Sunset in Seattle

I love sunsets. I live in Seattle and Seattle has some of the most spectacular sunsets in i've ever seen.

Because we are so far north (47 and half degrees north latitude) the time of the sunset changes significantly throughout the year, ranging from 16:18 in late December to 21:11 in late June, offset, of course, by the change into, and out of Daylight Saving Time. I made this chart from the actual daily sunrise and sunset times from 2008. Sunrise time is yellow and sunset time is blue. You can click on the chart for a larger image.

The hills in the city, the spectacular Olympic mountains on the horizon, the many water views and cloudy skis combine to create stunningly dramatic sunsets all year round.

In the middle of summer (August & September) and the middle of winter (December & January) there are often days without a spectacular sunset, due to too little, or to thick cloud cover, but the rest of the year you can depend on an amazing sunset almost every day. Some of the most incredible sunsets are on the grey days of winter when you can't see the mountains all day until just about the moment of sunset when the mountains suddenly appear! I never tire of Seattle sunsets at least i haven't in 19 years!

I think this chart is really pretty. It is also made from 2008 data. It is a zoom in on the previous chart, however on this chart the yellow represents daylight, and the border is the time of sunset. You can click on the chart for a larger image.

Due to the hilly nature of the city, there are many good spots with a view to the west. You can get a good view from the Pike Place Market downtown or from Volunteer Park. on Capitol Hill (The free viewpoint in the water tower is as tall as the overpriced Space Needle, with the same view). The bluffs in Discovery Park in Magnolia or on the beach at Alki in West Seattle are great places to see the sunset. There are nice peakaboo views from Wallingford, Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill. One of my favorite places is Sunset Park in north Ballard at 33rd Ave NW & NW 77th street. It even has a sign with a map showing the mountains, the peak names and where the sun sets at different times of year!

But by far the best place to watch a sunset, is from a Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island. The ferries run all day, are great fun any time, and the scenery is stunning, but the sunset ferry is the best. You'll see the sunset over the Olympic Mountains as you cross the fjord, and on the return you'll get the best skyline view of downtown Seattle. The departure time you should choose changes throughout the year, due to the change in sunset time.

The Ferry to Bainbridge Island is a one hour round trip which (as of 2009) costs about $6. It has the best view of the sunset. (It's free to come back!) You can ride back immediately, or take a short walk on the island. (Not really that interesting.) You can also take a ferry to Bremerton, which is a 2+ hour round trip. This trip winds through the inlets a little more and feels a bit more like being in the islands.

To find the correct ferry to take, consult the chart i created. The ideal is to have the actual sunset a few minutes after the ferry departs. There are times of the year where you have to choose between two ferries, a late sunset ferry or one where the sunsets when you are almost back in Seattle.

dateFerry to catch for sunset
first 2 weeks of January 15:45 beginning or
16:40 for the end
second 2 weeks of January 16:40 is perfect
first 2 weeks of February 16:40 beginning or
17:30 for the end
last 2 weeks of February 17:30 is perfect
first 3 weeks of March 17:30 beginning or
18:20 for the end
last 2 weeks of March 19:20 is perfect
first 3 weeks of April 19:20 beginning or
20:10 for the end
last week of April &
first week of May
20:10 is perfect
most of May 20:10 beginning or
21:00 for the end
Sunset on Pacific Ocean Beach
at LaPush WA, 23 March 1998.
dateFerry to catch for sunset
all of June and
first 2 weeks of July
21:00 is perfect
mid July to mid August 20:10 beginning or
21:00 for the end
middle 2 weeks of August 20:10 is perfect
last week of August &
first week of September
19:20 beginning or
20:10 for the end
second week of September 19:20 is perfect
last 2 weeks of September &
first week of October
18:20 beginning or
19:20 for the end
second week of October 18:20 is perfect
last 3 weeks of October 17:30 beginning or
18:20 for the end
first week of November 16:40 is perfect
most of November &
all of December
15:45 beginning or
16:40 for the end

  posted: 26 Apr 1992   edited: 21 Jan 2010