Tacoma, Washington to Seattle

How long does it take to get from Tacoma to Seattle?

December 15, 2023

Tacoma Washington to Seattle

Tacoma is a bedroom community of Seattle, Washington, meaning a lot of Washingtonians live in Tacoma and commute to Seattle every day for work.

So, getting from Tacoma, Washington to Seattle is relatively easy. You can travel between the two cities by car, train, bus, or ferry.

Discover the distance from Tacoma Washington to Seattle, how long it takes to get between the two, and which method is the best.

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Distance From Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle

Seattle, Washington, is 38.8 miles north of Tacoma. 

Depending on your mode of transportation and when you leave, it could take anywhere between 45 minutes and two hours to shuttle between these two cities. 

Directions to Seattle From Tacoma

Getting From Tacoma to Seattle 

Getting to Seattle from Tacoma is pretty straightforward. You only need to drive north on I-5 or take a train to get to and from Seattle. 

There’s also a ferry that runs between Tacoma and Vashon Island and then another between Vashon and Seattle if you have a little extra time and don’t mind taking a bit of a detour.

Tacoma to Seattle by Car

To get to Seattle from Tacoma, simply take I-5 North and get off at any of the Seattle exits. 

Without traffic, the drive from Tacoma to Seattle takes around 45 minutes. But with traffic, it could easily take up to two hours to get there.

Seattle and Tacoma have similar traffic and rush hour patterns, and Seattle’s traffic was ranked as the sixth worst in the nation until 2022 (thanks, Pandemic). 

On weekday mornings, rush hour starts between 5:30 AM and 6:00 AM and lasts until well past 9:00 AM. On weekday afternoons, it starts at about 3:00 p.m. and can last until 6:30 p.m.

If you’re driving north to Seattle in the morning, traffic will be pretty bad. If you’re driving from Seattle to Tacoma in the morning, traffic will still be pretty congested — but not as bad as if you were making the northbound journey.

On weekends, traffic is usually pretty backed up too, though it starts later in the day. 

A lot of Seattleites head south to go to IKEA or to go hiking on the weekends, and a lot of Tacomans head north for sporting events, concerts, festivals, and other Seattle-based activities. 

If you’re renting a car in Tacoma (or at Seatac Airport, which is located just north of Tacoma, near Tukwilla), there’s a good chance you won’t have built-in navigation (this happens to me pretty much every time I rent a car). So, I’d recommend getting this car phone mount. It’s a lot easier than trying to navigate the drive with your phone in your cupholder. 

I’ve also used this car phone mount on my drive from Lake Chelan to Leavenworth, a drive you should definitely consider taking if you’re planning on visiting the Seattle area for at least a week.  

Tacoma to Seattle by Train

My favorite way to get from Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle is by train. There are two trains that run between the two cities, including Amtrak and the Sounder train.

The Sounder is the local commuter train, which runs pretty regularly during rush hour on the weekdays and operates on a limited schedule on the weekends. This is definitely the most budget-friendly option, but it’s not always the most convenient (or most comfortable).

Tacoma to Seattle by Ferry

You can’t get directly to Seattle from Tacoma by ferry. If you want to take the ferry from Tacoma, Washington to Seattle, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  • Take the ferry at Pt. Defiance in Tacoma to Tahlequah on Vashon Island (17-minute ferry ride).
  • Drive 23 minutes from the Tahlequah Terminal to the Vashon Island Ferry Terminal (you can drive onto the Tahlequah and Seattle ferries).
  • Or, take the 118 bus, which takes about 30 minutes.
  • Get on the Seattle-bound ferry, which is another 30-minute ride.

All in all, it should only take a little over an hour to get from Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle by ferry — though you’ll need to budget time for loading and unloading on the ferries if you plan on taking your car.

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Things to Do on the Way to Seattle From Tacoma

If you’re planning to drive from Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle, you might want to make a few stops or make a few detours along the way. 

Though there’s not a whole lot to do between these two cities, there are a few sites worth stopping for, including the Museum of Flight, Cougar Mountain, and the Beacon Hill neighborhood in South Seattle. 

Wild Waves Theme Park

Wild Waves is not necessarily my favorite water park in the country. But it does happen to be a water park in this country.

It’s also one of the few amusement parks in Washington State. So if you live here and aren’t planning a trip to California or Florida or Tennessee anytime soon, it’s all you’ve got. 

Most of the park is a water park, but there’s also a small section with a roller coaster and other types of thrill rides. 

My advice? Bring wet shoes if you plan on going on any of the water rides. It gets really muddy and dirty and gross throughout the park, and you’re going to want a barrier between you and the bacteria. 

Museum of Flight Seattle

Museum of Flight

Located just off of I-5, the Museum of Flight is one of my favorite museums in Seattle.

