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The combination of wildlife encounters and exquisite scenery plus renowned food, culture, and events, put Seattle at the forefront of our top boating destinations list. Seattle’s Elliot Bay opens into Puget Sound, offering all the sights the Pacific Northwest has to offer. But don’t forget two of the region’s boating gems: Lake Union and Lake Washington.
The most popular boat rental styles in Seattle include:
Bowriders, which are ideal for your typical summer boat day in the Puget Sound or any of the area’s nearby lakes, allowing for versatility whether you’re ready for watersports, dock-and-dining, or general day cruising.
Cruisers are also a hot commodity, particularly for night boating or cooler days in the fall. They also are able to hold more passengers to accommodate bachelorette/bachelor parties, or company outings.
Trawlers and houseboats are also widely popular in the Pacific Northwest, with houseboats filling up many of Seattle’s marinas. Trawlers are great for long-distance cruising north to the San Juan Islands or into the Salish Sea leading into the Pacific Ocean.
Only experienced boaters will want to try long-distance or overnight cruising to the San Juan Islands or beyond. Be sure to communicate with the boat’s owner to plan your own rental itinerary and ask for local recommendations for each of Seattle’s popular bodies of water.
Boating License/Education Rules: Washington residents born after January 1, 1955 who operate vessels with 15-horsepower or higher, must carry a Washington Boater Education Card and be over 14 years of age or older in order to operate a boat or personal watercraft (PWCs).
Life Jacket Requirements: Children ages 12 and under must wear a PFD.
For more information, visit the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office.
Where to dock your boat, or meet your rental:
Mohai Play Field
Sunnyside Boat Ramp
14th Ave NW Boat Ramp
Fisherman's Terminal Marina
Lake Union Piers
Learn more in Boating in Seattle: Everything You Need to Know.
Seattle summers are the best time to be out on the water, while the rest of the year is typically much colder and rainy. Keep in mind, the year-round water temperatures are a bit cooler than what most boaters might expect. The wet winter season runs from October through March, but does present some opportunities for anglers who participate in the winter salmon season (blackmouth) from January to the end of March.
Avg. Temperature High: Peaks around 80°F in August
Avg. Temperature Low: Around 36-42°F during winter months, from November through April.
Avg. Water Temperatures in and around Seattle:
48°F in the Spring (April, May, June)
53°F in the Summer (July, August, September)
50°F in Fall (October, November)
44°F in Winter (December, January, February, March)
The marina isn’t just a place to dock; it’s a jumping-off point for a huge list of Seattle sights and destinations. Grab lunch or dinner at Anthony’s, take a stroll along the water, or just admire the view. Located in the Port of Seattle, boaters can dock and head inland to check out Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle, and much more.
Pro Tip: Every February, Bell Harbor Marina and Pier 66 play host to the Seattle Boat Show, taking place both indoors and on the docks, featuring new boats for sale, educational seminars, and pop-up shops.
Location: Google Maps Link
Docking and moorage fees: Guest moorage is available year-round for vessels up to 170’. Prices vary depending on boat size and style, but powerboats under 50’ can expect to pay $2.06/ft/per day on Mon-Thurs during peak season (June - Sept.), and $2.18/ft/per day year-round on the weekends. Save on docking rates by booking a reservation at least 24-hours in advance.
Lat/Long: 47.6106° N, 122.3485° W
Special Note: This adventure is for experienced boaters only—talk to your boat owner first or book with a professional captain! The Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks are a popular Seattle attraction and a historic site operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that connect Salmon Bay to Shilshole Bay. As one of the busiest locking systems in the U.S., both the large and small lock chambers are open 24/7, and during the peak summer season can expect to be packed full of boaters—from sailors to powerboaters, large tug boats, and even kayaks.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye on the water levels, as the water can drop dramatically—almost three stories—at low tide. Likewise, the small lock chamber (100ft long and 26ft wide) is the easiest area to navigate, as you can tie up to the side walls to make your pass through.
Location: Google Maps Link
Closest marinas: Lockhaven Marina, Seaborn Marina, McGinnis Marina, or Stimson Marina.
