Hopscotch Flights – See Seattle from a Seaplane


Photo by Mikaela Cowles


Having flown to most of Kenmore Air’s destinations, I was shocked when I heard the term “hopscotch flights.” What are they? Where do they go? How much do they cost? I needed to find out.

And so, on a crisp winter morning, I found myself sitting in a de Havilland Beaver with Kenmore Air’s chief pilot, Chuck Perry. The sun was just cresting the horizon. The waters by Kenmore Air’s Lake Washington terminal were black and calm. Our engine roared.


Kenmore Air Pilot Chuck Perry.
Photo by Mikaela Cowles.

Chuck turned with a smile and mouthed, “You ready?” With that, we were off. Our 11-seater soared into the air and my heart soared with it.

The sky was a brilliant mixture of pinks and yellows. Wisps of clouds hung like ornaments as we approached Seattle’s silhouetted skyline. Beyond the buildings, the peak of Mount Rainier was beginning to show. And to the east, the floating bridges looked like glowing bracelets laid across the water, the car lights gliding from end to end. Even now, thinking of that morning is like falling in love with Seattle all over again.


Photo by Mikaela Cowles.

The landing at Lake Union was so smooth it was hard to discern when the floats touched the water. By the time we had taxied to the dock, daylight had arrived.

I walked from the terminal toward the heart of downtown. The city was waking up. Bikers pedaled in all directions. Women in hats bustled into buildings. Men with briefcases strode quickly down the sidewalk. And, I was ready for breakfast.

In just a six-block walk, I settled into a seat at Portage Bay Café. The joint’s not fancy. Rough wood tables are arranged beneath crew shells, echoing the lifestyle of the café’s Pacific Northwest patrons. And the tagline, “Eat like you give a damn,” is stamped proudly across the menu, coffee cups and staff’s chests.

After my thrilling ride, I was definitely ready to eat like I gave a damn. Boy did I ever. Tempted as I was by the café’s famous Breakfast Bar, I opted for a less sweet and incredibly hearty plate of chipotle scrambled eggs with two kinds of cheese, basil, homemade salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

With a full belly, I strolled around South Lake Union. I watched small children feed birds; the elevators go up and down the Space Needle; and seaplanes fly over the buildings and over my head, landing smoothly on the water. And then, I caught one of those seaplanes back to Lake Washington. As Seattle’s skyline faded, the Cascade’s snow topped peaks stood brilliantly before me. The adventure ended as it had begun – with a stunning view.

Can you just imagine how amazing this would be for a day-date? I thinking this is the perfect surprise for my fiancé.

So, what exactly is a “hopscotch flight”? How’s the whole thing work? Hopscotch flights are positioning flights. Kenmore Air’s fleet lives at their headquarters in Kenmore, at the northern most tip of Lake Washington. But their Lake Union terminal in downtown Seattle is busy. On a daily basis, seaplanes have to be repositioned. For just $20 each way, you can score a ride. (At $40 roundtrip, that’s less than the cost of a cab!)

It’s important to keep in mind: While Kenmore Air typically offers several hopscotch flights a day, they aren’t part of the regular schedule. To find out what’s available, I recommend calling for reservations the day before.


About the Author

Mikaela Cowles

Mikaela Cowles is a Freelance Writer at Making Language Count. A basketball-playing, food-loving, book-reading gal, she’s a Seattleite through and through. She loves dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh herbs and eating asparagus with her fingers.

More Posts By Mikaela Cowles


No comments yet.

Leave a Comment


Seattle’s best every month in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Book Your Trip

Partner Advertisements