Because Boeing’s factory was once located in Everett, Washington, which is just north of Seattle, this city has some serious airplane manufacturing history.

Not only does the museum have exhibits on the history of flight, but you can even climb into some aircraft, including a Dreamliner and the Air Force One used by President Eisenhower. 

The aircraft are all located outdoors or in an airplane hanger that’s partially outdoors, so dress warm if it’s chilly (so, between September and June in Seattle). 

Cougar Mountain 

When I lived in Seattle, I loved hiking at Cougar Mountain. Mostly because there are plenty of trails for beginner and intermediate hikers — but there are also plenty of trails for advanced hikers, too.

This 1,614-foot tall mountain is a part of the Issaquah Alps mountain range that can be accessed through the wildland park in Renton, Washington.

There are over 35 miles of trail here, and some of the landscapes you’ll hike through include: 

  • Mature forests
  • Wetlands
  • Caves
  • Cliffs

You can also get some pretty great views of the Cascades mountain range, Lake Sammamish, and Seattle. 

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is a neighborhood that’s located in South Seattle, just off of I-5.

It’s a trendy neighborhood that’s been considered “up-and-coming” for over 10 years now. And though it’s probably already “arrived”, I’m not sure a lot of visitors are that familiar with it.

This is a great place to stop and grab lunch or a beer on a drive from Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle. 

Just a few lunch and libation options include:

Rainier Restaurant and BBQ – Vietnamese restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain for his TV show, No Reservations.

The Station – Coffee, pastries, beer & wine in a cozy setting.

Perihelion Brewery – Microbrewery based out of Beacon Hill, serving more than 15 beers on tap as well as cocktails and comfort food on the patio. 

The Coupe & Flute – This champagne bar does for bubbly what the microbrewery does for beer. Order from a long list of champagnes as well as cocktails and small bites.

Homer – You can’t go wrong ordering anything at Homer, a cozy Mediterranean restaurant with a seasonal menu and adjoining soft-serve ice cream spot, called Milk Drunk. 

Musang – This Filipino restaurant, located in North Beacon Hill, is pretty popular, so you may want to snag a resy before stopping by. The menu features Filipino/Pacific Northwest fusion, including lumpia, soft-shell crab, and paella negra.

Bar del Corso – Who says you can’t get good pizza in the Pacific Northwest? This cozy Italian restaurant is known for its wood oven-fired pizzas and hearty pasta dishes. 

If you have a little extra time on your Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle journey, you may want to make a stop at Jefferson Park, a city park that offers stunning views of the Duwamish River and the Olympic Mountains.

Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle FAQs

Still have a few burning questions about the trip from Tacoma, Washington, to Seattle? Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions!

Is there a train that runs from Tacoma to Seattle?

Yes! You can get from Tacoma to Seattle by train two ways — by Amtrak and the Sounder commuter train. It takes just under an hour to get to Seattle’s King Street Station from the Tacoma, Washington, train station.

There are around seven Amtrak trains per day and 13 Sounder trains on weekdays; Sounder trains only run on weekends if there is a special event in Seattle or Tacoma (for example, a Sounders game).

Amtrak trains run throughout the day, while Sounder trains only operate during commute times (about 5 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. on weekdays). 

How do I get from Seattle to Tacoma without a car?

There are three ways to get from Seattle to Tacoma without a car, including by train, bus, or ferry.

It can take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes to get from Tacoma to Seattle by bus.

The ferry takes a little over an hour, though you’ll need to take the bus from the ferry terminal on the south side of Vashon Island to the north side to get between ferry stations.

How much does it cost to take the train from Seattle to Tacoma?

Amtrak tickets start at about $11 and go up to about $28, depending on when you book and which train you book. Try to book at least a week in advance to get the best rate. 

To take the Sounder train from Tacoma to Seattle, it costs $5.75, no matter when you book. 

How long does it take to drive from Seattle to Tacoma?

To drive from Seattle to Tacoma, it could take anywhere between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on traffic. 

How far is Chelan from Leavenworth? 

Chelan is 55 miles from Leavenworth and a one-hour drive. In the summer months and during Oktoberfest, you may want to budget at least 90 minutes to travel between cities.

What pass do you drive through to get to Leavenworth?

You can use two passes to cross the mountains to Leavenworth, including Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie/Blewett Pass.

Stevens Pass is accessible via Highway 2 and Snoqualmie/Blewett Pass is accessible via I-90. 

How many miles from Seattle to Leavenworth?

The shortest distance between Seattle and Leavenworth is 128 miles. But be forewarned: this isn’t always the fastest route!

The most straightforward routes are often on local roads or interstates with heavy traffic.

How many miles from Seattle to Lake Chelan?

The shortest route from Seattle to Lake Chelan is 207 miles. It usually takes over four hours to drive between the two cities.