Updated: December 2017
Bainbridge Island Ferry :I just recently returned from a nice overnight trip (2009) to Bainbridge Island and I had the opportunity to take the Seattle to Bainbridge Island ferry. The journey itself is only about 35 minutes but the views are amazing and the ride was very smooth. You can drive onto Bainbridge if you want - you have to drive through Tacoma and up towards Bremerton on Hwy 16 until you meet the 305 and take the bridge onto the island. It's much easier from Seattle to hop on the Bainbridge ferry and in just over 30 minutes you are there. We took our car, but you can get on the ferry as a foot passenger if you wish. The ferry drops you off about 2 blocks from the little downtown of Bainbridge Island and you can walk to the shops, farmers market, inns, restaurants, etc. I was surprised at how many cars were in line to get on the ferry the day we went - although the weather was beautiful so that may have increased the vehicle traffic a bit. The ferries are loaded with commuters (mostly passengers without automobiles) in the early morning hours or later afternoons to evening departures. We went midday on a Thursday to try and avoid any rush there might be. The loading was easy - we just drove the car onto the ferry boat and walked up to the decks to enjoy the ride.
Finding the Seattle (Main) Terminal - We drove up from Portland, Oregon and so we weren't completely familiar with the ferry terminal building in Seattle but it was easy to find. If you are heading northbound on I-5 take the 164B exit (164 if you are going southbound) and follow the signs to the ferry terminal. It took about 5 minutes once we got off the freeway to get to the terminal. You can get excellent turn by turn directions with a map online here. With a vehicle they recommend a 30-60 minute advance arrival during peak times and at least 20 minutes during off-peak travel. We were lucky enough to drive up 10 minutes before departure and get one of the last spots for cars. If you are just a passenger (no car), show up about 15 minutes before the ferry departure. The Washington State Ferries are almost always on time, so don't assume they will hold up the boat. Terminal parking - The simple answer is that there is no parking at the actual terminal - you will need to use metered lots or paid parking at nearby parking garages. Fees range on length of time. The ferry terminal is at Seattle Pier 52. See the general ferry map below in terms of the location of the terminals.