Saturday, February 01, 2014

Touring while Local: Argosy Locks Cruise

Seattle is a city permeated with water. There is the Puget Sound to the west, Lake Union in the middle, and Lake Washington to the East, all of which are connected by cuts and canals. Before highways, planes, and trains the water was the way to get around the Puget Sound. At one time, Seattle was a hub for a mosquito fleet that could take you anywhere around the Sound. While those days are gone, Seattle's maritime tradition and natural beauty remain an asset to the city.

Getting on to the water is a great way to see Seattle from a different angle. I've written about the half-hour excursion to Bainbridge Island several times before (here, here, here, and here), but another popular way to get on the water in Seattle is provided by Argosy Cruises. As part of my effort to tour while local, I tried out their Lake Union and Ballard Locks Cruise.

The tour starts out on the waterfront. This is the main dock for Argosy cruises and most cruises leave from here. However, this particular one starts out with a short bus ride from the waterfront to Lake Union. Once there, you board near Kenmore Air just across from the Museum of History and Industry. In the photo above, you can also see the Virginia V which is one of the last remaining mosquito fleet steamers.

The tour takes you from Lake Union, by the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle, under the Fremont bridge, past the Alaskan fishing boats, through the Ballard Locks, and finally out into the Sound to come back to the waterfront. All the while, staff gives the story of that things that are sailing past you.

Once past fisherman's wharf, it is off to the Ballard Locks. The Locks, a piece of infrastructure, are actually one of the top tourist destinations for the city (number 15 on TripAdvisor) and the cruise is a unique way to experience it. In order to leave the lake and go into the Puget Sound, the boat must go through the Locks. Completed in 1917, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks as they are officially know allow boats to traverse the 20+ foot sea level difference between the lake and the Sound.

Once outside of the Ballard Locks, you are on the Puget Sound where you will round Magnolia and head into Elliot Bay to the waterfront. On a clear day, the sound will give beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier, and the city itself. Mt. Rainier in particular seems to loom larger than usual from right around the tip of Magnolia. Coming closer, you'll get excellent views of the Space Needle and the cityscape when you draw near to the docks and the end of the tour.

This particular tour goes for $41. If you are visiting and looking to save some money, Washington State ferries provide another way to get on the water. At $8 per person on foot round trip (there is no fare headed west for foot passengers), it doesn't show off the city to the same degree but does lend itself to afternoon trips to Bainbridge Island. A middle option that still offers a guided tour with less cost and time commitment is the harbor cruise that Argosy offers for $24 a person. It is their most popular tour and you still get the views of the mountain, sound, and city. Either way, seeing the city from the water is sure to give a unique perspective on the city and be a fun afternoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment