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The Seattle to Bainbridge Island Ferry

Updated on November 9, 2015

A Ferry Trip Across Puget Sound

A Washington State Ferry
A Washington State Ferry

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.


Have you ever taken the ferry to Bainbridge Island?

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Where is the Ferry Dock? - A Map Showing the location of Colman Dock on the Seattle Waterfront

A markerThe Seattle Ferry Terminal at Colman Dock -
801 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA
get directions

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

Mural on the wall at the Seattle Ferry Terminal
Mural on the wall at the Seattle Ferry Terminal
Ferries of Puget Sound   (WA)  (Images of America)
Ferries of Puget Sound (WA) (Images of America)

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).


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

9 routes

450 trips per day

Seattle/Bainbridge Island Route is the most used with 6 million passengers per year

Buying Ferry Tickets

Ferry Passenger Ticket Window at Colman Dock, Seattle
Ferry Passenger Ticket Window at Colman Dock, Seattle

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
Walk-on passengers should arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled ferry departure time to allow adequate time for boarding.Passengers with bicycles board onto the car deck from the parking area before any motorized vehiclesMotorcyles board nextCars and trucks are boarded after the motorcylesAfter scanning their tickets through a scanner at the turnstiles, passengers walk along the passenger ramp to the ferry passenger deckThe vehicle waiting area at the Colman dock.  During peak travel times, there can be long wait times.View along the waterfront from the ferry dock at pier 52
Walk-on passengers should arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled ferry departure time to allow adequate time for boarding.
Walk-on passengers should arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled ferry departure time to allow adequate time for boarding.
Passengers with bicycles board onto the car deck from the parking area before any motorized vehicles
Passengers with bicycles board onto the car deck from the parking area before any motorized vehicles
Motorcyles board next
Motorcyles board next
Cars and trucks are boarded after the motorcyles
Cars and trucks are boarded after the motorcyles
After scanning their tickets through a scanner at the turnstiles, passengers walk along the passenger ramp to the ferry passenger deck
After scanning their tickets through a scanner at the turnstiles, passengers walk along the passenger ramp to the ferry passenger deck
The vehicle waiting area at the Colman dock.  During peak travel times, there can be long wait times.
The vehicle waiting area at the Colman dock. During peak travel times, there can be long wait times.
View along the waterfront from the ferry dock at pier 52
View along the waterfront from the ferry dock at pier 52

Washington State Ferry Wenatchee - Statistics and facts about the Wenatchee

Washington State Ferry Wenatchee
Washington State Ferry 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"

Engines: 4

Horsepower: 16,000

Propulsion: DIESEL-ELECTRIC (AC)

Beam: 90'

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?

A Glaucous-Winged Gull Hitches a Ride
A Glaucous-Winged Gull Hitches a Ride

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

Ferry Wenatchee Upper level Sundeck
Ferry Wenatchee Upper level Sundeck

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

Colman Dock - Seattle WA
Colman Dock - Seattle WA

Pier 53 - Seattle Fire Boats

Pier 53 - Seattle Fire Boats
Pier 53 - Seattle Fire Boats

Pier 54 - Ivar's Acres of Clams Restaurant

Pier 54 - Ivar's Acres of Clams Restaurant
Pier 54 - Ivar's Acres of Clams Restaurant

Pier 55 and 56 - Argosy Cruises

Pier 55 and 56 - Argosy Cruises
Pier 55 and 56 - Argosy Cruises

Pier 69 - The Victoria Clipper

Pier 69 - The Victoria Clipper
Pier 69 - The Victoria Clipper

View of the Space Needle

View of the Space Needle
View of the Space Needle

Space Needle and Olympic Sculpture Park

Space Needle and Olympic Sculpture Park
Space Needle and Olympic Sculpture Park

Passing Another Washington State Ferry on Puget Sound

Washington State Ferry Puyallup
Washington State Ferry Puyallup

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

Seattle Skyline from the Bainbridge Island Ferry
Seattle Skyline from the Bainbridge Island Ferry

The Galley On the Wenatchee

Food and beverages on the Wenatchee
Food and beverages 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

Main Passenger Deck of the ferry Wenatchee
Main Passenger Deck of the ferry Wenatchee

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

Arriving at Bainbridge Island
Arriving at Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Ferry Island Dock

Bainbridge Island  Dock
Bainbridge Island Dock

Disembarking the Ferry on Bainbridge Island

Welcome to Bainbridge Island Sign
Welcome to Bainbridge Island Sign

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.

