Printer Friendly

Island hopping by ferry in the Northwest. Here are 5 adventures.

Island hopping by ferry in the Northwest. Here are 5 adventures Deckhands scramble as the ferry glides toward the dock, the resonant blast of its horn still echoing across the bay. Steel chains clang and giant hawsers slither across the car deck as passengers sprint for their autos.

Suddenly the green sea erupts into a roiling froth when the ferry's forward engines hit reverse. The big ship--three stories tall, 450 feet long, 3,200 tons--slows and nearly stops, rocks gently to the ramp, and eases into temporary union with the land.

Although locals tend to take it for granted, the docking of one of these giants of the Northwest ferry fleet is a magical moment, as improbable in its way as the touchdown of a jumbo jet.

Every day across Puget Sound and up the inland sea stretching into Canada, the ferries come and go, more than 60 boats making over 600 sailings daily on some 30 routes. It's the largest ferry fleet in the world and a vital link in the Northwest]s transportation network. But the ferries are also a delighful way to travel, touched with romance and promising adventure.

Here we offer five adventures that help you explore the Northwest's inland sea, ranging from half a day from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, to several days on a grand four-ferry loop through breathtaking fiord country north of Vancouver.

You'll need a ferry schedule in hand to plan your outing. Write or call Washington State Ferries, Pier 52, Seattle 98104, (206) 464-6400; and B.C. Ferries, 818 Broughton St., Victoria V8W 1E4, (604) 386-3431. They'll also send you route maps, fleet guides, trip suggestions, information on several independent carriers, useful phone numbers, and the like.

Our listings give one-way fares unless otherwise stated; they're in U.S. dollars.

An improving, expanding ferry network

Six new Washington state ferries have settled into reliable service, with similar expansion in British Columbia. As a result, the usual lineups on holidays and summer weekends have been reduced or eliminated on all but the most popular routes.

It's still advisable for motorists to get reservations on the popular sailings to Victoria through the San Juan Island (foot passengers never have to wait). Even here, service has been improved this season, but motorists without reservations may have to wait through two departures before getting aboard.

Several Puget Sound terminals are bing upgraded, and a long-range plan calls for a new terminal for the Seattle waterfront (beginning in 1986), rebuilding several historic 1927 ferries (1986), the addition of passenger-only ferries on Seatle commuter routes (1988), and better service on almost every route.

In British Columbia, where the 25th anniversary of B.C. Ferries is being celebrated, terminals are being renovated and an improved car-reservation procedure is smoothing travel to the scenic Gulf Islands.

Tips for more enjoyable trips

* Avoiding delays. Get reservations for your car where available, especially in August. Generally, Washington state ferries run from about 5 A.M. to 10 P.M. or later; least crowded times are midweek between 10 and 4. In B.C., hours are shorter, schedules vary more, and traffic is fairly steady throughout the week.

* Ferry food or a creative picnic? All but the smallest ferries offer cafeterias, with fare ranging from fish-and-chips and hamburgers to soups and sandwiches; prices are reasonable. Or bring your own picnic. You can also arrange in advance to reserve a section of most Washington State Ferries for a children's birthday party, family reunion, or other get-together; call (206) 464-6804.

* Traveling by bicycle (or canoe)? Normally, bikers board and unload ahead of cars and will find marked spots for tying up bicycles (you pay foot-passenger fare, plus $2 to $3 for your bike). Foot passengers on most routes may also walk on with a kayak or canoe at no charge; this may change soon.

* Weather and dress. Breezy weather is the rule. Bring warm clothes and rain gear (it can pour in the Northwest even in August). Better yet, head for the heated, glass-covered sundecks on most larger ferries, or look for windless nooks; don't forget sunglasses.

* Wildlife. Sea birds, killer whales, dolphins, harbor seals, and sea lions can be seen on several crossing; bring binoculars or a camera with a long lens.

1. Half-day on-foot getaway from

Seattle waterfront to Winslow

Two 1972 "jumbo class" ferries, the Spokane and Walla Walla, serve this busiest Puget Sound commuter route. Each 440-foot vessel--largest in the fleet--can carry more than 2,000 passengers and 200 vehicles. But Winslow is so easy to enjoy on foot that it's simplest to leave your car behind.

Service is most frequent (about every 40 minutes) during morning and afternoon rush hours, about once an hour between those times.

From the Winslow terminal, walk north on Olympic Drive S.E. to Winslow Way. About 1/4 mile farther north on Olympic (now State Highway 305) is Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery, open for tasting and tours noon to 5 Wednesdays through Sundays; it also offers a garden picnic area.

