Views of Puget Sound, Olympics, Mt. Rainier, partial Seattle Skyline
Access to Terminal 91/Elliott Bay Trail
West Marina Place
This is part of a two-for-one outing when combined with Smith Cove Park, which is just down the street. There were enough details to provide for each location that I broke it into two previews . My recommendation is that if you’re going to visit one you should see both.
Elliott Bay Marina is a private marina, but there is quite a bit of public access available.
First a note about parking. The lots at the marina are private and require a special parking pass. However, street parking along Marina Place is public, just like any other city street. So make sure you park in the right place to avoid any trouble.
We’ll start our tour at the west tip of the marina where there is a public viewpoint overlooking Puget Sound. Several parking spaces are available right where the street ends, making access very convenient.
A paved path at the street end opens out into to a small viewpoint area. There is a bench right at the viewpoint entrance, and a narrow grass strip with some trees along the edge of a short bluff.
If you take the path to your right it winds a ways down the hill closer to the shore. I didn’t go down there, but from what I could see from above, it looks like there’s no easy beach access. You need to be able to clamber down a bank through some bushes and around on broken slabs of cement. I was here at low tide, which revealed a substantial rocky beach.
On a nice day at low tide like when I was here a lot of people walk out to explore the rocky shore. Some come from the marina, but the majority use a small park located further west in Magnolia, which has an actual beach access path to use. Private homes line the shore west of the marina, so I’m not sure how legit it is to be walking around on what looks like private property, but I didn’t notice any big “keep out” signs, so the low tide beach may all be public access.
If you take the path to your left from the viewpoint entrance, another bench is located just before the path heads around a small building.
This viewpoint has a very nice view of Puget Sound and the Olympics. You can also see several nearby boats moored in the marina.
I was here a little while before sunset, so my photos don’t show the view at its best since I was shooting into the sun. The view from here is best enjoyed in the morning, especially in winter when snow is on the mountains, unless you are going specifically to watch the sun set.
In addition to hosting tons of gorgeous boats, Elliott Bay Marina is nicely landscaped. So if you feel like taking a scenic stroll, you can keep following the paved path around the building and it will take you on a tour of the entire marina, all the way back to the east end. From what I could tell from aerial views, there aren’t any benches set along the walkway, so the walk is best undertaken by those who don’t need reliable rest stops.
There are two restaurants at the marina if you want to combine a viewpoint trip with a meal out. Maggie Bluff’s is a casual, pub-style place with outdoor dining available. It’s located on the lower east side of the main restaurant building.
The main restaurant is Palisade, an upscale PNW style restaurant. You can take a virtual tour of the restaurant on their website and it looks like a beautiful place to dine if the menu prices don’t make you cringe. The restaurant interior has a neat water feature, and you might want to pop in to take a look if you’re touring the marina on foot.
If you are eating at one of the restaurants you can park in the marina lot directly in front of the building without a pass.
The other part of the marina I want to specifically mention is at the east end near the entrance. If you drive through the lot closest to the boats, the road starts to curve back out to the street. There is parallel parking along the curb here, and from the walkway you get a very nice partial view of the Seattle city skyline and Mt. Rainier beyond the boat masts.
Most of the time parking isn’t crowded here, so even though you don’t have a pass, you can get away with pulling over for a couple of minutes to hop out and take a few snapshots from next to the car. (Which is what I did. Shhh, don’t tell anyone!) If you plan to set up on a tripod or take photos for an extended period you risk getting chased off (or a ticket if you aren’t next to your car). In that case I suggest you park out on the street and walk in with your gear.
Elliott Bay Marina is a lovely spot to visit if you love a good Puget Sound view and boats. If you want the best view, go on a clear day when the mountain is out.
Things to Know
Two benches at the viewpoint.
No public bathrooms.
(I’ll leave it up to you if you want to try to sneak into a restaurant bathroom when not dining here.)
Street parking along Marina Place on the south side of the street.
Several spaces next to the viewpoint entrance at the west end of Marina Place.
The marina parking lots are private and require a marina parking pass. The exception is if you’re dining at one of the restaurants you can park in the section in front of the building.
Public parking is usually fairly easy to come by, but on nice warm weather weekends there is a chance it could be full because people park here to travel the Elliott Bay Trail.
I was at Elliott Bay Marina on a sunny Saturday in March near sunset and there were a surprising number of people walking around the marina enjoying the beautiful weather and views.
I got the sense that the combination of it being the weekend, near sunset, great weather, and low tide had drawn out more visitors than usual. But I’d guess that in general, the marina is still a more popular Seattle spot than I expected for people to go to hang out for a while.
As mentioned in the Smith Cove preview, the marina is one of the two starting points for the Terminal 91/Elliott Bay trail, so that brings in a lot of visitors as well.
From 15th Avenue turn west onto Garfield Street, which crosses the Magnolia Bridge.
After merging with traffic on the bridge, take the terminal 91 exit off the bridge before you get to Magnolia.
Turn left onto 23rd Avenue and go under the bridge.
Go straight ahead until you reach the water then turn right onto Marina Place.
Drive all the way west to the end of the street.
To return to 15th, go back up 23rd, take the first right, and take the ramp up to the bridge.
Olympic Mountains, partial Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, boats.
Best light: morning for the Olympics, afternoon for skyline and Rainier.
Smith Cove Park, marina restaurants.