The ferry Tokitae heading to Whidbey Island

These Ferry Travel Secrets Will Save You Tons of Time

You hear traffic reports about a long ferry wait here, and a long ferry line over there.  The people in those lines are not having any fun, and if they’re traveling as part of a getaway those waits are cutting into their “me” time.

So, what can you do?  There are some easy ways to avoid the extremely long lines on the Washington Ferries.  Some are high tech, and some are just plain logic.  Here are a few of the big tips...

When are the ferries really crowded? We can always ask locals or take a guess, but the ferry system has been busy collecting data on this question and has assembled it in an easy-to-read chart. They update it for each season.

To find it, go to the schedule for the ferry you want to take. Look in the upper right hand corner where it says “Best Travel Times.” When you click on it, you get a downloadable PDF you can save to your phone.

Here’s the link to the Clinton – Mukilteo Ferry schedule.
Here’s the like to the Coupeville – Pt. Townsend schedule.

You’ll also want to check the schedule for the Coupeville to Port Townsend run because tidal conditions force the cancellation of some sailings. Fortunately these can be figured out ahead of time, so the cancellations are announced several weeks in advance.

The ferry Kittitas sails between Coupeville and Port Townsend. Reservations are highly recommended for this route.

It gets crazy busy on the ferries on those three and four-day weekends. If you’re going to hop in your car on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning to make a day of it, you’re probably going to end up frustrated You’ll have a better experience if you use a vacation day and either come a day early or make your own three-day weekend.

Mukilteo lighthouse as seen from the ferry about
to head to Clinton.

There is always room for people to walk onto the ferry, even during the busiest of times. One favorite for Whidbey Islanders is to park their car at the Coupeville ferry terminal, walk on the ferry, and make a day of it in Port Townsend. Whidbey Island is centrally located in the middle of Puget Sound, so you might want to take advantage of it.

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