Or, at the intersection, turn west on Winslow Way. Shops line the street for two blocks; you'll find antiques, yarn and books, clothing, Scandinavian imports, kitchenwares, art galleries, delicatessens, and restaurants. Stop for maps at the chamber of commerce, 166 Winslow Way; it's open 9:30 to 5 daily except Sundays.

Sow's Ear Antiques, 554 Winslow Way, rents a few bicycles ofr $2 an hour, $10 all day. It's open daily 10 to 5; call (206) 842-1203 to reserve ahead.

At Madison Avenue S. on Winslow Way is Winslow Green, a condominium development with an excellent chocolate shop and ice cream parlor, delicatessen, and other shops.

Two blocks south on Madison, Saltwater Cafe serves fresh shellfish, pasta, oversize croissant sandwiches, local beer; you can dine outdoors overlooking Eagle Harbor. It's open daily for lunch and dinner; for reservations, call (206) 842-8339. Next door is Pegasus Coffee House, with a quiet ambience and good espresso.

For a picnic, stock up at any of several delis and walk a few blocks to Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park, foot of B-June Dr. S.E. (Follow sign on Winslow Way).

Heart of the Sound: a three-ferry loop links historic forts and Victorian seaports This loop takes you aboard a restored 1927 ferry to three historic forts (now state parks) that once guarded the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, into four Victorian seaports, past miles of public beach, and down half the length of rural, woodsy Whidbey Island. Inns and bed-and-breakfast accommodations are concentrated in Port Townsend and the southern half of Whidbey Island.

Begin about 20 miles north of Seattle in Edmonds, whose lively waterfront, parks, and shops make it a worthwhile stop. On the 25-minute crossing to Kingston, look for Pacific white-sided dolphins porpoising off the bow.

From Kingston, follow State Highway 104 northwest 8 miles to Port Gamble, whose founders designed it after their home town of East Machias, Maine. Saltbox houses, a post office, general store, and other 1850s buildings constitutes a national historic landmark. It also claims an interesting museum and North America's oldest operating sawmill. Don't miss the grasy park, peaceful cemetery, and historical displays just off the highway (follow signs north from 104).

Continue 1 mile to the Hood Canal floating bridge ($2 per vehicle). Five miles beyond, turn north (right) on Beaver Valley Road and follow signs 9 miles to Chimacum. For an interesting side trip, turn right at Center Road and follow signs 11 miles to Fort Flagler State Park (beaches, trails, gun emplaements, camping, picnicking, views, fishing). Along the way, signs point to a string of public beaches and parks on Indian and Marrowstone islands.

Backtrack to Chimacum and follow signs north about 10 miles into Port Townsend, Water Street is lined with 1880s red-brick offices, now housing shops, antique stores, restaurants. But the real attraction is the cluster of restored Victorian homes, nearly a dozen of which are now open as inns; double rooms cost $40 to $80 a night.

North of town a few miles is Fort Worden State Park, with its turn-of-the-century officers' row, beach, camping, summer arts programs, and music fests.

Tkae the ferry from Port Townsend on the half-hour crossing to Keystone on Whidbey Island. Watch for killer whales and sea birds. Two ferries ply this route in summer; try to ride the 1927 Klickitat, handsomely restored in 1981.

From Keystone, turn left immediately and follow signs into Fort Casey State Park (more trails, beaches to roam, camping, picnicking, historic guns, and miles-wide vistas). Or drive north 5 miles on Engle Road to the 1880s seaport of Coupeville, with several inns. Here are museums, a pioneer blockhouse, shops, and restaurants. Exhibits in the Park Service office (end of Front Street) explain the Ebey Landing National Historical Reserve (the nation's first), which protects the surrounding historic farms, cemetery, and shoreline.

To continue the loop, drive south on State 20 and east on State 525 about 21 miles to signs directing you 4 miles north to charming Langley, another turn-of-the-century waterside town. Amid false-front buildings along First Street, you'll find arts and crafts shops, eateries, a seawall park, and views to Camano Island.

Backtrack to State 525 and go a few miles east to Clinton; board the last ferry on this loop for the 15-minute ride to Mukilteo, about 20 miles north of Edmonds via I-5.

The intermediate-size "Issaquah class" ferries on this route are the fleet's newest, notable for their speed and large-scale displays of museum-quality art--wood carvings, fabrics and textiles, paintings.

Fare for all three crossings is $18.70 for car and driver, $4.10 for each additional passenger ($2.10 for children and seniors).

3. San Juan Islands by bike: island and seashore panorama

Four of Washington's 175 San Juan Islands are served by ferry. Best bets for cyclists are Lopez Island, mostly level and largely rural, and San Juan, a little hillier but with the lively waterfront town of Friday Harbor to explore and historic forts and settlements to visit.

