Monday, September 3, 2007

Take a "poor man's cruise" on a Washington State Ferry


Visitors to the Puget Sound area of Washington state looking for a fun way to spend a few hours or even a day might want to take "a poor man’s cruise" on a Washington State Ferry. There are about a dozen major routes to choose from, some as short as 15 minutes but some more than an hour. The two biggest urban routes leave Seattle and Edmonds (to the north), but the most scenic is from Anacortes to the pretty little town of Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. En route, the ship passes by isolated islands, some with a home or two. If you get lucky, you may see a pod of Orca Whales.

Walk on fares are inexpensive, ranging from about $4 to $13 round trip in peak season. Passengers only pay going west: the trip back is free. Vehicles, however are charged both ways. It might cost $25 to bring a car back and forth on a short trip, or up to about $75 on longer routes. RVs are charged extra if they are longer than 20 feet and also when their height exceeds 7 feet six inches. A ride from Edmonds on the mainland to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula would cost about $85 round trip on an RV between 20 and 30 feet that is higher than 7 feet six inches. A big rig RV sailing to and from the San Juan Islands might pay about $300 during the prime summer season (figure about 20 percent less in the off-season).

Most riders with vehicles leave them after boarding and head upstairs to lounges, the cafeteria and viewing areas. Grab a hamburger or some fish and chips in the cafeteria. Kids can play video games. And there's always an extensive literature rack with good information about the destinations ahead.

It's hardly ever a problem walking onto a ferry -- there is always room. But driving on can involve a wait of an hour or two on Fridays and Sundays during the busy summer months.

The two-minute video clip here is of the trip from Edmonds to Kingston.

Learn more about the ferry including schedules and fares by visiting the Washington State Ferries website.

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