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Seattle Day Trip – The Sandy Shores of Jetty Island

I first heard about Jetty Island from a friend who grew up visiting this sandy Puget Sound oasis while growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Intrigued by this promise of a soft sandy beach with shallow, warm waters – a contrast from typical pacific northwest beaches of the Seattle area- I immediately wanted to go.

Unfortunately, because I lived in downtown Seattle without a car at the time, it took a few years to plan and execute my first trip to Jetty Island. My first trip to Jetty Island – scheduled during 2020 – was canceled when the ferry that runs between downtown Everett and the dock at Jetty Island was not running because of the pandemic. After much debate among my friends – some of whom advocated for a DIY channel crossing with kayaks or paddle boards, and others who pitched using a private charter to get us there, we tabled the adventure for 2021.

This post is part of my series on Seattle Day Trips

Can you swim in the waters off Jetty Island?

If conditions are good for swimming, Jetty Island is one of the few places you can comfortably swim in the Puget Sound without getting too cold. Thanks to all the dredged up sand that makes up the man-made stretch of land called Jetty Island, the waters around Jetty Island are shallow, with a soft sandy bottom.

While many beaches around the Puget Sound go very deep very quickly- and thus quickly diffuse sunlight-warmed water with icy cold water coming from the depths- Jetty Island’s swimmer friendly beaches are the opposite: With large, shallow swimming areas lining the 2-mile long island, there is ample space for the sunlight to warm the water to a comfortable swimming temperature. During the peak heat of the Pacific Northwest summer, swimming at Jetty Island can be a great way to cool off without plunging into the frigid waters of most beaches of the Puget Sound.

Can you Kayak to Jetty Island

Experienced kayakers regularly kayak from Everett, WA to Jetty Island. In perfect conditions, the trip only takes 10-15 minutes by kayak. Be sure to read the tips below for a safe voyage across the channel.

Most kayakers bound for Jetty Island depart from Boxcar Park, at 1200 Millwright Loop West, Everett, WA 98201. This park is where the ferry departs for Jetty Island. There, you’ll find a kayak rental business open seasonally. There, or nearby on the boat ramp, you’ll find free lifejackets – take one! The water in this channel between the mainland and Jetty Island can be unpredictable, and as recently as 2020 there have been drownings and vessels overturned by waves in this section of the Puget Sound.

Is Jetty Island open during the winter

Ferries to and from Jetty Island do not operate in the off-season. However, the island, which is a public park, remains open to the public for those who can access it via personal boat or kayak.

Time your kayak trip to Jetty Island with the tide

My kayaking friends tell me that kayaking straight across, if the tides are favorable and the weather is good, only takes about 10 minutes from Everett boat launch to the landing on Jetty Island. However, if the tides are up, the wind is high, and/or a kayaker is fighting the current, kayaking to Jetty Island can quickly become a challenge. If you go, get tide predictions from NOAA before your trip and launch from Boxcar Park or the 10th st Marina.

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Print Ready Day Trip Itinerary:

North Seattle | Everett, WA

Jetty Island BEACH DAY

30 minutes From Seattle, WA

** Jetty Island is open year-round, but public transportation via the Jetty Island Fery is only available during prime PNW swimming months: The day-after July 4, to Labor Day.

  • PLAYJetty Island is a 2-mile man made (ie. SANDY) island turned nature preserve and city park. FREE. 
  • FERRY – ($3-$5) ferry departs from the Jetty Landing & Boat Launch at 10th and W. Marine View Dr. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Reserve a ticket via:
  • FOOD – Be sure to pack enough food for your party for the whole day since no food is available to purchase on the island. It’s a great spot for a picnic and there should be room on the ferry to bring a cooler
  • QUIRKY POTENTIAL SIDEQUEST #1 – Vintage costume store. Vintage Costumers. Open 11-6 on Saturdays. If you’re looking for a quirky little adventure after Jetty Island, look no further than Vintage Costumers in Everett. Although it’s only open from 11 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays, this unique store offers fascinating costumes and accessories – you might even find your next Halloween costume or a vintage accessory you can’t live without.
  • QUIRKY SIDEQUEST #2Haunted cemetery (daylight hours, please) Did you know ever Everett, Washington has a haunted cemetery? Neither did I until I learned about the Black Diamond Cemetery which has a checkered past and many ghost stories.
  • NOTE: No pets are allowed on Jetty Island.
  • TIP: Always reserve ferry tickets in advance: advice from city site: “Send one person from the group early to pick up your reservation while the rest of the group parks their cars and carries their beach gear.”
  • Reserve a spot on the Jetty Island ferry by calling 425-257-8304 or visiting their website.

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What to Bring

  • So much sunscreen
  • Towel, bathing suit, and an extra laying out towel
  • Book 
  • Sun umbrella or beach tent
  • Baby powder (trust me, it really helps get sand off skin and towels!)
  • Sandcastle making supplies
  • Kites (a packable parafoil kite can be tossed into a backpack without fuzzing with breakable parts.)
  • Inflatables / swimming flippers / etc
  • food, snacks, and all the water you think you’ll need plus some extra.
  • Sketchbook, a travel journal, or other creative supplies.

What to do on Jetty Island? Seattle Magazine says:

According to Seattle magazine, the best way to spend time on Jetty Island is swimming and sandcastle building. Sandcastle building isn’t something we get to enjoy very often on Washington state beaches, so Jetty Island’s sock sand is a rare treat. Because the island and it’s beaches were formed from dredged up sand collected from shipping channels and harbors of the Puget Sound depths, the fine sand is great for Sandcastle building.

For ferry schedules, hours of operation, and activities on Jetty Island, visit the Port of Everett or City of Everett Website. 


Just a short trip from downtown seattle, jetty island features soft sandy beaches and warm, shallow swimming beaches

If you are headed to Jetty Island as a solo traveler, be sure and check out my guide to enjoying the beach as a solo traveler.