A stretch of Elliott Bay separates central Seattle from the peninsula of West Seattle, the city’s oldest and largest district. Connected by a high freeway bridge and a lower span, West Seattle’s proximity to both downtown and the Industrial District has always made it a popular residential area. More than 53,000 people reside here, for since the 1990s boom West Seattle has attracted an entirely new population of younger, entrepreneurial residents drawn by lower housing costs, the strong sense of community, and some of the best parklands in the city. Alki Beach and its paved waterfront trail bring hordes of revelers when the long, damp winter months give way to sunnier spring days.

Dredging the Duwamish

Before white settlers landed in what would become Seattle, the Duwamish River zigzagged throughout the valley between the hillsides of West Seattle and Beacon Hill to the east. The area was in many ways more wetland than river until the Army Corps of Engineers dredged it in the late 19th century, deepening the bed and making the Duwamish permanently navigable by commercial vessels. The dredge filled in tideflats to create Harbor Island, which lies between two small channels where the Duwamish pours into Elliott Bay. Many of the port’s container yards and maritime industries use this advantageous depot acreage south of downtown.

Some of the best views of mountains, water, and the city skyline originate from the hilltops in West Seattle.

Choose your activity based on weather conditions. If it’s sunny and warm, head to Alki Beach or take a ferry ride.

Parking is extremely hard to find at Alki in summer. Consider taking a bus, biking, or walking from a short distance away.


  1. Alki Point

    Seattle pioneer Arthur A. Denny and his party aboard the ship Exact were the first Europeans to settle the region; they chose the beachhead of West Seattle to come ashore in 1851. Duwamish Tribe Chief Sealth met the group with open arms and began a long friendship with Seattle’s founders. Today, Alki Point boasts row after row of upscale waterfront condos for the well-to-do, and a great beach for shell hunting or scuba diving.

    Rollerbladers along Alki Beach
  2. Constellation Beach

    Seattle beachcombers check for the year’s lowest tides and head to one of the best shoreline secrets, Constellation Beach. It’s not the best recreational shore as it lacks a wide sandy stretch but gets its name from the large numbers of sea stars clinging to the rocky intertidal zone. If the conditions are right, it’s not rare to find scores of colorful sea stars, along with the usual anemones, gargantuan sea snails, and geoducks, Puget Sound’s giant clams.

    Sea stars
  3. The Junction

    The Junction is the epicenter of what used to be an autonomous village in its own right. The name refers to the intersection where California Avenue and Alaska Street meet, and it is here that the bulk of West Seattle’s restaurants and shops are located. The small town feel is palpable as you stroll along California Avenue past mom ‘n’ pop shops and notice old-timers out for walks or sipping coffee at sidewalk tables. Murals painted on the sides of businesses mirror the warmth and pride of a tightly knit community in its prime, and reflect on its 150-year-old history. Illustrations include the original streetcar lines from 1918.

  4. West Seattle Bridge

    From downtown, the fastest way to anywhere in West Seattle is via this highway, built in 1984. The bridge takes traffic from I-5 and other feeder streets over man-made Harbor Island and the mouth of the Duwamish River, and through to all the major streets in West Seattle. It’s visible from many vantage points in town.

  5. Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal

    There’s only one ferry from Seattle that gets you to pastoral Vashon Island, and that’s the Fauntleroy Ferry with its terminal at the end of Fauntleroy Way. Unlike the downtown terminal, this one is in a residential neighborhood, adjacent to scenic Lincoln Park. Allow some time to walk along the water’s edge to watch ferries come and go. For a memorable visit to Vashon, bring a bike, and look into u-pick berry patches in summer months.

  6. Belvedere Park Viewpoint

    For a bird’s-eye view of the city of Seattle and its immediate environment, simply drive or take a bus up Admiral Way to tiny Belvedere Park. Take in 180-degree picture postcard views of the Cascade Range behind the high-rises of downtown, industrial Harbor Island and the Port of Seattle’s container yards, and Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. On clear days, distant and permanently snow-capped Mount Baker on the northeastern horizon looms above all else. If you’re in downtown, a 20-minute bus ride to Alki Beach drops you nearby on Olga Street SW.

    • 3600 Admiral Way SW

  7. Log House Museum

    The museum, near Alki Beach, takes local history seriously, as it marks the location where Captain Folger steered his schooner Exact in 1851, and brought to the region the families of Seattle’s earliest pioneers, the Arthur A. Denny party. The Log House Museum lets you rediscover the history of the Duwamish Peninsula with an orientation center and exhibits that preserve the community’s legacy, speaker programs, and special events.

    • 3003 61st Avenue SW

    • 206 938 5293

    • Open on Thu noon–6pm, and weekends noon– 3pm

    • Suggested donation: $2 (adult), $1 (child)


  8. Camp Long

    In an entirely urban locale, Camp Long comes close to imparting the wild and natural experience usually found only during hikes in local mountain ranges. Once the 1941era camp served only scouting organizations, but in 1984, the 68 acre compound opened to the general public. Inside the grounds, visitors can hike trails, learn about the environment from professional naturalists, or even rent rustic cabins for in-city camping. One of the most popular attractions is the 20-ft (6-m) high Schurman climbing rock, carefully designed to incorporate every climbing maneuver. Bats, Opossum, raccoons, chipmunks, and northern flying squirrels have been sighted in the camp. Weekly interpretive walks, rock climbing classes, and a golf course are also available.

    • 5200 35th SW

    • 206 684 7434

  9. Walker Rock Garden

    Boeing worker Milton Walker failed in his task to create an ornamental concrete lake in his yard between 1959 and 1980. Never one to give up, he re-doubled his efforts to create an artistic vision that’s outlived the builder. Walker devoted much of his time to sculpting towers, mini-mountains, and trails using countless sea shells, crystals, Brazilian agate, and colored glass. Today, the work remains on the private property still owned by his family.

    • 5407 37th SW

    • 206 935 3036

    • By appointment only, June through Labor Day

  10. Steel Mill

    Seattle’s remaining steel mill and the city’s largest user of electrical power hunkers down on the Duwamish River’s western shore. The mill processes recycled scrap from cans, cars, and construction materials just across the river from an upscale yacht marina and office park, embodying Seattle’s ethic of mixed-use waterfront. While some may consider the plant an eyesore and major polluter, it competes successfully with Asian firms and provides jobs for the local economy.

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