Views of Lake Union from Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. Claire Bowen-Pope
Seattle is literally surrounded by water, so it’s no surprise that many Seattleites own a boat. Connected by canals to Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east, Seattle’s Lake Union is uniquely positioned within city limits—and it’s a boater’s paradise.
Though millions of visitors come to the city every summer and take part in our maritime history, for locals, boating is a way of life. We celebrate and look forward to boating rituals throughout the year such as Duck Dodge, Seafair, Sailgating, and the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship™ Festival. And if you’re like me, you don’t want to sit back and watch from the sidelines. I don’t own a boat, but thanks to Boatsetter, I know over 200 people in Seattle that do!
Sailboats tie up after the Duck Dodge regatta. Claire Bowen-Pope
A mobile-based platform for boat rentals, Boatsetter consolidates all your boat rental needs into one easy-to-use app. And unlike scheduled boat tours around the area, Boatsetter Hosts list their privately owned boats for a completely customized boating experience. Sailing, watersports, cruising, yacht charters, pontoon boats, a pirate ship, you name it, someone’s renting it. Don’t have your boaters license? No problem. Just select the “Captained” drop down feature when booking and a licensed captain will be arranged for you!
Using the app
Boatsetter suggests allowing for a minimum booking window of 24-hours from search to sail. If you’re like me, you plan around the weather—but if you’re visiting between Memorial Day and Labor Day, book ahead! Seattle summers are beautiful and it’s likely others have the same plan in mind.
The app filters your search based on a variety of criteria: date, duration, number of passengers, captain, price, etc. Once you find a boat that catches your eye, message the owner and address any questions you have. Like any privately owned rental, each owner has their own set of rules to abide by, so make sure to read the “Things to Know” section prior to booking. Your host will provide the launch location so you can plan transportation accordingly.
On the water
Ivar’s Salmon House fish and chips on the floating barge. Claire Bowen-Pope
Sit back, relax, and take in the scenery—and the PNW cuisine! Yes, just because you’re water bound doesn’t mean lunch or happy hour is off the table. If you’re cruising around Lake Union, dock at one of my personal favorites: Ivar’s Salmon House for their famous Fish & Chips, or White Swan Public House for the Poutine of the Sea (french fries smothered in clam chowder, clams, and bacon) or the Fishwich.
Seattle’s iconic houseboats line the edge of the lake under the Aurora Bridge. Claire Bowen-Pope
Keep an eye out for houseboats. You’ll see these charming floating homes all around the perimeter of Lake Union and Portage Bay. Each one has its own personality, style, and fan club. Including the well-known houseboat featured in the 1990’s Sleepless in Seattle film.
Back on land
Interested in learning more about Seattle’s maritime industry during your visit? Don’t miss The Center for Wooden Boats in South Lake Union; a living museum focused on promoting our northwest maritime heritage.