Seattle is arguably at its best in summer, when waterways beckon from just about every direction. Swimmers flock to spots like 350-acre Magnuson Park (7400 Sand Point Way NE) and Madison Park (4201 E Madison St), a grassy knoll alongside Lake Washington that slopes down to a 400-foot-long beach. Both gathering places boast summertime lifeguards. In West Seattle, Alki Beach Park (1702 Alki Ave SW) attracts rollerbladers and sunbathers alike.
The West Seattle neighborhood also proves a great hub for kayakers; rent from Alki Kayak Tours (*1660 Harbor Ave SW; kayakalki.com) before enjoying a post-paddle cocktail and tasty Hawaiian-Korean tacos or sliders on the Marination ma kai (1660 Harbor Ave SW; marinationmobile.com) patio. At Lake Union, Northwest Outdoor Center (2100 Westlake Ave N, nwoc.com) rents kayaks and canoes to launch onto the busy urban lake.
Opt for a more serene vibe in Ballard. Rent from Surf Ballard (6300 Seaview Ave NW; surfballard.com) for a paddle out onto Elliott Bay, then collapse on the soft sand for a siesta at Golden Gardens (8498 Seaview Pl NW). Or venture inland to Greenlake Boathouse (7351 E Green Lake Dr N; greenlakeboatrentals.net) and its urban lake, where you can rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes, as well as pedal, row, and sailboats.
Not all water adventures here involve a ton of effort either. Consider boarding a Washington State Ferry (wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) to nearby islands like Vashon (which departs from West Seattle) and Bainbridge (which pushes off from downtown’s Pier 52). Bainbridge makes for an ideal day trip, since the town’s main street is within walking distance of the ferry dock, and views along the 35-minute trip are worth a journey in their own right. Argosy Cruises (*1101 Alaskan Way; argosycruises.com) also departs from downtown, offering sightseeing adventures that show off the city skyline, the Ballard Locks, Lake Washington, Lake Union, and beyond.
*Visit Seattle Partner