Your Ferry Guide: Bainbridge & Seattle


April 12, 2024

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Adam Foley

As a former morning commuter, I found a special kind of serenity in Bainbridge Island’s ferry rides to Seattle. The peacefulness of opening a novel, enjoying a hot coffee, and basking in the glow of the sunrise over the Puget Sound became a cherished daily ritual. It’s a part of the island lifestyle, whether you’re headed to work or simply seeking leisure. Here’s a local’s tip: keep the WSDOT ferry app handy on your phone to stay informed about the ferry’s car capacity and any delays, ensuring your journey across the water is smooth.

1. Ferry Basics

Route: The ferry runs between Bainbridge Island and Seattle.

Terminal on Bainbridge Island: The ferry departs from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal, located at 270 Olympic Drive SE, Bainbridge Island, WA (Right in downtown Winslow)

Terminal in Seattle: The arrival and departure point in Seattle is at the Seattle Ferry Terminal, Colman Dock, 801 Alaskan Way.

Operator: This route is operated by Washington State Ferries (WSF).

2. Schedules

Frequency: Ferries typically run every 50-60 minutes, but the schedule can vary based on the day of the week and the season.

First and Last Ferry: The first ferry usually leaves Bainbridge Island early in the morning, around 5:00 AM, with the last one leaving Seattle just before or around midnight.

Weekends and Holidays: Expect a different schedule on weekends and public holidays. Always check the Washington State Ferries schedule for the most accurate information.

3. Tickets and Fares

Purchasing Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at the terminal via automated kiosks, staffed ticket booths, or online through the WSF website.

Fares: Fares vary by age group (adult, senior, youth), and there are different rates for vehicles. Passengers traveling from Bainbridge to Seattle pay only on the Bainbridge side; the return trip from Seattle is free.

ORCA Cards and Passes: ORCA cards are accepted and can be a convenient way to manage fares if you plan on using the ferry often.

4. Boarding the Ferry

Vehicles: If you’re bringing a vehicle, it’s recommended to arrive at the terminal at least 20 minutes before departure, especially during peak hours, as space on the ferry can be limited.

Walk-on Passengers: Walk-on passengers can arrive closer to departure time but should allow sufficient time to park (if applicable) and walk to the terminal.

5. Amenities Onboard

Seating: There are plenty of seats available, both inside and outside. Outside decks offer stunning views of Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline.

Food and Drinks: The ferry includes a galley that serves snacks, beverages (including beer on tap and wine), and sometimes more substantial meals.

Accessibility: The ferries are equipped to accommodate passengers with disabilities. If you have specific needs, it’s a good idea to contact WSF ahead of your trip.

6. Tips for a Smooth Journey

Best Time to Travel: Weekday mornings and late afternoons are peak times due to commuters. For a more relaxed trip, consider midday or weekends.

Weather Considerations: Puget Sound can be chilly and windy if you venture to the exterior deck. Bring layers to stay comfortable.

Enjoy the Ride: Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains to the west and Mount Rainier to the southeast on clear days.

7. Arriving in Seattle

Exploring Seattle: Once you disembark at Colman Dock, you’re right in the heart of downtown Seattle, steps from the historic Pioneer Square, the bustling Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, and many other attractions.

This ferry service not only provides a functional transit option but also a beautiful journey across Puget Sound. Whether you’re a daily commuter or a visitor, it’s a wonderful way to experience the unique charm of the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy your trip!

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