By Monica Fischer
A picturesque view of Mount Rainier from Lake Washington. Photo by Vectorbug via Flickr.
Three hundred and sixty five days a year, life in the Pacific Northwest revolves around water. From our ferry system and our active boating community to our fishing industry and trademark floating bridges, water defines our way of life.
But in summer, our seafaring kicks into high gear, and Lake Washington and Puget Sound become premier destinations for sailing, swimming and paddling. The mercury has barely nicked 60, and already we’re floating our boats and splashing our toes at local lakes, pool and beaches.
Have a boat? Pack a picnic and your sunscreen and head to one of Bellevue’s boat launches. You’ll need to grab a free permit from the kiosk at the Phantom Lake Non-Motorized Boat Launch; boating is allowed only during daylight hours. From the Sweyolocken Boat Launch, you can drag your non-motorized boat directly into the Mercer Slough, then paddle south to Lake Washington, or north through the peaceful, wildlife-filled 320-acre wetland park. You’ll need a permit to park and set off from the SE 40th Street Boat Launch, which features one lane for launching, one lane for retrieving, and about 65 parking spaces.
You’ll also find 14 slips of visitor moorage (8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily) located between piers 2 and 3 at the Bellevue Marina at Meydenbauer Bay, just a few blocks from Main Street. Four hours gives you plenty of time to explore Old Bellevue, shop at Bellevue Square or go for a stroll at Bellevue Downtown Park.
Need a boat? Enjoy all the fun and none of the hassle with a boat rental from Yarrow Bay Marina. As long as you’re at least 25-years-old, you can rent a boat for a few hours, or all day.
If you have just 90 minutes to take in the splendor of Lake Washington, spend them on the scenic and informative Argosy Cruises Lake Washington Cruise Tour (departs Kirkland City Dock May 23-Sept. 7). You’ll enjoy views of Mount Rainier, Husky Stadium and some of the most impressive homes in the region, along with tales of our local bridges and high-tech luminaries.
Angling for a productive day on Lake Washington? Let our waterfront city parks lure you to their docks and beaches. Fishing—primarily for trout, bass and perch—is welcome at Chism Beach Park, Clyde Beach Park, Enatai Beach Park, Meydenbauer Beach Park,and Newcastle Beach Park.
Fishing is also allowed at Larsen Lake and Phantom Lake located at Lake Hills Greenbelt Park.
If you’re looking for a more instructional experience with your guppies, check out Fishing for an Experience, a local company offering guided trout-fishing trips for kids and their parents. Tours are available through September 30.
KAYAKING & SUP
There isn’t a better way to soak in the Puget Sound region than sitting in a kayak or canoe, or standing on a paddleboard, and Cascade Paddlesports at Enatai Beach Park is standing by May through September to outfit you for either activity. From Enatai, you can choose to paddle out around Lake Washington or up through the Mercer Slough canal.
On sparkling, 7-mile-long Lake Sammamish, about 9 miles east of downtown Bellevue, Issaquah Paddle Sports can also equip you with kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and pedal boats. Pack a picnic and explore the 512-acre park—which features a salmon-bearing creek and a great-blue-heron rookery—after your paddle.
If stand-up paddleboarding has you under its spell, be sure to plan a visit to Bellevue for September 12, when Round the Rock, the biggest SUP event in the Pacific Northwest, sets off from Newcastle Beach Park. Experienced competitors race 13 miles around Mercer Island, while less advanced paddlers race 3.5 miles off the shore of the park.
Of course, the easiest and most carefree way to enjoy Lake Washington is to simply jump in! In summer, the lake warms up to the mid-60s, making it the perfect place to cool off. You’ll find family-friendly swimming at Chism Beach Park, Clyde Beach Park, Enatai Beach Park, Meydenbauer Beach Park and Newcastle Beach Park.
We love our seafaring lifestyle so much that we hold a huge festival every year to pay tribute to it. We call it Seafair, and it takes place all summer long, culminating in a glorious weekend (Aug. 1-2, 2015) of air shows and hydroplane races. There’s also a triathlon July 19, which offers swimmers another great opportunity to show off their strokes.
Great news! While there are no whales to be found in Lake Washington, you can see them in Puget Sound, and the folks from Puget Sound Express would be happy to introduce you. Guaranteed (your next trip is free if you don’t spot any whales) 4.5-hour tours depart daily from Edmonds, a pretty seaside community just 22 miles northwest of Bellevue.