Bloedel Gardens

Bloedel Reserve Gardens - Bainbridge Island, WA
Bloedel Reserve Gardens - Bainbridge Island, WA | Source

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

Island Country Inn Bainbridge Island, WA
Island Country Inn Bainbridge Island, WA

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

The View of Seattle as the Ferry Departs from Bainbridge Island
The View of Seattle as the Ferry Departs from Bainbridge Island

Passing by West Seattle

Passing by West Seattle
Passing by West Seattle

A View of Mount Rainier

A View of Mount Rainier
A View of Mount Rainier

Seahawks and Mariners Stadiums

Seahawks and Mariners Stadiums
Seahawks and Mariners Stadiums

Back to Colman Dock

Back to Colman Dock
Back to Colman Dock

© 2011 Vicki Green

Did you enjoy the trip to Bainbridge Island? - Please leave your comments

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    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for the lovely pictures and a well documented feature. Congrats on your 50 too. Good day.

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      I'm really enjoying your lenses on sites in Seattle and Washington. The pictures are terrific, too. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 5 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      Hi Vicki, what a great lens. My brother works for the WA State Ferry system and has crewed the Bainbridge run many times. Thanks for the taste of home.

      Jim

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      This reminds me of the inter Islander service between the North and South Islands here in NZ. This is a really special lens. I love it

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 5 years ago

      The first time I visited Bainbridge Island via the ferry, there was a portable (if you'd call it that) sawmill set up near the pier that would take the logs floating in the water and turn them into boards. A barge nearby continued to receive all the wood chips / sawdust from the operation. It was amazing to watch the results pile up.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 5 years ago

      My family lives up north in Ferndale, but in all my trips to Washington state, Seattle, Bellingham and Ferndale, I have yet to ride on a Ferry. It's been on my "to do" list forever! Thanks for giving us this virtual tour. Angel Blessings!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Took the Bremerton/Seattle ferry for many years while working in Seattle. Have taken the Bainbridge a few times. Very lovely ride. Great article! :)

    • peachplanet profile image

      peachplanet 5 years ago

      very nice, i enjoyed your lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I ride the Bremerton Ferry frequently, not lucky enough to live by the Bainbridge Island Ferry.

      Nice article.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 5 years ago

      I've taken the Bainbridge Ferry and many others. I always enjoy riding on the ferries.

    • profile image

      Waterfront-Properties 4 years ago

      I've been on that. So scenic!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      When did the Puyallup start doing the Bainbruidge run? I worked on the Puyallup in 2002 and it's always been the Kingston boat....hmmm...

    • PNWtravels profile image
      Author

      Vicki Green 4 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @anonymous: Last year when I wrote this the Puyallup was temporarily on the Bainbridge run while the Tacoma was having some work done. The Puyallup is now back on the Kingston run so thanks for pointing that out and reminding me that I need to update this page.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @PNWtravels: That makes sense. Thank you for addressing my question.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love the ferries. I even put a crucial scene of one of my books (STAIRS OF SAND) on a ferry (Port Townsend).

      Very thorough lens!

    • moralblogger lm profile image

      moralblogger lm 4 years ago

      What a superb lens! I love ferries, I think they're the most exciting, picturesque and leisurely way to get from A to B!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Doesn't it seem like anyone with a historical connection with the Washington State ferry system has a special fondness for ferries. It lasted throughout my mom's long lifetime and echoes for me. Nice narrative with all the photos.

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