We are fortunate here in Thurston County to live on the shores of beautiful Puget Sound. In fact, many of us reference this great natural landmark when we tell people proudly that we are from the “South Sound”. Puget Sound encompasses more than a thousand square miles of surface area, and 2,500 miles of shoreline. At it’s deepest point, it is more than 900 feet deep. Puget Sound is home to more than 200 species of fish, and 26 species of marine mammals, including nearly 100 resident Orca whales.
It’s only natural that many of us “South Sounders” enjoy spending time boating on or exploring the shores of Puget Sound. Whether your adventure starts with a kayak, a good old fishing boat, a fancy yacht, or a rental boat, you’ll need to launch that boat at one of the area’s many boat launches, or moor it at a local marina. Here’s a summary of some of the areas launches and marinas where you can start your Puget Sound adventure. For further information on launches and marinas in the South Sound, I recommend the “Puget Sound South” edition of maps produced by Fish·n·Map Co. Remember, you don’t have to own your own boat to get out there and take advantage of these Puget Sound access points.
Luhr’s Landing boat launch offers access to the Nisqually River delta area. This is a state owned recreation site, requiring a Discover Pass or Vehicle Access Pass, available where fishing and hunting licenses are sold. This is a great place to launch your boat to enjoy salmon fishing or crabbing, and a popular launch site for kayakers. Don’t forget to stop by the Nisqually Reach Nature Center located here, and enjoy some time exploring the beach. On a recent stop here, we saw 5 bald eagles, many great blue herons, and the kids enjoyed discovering shore crabs hiding under rocks on the beach. This site offers a cement ramp, parking areas, and toilets. Luhr’s Landing boat launch is subject to low tides making the ramp unavailable for use. Before you launch here, be very aware of the tides to avoid being stranded on a mud flat waiting for the tide to get high enough to recover your boat.
Getting there: From exit 114 off I-5 go west on Martin Way NE 1.1 miles, then north on Meridian Rd 2.7 miles, then turn right on 46th Ave NE and drive .2 miles, turn left on D’Milluhr Dr NE and follow it to the launch at the end of the road.
Boston Harbor Marina and boat launch offers a state owned boat launch and the privately owned Boston Harbor Marina. The boat launch requires a Discover Pass or Vehicle Access Pass, and offers restrooms. This rather steep launch is cement, and is functional for most boats at a +1.0 tide or higher.
Adjacent to the boat launch, you will find Boston Harbor Marina. Brother and sister owners Don and Pam McHugh have run the marina for 17 years. The marina offers marine supplies, fishing licenses, bait and tackle, gifts and groceries, fuel dock and moorage. In addition to these full service marina items, Boston Harbor Marina is a great place to get a hot bowl of soup or a sandwich along with your favorite beverage to enjoy on their deck. Sit and enjoy the dockside views of eagles, seals, and marine birds – worth a visit even if you’re not launching a boat. You can also enjoy a stroll on the docks, and their private beach. There’s lot’s of interesting marine life to view, clinging to the docks, but be sure the kids are wearing a life jacket. Kid size life jackets are available for you to use free of charge while you visit the floats. The marina also offers fresh seasonal seafood. If you want to get out on the water, but don’t own your own boat, this is the perfect place to rent a kayak, sailboat, rowboat or canoe. See their website at www.bostonharbormarina.com for full details.
Getting there: From Olympia at State St and Eastbay Dr, go north on Eastbay Drive 6.9 miles (Eastbay turns into Boston Harbor Rd at 1.7 miles), turn right at the stop sign to stay on Boston Harbor Rd, drive .2 miles and turn left on 73rd Ave NE, .2 miles to the marina and launch.
Swantown Marina is located on the southeast end Bud Inlet, near downtown Olympia. Swantown offers more than 700 slips, haul out and marine repair, bathrooms, shower and laundry facilities, and picnic areas. The double lane boat launch at Swantown is an excellent facility, making launching your boat about as easy as can be. This is the perfect spot for a beginner to launch a new boat. While many launches are small, and make launching a boat a bit tricky for the inexperienced boater, this boat launch has ample area to make backing your boat into the water a relatively easy task. The adjacent parking area is also large enough to make it easy to park your vehicle and trailer after the launch. When motoring out of the marina, be sure to observe the “no wake” zone that extends quite a way out into Budd Inlet. It is common to observe a patrol boat issuing tickets to those who do not observe the regulation.
Getting there – Swantown Marina is located at 1022 Marine Drive NE.
Zittel’s Marina is located on Johnson Point, at the northern end of Nisqually reach. This is a great starting point for a fishing or crabbing trip. Zittel’s offers dry storage, moorage, haul out facilities, boat rentals, dockside fuel, a tackle shop, and both a ramp boat launch and sling launch. Zittel’s has been a family run marina for 54 years. Stop in the tackle shop for the latest fishing or crabbing reports. For detailed information, see their website at www.zittelsmarina.com .
Getting there – Zittel’s Marina is located on Johnson Point. From I-5 take the Sleater-Kinney exit (#108). Head North on Sleater-Kinney. Stay on Sleater-Kinney until you come to South Bay Rd. Turn Right onto South Bay Rd. South Bay Rd. turns into Johnson Point Rd. Turn right on 92nd Ave NE. Proceed to the end of the Road where it jogs to the right and then take a left down the hill on Gallea St. NE to the Marina.
Westbay Marina, located on the west side of Bud Inlet, is a full service marina offering restrooms, showers, laundry, pump out, and a small boat hoist. Westbay Marina can accommodate vessels up to 70 feet in length. For a great meal, visit Tugboat Annies located here.
Getting there – Westbay Marina is located at 2100 Westbay Dr NW. See www.westbaymarina for more information.