The Seattle skyline, as seen from the car deck of the Kaleetan. Photo by Lauren Segal.

We are tied to the sea. And in this region's complex patchwork of waterways, there is, perhaps, no more iconic transport than the ferry. Washington State Ferries, a wing of the state department of transportation, has dispatched vessels from a network of docks throughout the entire Salish Sea since 1951—though the region's maritime history dates back much further than that. From the relatively remote channels of the San Juans to the pier-lined edge of downtown, these boats tote harried commuters and selfie-ready tourists along routes that, while roadless, are technically a part of the state highway network. It's the most extensive ferry system in the country and one of the largest in the world, yet it feels like a quaint slice of the Pacific Northwest. So step aboard, grab the best snacks in the galley, and explore Washington's remarkable resource for traveling across the water.

In This Feature:

An Abridged Account of Puget Sound's Maritime Past

However drastically fleets have changed over the years, they've always been a steadfast icon in Seattle history.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez and Anne Dennon

The Bare-Bones Basics to Riding a Ferry

What every passenger should know before embarking.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

Zigzag Across the Puget Sound and Beyond

Twenty terminals. Ten routes. How to travel the region by ferry.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

The 10 Washington Ferry Rider Commandments

Thou shalt follow social etiquette or risk getting duly called out on the boat’s PA system.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

Life at 15 Knots: Coming of Age Aboard a Ferry

Growing up, Rosin Saez took the ferry to get away. Now it brings her home.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

How to Identify Every Boat in Washington's Ferry Fleet

What's in a (ferry's) name? A whole lot of planning, apparently.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

The Biggest Riot on a Ferry You've Never Heard Of

The infamous story of punks gone wild.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

Four People You Meet on a Ferry

A few of the folks who keep your boat afloat.

04/23/2019 By Jaime Archer Photography by Lauren Segal

Big Changes Are Coming to Colman Dock

More riders. Old boats. New challenges. Once every decade Washington takes a hard look at the future of waterway transportation.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

The Ultimate Ferry Food Dining Matrix

Plain bag of potato chips. Local craft beer. Here's what to eat while topside.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

A Tacoma–Seattle Ferry Route Could Soon Be a Thing

Is it time for a new golden age of Puget Sound ferry travel?

04/23/2019 By Allison Williams

6 Dark Cinematic Takes on Washington State Ferries

Charting Hollywood’s increasingly grim interpretations of our beloved vessels.

04/23/2019 By Stefan Milne

With Droves of Workers Retiring, What's in Store for Our Ferry Future?

Employees at every level are getting ready to clock out for the last time.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez

Seattle's Marine Transit Evolves as the Population Booms

From high-speed commuter boats to the future of hybrid-electric ferries.

04/23/2019 By Rosin Saez