay in Seattle, because he flew off shortly after I took his picture.
The Sundeck on the Wenatchee
The Passenger Decks on the Ferry
The Wenatchee has two passenger decks and the upper one has both an indoor passenger area and this outdoor covered area that the ferry system calls a sundeck. This is a great place to have an excellent view, but yet stay out of most of the wind and weather. Pets are allowed on the car decks and in this outdoor passenger deck area.
Departing Colman Dock in Seattle WA
Pier 53 - Seattle Fire Boats
Pier 54 - Ivar's Acres of Clams Restaurant
Pier 55 and 56 - Argosy Cruises
Pier 69 - The Victoria Clipper
View of the Space Needle
Space Needle and Olympic Sculpture Park
Passing Another Washington State Ferry on Puget Sound
The Washington State Ferry Puyallup
About midway across the sound we passed the Puyallup (pronounced Pew "AL" up - with the "a" as in apple), another Washington State ferry that is a sister ship to the Wenatchee. The Puyallup is also a Jumbo Mark II class and among the newest ships in the Washington State Ferry fleet.
Seattle Skyline from the Bainbridge Island Ferry
The Galley On the Wenatchee
Food and Beverage Service on the Washington State Ferries
Food and beverages are available in the galley of the ferry on the main passenger deck. Food choices include sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Beverages include coffee, tea, milk, juice, bottled water, soft drinks, beer and wine.
Ferry Wenatchee Main Passenger Deck
The Main Passenger Deck
There is plenty of seating available on the main passenger deck. There is a variety of seating options, including comfortable chairs, large benches along the windows areas with tables for eating, working, reading or playing cards. The ferry is also conveniently equipped with a Wifi internet connection making it easy for commuters to use their laptops while riding the ferry.
Video of the Seattle to Bainbridge Island Ferry Trip - Highlights of the journey across Puget Sound
Arriving at Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Ferry Island Dock
Bainbridge Island Ferry Dock Webcam Link - Link to live camera images of the Bainbridge Island Ferry Dock
- Live Camera Images from the Washington State Ferry Dock on Bainbridge Island
Live camera images of the vehicle holding area at the Washington State Ferry terminal at Bainbridge Island.
Disembarking the Ferry on Bainbridge Island
Disembarking on Bainbridge Island
For security reasons, all vehicles and passengers must disembark after the ferry arrives at the dock. Passengers exit via the Passenger ramp and can get in line to re-board for the return trip to Seattle immediately or explore Bainbridge Island and return on a later ferry. There is no ticket for to buy at the Bainbridge dock since fares are not collected for passengers traveling in the eastbound direction to Seattle. Fares for vehicles are charged in both directions.
Visit the Gardens at the Bloedel Reserve
Take a Tour of the Bloedel Reserve Gardens
One of the most beautiful places to visit on Bainbridge Island is the Bloedel Reserve Gardens. This 150 acre public garden is filled with beautiful trees and shrubs with an emphasis on natural habitats. You can explore on your own or sign up for a two hour guided tour including transportation. One of the most popular sections is the Japanese Garden. Throughout the gardens there are beautiful views of Puget Sound with opportunities to take stunning photos.
Bainbridge Island Hotels
Staying Overnight on Bainbridge Island
If you want to spend more time on the island, there are several hotels and B & Bs on Bainbridge Island offering a variety of choices for overnight lodging.
The View of Seattle as the Ferry Departs from Bainbridge Island
Passing by West Seattle
A View of Mount Rainier
Seahawks and Mariners Stadiums
Back to Colman Dock
© 2011 Vicki Green