Lat/Long: 47.6655° N, 122.3972° W
Seattle is known worldwide for its salmon fisheries, particularly in Puget Sound. Top salmon species include blackmouth, chinook, chum, coho, pink, and sockeye. Booking a fishing charter can help less experienced anglers navigate the local waterways, and help uncover some of the prime hot spots, including: Possession Sound, President Point, Point No Point, and Double Bluff. For the best chance at hooking your first salmon, stick to areas where there are strong currents and fast-moving bodies of water colliding to force baitfish together.
Pro Tip: Warmer-weather months are the go-to season for salmon fishing, but anglers will want to keep a close eye on local regulations that change from year-to-year.
Other target species: Halibut, lingcod, steelhead trout
Seasonality: June through September is peak season, while blackmouth, juvenile king, and chum salmon can be caught later in the season until late fall or even during winter months.
Boat selection: Walkaround boats, pilothouse boats, aluminum fishing boats, and bay boats.
Boaters coming from Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Everett and other surrounding cities flock to Puget Sound to enjoy breathtaking views of snow-capped Mt. Rainier, and to explore untouched nature and wildlife at its finest within the northwestern island chains and peninsulas. Puget Sound is a popular entryway for long-distance cruisers looking to explore the San Juan Islands, located just north and bordering Victoria, Canada.
Moorage: If you’re coming from downtown Seattle, try one of the northernmost marinas, Shilshole Bay Marina or Elliott Bay Marina, for easy access to Puget Sound.
Wake zone: Yes - also keep an eye out for navigational buoys directing marine traffic.
Pro Tips: Calmer waters can be found in the southern end of the sound, while the northern area’s sea conditions can change dramatically depending on the weather.
Hours: Ready for exploration at any time of the year, the best time to visit Puget Sound is just before or after summer (May, June, September or October), as to avoid the bustling tourist season in the summer.
Lat/Long: 47.7237° N, 122.4713° W
Lake Union is located just north of downtown Seattle, which makes it one of the best places to enjoy what this city is most known for: Its local waters and natural spaces, and the culture. The center of the lake happens to be a busy seaplane takeoff and landing zone throughout the summer months, so be conscious of the zoned buoys and flashing lights. Boaters can also enjoy great views of the Space Needle, while history buffs can dock up to visit the Museum of History and Industry or the Center for Wooden Boats—both located in the southern end of the lake.
Moorage: The shores of Lake Union are lined with countless marinas and landings available long-term or short-term dockage. Check the northeastern and northwestern areas for the most options.
Wake zone: Yes - boaters should also familiarize themselves with Lake Union’s “#MindTheZone” campaign before navigating the area without a captain, and keep an eye out for flashing white buoys that designate the seaplane landing zones between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Pro Tips: On the north end of the lake, located minutes away from any moorage, explore an old Gas Works Park, where you can have a picnic in the grass, or just enjoy the view of seaplanes taking off and landing in Lake Union.
Hours: Be ready for crowded waterways on big holiday or event weekends, including “Opening Day” taking place in early May at the Montlake Cut, the Fourth of July, and the Seafair Weekend Festival.
Lat/Long: 47.6396° N, 122.3333° W
Located between Seattle and Bellevue, Lake Washington is the second largest natural lake in the state which connects to Puget Sound through Lake Union. The lake is primed for family boating adventures such as watersports, fishing, and swimming, but couples will want to make time in their itinerary to stop at Carillon Point or the Kirkland Marina Docks to grab a romantic dinner and do some shopping.
Moorage: Short-term anchorage is available in Andrews Bay and marked by two buoys showing the letter “A” on the northwest and southwest corners. Other popular marinas include Lakewood Moorage and the North Lake Marina.
Wake zone: Yes - speed regulations of 7-knots (8-MPH) are in place within 100-yards of shore, docks, bridges or other fixed objects. In Andrews Bay, the speed limit is 3-knots. During the Seafair races, Lake Washington from the I-90 floating bridge to Seward park is a no-wake zone.
Pro Tips: Lake Washington’s 1.5 miles of shoreline is host to Seattle’s infamous Seafair Weekend Festival, taking place annually each August. Be sure to book your boat rentals early for this event, and get ready to enjoy the best on-water view of the airshow featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Hours: Scuba diving is restricted to daylight hours only and divers must deploy a dive flag. Water skiing is also prohibited within 100-yards of shore or fixed objects.
