Trip between Seattle and Vancouver gives passengers a unique view of this beautiful landscape.
“The Cascades are on one side and the Olympics are on the other, with the San Juan Islands along the way — the view doesn’t get much better than that,” says Todd Banks, president of Kenmore Air, of the trip by seaplane between Seattle and Vancouver.
Those stellar views have the potential to be seen by many more passengers now that Kenmore Air and Vancouver-based Harbour Air began daily seaplane flights between Seattle’s Lake Union and Vancouver’s Coal Harbour April 26. The flight path is expected to be a convenient way for business travelers to commute between the Cascadia Innovation Corridor tech centers, with companies like Microsoft already expressing support of the service.
The concept of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor began in 2016 at a conference in Vancouver. B.C. when business, academic and government leaders from both sides of the border assembled to explore new ways the region could better collaborate and enhance cross-border connectivity. This initial meeting spurred the vision for the direct seaplane service.
But in addition to business travel, tourist offices in Seattle and Vancouver are both heralding the scenic, quick route as a boon for tourism as well.
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“These days, flying can often feel like traveling on a glorified school bus, and even though Vancouver and Seattle are so close, if you go from a major airport, you still have to be there two hours before the flight and get all the way to the airport,” says Ty Speer, President and CEO of Tourism Vancouver. “Flying by seaplane is just an exciting, unique way to fly: you leave on the water in one country and land on the water in another country, downtown to downtown — even the flight feels like an adventure.”
Bypass the traffic and the border
There’s a natural attraction between Seattle and Vancouver, says CEO of Visit Seattle Tom Norwalk, thanks to the “West Coast philosophy” we share. In fact, visitors from Canada make up the No. 1 tourist market, not just to Seattle, but to the whole state of Washington.
Norwalk notes one major appeal for tourists looking at seaplane service: time, thanks to being able to skip traffic and a potential wait at the border. “This service provides a fast and truly efficient way to get between two of the best cities in North America,” Norwalk says. “The value is great because you get where you’re going with a quick flight, directly to downtown, giving tourists an extra half a day to see the city thanks to this flight.”
Quick customs processing without a border wait is something the airlines tout as well. “The customs processing will be very efficient,” says Kenmore Air’s Banks. “There is a definite advantage to flying a trip with only eight or nine other passengers. You can expect to be on your way in no more than 10 to 15 minutes after docking.”
Catch those sports rivalries
Randy Wright, CEO of Vancouver-based Harbour Air, looks forward to the opportunity to fly down to Seattle more often himself, especially during football season. “I’m a big Seahawks fan, so that’s very exciting to me,” he says. “And, of course, it gives all sports fans a convenient option for seeing some of the great rivalry games in our region, whether it’s the Blue Jays playing the Mariners in Seattle or the Sounders playing the White Caps.”
Extend your stay
Since Harbour Air and Kenmore Air both service other nearby Pacific Northwest tourist destinations, Wright says the new daily service also offers a new way to extend a trip. “If you come up from Seattle, you can spend a day or two in Vancouver, then hop another flight over to Whistler, the Gulf Islands or shoot over to Victoria, then fly from there back to Seattle.”
Exploring the area by seaplane gives an extra level of appreciation for the natural beauty in the area, Wright says. “That’s a pretty great loop to do by seaplane, seeing the beauty of our coast, it’s a unique experience because you typically fly at a lower elevation on a seaplane. On a clear day you can see from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier, and of course all the boating and marine traffic below you — it’s a very unique way to look at the world.”
Take a last-minute trip
The short flight time, one hour and five minutes, opens up another tourist opportunity for Seattleites, says Speer, of Tourism Vancouver. “Maybe you just hear of something in Vancouver and want to check it out on impulse. For instance, we’re in the middle of finishing up cherry blossom season right now, you never quite know when that’s going to peak, but you could say, ‘Hey let’s check that out and make a last-minute weekend of it.’ ”
Since you land right in Coal Harbour, in downtown Vancouver, that just adds to the convenience of getting a nice trip together last-minute, he says. “We have about four really wonderful hotels within one-quarter of a mile of where the plane lands — everything is right there.”