The Best Boat Tours in Seattle

Seattle Travel Guide › Boat Tours
Updated: October 15, 2022
By Santorini Dave

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Boat tour of the Seattle waterfront, locks, and Lake Union.

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The 7 Best Boat Tours in Seattle

1. Argosy Cruises

Seattle’s a harbor town, and one of the best ways to learn about the city (and see the skyline!) is via boat. The biggest and best boat cruise outfit in town is Argosy, and they’ve got many options to choose from: tour Seattle’s working harbor, or visit the floating homes on Lake Union – choose the 2 1/2 hour Locks Cruise for a bit of everything. Around the holidays, decked-out Argosy ships lead the annual Christmas Ships Festival. In the summer, take an excursion to Tillicum Village on Blake Island to learn about the area’s native heritage. Cruises last 1-2 hours, are narrated by professional guides, and offer snacks and beverage service, including a full bar. Book in advance, especially in the summer months.
Tours depart from the downtown waterfront, Lake Union Park, or Kirkland Waterfront.

2. Ballard Kayak and Paddleboard

April through October, Ballard Kayak and Paddleboard offers tandem sea kayak tours that depart from scenic Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Paddle around the Sound observing wildlife like seals and otters, head out to Discovery Point in West Seattle, or venture through the Ballard Locks into Seattle’s Lake Union. Combine your trip with a stop at a boat-up restaurant for a clam chowder lunch. Kayak tours are good for all experience levels. Two paddleboard tours are offered: one specifically for beginners, and one that goes to Ballard. All equipment is provided.
Tours depart from Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard.

3. All Rivers and Saltwater Charters

Experience a real Pacific Northwest saltwater fishing experience with knowledgeable guides and all equipment provided. All Rivers’ Seattle Salmon Fishing and Crabbing charters run from early July through September, departing from Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard. Fish for King, Coho, and Pink Salmon, and enjoy crabbing when in-season (through Labor Day). Fishing licenses are available on-board, and water, soda, and snacks are provided. Outside of Seattle, All Rivers runs fishing charters on the Washington coast, as well as the Skykomish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and Cowlitz Rivers.
Tours depart from Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard.

4. Island Adventures Whale Watching

This is the best whale watching tour in the northwest, offering service from the downtown Seattle waterfront October through March, when orca whale pods journey south into Puget Sound. (There is also the Friday Harbor Day Trip & Whale Watching from Seattle.) Experienced naturalists are in constant communication with other vessels, and take you right to where the whales are. The boat’s cabins are heated and comfortable, with binoculars and wildlife viewing guides available for on-board use, and hot and cold drinks and snacks available for purchase. At all other times of the year, Island Adventures charters depart from Everett, Anacortes, La Conner, and Port Angeles; where guests can expect to see humpback, minke, and grey whales, as well as other marine wildlife.
Tours depart from Pier 66 on the Seattle waterfront.

5. Sunday Ice Cream Cruise

Seattle Ferry Service (a small outfit, not to be confused with the WA State Ferry System) runs this weekend boat tour year-round, departing Sundays from the dock at the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union. It’s a 45-minute narrated cruise around Lake Union, hitting highlights such as the Sleepless in Seattle floating home, Dale Chihuly’s lakeside glass-blowing studio, Gasworks Park, and a fantastic view of the Space Needle from the water. This tour is very family and pet-friendly, and there are a variety of snacks and drinks available for purchase on-board. Overall, a fun and inexpensive way to get out on the water.
Tours depart from South Lake Union Park, near the Museum of History and Industry.

6. Alki Kayak Tours

Scenic sea kayaking with the Seattle skyline as a backdrop. Paddle around Elliott Bay, or out to Alki lighthouse – Alki Kayak Tours’ experienced and friendly guides will fill you in on area history and local wildlife. Tours run March through September (daily in the summer months) and depart from Seacrest Park in West Seattle, which is easily accessible from downtown via the Water Taxi. For the most spectacular city skyline views, choose a Summer Sunset or Full Moon nighttime tour. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Tours depart from Seacrest Park in West Seattle.

7. Victoria Clipper

This is the quickest, easiest, and most scenic way to get from Seattle to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. The Victoria Clipper departs daily from Pier 69 on the downtown waterfront, with 2-3 sailings per day during the busy summer months. You can head up and back in one day, or spend the night in Victoria – the company offers packages that include hotel and admission to popular attractions like Butchart Gardens. The boats are clean and comfortable, though those folks who are prone to seasickness will want to take precautions – the ride can get a bit choppy once you’re out in open waters. Buy tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line, and don’t forget to bring a passport. Kenmore Air also offers whale watching excursions and summer service to Friday Harbor in Washington’s San Juan Islands.
Tours depart from Pier 69 on Seattle’s downtown waterfront.

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