A Complete Guide To The Washington State Ferries

By: Clarissa Vanner  | 
passenger ferry
Pete Saloutos / Getty Images

The Washington State Ferry system features 23 vessels in varying sizes. The largest vessel can accommodate 200 cars and 2,500 passengers while the smallest ferry can carry 34 cars and 200 passengers. The ferry system is made up of 10 routes serving 20 terminals located around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. Whether you’re traveling by car, on a bicycle or on foot, the ferries can accommodate you!

Before you embark on your ferry journey, there are a few things you’ll want to know. Follow along as we share a complete guide to the Washington State Ferries that will help you plan your trip, navigate schedules, and learn everything you need to know.


Planning Your Washington State Ferry Trip

ferry trip
King County Water Taxi docked at Seacrest Park in West Seattle, boarding for route to downtown Seattle.
Merrill Images / Getty Images

When planning your trip on one of the Washington State Ferries there are few things you’ll want to know ahead of time. First, be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled loading time. Though it’s worth noting during peak season (in the summer), it is recommended that you arrive at least 45 minutes up to an hour before your departure time, just to be safe.

Second, it would be best to check the conditions before leaving for your trip. Check out the following Washington State Ferry resources that will help you plan and prepare for your trip:

  1. Reservations: If you’re planning to take a vehicle on the ferry you can reserve a spot on the WSF website. It’s worth noting, reservations are for vehicles only. Any passengers traveling on foot or by bicycle will need to board without a reservation.
  2. Unexpected Service Disruptions: Mechanical problems, construction or other issues that might interfere with ferry services can occur so it’s important to stay up to date with what is going on at your terminal. Washington State Ferry offers a free travel alert subscription service so you can stay informed on the conditions of your route.
  3. Wait Times: The wait time for each ferry terminal will vary based on the season, destination, and other factors. Luckily for us, you can stay up to date on the current wait times on the wsdot website
  4. Live Cameras: Additionally you can also access real-time views of the ferry terminals with their live cameras. This will allow you to see the current weather, as well as the wait lines.


Washington State Ferry Fares and Tickets

Ferry fares will vary depending on a few different factors such as the size of your vehicle, your destination, and whether you’re traveling a one-way or round trip. Seniors, persons with disabilities, and passengers who have a Medicare card (as well as other eligibility verification) are qualified to travel at half the regular passenger fare rate. Further, children ages 5 and under can travel for free while children ages 6 to 18 can benefit from a special rate.

You can purchase your tickets at the terminal tollbooth/kiosk. Alternatively, if you’d like to skip the lines you can purchase your tickets in advance online. Tickets can be purchased with cash, a traveler’s check, VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Cards, or Debit Cards. It’s worth noting, Washington State Ferry will not accept unsigned credit cards or personal checks. Learn more about fares and tickets on the WSF website.


Washington State Ferry Schedules

ferry schedules
Family sitting on a ferry
Cyndi Monaghan / Getty Images

You can access large print paper schedules at any of the Washington State Ferry terminals. Alternatively, you can also download a PDF version of the printed schedule on their website. It’s worth noting, scheduled times that are printed in color are for departures that occur in the morning or late at night (a.m.) while times printed in black are for the afternoon and evening (p.m.). The Washington State Ferry official website has other resources with helpful information too. Be sure to check out the “General Schedule Information” section which will help you understand the schedule, their safety procedures, as well as insightful tips. Keep in mind, the International route between Anacortes and Sidney B.C. does not run during the winter schedule.


Washington State Ferry Terminal Locations

ferry terminal locations
Aerial view of ferries and waterfront, Seattle, Washington State
Pete Saloutos / Getty Images/Image Source

Washington State Ferry operates 20 terminals from Puget sound to San Juan Islands and Sidney, B.C. You can access the address, aerial photo, street map, ferry cams, amenities, parking, and ADA information for each terminal on the Washington State Ferry website.

Ferry Terminals include:

  • Anacortes
  • Bremerton
  • Coupeville
  • Fauntleroy (West Seattle)
  • Kingston
  • Mukilteo (North of Seattle)
  • Point Defiance (in Tacoma)
  • Seattle
  • Sidney B.C.
  • Tahlequah (South Vashon Island)
  • Bainbridge Island
  • Clinton
  • Edmonds (North of Seattle)
  • Friday Harbor (San Juan Island)
  • Lopez Island
  • Orcas Island
  • Port Townsend
  • Shaw Island
  • Southworth (Kitsap Peninsula)
  • Vashon Island


Washing State Ferry Day Trips For Visitors

Some people want to ride the ferries simply for the experience and to take in the wonderful landscape. If that’s something that interests you then we suggest that you leave your car behind and travel on foot as a passenger. There are two routes that will bring you to quaint waterfront communities where you can shop, eat, and explore the natural area — making it the perfect day trip. To ensure you make the most of your experience we recommend traveling on one of the following routes:

  1. Consider taking a trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Not only will you be able to explore the waterfront town but you’ll also enjoy the views of Seattle along the way. When you arrive at the Bainbridge Island ferry dock you’ll need to walk a few blocks to get the marina. Then you can explore the shops, galleries and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. If you’d like to explore beyond that it may be best to bring your car on the ferry so you can explore more of Bainbridge Island as well as Kitsap Peninsula.
  2. Another great route to take is the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston. Kingston has less to see and do than Bainbridge Island but the ferry trip is longer. So if you simply want to be out on the water for longer this may be the better route for you. Additionally, you’ll also have a great view of the Puget Sound on this route.