I have to admit, I like ferries. I especially like ferries when they make the drive shorter, save gas money (even with the cost of riding the ferry), and / or are an event unto themselves (like taking the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan). The Port Townsend Ferry (between Coupeville on Whidbey Island and Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula) meets all this criteria. We were trying to get between the North Cascades (Hidden Lake, to be exact) and Olympic National Park (specifically, Third Beach), so this ferry was very much on the way, shortening the trip by several hours and the fee was about the same or less than driving all the way through Seattle. Plus, it was a highlight of the trip for many of my group members, and the weather was perfect. What could be better?
The stats: crossing the Puget Sound via the Port Townsend Ferry takes about 35 minutes (pity it, I think they have faster boats than when I first took the ferry in 1999!). The fare is per person as well as per vehicle, which means it’s cheaper for, say, a couple than for my group of nine (but even for my group it was still cheaper than buying gas).
You can get a current schedule as well as estimate the fare at http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/ScheduleDetailByRoute.aspx?route=pt-key. I believe that advance reservations can be purchased, though our schedule is so up in the air that we usually simply buy our tickets at the dock.
We usually have to wait 15 to 60 minutes to board (depending on the current schedule, exactly when we’ve arrived, and how busy the ferry is at the moment). I recall one time when we had our Hard-sided Roof Top Camper up on top of the full-sized van: we were under the lowest height limit, but they still put us in the lane with the above-height vehicles!
You can choose to stay in your vehicle below decks, to go up to an enclosed viewing area, or to walk out on deck (our top choice). There are seats both in the cabin and on the deck of the ferry. On deck, be aware that the wind is quite something – I have a picture of one of my group members with her waist-long hair blowing straight up!
Sights include Fort Casey State Park (right next to the Coupeville ferry dock), wildlife (seals and seagulls, among other birds and sea life), boats, sea planes, the distant Olympics, the lighthouse at Fort Worden State Park, and Port Townsend. There’s never a lack of something to look at.
Enjoy the pictures and video of coming into port in Port Townsend (this was in 2009).
Getting to the Coupeville dock (Whidby Island):
From Burlington, continue west on US-20W. Stay on US-20W for 37 miles. Note: you’ll cross the Deception Pass Bridge, which I highly recommend visiting if you like bridges or nice scenery. Turn right onto S Main Street for 0.5 miles, then continue straight on S Engle Road for an additional 3.4 miles. Take a slight right onto WA-20W (you’ve cut a curve here, so if you miss the turn, no biggie). After 0.1 miles, turn right (staying on WA-20W) toward the ferry dock.
Getting to the Port Townsend Ferry Dock (Olympic Peninsula):
From Port Angeles: Drive about 30 miles east on US-101E. Turn left onto US-20E, following the signs toward Port Townsend. After 7.8 miles, turn left to continue on WA-20E for an additional 2.1 miles. At the traffic circle, continue straight (second exit) on W Sims Way. Another 1.9 miles later, continue straight onto Water Street for almost 500 ft, then turn right to the Ferry Terminal.
One funny little tidbit: this ferry literally connects the two sections of US-20. So you could almost say the ferry is part of the highway!
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Now here’s an interesting idea: bike around the Puget Sound by taking ferries! Sounds like fun to me 🙂
Fri Jul 21
Mostly cloudy. Lows overnight in the mid 50s.
Sat Jul 22
Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High 68F. ESE winds shifting to NW at 10 to 15 mph.
Sun Jul 23
Some clouds in the morning will give way to mainly sunny skies for the afternoon. High 69F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.
Mon Jul 24
Sunny. High 71F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.
Tue Jul 25
A mainly sunny sky. High near 70F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.