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Remote islands
Ferry system offers tasty menu of getaways
Some of the most incredible scenery here  1in the Pacific Northwest is viewed from the deck of a Washington State Ferry. Local residents and visitors have access to many remote islands and travel destinations, thanks to a system that has been developed over many years.

Whether you're looking for a short, relaxing, half-day getaway, a weekend escape, or a great vacation; Washington State Ferries can take you there. There are many unique destinations served by the Washington State Ferry system.

For example, the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry is the connection between Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula. Port Townsend is known for its old Victorian design and eclectic businesses with a boardwalk of accommodations and restaurants. Fort Worden and Fort Flagler neighbor the town with conference facilities, vacation housing, beaches and camping.

On the Whidbey Island side, Fort Casey is right next to the dock with many campsites, picnic areas, a lighthouse and interpretive center. The island is the second longest island in the U.S. and you can get a ferry from Mukilteo, in the Everett area, directly to Clinton on Whidbey Island. Among the places you can visit on Whidbey is Coupeville, a town with a history. You'll see Native American war canoes, an old blockhouse, and pioneer homes dating back to 1890. Irresistible shops await you in the quaint towns of Coupeville and Langley. You then can drive north to Deception Pass and cross the bridge back to the mainland.

If you're in the Seattle area, you can travel to Bainbridge Island, which offers a mix of rural charm and sophisticated amenities. The ferry terminal is just a few steps from the city center, marina and streets linked with chic shops, museums, galleries and restaurants. Heading north from the terminal you can cross Agate Pass to Suquamish, Poulsbo's "Little Norway", Indianola, and the historic old mill town of Port Gamble.

Also in the Seattle area, you can take the short drive north to Edmonds where you can get a ferry that will take you to Kingston, which has several shops and restaurants as well as a marina.

From Kingston, it is an easy drive to the surrounding historic waterfront communities like Poulsbo's Little Norway, and the famous lighthouse and beach at Point No Point in Hansville.

From the Seattle waterfront, you can take a ferry ride to Bremerton, home to Naval Base Kitsap and the fourth largest naval shipyard in the world. Bremerton's Harborside features museums, arts district, fountains, restaurants and hotels.

If you're departing from West Seattle's Fountleroy terminal, you can sail to historic Vashon Island.The ferry sails past picturesque farmland, lakes, and miles of beautiful waterfront on its way to Vashon Island and the Southworth terminal. Once on Vashon Island, you find picture postcard views of the sound in just about every direction.

The San Juan Islands are favorite destinations for ferry travelers. The ferry system offers travel to several islands from the Anacortes ferry terminal.

Lopez Island is the first ferry stop. If you're looking for a quiet place to relax or a no-sweat bike ride, the flat terrain and rural nature of Lopez Island are ideal. Lopez Village on Fisherman Bay is the hub for shopping and dining. Since Lopez Village is 3.5 miles from the ferry, it's best to bring your own bicycle --or you can rent a bike on the island. As with all the San Juan Islands, the views from the island are spectacular and the rural, winding country roads are charming.

Shaw Island, with a population of fewer than 150 on less than 5,000 acres, is the smallest of the four ferry-served islands. There are no facilities for visitors except a grocery store and small campground at South Beach. With more than 36,000 acres, Orcas is the largest and considered the most spectacular of the San Juan islands. It has long been a favorite for generations of vacationers. The population is widely dispersed which adds to its feeling of privacy. Mount Constitution in Moran State Park offers panoramic views of all the archipelago, and is surrounded by miles of trails and sparkling lakes.

Next on the ferry route is San Juan Island, the busiest and most populated island. Approximately two hours after departing Anacortes, the ferry arrives at the largest town in the islands, Friday Harbor. This port bustles all year with pleasure and fishing boats. Many of the island's amenities and facilities are within walking distance or available by public transportation from the ferry landing.

(The Washington State Ferries have customer service representatives available from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Phone 888-808-7977, which is toll-free in state)
PHOTOS: Friday Harbor on San Juan Island
RECOMMENDED LODGING: San Juan Islands lodging
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