Here comes the sun… and the crowds aboard ferries

Travel hacks to help avoid long waits for Memorial Day weekend sailings

SEATTLE – Ridership aboard Washington State Ferries significantly increases as the weather gets warmer. As the busy travel season begins, there are several ways to avoid the potential long lines for vehicles.

Hack #1: Customers are encouraged to leave their cars at home, if possible, to save time when catching a ferry. There is plenty of walk-on capacity with minimal to no wait on all sailings. People who ride bicycles or motorcycles can also skip the vehicle line.

Hack #2: Travel off-peak. Early in the morning, later at night, or midweek sailings are usually less busy.

Hack #3: Make a vehicle reservation. The Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes offer reservations though they fill quickly during holiday weekends.

While some routes have returned to pre-pandemic service levels, others are operating on significantly reduced service. People boarding in a vehicle should plan for long waits across the system over Memorial Day weekend. Wait times are much shorter for early morning and late-night sailings.

Service is restored with 95% reliability on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands, Seattle/Bainbridge, Mukilteo/Clinton and Edmonds/Kingston routes. The Point Defiance/Tahlequah run was not downsized for COVID-19.

WSF is restoring service on a route-by-route basis outlined in its Service Restoration Plan (PDF 794KB). The latest plan Progress Report (PDF 601KB) provides details on restoration for the remaining runs: Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth, Seattle/Bremerton, Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, British Columbia, Canada.

“Just like prior to the pandemic, expect some sailing cancellations due to crewing or vessel repairs on all routes, including those fully restored,” said Patty Rubstello, head of WSF. “We recommend that riders regularly check our online sailing schedules and sign up to receive our rider alerts for the latest service updates.”

Before heading to a terminal or boarding, people driving on board should check terminal conditions.

Busy travel times

Ferries are popular every holiday weekend and people boarding a ferry by vehicle should be prepared for long waits. The busiest sailings will be westbound (or onto an island) Thursday through Saturday, May 25-27, and eastbound (or off island) Saturday through Monday, May 27-29.

Holiday schedules

On Memorial Day, May 29, there will be a few holiday schedule changes for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands, Edmonds/Kingston, Mukilteo/Clinton, Point Defiance/Tahlequah and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. The Seattle/Bainbridge Island run will operate a Saturday timetable and the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route will run a Sunday timetable. Holiday sailings are marked on the schedules for each route.

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan for potential holiday travel backups and delays. Real-time traffic information is available on the WSDOT traffic app for mobile devices or online using the updated WSDOT travel map feature.

WSF, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries tens of millions of people a year through some of the most majestic scenery in the world. For breaking news and the latest information, follow WSF on Twitter and Facebook.

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