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Seattle’s 10 Best Boat Tours for Unmatched Views and Unforgettable Adventures

Seattle’s 10 Best Boat Tours for Unmatched Views and Unforgettable Adventures

Post created June 30, 2023

One of the most unique things about Seattle is its abundance of waterways. Besides its direct connection to the Pacific Ocean, Seattle is surrounded by a bounty of lakes, bays, and islands to explore via ferry, cruise, or boat tour.

With so much to explore, it can be hard to narrow down the best places and ways to see the beauty Seattle has to offer. Below is a list of 10 of the best boat tours and cruises that simultaneously allow guests to take in the views of Seattle’s waters while having a unique and fun time with family and friends.

The 10 Best Boat Tours from Seattle

Here are 10 of our favorite boat tours from Seattle:

  1. Argosy Cruises: The biggest fleet in the Pacific Northwest
  2. Boat Tours Seattle: Unique boats available for rental
  3. Sailing Seattle: 70-foot sailboat rides with a view of downtown
  4. Seattle’s Tall Ship: Going even bigger! An 85-foot boat that gives tours of Elliott Bay
  5. Soundview Sunset Cruises: Morning, mid-day, and afternoon cruises of Union Bay and beyond. Soundview has tons of options for seeing Seattle from the water.
  6. Emerald City Pirates: Pirate-themed cruises!
  7. Waterways Cruises And Events: Dinner and drink pairing cruises and more
  8. Seattle Water Tours: Seasonal ice cream cruises
  9. Steamer Virginia V Cruises: Cruise aboard a historic landmark
  10. Lake Union Charters & Adventures: Ride a 1926 schooner

1. Argosy Cruises

Argosy Boat in Seattle
An Argosy Cruise boat on Seattle’s waterfront (Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock)

One of the longest-running boat cruises available in the Seattle area, Argosy Cruises offers cruise tours that explore the beauty and history of the city of Seattle, complete with a full-service bar. Argosy Cruises also boasts the largest fleet in the Pacific Northwest, which in combination with their 70 years of service makes them one of the most trustworthy cruise companies in the state.

Argosy Cruises offers a 1-hour Harbor Cruise and 2-hour Locks Cruise option for passengers to choose from. Their boats can also be reserved for corporate events as well as weddings. Additionally, they also have happy hour cruises that combine the stellar views with tasty drinks and special sales for holidays like the 4th of July.

2. Boat Tours Seattle

The Metlite is a 58-foot boat that’s rentable from Boat Tours Seattle (Image Credit: Boat Tours Seattle)

With a unique fleet where every boat is different, Boat Tours of Seattle is spearheaded by a group of United States Coast Guard Captains who are dedicated to using their skills to provide some of the safest and most enjoyable experiences on the water. From 2 hour tours to overnight adventures, Boat Tours Seattle is one of the most unique boat tours available in Seattle.

Each boat has its own special features and pricing. From smaller motor boats to full-blown sail boats, passengers can pick and choose their type of tour and the setting. Boat Tours Seattle has multiple tour packages as well, including rent-by-the-hour tours, special event tours, and overnight adventures. Check out the picture above, which shows their Metlite Boat. As you can tell, it’s a pretty unique experience!

3. Sailing Seattle

Sailboat off Seattle
The waters off Seattle’s downtown are ideal for sailboats (Glenn R. McGloughlin/Shutterstock)

Featured in National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, Trip Advisor, and more, Sailing Seattle is a sailing-themed boat tour company that allows passengers to enjoy a sailing experience without having to steer or be involved in a guided tour. Hop aboard one of their two 70-foot sailing yachts and enjoy the views without any worries. Each boat is complete with a seating area on the deck, bench seating, and restrooms that guests can utilize while they explore Elliott Bay.

Sailing Seattle is an all-ages experience, including children and infants. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and drinks as well, including alcohol. Passengers can even learn to help sail the boat by simply asking the deckhand or captain, who will then provide instructions. Each route aboard one of their yachts is unique as their routes are determined by wind direction and boat traffic that day. 

4. Seattle’s Tall Ship

Offering 3 public sailing tours every day, Seattle’s Tall Ship runs all of its tours aboard the Bay Lady, an 85-foot tall sailing ship that currently resides in Elliott Bay. The ship is equipped with bathrooms, a drink and snack bar, and outdoor seating for guests. Apart from their daily tours, Seattle’s Tall Ship also has private charter tours and sunset sailing tours. 

Run by a skilled captain and crew, guests do not have to worry about steering when aboard the Bay Lady. Guests of all ages are welcome to enjoy one of their daily 2-hour tours or partake in an evening sunset tour complete with delicious drinks. The Bay Lady is available for reservation for private events for up to 6 hours at a time for events like weddings, corporate events, birthday parties, and much more.

5. Soundview Sunset Cruises

Husky Stadium at Dusk
Soundview Sunset Cruises offers “sailgate” cruises to University of Washington during the football season (Image Credit: Seattle Travel)

Here’s a great choice for boating options! Want to cruise to a University of Washington football game and “sailgate” (that’s tailgating on a sailboat)? Well, Soundview has sailgate cruises.

They have mansion cruises, morning cruises, mid-day cruises, afternoon cruises, and much more.

