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Puget Sound

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The Space NeedlePuget Sound is one of the most unique bodies of water in the world.


Water and tidal flows from the Pacific Ocean enter Puget Sound from two sources, the 80 mile long by 15 mile wide Strait of Juan de Fuca which runs between the Olympic Peninsula and southern end of Vancouver Island.  The other source is through the narrow channels around the north end of Vancouver Island over 250 miles to the north.


Technically Puget Sound is the portion of the inland waters south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in central Washington State.  The waters to the north of the strait are called the San Juan Islands in Washington State and in British Columbia, Canada the area is called the Gulf Islands.  Farther north is the Straight of Georgia.  For simplicity we are going to call all of these inland waters the “Greater Puget Sound”.  We hope you don’t mind our lack of technical correctness to opt for simplicity.


Access to the Greater Puget Sound for visitors to the area


Deception PassThere are hundreds of ways to access Puget Sound from taking a ride on a ferry to renting your own yacht and cruising the sound.  Along the shore there are hundreds of parks, resorts, charter boats, and whale watching tours on the Greater Puget Sound.  With few exceptions, the main one being the 20 mile wide by 150 mile long Strait of Georgia, most of Puget Sound is made up of channels and straits that are only around five miles wide.  There are thousands of islands in the Greater Puget Sound (The inland waters of Washington and British Columbia).  This means that there are thousands of miles of coastline on the mainland and on islands.  A great deal of this shoreline is open to the public.  Some of the most interesting is in the San Juan Islands.


San Juan Islands





Whale Watching

One of the most interesting ways to access Puget Sound is to take a whale watching cruise.  The object of a Whale watch cruise is, of course, to find the magnificent Orca whales. On these cruises you may also see Gray or Minke Whales, little known relatives of the great blue whale.

 Visit our Whale Watching page.


Driving along the Greater Puget Sound

There are only two highways in Washington State that actually follow the shore.  The first is Chuckanut Drive (WA highway 11) that runs along the shore between Burlington and Bellingham.  The other is US Highway 101 along Hoods Canal from Olympia to Port Townsend.  Most other highways that follow the Sound only give you a peak at the Sound now and then.


The ferries on the Greater Puget Sound


By far the simplest and most available way to get a feel of the sound is to take a ferry ride.  You can park and walk on for a round trip for the best price, you can include a ferry ride in your route, or you can take one of the ferry circle routes explained below.  There are three major ferry systems or routes serving 1-temp01the Greater Puget Sound plus several counties run ferries to specific islands.


Washington State Ferries.

The largest ferry fleet in the world is run by Washington State on Puget Sound.  The easiest way to get a real feel is to pick one of the many routes across the sound, into the San Juan Islands, or to Vancouver island.  There are ferry runs out of Seattle and Edmonds to the Olympic Peninsula.  There is a ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island and from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island in Canada.  All of these ferries allow you to walk on as a passenger and ride round trip. 

Their web site is:  http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm




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Port Angeles – Victoria Ferry

On the north end of the Olympic Peninsula, Black Ball Transport runs the car and passenger ferry Coho between Port Angeles and Victoria, BC, Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  In the summer there are four sailings a day and in the winter there are two sailings.

Their web site is:  http://www.cohoferry.com/



The BC Ferries

The British Columbia (Canada) government runs a fleet of ferries in the Canadian Waters.  Most routes are from the mainland to Vancouver Island.  Most of their ferries are large vessels but they also have some specialty ferries and smaller inter-island ferries. 

Their web site is:  http://www.bcferries.bc.ca/




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Circle Tours of the Greater

Puget Sound using ferry routes


Whidbey Island Circle Tour

The Mukilteo / Clinton ferryWhidbey Island,

deception pass bridge,

and the Clinton / Mukilteo Ferry (this trip can be made in one day): 


This trip begins in Seattle on Interstate-5.  You head north 60 mi. on I-5 to Burlington (just north of Mount Vernon).  From Burlington you had west at Interstate-5 Exit 230 on WA-20 to Whidbey Island and the City of Oak Harbor. 


When you cross over the Swinomish Slough bridge (8.2 miles from I-5) you will leave the mainland.  You will then be on Fidalgo Island.  In 3.4 miles further west you will come to Sharpe’s Corner.  It is the intersection of WA-20 south to Whidbey Island and WA-20A north to Anacortes.  It is about a 4 mile diversion to Anacortes if you would like to see the city.  You will have to travel back to Sharpe’s Corner to head south to Whidbey Island.


