What's two miles long, a three-minute ferry ride away, free and loads of fun? Jetty Island!
A quick jaunt from Everett, Jetty Island offers an expanse of tidelands and saltwater marshes to explore, and free programs throughout the week to help kids understand more about the natural wonders of the area.
The ferries run every day from July 5 through Labor Day. Ferries go 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
My kids enjoy the vastness of the beach, with plenty of space to run around and build mega sand castles. They love poking around in the clam and shrimp holes on the flat, trying to catch up to the little critters that flee their probing fingers.
The water remains shallow quite a ways out, which is good for little ones who want to wade out into the cool Puget Sound. The beach sports three sand volleyball courts – the perfect spot for Frisbee-throwing if they aren't being used. If you seek more privacy, haul your gear and stake your claim farther down the beach.
Pack light but smart (unless you have older kids to help carry the load); the central beach area is only accessible by a sandy path, which is not amenable to strollers or rolling coolers. Bring some toys to have fun in the sand. Also, the ocean breeze makes it a keen kite-flying spot.
Here's how the ferry service works: When you arrive at the Marine Park boat launch, there is a Jetty Island kiosk where you pick up a placard, noting the next available ferry. No more than 60 people fit on the ferry, which runs every 15 to 30 minutes. When you get across to the island, pick up a placard for the time you want to return.
On a sunny weekend day, be prepared to stay at least a few hours on the beach. If you can, get there early or plan for a weekday to avoid heavy crowds. Everett residents can reserve ferry spots ahead of time, as can people with eight or more in their group. On really nice days ferries stop running so that there aren't too many people on the island. They also stop running if the weather is bad. So before you go, it is essential to call (425) 257-8304 and check that the ferry is running.
Free programming on Jetty Island includes a daily interpretive walk with a naturalist, nighttime campfires, puppet shows, nature crafts and harbor cruises (with reservations).
Editor's note: This article was originally published in June 2014 but was most recently updated July 5, 2018.