Home of the yacht known as Rainbird, Soundview Sunset Cruises showcases the views, landmarks, and history of Lake Union in addition to Portage Bay, Lake Washington, and Seattle Locks. Most famous for their sunset cruise views, they also have morning, mid-day, and afternoon cruises so passengers can enjoy Seattle in all of its beautiful and scenic forms.

In addition to their daily cruises, Soundview Sunset Cruises has holiday cruises, UW sailgate cruises for sporting events, and custom cruises. They even have a boat tour showcasing some of Seattle’s gorgeous mansions. Custom tours can refine their route for specific locations or special occasions. Passengers can also add things to their tour package, such as drinks.

6. Emerald City Pirates

Emerald City Pirates
Ready for a pirate-themed boat ride? (Image credit: Emerald City Pirates)

One of the most unique water experiences available in Seattle comes in the form of a fully interactive pirate-themed ship. Known as the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship is the home of themed boat tours of the area, treasure hunts for families, and adult only parties, all complete with pirate flags and costumed crew.

Emerald City Pirates is for all ages, even babies. Dogs under 25 pounds are also allowed on board provided they are well-behaved. All tours come with snacks, water, soft drinks, beer, and cider for sale, as well as a ship store full of hats, swords, eyepatches, and more. Passengers can join tours without reservations, but for events like birthday parties or other private boat charters, it is best to make reservations ahead of time. Party cruises can be booked for either families or adults only.

7. Waterways Cruises And Events

Blue Angels
Cruises to see the Blue Angles are one of the best boating ideas in Seattle (~UserGI15633490/iStock Photo)

From dinner and drink pairing cruises to private events and holiday tours, Waterways Cruises And Events has a boat tour for every occasion. They regularly offer dinner cruises, weekend brunch cruises, and Sunday dinner buffet cruises. All of these cruises are complete with either a buffet or a plated dinner with roughly 2 hours of time on the water, making it a fabulous way to take in the views while spending time with friends or loved ones.

In addition to their regularly hosted tours, there is no shortage of special cruises throughout the year. Holidays like the 4th of July and Father’s Day come with special pricing, events, and food, from brunches and dinners to party cruises. They also have karaoke night cruises and drag brunches for Pride Month and miscellaneous special tasting events for breweries, chocolate and wine pairings, and spirits sampling.

If you’re looking for something to do during Seafair (held in early August), Waterways Cruises is a top option.

8. Seattle Water Tours

Ice Cream in Waffle Cones
Seattle Water Tours’ offers an ice cream tour that’s short and affordable (Atsushi Hirao/Shutterstock)

Known for their seasonal summer ice cream cruises, Seattle Water Tours takes passengers to historic sites on Lake Union aboard the Fremont Avenue. Throughout the year they offer special event cruises for holidays, sports events, and more. Guests can book the Fremont Avenue for private charters for birthdays, weddings, corporate events, and more.

Seattle Water Tours’ Sunday Ice Cream Cruise is their most popular cruise, which runs from March through October. They also offer it on Saturdays from June to August. Each ice cream cruise is walk-ons only with no reservations or advance tickets available. Every cruise hosts up to 42 passengers and serves ice cream while showcasing local landmarks and history, such as the Boeing Company, a 100-year-old shipyard, the busiest drawbridge in the world, and more.

9. Steamer Virginia V Cruises

As the name implies, the Steamer Virginia V Cruises is a historic boat tour aboard the Steamer Virginia V, which is a nearly 100-year-old steam-powered wooden ship. These tours simultaneously serve as a great way for passengers to explore the local area and to learn more about maritime history. It is also a great way to keep one of the most iconic historical ships of Seattle functioning for generations to experience and enjoy.

Passengers can enjoy public cruises, educational tours, and special events aboard the Steamer Virginia V for 9 months out of the whole year. Guests can rent the ship for private charters, like weddings, parties, fundraisers, corporate events, and more, either as a dockside rental or a leisure cruise. Private charters all come with a 3-hour rent time and come with tables, seating, speakers, microphone, projector, and more. Guests can then bring any cutlery, plates, food, and drink as needed for their celebration through Lake Union, Elliott Bay, or the Ballard Locks.

10. Lake Union Charters & Adventures

Lavengro Schooner
The Lavengro is a 1926 schooner that can accomodate up to 26 people (Image credit: Lake Union Charters)

Lake Union Charters & Adventures has a number of options. There are Lake Union Cruises, private sailings, sailing battles, and even lessons. One big reason to look into Lake Union Charters? They have a 63-foot schooner named the Lavengro, which can accommodate up to 22 people. It’s beautiful and can be chartered for all kinds of sailings ranging from nights out to family events and sunset sails.

Ashleigh on ferry Island hopping.

Hi, I'm Ashleigh! Welcome to Seattle Travel, my little piece of beautiful PNW. This is home and I'm here to share all my experiences so visitors and locals alike can find the best experiences this part of the country has to offer. I started Seattle Travel in 2012 as a way to journal my experiences and over the years have been encouraged by family and friends to open up my adventures to everyone. I actively seek out the best food, activities, and day trips and give you a local perspective.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and my goal is to let you explore it to the fullest. 

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