More than just the second-largest lake in all of Washington State, Lake Washington defines Seattle as a city intimately tied to the water. Residents and visitors alike come to Lake Washington to connect with the natural beauty of the landscape, which includes views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains.
Bordered by the towns of Kirkland and Bellevue, Lake Washington is home to Mercer Island. The Lake Washington Ship Canal connects the lake to the Puget Sound. Plenty of shoreline lets visitors take in the lake’s inherent natural beauty through activities such as swimming, picnicking, and hunting for clams and crawfish. Other attractions include the Kurt Cobain bench, a cultural memorial that pays homage both to the Nirvana legend and to downtown Seattle’s vibrant music scene.
Sightseeing tours here often include a Lake Washington cruise (many with live narration from a captain or naturalist guide), views of some of the lake’s opulent waterfront homes, and a visit to the floating bridge. Some tours combine stops at Seattle’s other major water features—Lake Union and the Puget Sound—via boat, ground transportation, or even seaplane. Another option is a dinner harbor cruise, which allows you to enjoy the sunset over the water after spending the day enjoying other activities. The University of Washington operates a boat rental facility in Union Bay, where you can rent a boat and explore under your own steam in a rowboat or canoe.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Outdoor enthusiasts, Seattle sightseers, and city slickers looking for an urban escape will love a day at Lake Washington.
- Expect summer crowds at the most popular beaches, Madison Park Beach and Denny Blaine Park.
- Seward Park, at the south end of Lake Washington, is the nexus for the lake’s perimeter path, perfect for pedestrians and bicyclists.
How to Get There
As Lake Washington defines Seattle’s eastern boundary, it’s hard to miss. There are several access points along the shore, including the Atlantic City Boat Ramp, Seward Park, Stan Sayres Memorial Park, and Warren G. Magnuson Park.
When to Get There
Seattle's rainy reputation is well earned, but the summer months tend to be drier and suitable for beach days or forays on the water. Most sightseeing cruises have covered interior cabins and operate rain or shine.
A drive over one of the world’s longest floating bridges—the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, and the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge—is totally worth a brief detour from downtown Seattle. The three floating bridges on Lake Washington connect Seattle, Mercer Island, and Bellevue. Constructed on floating concrete pylons, these engineering marvels came about by necessity, as the bottom of Lake Washington is soft, muddy, silt, which is unsuitable for anchoring a traditional suspension bridge.