How to Ride the Washington State Ferries like a Regular
Washington State treasures its ferry system and all that it contributes to the employment levels and tourism industry. Each ferry is named after the Native American tribes located throughout the Pacific Northwest. Washington’s ferries serve the many islands and waterfront cities throughout the Puget Sound. Most tourists take the Bainbridge Island ferry for a great view of the Seattle skyline, but the majority of Washington residents will use the more northern ferry routes for weekend vacations to the San Juan Islands.
I’ve used the Washington State ferry system many times throughout my life. Including summer island vacations and from frequently visiting a certain boy across the water, I have been accustomed to the unspoken rules the ferry commuters live by. Follow these tips on how to ride the Washington State ferries like a regular to prevent being the tourist that gets in the way.
1. Ride Outside Commuter Hours
Many commuters ride the ferry to work in Seattle on the weekdays. Avoid long wait lines and crowds by opting for ferry schedules outside of the mornings and early evenings. If you do choose a commuter ferry, arrive well in advance to secure a spot on the boat.
2. Line Up Early
For those walking on to the ferry, it is best to line up about 5-10 minutes early before the doors open to and from the ferry landings. Be ready with your ticket in hand so you do not slow down others trying to rush for good spots.
3. Walk Fast
The regular commuters are always in a rush to get to their favorite seats for a comfy ride or off the ferry ramp to get to home in time for dinner. Make sure to keep up with the pace, move to the side if you are slower or wait until the majority of the commuters are off before you exit.
4. Walk on if Possible
The Washington ferries have a pay system where walk-on passengers only have to pay one-way on the ferries and the opposite trip is automatically free. However, car passengers have to pay each way and it is much more pricier than a walk-on, naturally. If you can, park somewhere cheap nearby and go onto the ferry as a walk-on.
5. Bring Snacks
Ferry food is gross and expensive. Skip the watered-down coffee and soggy muffins for your own yummy snacks instead. Pike Place Market is nearby the Seattle ferry dock and is a great place to pick up gourmet snacks and lunches! Some of the ferry rides are long and having lunch prepared can make the trip go by quicker and easier.
6. Quiet Voices on the Top Level
There are usually one or two small rooms on the top floor of the ferries that commuters usually fill up. It is expected to be quiet in them to respect the commuters who escape the louder areas below. However, some people do not know this or get it from the glares they’re receiving. The top floor rooms are great for reading, getting work done and taking a quick nap. But stay on the main floor if you want to chat with your friends or on the phone.
7. Get Some Exercise In
Also on the top level is a perfect walking track area on the deck! Instead of sitting the whole trip, take a few laps around the ferry and limber up for the race to get off it. Who knows, you might catch a pod of orcas swimming nearby!
8. Don’t Hog the Window Seats
The “first come, first serve” motto rings true on the Washington ferries, however there is a big difference when it comes to taking up unneeded space. Instead of wasting precious window space by propping our feet across the seats or laying baggage everywhere, keep your stuff near you to allow others to see the wonderful water views too.
Visit the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) ferry site for more information on schedules and alerts.