The ferry Tokitae heading to Whidbey Island

These Ferry Travel Secrets Will Save You Tons of Time

Updated August 12, 2020

Whether you travel to and from Whidbey Island for business or for pleasure, you'll likely consider traveling by ferry.

But, you hear traffic reports about a long ferry wait here, and a long ferry line over there.

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 main tips, including trying a Camano Island getaway, instead.

One boat service on the weekends between Clinton and Mukilteo makes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday travel an exercise in patience.  Some delay returning to the mainland until Monday.  But, they’re often caught in delays in Clinton because of commuter traffic.

So mid-week travel, especially if you’re doing just a day trip, is really the best way to go.

The same goes for the Coupeville – Pt. Townsend Ferry.

Typical two-boat service is down to just one boat every day of the week, so weekend travelers are sometimes forced to take other routes; not a favorite way to take a vacation.

Because ferry travel these days is a more difficult to predict than usual, Washington State Ferries has stopped offering on their website a heavy travel prediction tool.  They hope to bring it back when the disruptions caused by COVID-19 have eased.

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.

Motorcycles get to go to the front of the line and load first.  That’s why many commuters ride motorcycles.

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