Where to Paddle to Beat Crowds on 3 Day Weekends -
Side Note: How to avoid ferry lines...
Departing from Seattle - If leaving Seattle at 5pm on Friday, take the Bremerton Ferry as there's rarely a big line. I'd rather be sipping a ferry IPA coasting through Rich Passage than sitting in a parking lot. Or leave super early (7am) or super late (9pm). For the Keystone and San Juan Island ferries get a reservation.
Coming Back Monday - Arrive before peak (before 3pm) or after 9pm. Oddly, the Bainbridge Ferry is often uncrowded on Sunday evenings. Kingston gets the huge crowds from Canada and WA folks from north of Seattle. Tacoma'ans take the bridge.
3 Epic Trips -
Trip 32 - Hood Head. 15min from the Kingston Ferry, take the first Right off the Hood Canal Bridge then immediately another Right adjacent to the bridge and follow the steep road below the bridge to Shine State Tidelands and the beach. Launching there, paddle to Hood Head (The cool island seen from the bridge). There's a few boat-in homes on the island. Approach the south side and the long extended spit called Point Hannon. There's a driftwood dragon (seriously) about 50' long worth checking out. The wwta.org has a campsite on the east side. Aim for higher tides to explore ByWater Bay inside the head.
Trip #33 - Mat Mats Bay. Less than an hour from the Kingston Ferry, Mats Mats is a very protected inlet a few minutes north of Port Ludlow. Water will be calm and the narrow entry to the Sound is interesting. The rocks offshore often have large populations of harbor seals and birdlife. Views north are of Marrowstone and Whidbey Islands, Foulweather Bluff to the south. Take the first Right off the Hood Canal Bridge to Paradise Bay Road, then north of Pt Ludlow, take a Right on Vernon Road to it's end.
Trip #15 - Staycation in Seattle below the Magnolia Bluffs. Launch from 32nd Ave W below Magnolia Village. Go east to the protected Elliott Bay Marina or west along the bluffs to explore the walk-in driftwood homes, the now closed treehouse and former foundations from the 1996 Magnolia landslide. One home is still intact but sits at a weird angle which is interesting to see. Further along check out the series of massive homes perched along Perkins Lane. There's some weird outdoor art pieces in there. At Four Mile Rock (large erratic boulder with range marker on top) the view opens up to Discovery Park and the West Point Lighthouse. Freighter waves can break nicely around the corner at lower tides. Watch for current that can push you to this point, but make it difficult to paddle back. Maybe aim for ebb going out, flood coming back.
Learn more about my book Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips. I also offer SUP and Kayak lessons available throughout the year at Salmon Bay Paddle. Questions about paddling on the Salish Sea, give me a holler anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-465-7167