It’s hard to go anywhere in Greater Seattle, dominated as it is by sweeping vistas of lakes and sea, without feeling the urge to get out on the water. Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways that water-based activities, everything from dinner cruises to sea kayaking adventures, can enliven any meeting agenda.
In Tacoma, the Thea Foss Waterway, located right below the city’s Museum District and a short walk from the convention center, is free of turbulence and a popular place for leisurely exploring the scenic Puget Sound shoreline.
Dock Street Marina rents both single and double kayaks as well as stand-up paddleboards.
“You can walk out of the Museum of Glass, jump in a kayak and be out on the water in seconds,” said Matt Wakefield, senior communications manager for Travel Tacoma. “It’s a great way to take a break from a meeting and enjoy the outdoors.”
Seattle’s Lake Union, just outside downtown and dotted with houseboat communities and waterfront restaurants, is another kayaking mecca.
Located on the lake, Northwest Outdoor Center offers nearly 20 different types of kayaks for rent as well as instruction.
Enatai Beach Park on Lake Washington in Bellevue offers kayak and canoe rentals as well as a swimming beach and picnic areas where groups can have catered events.
The park is also the gateway to Mercer Slough Nature Park, which can be explored on ranger-led canoe trips through 320-acres of wetlands that are a habitat for otters, herons, turtles and other wildlife. Visit Bellevue can assist with group bookings of the canoe tours.
In the San Juan Islands, about 80 miles north of Seattle and a rich habitat for orca whales, nesting bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises and other creatures, San Juan Outfitters offers naturalist-led sea kayaking tours out of Roche Harbor. The company also operates whale-watching cruises on a fleet of vessels carrying up to 49 passengers, with private charters available.
Argosy Cruises features a variety of scheduled sightseeing cruises and private charters on Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington. A signature offering that accommodates large groups is the Tillicum Experience, which includes an excursion out to Blake Island State Park for a salmon dinner accompanied by Native American entertainment and storytelling.
Other choices include a wine-tasting excursion on Lake Union and a two-hour cruise that passes through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks along the Lake Washington Ship Canal where the locks raise and lower ships making the transition between fresh and sea water.
For groups meeting in or near Bellevue, Argosy’s cruise around Lake Washington is an especially engaging option, according to Sharon Linton, marketing and communications manager for Visit Bellevue.
“You can combine a cocktail reception with a two-hour cruise around Lake Washington,” she said. “There are great views of the Cascade mountains, plus you cruise by fabulous homes on the shoreline that are owned by Bill Gates and other corporate leaders. One even has a giant sculpture of a dinosaur in a glass atrium.”
The “Clueless in Seattle” scavenger hunt is among the teambuilding activities offered by The Electric Boat Company, which has a fleet of passenger-operated Duffy boats on Lake Union.
Groups can charter the 12-passenger vessels, each one equipped with a “treasure chest” filled with clues and disguises for use during the hunt. The activities can be combined with a lunch, dinner or a cocktail reception at the Lake Union Yacht Club.
“The electric boats are one of the coolest experiences around for groups,” said Kelly Saling, vice president of convention sales for Visit Seattle. “It’s fun just to tour around and see the houseboats where Sleepless in Seattle was filmed, get views of the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier and watch the float planes take off and land on the lake.”
Private charters, along with scheduled dinner cruises, are the specialty of Waterways Cruises & Events, which operates a fleet of luxury yachts that sail on Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington.
Charter packages for groups of up to 220 guests can include full catering and bar service along with a variety of entertainment options and narration.