From Sharpe’s Corner it is about a 6 mile trip south to the world famous Deception Pass Bridge.  This bridge will take you from Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island.  There are several lookouts, one between the two bridges that cross over Deception Pass.  Deception Pass State Park is just south of the bridge and it is worth your time to see Cranberry Lake and the shared beach between the lake and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  There are lovely saltwater beaches in the park.  Also just south of the bridge there is a visitors center crammed with information about Whidbey Island.


From Deception pass it is 10 miles to the City of Oak Harbor and 47 miles down the island to Clinton where you catch a Washington State ferry to Mukilteo.  From Mukilteo it is about 5 mi. east to I-5 and 30 mi. south to Seattle where you started from.


Links to more information about this loop:

Washington State Ferries: 

Home Page: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm

                           The Clinton - Mukilteo Ferry Schedule



The Whidbey Island and Port Townsend loop

Whidbey Island,

the Keystone / Port Townsend ferry,

Port Townsend

Hood Canal Bridge,

Kitsap Peninsula,

and the Seattle Ferries loop (a minimum two day trip):


  This loop starts in Seattle on Interstate-5.  You head north 60 mi. on I-5 to Burlington, Interstate-5 Exit 230 (just north of Mount Vernon).  From Burlington you had west on WA-20 to Whidbey Island.  You will cross over the famous Deception Pass Bridge when you go onto Whidbey Island.  You will drive about 20 mi. south on Highway 20 to Coupeville.  Coupeville is easy to find because there is a pedestrian overpass over highway 20 and a stop light just past the overpass.  Turn right at the light and go about 10 miles to the Keystone ferry landing of Washington State Ferries.  Take the ferry to Port Townsend.  Port Townsend is a historic port city that has restored many of its 1850’s buildings and you may want to spend the night here. From Port Townsend you head south on WA-19 to the Hoods Canal Bridge.


From the Hood Canal Bridge you have three Washington State Ferry options and one highway option to get back to Seattle:


1.  You can head to Kingston and take the Kingston / Edmonds ferry and then drive south about 15 miles to Seattle.

2.  You can head to Bainbridge Island on WA highway 3 then WA-303 and take the Bainbridge / Seattle ferry

3.  You can head to Bremerton on WA-3 and take the Bremerton / Seattle ferry.

4.  The forth option is to drive south through Bremerton to Gig Harbor and take the Tacoma Narrows bridge back to I-5 and drive a little over 30 mi. north to Seattle.


Links that will assist you on this loop:

Washington State Ferries:  http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm



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Art on the Port Angeles waterfrontThe Victoria Loop

The Seattle / Bainbridge ferry

 – Hood Canal Bridge

 – The Port Angeles / Victoria ferry

 – The Victoria / San Juan Islands /

     Anacortes ferry


– Seattle loop (a 3 day plus trip): 


This loop starts in Seattle taking the Bainbridge Island ferry.  Once on Bainbridge island you take WA-305 north to WA-3 and take WA-3 to US-101 north to Port Angeles. You will probably want to spend your first night in Port Angeles.  On your second day you will take the ferry MV Coho to Victoria.  You will probably want to spend your second night or more in Victoria.  On your third day you will drive to Sidney where you will board a Washington State Ferry, which goes through the San Juan Islands to Anacortes.  It is then about 90 miles back to Seattle.


Links for more information on this loop:

Washington State Ferries:  http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm

Black Ball Transportation – MV Coho:  http://www.cohoferry.com/


Victoria BC Tourist information:  http://www.tourismvictoria.com/



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Vancouver Island Ferry Loop


Seattle to Anacortes

– The Anacortes / Victoria ferry

– Vancouver Island and Victoria, BC, Canada

– The Swartz Bay / Tsawwassen via BC Ferries,

to Blaine border crossing, Seattle via I-5 (this is a two day trip): 


This loop starts with a drive of about 90 miles north on Interstate-5 from Seattle to Anacortes.  From Anacortes you take the Washington State Ferry to Victoria.  You will want to spend at the very least one night in the Victoria area.  The following day you will want to proceed to Swartz Bay and take a BC Ferry to Tsawwassen.  From Tsawwassen you will drive east to Canada Highway 99, then south to the Blaine Border Crossing into the US and then proceed 110 miles south to Seattle on Interstate-5 (Canadian-99 and Interstate-5 link at the Blaine Border Crossing).


Links for more information on this loop:

Washington State Ferries:  http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/index.cfm

Victoria BC Tourist information:  http://www.tourismvictoria.com/

BC Ferries:  http://www.bcferries.bc.ca/




The Washington State Department of Transportation has a great site for printable maps of Washington State








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