I have earlier written about Seattle’s historical Pioneer Square, the hip Capitol Hill, the always-famous Pike Place Market and a wonderful place to eat called “Etta’s.” So now, it is the turn of Seattle’s waterfront area – a must-go strip if you want to get a real sense of the city’s unique all-water ambiance.
Seattle is the city famous for its perennial rain showers. But unlike Thailand’s tropical rain which can actually pour, hard, rains in the US Pacific Northwest tend to be, at least most of the time anyway, sprinkle, drizzles, or showers. Seattle also has a unique geographical feature; it is practically surrounded by waters. It is flanked by Puget Sound and Lake Washington and bordered by snow-capped Olympic and Cascade Mountains. This is a great place for outdoors activities. The cool weather also promotes the popular culture of coffee drinking and a cool fashion of rain jacket that is so very unique in this part of the USA.
And that’s also why Seattle’s waterfront is always a charming place to visit. Although it now looks like a place dense with touristy attractions, punctuated with some industrial sites of the busy sea port, this is the area where the whole story of Seattle began. Since the late 1800s, people started coming here via this sea, settling down on these muddy shores of the Puget Sound. Rows of wooden houses and saloons operated right here, day after day, outfitting those pioneers heading north during the Gold Rush era. Fires that burnt down most of the city after those prosperous periods took place here, pushing for the reason of rebuilding the whole city with blocks of steel and concrete. Seattle was then transformed into a brand new city ready to march alongside others on the verge of the global modernization.
Look at the waterfront now and you still see the very heartbeats of the city – lines of vividly-coloured cranes at the Seattle Port, ferries carrying people and cars across the sound, cargo ships coming in and out the harbour throughout the day, cruise ships packed with the snap-happy tourists (me so included) gawking the city’s skylines, waving their hands, enjoying the scenery, the fresh air, the story told by the tour guide and, if lucky like we were, a small group of sea lions idling about at a floating buoy just off the shores. Seagulls and sea hawks everywhere.
You can start exploring Seattle’s waterfront by taking a sloping road behind the Pike Place Market down towards the Alaskan Way. The waterfront is easy to navigate for they are segmented into orderly numbered piers. For example, the Seattle Aquarium is located on Pier 59 while the Seattle Great Wheel is on Pier 57 next door. These piers also house some of Seattle’s most famous and longest lasting restaurants such as Ivars Seafood Restaurants. Or if you fancy a Seattle-life sea ride, you can also take a 35-minute ferry ride to Bainbridge Island and explore this residential area of Seattle by foot.
Another good way to explore Seattle, if you want to check out most of its top tourist spots anyway, is to buy a pack of Seattle City Pass that includes fast-track entries to all the popular places with long queues. Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbour Tour, Pacific Science Center, EMP Museum, Woodland Park Zoo and the Museum of Flight. Just make sure that you can schedule your visits to those places wisely according to your available time for some places like the Pacific Science Center tend to close early in fall and winter and you might need a couple of hours to fully enjoy each place.