Views of bridges, Lake Union, and Space Needle
Intersection of NE Northlake Way & Pasadena PL NE – under the Ship Canal Bridge
North Passage Point Park is one of Seattle’s “secret” pocket parks. Most people are unaware of its existence. It’s located directly beneath the Ship Canal Bridge, on the passage between Lake Union and Portage Bay.
There is no parking lot, so you have to find parking on the street. The paved path into the park is on a corner just west of the Seattle Boat Company, and just east of the three-way stop intersection on Northlake Way under the bridge.
The path travels on the east side of a small lawn with two picnic tables, and down to a concrete bulkhead at the water’s edge. The path itself is interesting, with unique art squares along its center, constructed using imbedded glass and other small objects.
Located near the water are four benches, some steps down to the water, and a propeller. The ship’s propeller is mounted as an art installation, and is placed there to honor the working boats and marine history of the area.
The main attraction of North Passage Point is public access to a unique and little known view of Lake Union and two bridges.
And boats. If you’re there in the right kind of weather and at the right time of day you will be treated to a constant parade of an endless variety of watercraft as they travel between Lake Washington and Lake Union.
You can also see the Space Needle, Queen Anne, and float planes. The most unexpected thing I saw was an airplane motoring along like a boat under the University Bridge and into Lake Union.
You’re likely to be visited by ducks or Canada geese while there. (Don’t feed them!) The water is fairly shallow, so if you’re wearing shorts on a hot day you can go for a wade to cool off.
Directly across the water is North Passage’s sister park, South Passage Point.
The din of I-5 traffic overhead is quite impressive and adds a weirdly appealing cacophony to the experience. Don’t expect to conduct long casual conversations at this park.
North Passage Point is a neat little place to go if you’re looking for something a bit different, or if you’re guiding out-of-town guests around and want to show off your knowledge of Seattle’s more obscure scenic spots.
If you want to make a real outing of it, Ivar’s Salmon House is located a couple blocks west of the park.
Timing Your Visit
If you don’t mind traffic, scrounging for street parking, and walking a ways, then any time is a good time for North Passage Point. But if you want to make things as stress-free as possible, here are a few tips.
I arrived at 7 pm on a Thursday evening in late July and that was about perfect. Rush hour U District traffic had cleared out, nearby businesses had closed for the day freeing up some of the street parking, and there was still plenty of daylight left.
Voula’s Offshore Cafe, kitty corner from the park entrance, is only open for breakfast and lunch. So if you’re there after 3 pm and street parking is full you can probably get away with using the cafe’s parking lot. Or get there before they close and buy a picnic to take to the park!
Mornings after rush hour might also be a good time. Ivar’s doesn’t open until 11 am on Monday through Saturday, so there’s more street parking available. Or you could borrow one of their two lots on the north side of Northlake Way while they are still closed. Ivar’s opens for brunch at 9:30 am on Sundays.
Contrary to my usual park advice, I’m guessing that weekends are a good choice.
If you want to see a lot of sailboats in action, the Duck Dodge takes place on Lake Union on Tuesday evenings from May until September, starting at 7 pm.
If you want to watch the University Drawbridge in action don’t go during rush hour, since the bridge won’t open during those hours. (7-9 am and 4-6 pm.) Sunny afternoons/evenings and summer weekends have the most boat traffic, so there’s a higher chance of the bridge opening then. It opened once during the hour and a half I was there on a partly cloudy July weekday evening.
Things to Know
4 am – 11:30 pm
Two picnic tables, four benches, and cement steps.
There are a couple eateries across the street, so if you’re desperate you could probably buy a Coke and use theirs.
Street parking. 2 hour limit Monday – Saturday, 7 am – 6 pm.
I only have one visit to go on. When I was there I stayed an hour and a half and only saw four other people. Two were a couple who wandered over after dinner at Ivar’s, one was a guy who only sat at a picnic table for a short time, and the other was a woman who arrived just as I was leaving.
Most people using the park probably do so during the day on weekdays, UW students and people who work nearby taking a break. But even then I’m guessing usage is generally very light.
The park probably sees heavier usage during special boat parades and things of that nature.
If you’re doing a combo meal and sightseeing trip, Northlake Tavern & Pizza is also across the street. Like its nextdoor neighbor, The Offshore Cafe, Northlake Pizza has been in business there since the 1950s and is a U District institution. It’s open 11 am – 10 pm. Dine-in is 21+ only, but you can order to-go. They serve a heavy load, no frou-frou toppings style pizza, which takes around 25 minutes to make/cook. Plan accordingly.
Boats, bridges, Space Needle in the distance.