May 8, 2024

Explore beyond Seattle on a fast, walk-on ferry from the city's waterfront


A fast, walk-on ferry travels between Seattle and the waterside suburb of Kingston

Visitors aboard the fast ferry between the Seattle waterfront and the Puget Sound suburb Kingston often ask deck hand Coco Murphy for tips on what to do or see on a day trip from the Emerald City.

Once the boat begins its 40-minute scoot across the Puget Sound, she usually has time for questions. Chances are there will be only a dozen or so on board, compared to 150-200 riding in the opposite direction.

Kitsap Transit launched the walk-on fast ferry in late 2018 as a commuter service for Kingston-area residents, but nearly six years later, few still take advantage of the “reverse commute” — sailing from Seattle to Kingston in the morning and back to Seattle in the late afternoon or evening.

"It's a nice opportunity for people in Seattle to check out Kingston," says Murphy. The fast ferry eliminates the hassle of driving 17 miles north to the suburb of Edmonds and a  30-minute ride on a Washington State car ferry.

Sailings through April were weekdays only. Now with Saturday service running through September, more Seattleites will no doubt discover the delights of a day trip on a sunny day.  

With views of Mount Rainier and Mount Baker, the cruise is a budget-friendly way (fares are $10 westbound, departing from Seattle, and $2 eastbound, departing from Kingston) to explore a walkable waterside town where small business owners are trying out new ideas post-pandemic. 

Best advice: Go Thursday-Saturday when most businesses are open. Catch an early ferry, and be mindful of return times if you want to stay for happy hour or dinner.

Bakeries and books

It's hard to resist not stopping for a bag of miniature donuts made fresh in the morning, and sold through a window at Aviator Coffee next to the ferry terminal. 

Hot donuts to go at Aviator Coffee

Everything to do and see in Kingston is within a short walk of the dock, so grab a few donuts and a coffee to go while walking north on State Highway 104 towards a cluster of sit-down cafes and restaurants.

If breakfast or lunch is on the agenda, find a small strip mall housing two bookstores, a hardware store and the Borrowed Kitchen Bakery Owners Lacey and Kory Anders first started selling baked goods in the Poulsbo Farmers Market in 2010. Now they work out of a full kitchen where diners can smell the bread baking. Settle in at a window table with a savory croissant or lemon blueberry scone.

Next door is Saltwater Bookshop, one of a few new businesses that opened post-pandemic.

Saltwater Bookshop

Owner Madison Duckworth partnered with baker Lacey Anders to open the shop last year after selling cookbooks in the Borrowed Kitchen. 

Nestled among shelves stocked with titles by Northwest authors, cookbooks and a large selection of children's books are stuffed chairs for browsing or book club gatherings. 

All the titles are new, part of an agreement with the landlord to leave used books to the Kingston Bookery a few doors down where shelves bend under the weight of hundreds of titles the owner takes in trade for credit.  

Shop houses

Colorfully painted, restored historic homes house shops dedicated to gourmet chocolates, pottery, jewelry, houseplants and vintage treasurers.


Horticulturist and jewelry artist Anja McElvaney works with her partner Matthew Schaffer,  a woodworker, inside a century-old craftsman-style house where they opened Havencraft last October. House plants spill out onto the front porch while inside rooms are filled with handmade soaps, local pottery and earrings made from poppy pods painted and grown by McElvaney. 

A few doors down, in an aqua blue cottage built in the 1930s,  Methia Gordon runs Sweet Life Cakery.

Sweet Life Bakery

Inspired by “Chocolat,” a romantic comedy-drama about a woman who opens an unusual chocolate shop in a small French town, Gordon invites visitors to sit on her sunny enclosed porch to sip tea and sample a confection called "Sweet Bliss," two layers of chocolate cake filled with whipped cream enrobed in a chocolate glaze.

Hikes and a beachside stroll

Take a beach walk along Saltair Park near the ferry dock when the tide is out, or hike up the hill on Ohio Avenue to A Quiet Place Park, nine acres of walking trails through second-growth forests, named and donated to Kitsap County by Naomi M. Libby Elvins in 1993.

Keep an eye out around town for Kingston’s “Big Chairs,” giant Adirondack-style seats painted in bright colors. A local businessman came up with the concept to promote Kingston as a place to relax.

Kiwanis Park

The Port of Kingston's Mike Wallace Park at the marina and the port's Kiwanis Park near the ferry dock offer walking paths, benches and a shaded gazebo for picnicking.

Put together a sunset meal from a clutch of pandemic survivor walk-ups offering take-out from around the world.  

Saucy Sailor

Daphne White greets customers from a sidewalk window at the Saucy Sailor, opened last May. She arrives in the early morning to prepare British comfort food, such as bangers and mash and cottage pie, in a 230-square-foot kitchen. 

Next door is J’aime les Crepes with sidewalk tables for enjoying sweet or savory French-style crepes. Around the corner, Argensol Kitchen  bakes traditional Argentine empanadas filled with creamed corn, butternut squash and spinach and cheese.

The last weekday departure to Seattle is at 5:55 p.m. Saturday departures are at 7:05 p.m., 8:45 p.m. and 10:25 p.m., making it easier for visitors to stick around for happy hour at friendly Downpour Brewing or wine, cheese and live jazz at the cozy Cellar Cat 

If you go

Ferries leave from Seattle’s Pier 50. Crossing time is 40 minutes. 

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