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State ferries are a budget-friendly way to spend a day at sea

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For as little as $5, you can ride a Washington State ferry.
So, yeah, the old joke that the ferry is the poor man's cruise ship is spot on.
A wealth of fun awaits where a ferry can take you. Grab a sweater and enjoy a day of island life.
Walk on or pay extra to drive your car. Either way, you can sip hot chocolate on the deck and let the wind blow gently across your face while gazing at miles of sparkling sea.
There are 10 routes that lace back and forth across the waters of Western Washington and beyond. Ideally, like clockwork.
Ferries are well-oiled machines yet complicated beasts. They break down, get delayed by any number of factors and are at the mercy of the elements.
So, before you go, check the ferry website, www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. On it is everything you need to know as well as ferry cameras that show real time traffic in holding areas and roads leading to terminals. The site has boat size, route times, wait times, travel alerts, tips, delays and fares, which differ by route. Passengers can use ORCA cards for payment at most terminals. Seniors and youth ride for half price.
This year, if you're heading from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands or Sidney, British Columbia, you might be able to make a reservation. Ditto for the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. Go to the Take A Ferry option on the website for more details.
Schedules and traffic vary by season. Peak time is almost here for many routes. The website highlights hours and days that are the busiest travel times for bringing a vehicle. Walking on is typically a cinch.
Now through the summer on weekends, wait times for driving on a ferry can be an hour or more going to the San Juans, Clinton and Kingston.
And even longer coming back.
So you might want to pack a book, pillow, headphones and aspirin.
The ferry Spokane sails toward Kingston from Edmonds.

Mark Mulligan / Herald File 2014

The ferry Spokane sails toward Kingston from Edmonds.

ROUTES
Seattle/Bainbridge Island: 
Crossing time 35 minutes. Walk on and stroll the waterfront galleries, cafes, coffee shops, book stores, farmers market and museum. At the marina there are lots of pretty boats to admire and whimsical art to enjoy to take your mind off the fact you don't own one of those boats and you never will. Take a bus tour or drive on the ferry to explore the Kitsap Peninsula. A scenic jaunt is Poulsbo, a former Norwegian fishing village that retains its Viking charm with festivals, murals and pastries as big as boats.
Edmonds/Kingston: Crossing time 30 minutes. Drive on for a day trip around the peninsula. Peruse the idyllic hamlet of Port Gamble. Stop and smell the lavender in Sequim. Head to Port Angeles, a picturesque community between the Olympic Mountains and the sea that stretches so far it blends in with the sky. Perfect for watching big ships and sunsets. Across the strait is Victoria, B.C., and up the mountain is Hurricane Ridge.
Mukilteo/Clinton: Crossing time 20 minutes. Walk on and take a free Island Transit bus on weekdays around Whidbey Island. Meander artsy Langley. Sip wine in Greenbank. Fish and collect shells at the many beaches. Drive the length of the island to the breathtaking Deception Pass, and come home via I-5 instead of the ferry.
Coupeville/Port Townsend: Crossing time 35 minutes. Leave your car and cares behind at Keystone and walk on to explore historic Port Townsend, a brick wonderland of boutiques and avenues of Victorian buildings. It was once called “City of Dreams” from speculation it'd be the grand harbor. Seattle won that bet. Port Townsend wins in other ways. It's a Sundance by the sea with an annual full-fledged film fest in the fall. (Another way to get to Port Townsend is to drive on the Edmonds-Clinton ferry, which runs more often and more reliably.)
Anacortes/San Juan Islands /Sidney B.C.: Crossing times vary by destination. Crystal blue waters, deep green forests, waterfalls, whale watching, kayaking, hiking trails, shopping, dining. Book a resort, bed & breakfast, vacation home or campground. Ferries go to Lopez, Orcas, Shaw and Friday Harbor. Inter-island ferry travel is free.
Seattle/Bremerton: Crossing time 60 minutes. Explore the downtown Harborside area, arts district, Naval Museum, boardwalk, Harborside Fountain Park, breweries and bug museum. Walk across the Manette Bridge for more cafes and shopping. City-owned Gold Mountain Golf Course includes two 18-hole championship course. Riders can take a foot ferry from Bremerton to Port Orchard and Southworth.
Fauntleroy/Vashon: Crossing time 20 minutes. Nestled in the “Heart of the Sound,” Vashon is a laid-back, romantic, eclectic mix of restaurants, galleries, historical sites, farms, concerts and shopping. Hike, bike, kayak, kiss, explore a lighthouse. 
Fauntleroy/Southworth/Vashon: Crossing time 40 minutes. Small town charm with docks constructed to serve the Mosquito Fleet vessels and private boat owners before automobiles were invented. Craft galleries, antique shops and old general store. A popular place to launch kayaks for trips to nearby Blake Island State Marine Park. 
Vashon/Southworth: Ferry service between Vashon and Southworth is seasonal. Crossing time 10 minutes.
Point Defiance/Tahlequah: Crossing time 15 minutes. Connects from the point near Tacoma to southern tip of Vashon Island.
For more info
Twitter: @wsferries
Visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/reservations or call 888-808-7977.
For more information about saving a spot to the San Juan Islands, visit www.TakeAFerry.com or email wsinfo@wsdot.wa.gov.
Story tags » Historical SitesClintonCoupevilleEdmondsLangleyMukilteoTravelLeisure (general)Family funGo See Do

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