For many of us, the salty excitement of visiting a working dock vanished years ago. These days, watching behemoth container ships being unloaded by distant cranes is about as close as we get to the ebb and flow of life at sea.
Not so in Seattle. Northwest of downtown, Salmon Bay's Fishermen's Terminal is a vibrant community of commercial fishers, restaurant owners, and shopkeepers. Vessels from here ply the waters of the north Pacific Ocean all the way to the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. March is a good time to spend a day wandering the public docks, terminal, and marketplace.
Begin with a stroll along the seawall at the terminal's west end, where you'll find Dungeness crab and salmon for sale right off the boats. Afterward, head inside to the Highliner Pub ($; 3909 18th Ave. W.; 206/283-2233) for a beer and a chance to eavesdrop on all the seaworthy gossip. Nearby at tobacconist F.K. Kirsten (1900 W. Nickerson St., #112; 206/286-0851), fishermen gather in their high rubber boots to shop for good cigars.
The Fishermen's Memorial, outdoors at the center of the plaza, is a worthy spot for a moment of reflection. Towering and beautiful, the bronze pillar is topped with a statue of a fisherman and flanked by stone slabs bearing the names of locals lost at sea.
Back inside, have lunch or dinner at Chinook's at Salmon Bay ($$; no lunch Sun; 206/283-4665), or enjoy breakfast or lunch at Bay Café ($; 206/282-3435). Chinook's is famous for its wide selection of fresh fish, while at the Bay Café, you can order a mighty, fit-for-a-fisherman breakfast.
Finally, take home a memento of your day by visiting Afishionado Gallery (206/283-5078), where you'll find art that celebrates life at sea. And if you haven't already had your fill of fish, try Wild Salmon Seafood Market (206/283-3366). After all, there's no reason you can't bring the finest catch of the day to your own table.