From Seattle, where you can rent a bike (see the yelow pages), drive north 65 miles on I-5 to Burlington and take State 20 west 20 miles to the Anacortes terminal parking lot; allow 2 hours from Seattle. Or park in Anacortes and pedal 4 miles in a bike lane to the terminal.

Lopez Island is the first stop, a 40-minute ferry ride west of Anacortes (on the way, look carefully for bald eagles, killer whales, sea lions, harbor seals).

Pedal south on Ferry and Fisherman Bay roads into the town of Lopez, which has several restaurants; island maps are available in stores. Continue south along Fisherman Bay Road, following signs to Richardson and a country store. Pedal east on Vista and Mud Bay roads, then south on Mackaye Harbor Road to Agate Beach Park.

Return to the ferry terminal via Mackaye Harbor, Mud Bay, and Center roads, perhaps detouring eastward to Spencer Spit State Park (camping, beach) via Cross and Baker roads.

Round trip, about 25 miles, takes 4 to 6 hours including stops.

Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, is the last ferry stop, about 2 hours from Anacortes. Allow time to enjoy Friday's shops, restaurants, whale museum (open daily 10 to 5; $2 admission), marina with fleet of colorful craft and boat rentals, and other attractions; island maps in shops.

Pedal northwest on Roche Harbor Road to the 1880s settlement of Roche Harbor, its lively boat basin, and rustic Hotel de Haro (Teddy Roosevelt once slept there). Continue south on West Valley Road a mile to a signed side road to English Camp, a British garrison in the 1850s, now a national monument with barracks, blockhouse, exhibits (day use only; free admission).

Back on West Valley Road, continue south 1-1/2 miles to Mitchell Bay Road; go right 1-1/4 miles to Westside Road, then follow signs south to San Juan County Park (beach, picnicking, compsites, promontories for killer whale watching). The road soon turns to gravel, and this makes a good turn-around. Retrace the route back to Friday Harbor.

Round-trip, about 30 miles; 4 to 6 hours.

See Bicycling the Backroads Around Puget Sound, by Erin and Bill Woods (The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1981; $9.95).

Round-trip fare to either island: $5.80 for passenger with bike. 4. Up into B.C.'s fiord country . . . a four-ferry loop

This superb sampler of coastal British Columbia offers nonstop recreational diversion--fishing, boating, hiking, camping, beachcombing, and swimming--and takes you through spectacular scenery and along a stretch of coast heralded for its fair weather. For maps and recreational information, write to B.C. Tourism offices in Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

From downtown Vancouver, drive north across the Lions Gate Bridge to Highway 1 and continue west to the Horseshoe Bay terminal (13 miles from city center). Board the big B.C. ferry for the 40-minute crossing of Howe Sound to Langdale, on the Sechelt Peninsula.

Follow Highway 101 southwest 3 miles to the village of Gibsons (museum, marina, nearby hiking trails, lodging), and continue 15 miles along the Sunshine Coast to the pleasant town of Sechelt (galleries, shops, nearby trails, seaplane sightseeing). Another 25 miles brings you to an area called Pender Harbour, a collection of marinas, hamlets, and villages with miles of sheltered coast favored by powerboaters, canoeists, fishermen, and seaplane pilots; 12 miles beyond is Early Cove.

If time allows and tides are right, consider a side trip to Skookumchuk Narrows to see the surging Sechelt Rapids, a salt-water "river" that roars through a narrow inlet at speeds up to 16 knots; follow signs from the highway 3/4 mile before Earls Cove ferry landing.

Board another, smaller B.C. ferry here for the 50-minute ride through narrow and twisting Jervis Inlet to Saltery Bay; the ride offers some of the best scenery of the loop--forested mountains plunging into the sea, sno-tipped crags rearing in the distance, bald eagles wheeling overhead.

From Saltery Bay, it's 22 miles (still on Highway 101) northwest to the large pulp-and-paper town of Powell River. here you'll board The Princess of Vancouver, a roomy and comfortable Ministry of Highways ferry, once a Canadian Pacific steamship. The crossing of the Strait of Georgia to Comox on Vancouver Island takes about 1-1/2 hours and the scenery is dramatic.

The drive southwest from Comox on Highway 19 follows the shore for most of the 76 miles to Nanaimo. Along the way are plenty of sandy beaches for swimming or strolling, and a string of resorts and towns. For more exploring, there are also small Ministry of Highways ferries to a few offshore islands.

The fourth ferry on this loop--from Nanaimo across the Strait of Georgia back to Horseshoe Bay (1-1/2 hours, frequent service)--is another large vessel with amenities like ship-to-shore phones, gift shop, bookstore, and travel information.