Lat/Long: 47.6215° N, 122.2558° W
Waterfront dining is the norm in Seattle, especially during the summer months. Whether you're boating on Elliot Bay, Lake Washington, or Lake Union, you'll have plenty of dockside restaurants to choose from, including a few of the most popular local spots listed below:
Duke's Chowder House (South Lake Union)
Elliott's Oyster House
Ray's Boathouse & Cafe
For additional options and information, read: 7 Best Seattle Restaurants on the Water.
Frequently asked questions
The cost to rent a boat in Seattle starts at $95 per hour, depending on the amount of time that you would like to use the boat.
The cost to rent a small yacht in Seattle starts at $1300 for a half-day on the water and $3,500 for a full day with a captain.
What makes Boatsetter different is peace of mind. Boatsetter is the first and only boat rental marketplace to offer insurance on every peer-to-peer boat rental. We know choosing the right boat rental platform is essential to your experience while on the water. That's why we've gone the extra mile to focus on safety through our exclusive partnership with GEICO Marine and BoatUS. As the first and only boat rental marketplace to offer insurance on every peer-to-peer rental, you are protected during all rentals with insurance coverage and on-water assistance through TowBoatUS.
The cost to rent a boat depends on whether you are renting for a half-day or a full day, the boat features and the boat size can impact your boat rental price. Rental prices can range from $200 to $1,000 plus depending on the boat rental itself and the length of time of the rental.
The number of people who can fit on boat rentals largely depends on the boat's size and how many life jackets are on board. Currently, the coast guard allows a maximum of 10-12 people on a Boatsetter boat rental.
You must be 18 years old to rent a captained boat and 25 years old if you would like to rent a bareboat charter.
Boating license requirements vary from state to state. As a renter, you are responsible for understanding local state requirements.
Boatsetter allows you to rent a yacht for the day. Single-day yacht rentals are available for a select number of yachts. To chat with a yacht specialist please visit: https://www.boatsetter.com/luxury-yacht-charters
Boatsetter allows its customers to rent a yacht for the week. Renting a yacht for a week gives you more access to the wide range of yachts available on our platform. You can either book a rental directly through the site or connect with one of our charter specialists to plan your trip here: https://www.boatsetter.com/luxury-yacht-charters
Booking a month-long yacht rental is a detailed and hands-off process when working with our team of boat charter specialists. We tailor each yacht charter to our client's specific wants and needs. Our luxury yacht charter specialists can be reached at (954) 715-4114 or by visiting https://www.boatsetter.com/luxury-yacht-charters
Renting a private yacht is a very detailed experience that caters to your exact needs while onboard one of our luxury yachts. To plan your yacht rentals experience please visit: https://www.boatsetter.com/luxury-yacht-charters
The cost of renting a pontoon boat depends on the size, location, and rental time of the boat. Prices can range anywhere from $200 for a half-day rental or just under a $1,000 for longer rentals.
The cost to charter a yacht varies depending on the boat size and the length of the charter. Prices typically range from less than $1,000 to $5,000 plus if you're wanting to charter the yacht overnight.
The cost of renting a boat for the day on average ranges from $200 to $1200. The cost to rent a boat varies depending on the size of the boat and the length of time that you will be using the boat.
Boat insurance typically covers loss caused by things such as fire, sinking, storms, and collisions. The extent of the coverage varies depending on the policy.
Yes. We use a system called Cognito to ensure that payment information matches the renter's identity. We also require renters taking out a captained boat to be at least 18 years old and on a bareboat to be at least 25 years old.
Yes! Listing a boat is completely free. We only take a commission when your boat is rented. We only make money when you do!
If you are not comfortable having a renter drive your boat, we have an expansive network of licensed and experienced captains. Once your boat is listed, you can filter through our network of captains and favorite captains in your area that you would like to operate your boat.
At Boatsetter, our mission is to make getting out on the water as easy as possible. With our intuitive booking system, you can rent a boat as soon as today. -First, you must determine your budget and the type of boat you want to rent. -Next, decide where you would like to boat and the kind of boat you would like to spend the day on. -Finally, determine if you will be needing a boat captain and reach out to the boat owner. That's it! You're officially on your way to a fantastic day out on the water.
The cost of renting a yacht depends on the boat's size and the amount of time you'll use the yacht. The onboard amenities and luxurious accommodations also dictate the price. You can contact our yacht specialists for a custom quote by visiting https://www.boatsetter.com/luxury-yacht-charters