Restaurants Accessible by Boat on Lake Union and slightly further…

One of the great pleasures of having a houseboat or floating home on Lake Union is taking your dinghy, kayak, sailboat or motorboat over to one of the several restaurants accessible from the Lake.

The only real issue seems to be finding public mooring where you can tie up a dinghy or boat for a couple of hours while you enjoy a meal!

In my first year of houseboat ownership on Lake Union, I’ve attempted to find and try all the spots but am sure I am missing some.   Here’s what I’ve found so far, and would greatly appreciate more suggestions.

Starting at South Lake Union and working clockwise:

South Lake Union:  

One of the biggest public mooring docks is in South Lake Union, in front of Duke’s and Chandlers.  There are several great restaurants right at this dock:

I haven’t found any other places to moor in South Lake Union, most of the other docks and the parks all say no public moorage, or non-motorized moorage only (good for kayaks and paddleboards but no one else).     Still, walkable from the SoLU dock are:

West side of Lake Union:

On the west side of Lake Union, there are several good and/or well-known restaurants, like McCormick & Schmick’s, Rock Salt, and China Harbor- but I haven’t been able to find any public mooring spots there.  It’s been said there are one or two slips by McCormick’s but I haven’t been able to find them.

Northwest/Northside:  Fremont cut and Gasworks park

You’d think with all the great restaurants in Fremont and close to Gasworks, and all the floating homes and houseboats there, that there would be some public moorage, but again, I haven’t been able to find it. The Lake Washington Rowing Club dock looks very tempting, but there are signs discouraging non-members from even temporary use.  Suggestions welcome!

Northeast side of Lake Union:

Back to the main part of Lake Union, there are two restaurants and bars with their own docks that are two of the best options on the Lake:

  • Westward and Little Gull-  One of the quirkiest restaurants and sleekest bars in town.  Has a little bit of a Wes Anderson Life Aquatic theme going on, a very unique maritime feel on the inside.  There is a raw oyster bar, a unique gastro menu.  In the summer, they roll up the walls to the outdoor patio and bonfire area for a 180-degree view of the city.
  • Ivar’s Salmon House-  A Seattle favorite for its fish and chips, salmon meals and ample outdoor deck.   Go to the sit-down restaurant, bar or deck,  or run around to the front and grab your fish and chips to go, back to your boat, dinghy or kayak!

Secret moorage on The East side of Lake Union:

Hate to give this one away but there is a little-known public mooring spot made more for kayaks and small sailboats, although a dinghy or small motorboat could probably use it as well.  It’s on Fairview Avenue down the hill from Little Water Cantina.   From the dock, you can go up the park stairs and access a few good restaurants there:

  • Little Water Cantina- a favorite west-facing deck with upscale Mexican dishes and great margaritas:
  • Eastlake Bar and Grill-  a locals joint with another amazing deck and rooftop party bar.   Good pub food, very friendly service, and open late:
  • Sushi Kappo Tamura-  a hidden gem-  one of the best sushi restaurants in Seattle!  A little upscale and pricey, but some of the highest quality fish and ingredients you will find anywhere:

Accessible from Lake Union West Side-  Ship Canal and Ballard:

Salmon Bay- North Side- Ballard:

If you are willing to make a bit more of a trek down the Ship Canal and over to the North-Ballard side, you will be rewarded with some more public moorage and some of the best restaurants in all Seattle.  At the end of 24th Ave NW, there is a long skinny dock that allows public moorage for 2 hours.  Park there and go up the hill and you will find more restaurants than I can list here.     The Ballard Restaurant Project is one of the best listings and review sites of all there is to find in Ballard:

Some of my personal favorites at this dock are:

Salmon Bay- South Side- Fisherman’s Terminal:

Coming back toward the city, just west and south of the Ballard Bridge, at the Seattle Fisherman’s Terminal, there is another gem of a few restaurants and some good mooring spaces.   If you wend your way through the big ships and all the private slips, between Docks 7-9 there is reasonably ample space for parking smaller craft like dinghies and small motorboats.    Here you will find some great restaurants as well:

Accessible from Lake Union East Side-  Portage Bay and Lake Washington Madison Park:

Portage Bay is just under the 5 and the University Bridge.   There are a couple floating home communities and several marinas, but seemingly nowhere to moor for a couple of hours.

The popular restaurant and kayak rental place Agua Verde is said to have 1-2 slips available for restaurant patrons, but I haven’t been able to find them.

Going about as far as I would in my dinghy-  through the Montlake cut, across Union Bay, under the 520 and around the horn into Lake Washington and over to Madison Park is the furthest I have journeyed from Lake Union in search of boat-accessible dining.   There is a long dock with ample mooring on both sides for public use, although it’s a bit tall and made getting out and into my dinghy interesting.   At Madison Park, the restaurants are just a short walk up from the dock:

Please let us know if there are any other mooring spots with nearby dining that we missed or any other great restaurants and pubs that pop up!

Russ Mann