Round-trip ferry fares are about $42 for car and driver, $8.90 for additional pasengers, $4.45 for children. Sailings every 1 to 2 hours on three routes, infrequent sailings on the Powell River to Comox leg--plan carefully.

5. Five ways to Victoria, with or without a car

Seattle 98121; (206) 441-5560 (recording), 441-8200 (reservations). One of the West's last passenger steam vessels, the 1948 Marguerite offers more cruise ship comforts than any other Victoria ferry--wood-paneled dining room, uniformed waiters, shops, play area, cocktail lounges, entertainment. there's space for only 50 cars, but room for 1,800 walk-ons.

It leaves Seattle daily through September 29 at 8 a.m., arrives Victoria at 12:15 departs for Seattle at 5:30, and arrives at 9:45. One way: $18 adults, $15 seniors, $11 ages 5 through 11; bicycles $2 extra.

Autos cost $27 in August ($11 in September); day rooms are $15 and up. Rooms and car space must be reserved, about two weeks ahead in August.

If you hold an advance ticket, you board between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Boarding is first come after 7:30; you could miss the sailing.

Dining room opens at 7:30; get seated early to avoid long waits. On the return, linger over dinner, do your duty-free shopping, then enjoy the lounges and entertainment. Victoria is perfect for walkers and bikers. Leave your car in Seattle (parking garages on the waterfront; $3.50 a day and up).

Also from Seattle. Island Jetfoil Corp., 1402 Third Ave., Seattle 98101; (800) 663-7575. In service since April, the Spirit of Friendship hydrofoil makes three round trips daily to Victoria from Pier 69. Crossings take 1-3/4 hours, beginning at 7 a.m. Foot passengers only (capacity 240); no cars. Adult fare is $45, round trip $79. Reserve space at least one week ahead.

From Port Angeles. Black Ball Transport, 10777 Main St., #106, Bellevue, Wash. 98004; 622-2222. Travelers exploring the Olympic Peninsula can cross to Victoria on the M.V. Coho from the dock at the foot of Laurel Street in Port Angeles. It makes four daily round-trip sailings, 1-1/2 hours each way, to Victoria's Inner Harbour.

If you take a vehicle, park it in line the night before to ensure a place on the 8:30 a.m. sailing (other departures about every 4 hours; arrive early). Motels cost $30 up. Walk-ons should arrive early for morning sailings; up to 100 persons have been left.

The Coho offers few frills and only cafeteria meals, but it holds 110 cars, 750 walk-ons. One-way tickets are $20 for car and driver, $5.25 for passengers ($2.60 children 5 through 11); bikers pay an additional $2.20. All tickets sold first come.

From Anacortes. Washington State Ferries (address on page 59). The 2-1/2-hour sailings on the popular route from Anacortes through the San Juan Islands to Sidney (17 miles north of Victoria) have been upped this season to three, at 8:30, 10:30, and 3:45; return trips at 12:20, 1:45, and 7.

Chances of finding space will be better this year (half of each sailing is held for travelers without reservations), but book your car ahead; call (206) 464-6400. An alternative: by bus from downtown Seattle via the ferry to downtown Victoria; call 624-5077.

Super ferries (160 autos, 2,500 passengers) are roomy and comfortable. Tickets cost $29.20 for car and driver, $5.65 adults, $2.85 children 5 through 11.

From Tsawwassen, B.C. (20 miles south of Vancouver via highways 99 and 17). B.C. Ferries (address on page 59) offers the most frequent service, hourly 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Normally there's no wait. Crossings take about 1-1/2 hours.

Four ferries each carry up to 400 cars, more than 1,300 passengers, through the spectacular Gulf islands. You land at Swartz Bay, 20 miles north of Victoria, so you'll need a car. Buses from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria coordinate with every sailing; call (604) 662-3222.

Tickets are about $14 for car and driver, $3 adult, $1.50 ages 5 through 11.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Victoria, British Columbia
Date:Aug 1, 1985
Previous Article:This summer: 150 years of German rail history; excursion, exhibits, parades, mainly around Nurnberg.
Next Article:Call it tofulato - what happens when you introduce Oriental tofu to Italian gelato? A smooth, lean, delicious ice dessert.

Related Articles
New ferry crossing for Lake Powell.
Exploring British boat, train, plane, ferry.
Crossing Fraser River on a free ferry.
Plan for Northwest convention/vacation.
Experience the Winter Delights of Five Destinations this Holiday Season with Rocky Mountaineer Railtours 'Pacific Northwest & Winter Rockies' Tour;...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters