Hopping on a ferry and coasting through the Salish Sea is a quintessential Seattle experience. Along with the wind in your hair, fresh air in your lungs, and soothing water views, ferries offer the chance to explore intimate island communities and take a break after a day of hiking and sightseeing.
Much like our roadways, ferries see heavy traffic—especially during holiday weekends and peak season (May 1–Sept. 30). Before you head out, review the sailing schedule and real-time traffic cameras on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s ferry page. According to WSDOT, the busiest sailings are Thursday and Friday evening westbound ferries and Sunday afternoon eastbound ferries.
Soak in the wind-whipped views of the Cascades, Olympics, nearby islands, passing ferries, and the Seattle cityscape. Consider timing your ferry ride to coincide with sunrise or sunset for a luminous bookend to your day. Budget extra time to explore quirky landmarks, community haunts, and local craftwork at your destination.
Here are four hikes near Seattle that make great day trips:
3.3 miles round-trip, 1,060 feet elevation gain, Lummi Island Heritage Trust
Baker Preserve, located on Lummi Island, is a shady hike along lush green moss, dancing sword ferns, and pockets of musical streams and birds. Although it starts steep, the dirt trail gentles after 0.5 mile, leading to a serene overlook of Rosario Strait, the Olympics, and San Juan Islands. Make it a day trip with a breezy picnic at the Congregational Church Beach or lunch with Mount Baker views at the family-friendly Beach Store Café (hours vary seasonally). The ferry for Lummi Island is operated by Whatcom County.
Ferry: Gooseberry Point-Lummi Island / Crossing time: 8 minutes
2.0 mile round-trip, 100 feet elevation gain, Bloedel Reserve, Tues.-Sun. 10am-4pm
The Bloedel Reserve, located on Bainbridge Island, is a tranquil loop trail on the former estate of Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Head south on a soft bark trail, weaving through a “living museum” of bird marshes, reflecting ponds, a Japanese garden, and moss-draped forest. An admission fee applies; pick up a brochure on the Bainbridge ferry for a discount. Make it a day trip with a waterfront stroll in downtown Winslow, a picnic lunch at Waterfront Park, and an ice cream from Mora Iced Creamery.
Ferry: Seattle–Bainbridge Island / Crossing time: 35 minutes
4.4 miles of trails, less than 300 feet elevation gain, Greenbank Farm
Greenbank Farm, located on Whidbey Island, is a sprawling family-friendly farm featuring grassy trails, great blue herons, and on-site artisan shops. Hike northwest to the ridgeline for panoramic views of Saratoga Passage and the Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west. Then create your own zig-zag loop through the maze of trails in the large meadow. Stop in for a sandwich, espresso, or homemade pie at Whidbey Pies and Café (hours vary seasonally).
Ferry: Mukilteo-Clinton / Crossing time: 20 minutes
Shinglemill Creek-Fern Cove
3.2 miles roundtrip, 400 feet elevation gain, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust
Shinglemill Creek-Fern Cove, located on Vashon Island, is a beautiful trail that steeply descends into a rainforest-like ravine, crosses Cedarhurst Road, and emerges at the Fern Cove estuary. Enjoy hopscotching along the tidelands at low tide, spotting bald eagles, and watching ferries shuttle to and from the Kitsap Peninsula. Take care crossing Cedarhurst Road (there is no pedestrian crosswalk) and watch for sizeable potholes near the trailhead. Make it a day trip with a visit to The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, the pint-sized Lavender Hill Farm (open seasonally) and Point Robinson Lighthouse.
Ferry: Fauntleroy-West Seattle / Crossing time: 20 minutes