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5 Ways to Get on the Water in Seattle

By Viator, February 2014

4.5 63 Reviews | Add your review

While Seattle has much to offer visitors on land, there are many great experiences to be had on water, as well. Along with being a top whale-watching destination, Seattle has the country’s largest ferry system, glacial lakes offering aquatic recreation, scenic cruises and more. To help you add some offshore fun to your Seattle itinerary, here are the best ways to get on the water in Seattle.

Go whale-watching

Seattle is a popular destination for whale-watching, as the city makes traveling to the nearby San Juan Islands easy. Located in the Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands are often referred to as the “jewels” of the Pacific Northwest, their waters plentiful with salmon (and the whales that eat them). While gray whales inhabit these waters from early March through mid-May, mid-May through late September is a great time to spot orcas and minkes. If you’re looking to spot humpbacks, October through November is prime time. Other animal sightings common in this area include sea lions, seals, porpoises, otters, bald eagles and seabirds.

Check out whale watching tours in Seattle.

Ride the Washington State Ferries


Fun fact: Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the country. It’s also a great way to get on the water in Seattle and experience the city the way locals do. One great day trip is the quick 35-minute ride from Seattle’s Colman Dock/Pier 52 to Bainbridge Island. While the island itself is pleasant, full of boutiques, art galleries, parks, wineries and a scenic Waterfront Trail, the boat ride itself allows you to take in the Seattle skyline from afar while feeling the cool Puget Sound breeze.

Book a harbor cruise from Seattle or a ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia.

Water Recreation in Green Lake Park


One of Seattle’s most popular parks, Green Lake Park allows you to bike, run, bird-watch, skate, play sports, picnic and even gets you on the water. The highlight of the green space is the 259-acres (105-hectare) Green Lake, a glacial lake offering recreational activities like paddle boating, fishing (mainly rainbow trout), swimming, boating and more. Around the lake, visitors can enjoy a scenic 2.8-mile (4.5-kilometer) recreational path.

Kayak at Alki Beach Park

Locals love Alki Beach Park for its beach resort vibe, with public art, ice cream shops, nautically-themed eateries and surf shops littering the area as well as wide sidewalks for joggers and skaters. From Alki Beach visitors can also take in expansive views of the downtown Seattle skyline -- especially at night when the lights are twinkling and you can hear the gentle ebb and flow of the waves -- Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. That being said, it’s not all about land offerings at Alki Beach Park, as the sandy spot also has a boat launch and is a popular spot for kayaking. Traverse gentle waves and follow the shoreline to change up your skyline viewpoint, and watch for seals, bald eagles and sometimes even whales.

Cruise the Ballard Locks

The scenic Ballard Locks connects Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington. When experienced aboard a cruise, Ballard Locks awards panoramic views of the Seattle skyline and surrounding mountains, and also introduces you to Seattle’s famous houseboat community (you’ll recognize it from the film Sleepless in Seattle). A cruise on the Ballard Locks is an interesting way to learn about Seattle’s complex locks system and a great opportunity for some beautiful landscape photos.

Book a Seattle locks cruise.

Tours & Tickets

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Seattle Locks Cruise

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 36 Reviews

Enjoy beautiful views of Seattle from the water on this relaxing cruise along the Ballard Locks, connecting Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington. Watch ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $43.20

Whale Watching from Friday Harbor

4.5 star rating: Recommended 16 Reviews

The best orca whale watching is off San Juan Island, near Seattle. The San Juan Islands are considered the "jewels" of the Pacific Northwest, located ...  Read more

Location: Friday Harbor, Washington
Duration: 3.5 - 4 hours

From USD $96.21

Lake Washington Cruise from Seattle

4.5 star rating: Recommended 15 Reviews

From picturesque houseboat districts to luxury waterfront homes and the Husky Stadium, former home to the NFL's Seahawks - this two-hour cruise is an ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $29.20

Seattle Harbor Cruise

4.5 star rating: Recommended 15 Reviews

Enjoy a narrated cruise on Elliot Bay and Seattle Harbor, as well as spectacular views of the Seattle skyline and panoramic mountain ranges.

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 60 minutes (approx.)

From USD $25.33

Gray Whale Watching from Seattle Including Whidbey Island

Set out on a whale-watching cruise from Seattle to see gray whales then visit the picturesque fishing community of Coupeville on Whidbey Island. This cruise ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 7 hours (approx.)

From USD $60.00

Private Seattle Kayak Tour on Lake Union

Admire Seattle’s sights from the water on this private kayak tour along Lake Union. Following your guide, enjoy views of the city skyline and the Space Needle ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $177.94

Seattle Lunch Cruise: A Taste of History on Elliott Bay

Get a taste of Seattle's history on this 2-hour lunch cruise around Elliott Bay. While dining on delicious Seattle fare, such as smoked salmon, warm ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $74.74

Seattle Lunch Cruise

Enjoy a unique Seattle experience aboard the Royal Argosy. Come aboard and step back in time as you enjoy turn-of-the-century elegance, stroll the cork decks ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $74.74

Friday Harbor Day Trip & Whale Watching from Seattle

4 star rating: Recommended 63 Reviews

Take an all-day round-trip adventure from Seattle to San Juan Island's Friday Harbor aboard a high-speed catamaran. Upon arrival to the San Juan Islands enjoy ...  Read more

Location: Seattle, Washington
Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

From USD $85.00

See all 5 Ways to Get on the Water in Seattle Tours & Tickets

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