Exploring Bainbridge Island & the Kitsap Peninsula

The Washington State Ferry, Poulsbo, WA

Everything about the culture of the Kitsap peninsula is tied to the water. Water flows through and around the peninsula encompassing the way of life back to the earliest settlers of the area and is a palpable presence in everyday life now. Waterways are so key that the Kitsap Peninsula National Water Trails designation allows access for recreation to 371 miles of shorelines for many activities. It Is the only natural saltwater trail in the United States.

Getting to the Kitsap peninsula involves crossing water if you are coming from Seattle by bridge or by ferry. You’ll leave the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle behind and be welcomed by the tall Cedars and Firs of the Kitsap area. Washington State ferries bring you to Bainbridge Island or other points from which you can cross onto the peninsula itself.

Bainbridge Island Downtown along Winslow Way is as charming as any coastal town could be. At the same time, it is vibrant, and the sea is always part of the experience. There is an ongoing effort to develop waterfront parks and trails from Olympic Drive and the Washington State Ferry terminal. Begin your visit here at the information center.

Start your day with breakfast at the Streamliner diner with the locals who don’t mind waiting for the famous biscuits. Everything is fresh and hot and the service is as friendly as if you were at your neighbor’s table. Try the eggs Benedict and while the coffee is hot and plentiful here it’s worth a walk down the block to the rightly famous Pegasus Coffee House.

The Ferry Terminal Pier. Poulsbo, WA

The arts are alive on Winslow Street from end to end, from the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art to the Bainbridge Arts & crafts cooperative and artisan and antiques shops in between, a perfect way to stroll and explore. The museum has a remarkable depth for a small museum, with permanent and rotating exhibits by local and international artists, it also has a café.

More sober but equally compelling is the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Set on the water on the pier from which the deportees met their ship, it is a dignified educational exhibit and gardens. The memorial wall honors the names of all 276 of those exiled from Bainbridge Island and celebrates the island community that welcomed them home. This National Parks Historic Site is located at 4192 Eagle Harbor Drive.

The magnificent gardens and native habitats form the backdrop for the living art that is the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, WA. Founded on the ancestral lands of the Suquamish People by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, this 150-acre oasis of calm welcomes visitors by the sea year-round. The Reserve is located at 7571 NE Dolphin Drive, Bainbridge Island, WA. 

There are several hotel choices on Bainbridge Island including the luxurious Inn at Pleasant Beach Village and the conveniently located all-suite Marshall Suites.

The Residence at the Bloedel reserve and Gardens welcomes visitors year-round

The scenic and historic small town of Poulsbo, pronounced “Paul’s Bo,” is big on civic pride, and with good reason. The town welcomes visitors with huge, colorful murals along the harbor and Front Street, the main commercial street in the village. Many harken back to the town’s Scandinavian founders. The sea is integral to the village, with scenic walkways along the busy marina, a sea life center, and a history museum that details the fishing and boating heritage. Shops with names like Nordiska and Viking Coffee let you know what the heritage is, and the Sons of Norway boasts a large membership, occupying a prime spot with a gorgeous view of Liberty Bay.

The Lighthouse Keepers cottage at Point No Point lighthouse is part of the historic compound.

The Poulsbo Historical Society and Museums is an ambitious undertaking with four areas in three buildings, with the Maritime and History Museums on Front Street. The Martinson Cabin is on Lindvig Way. The Maritime Museum location houses a library, children’s discovery space, maritime artifacts, and fully restored water crafts. The enthusiastic volunteers are happy to explain the exhibits and share their extensive knowledge of Poulsbo, so named because of a spelling error on the charter! Poulsbo has loads of options for shopping and eating, with coffee shops and bakeries, traditional Italian restaurants, seafood, and German specialties as well.

A drive out to Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville, WA, really gives perspective on the waterways’ role in Kitsap life. Situated on a promontory it is the oldest lighthouse on Puget Sound. This stately operational aid to navigation shares a name and historic significance with the Point No Point Treaty and is the national headquarters for the United States Lighthouse Society. The station keeper’s quarters have been converted into an office for the Society as well as guest quarters for vacation rental. Whimsical topiaries fill the yard and playful furniture occupies the front porches.

Chief Seattle, known as Sealth, was an influential Suquamish and Duwamish chief who died in 1866

Point No Point was the site of a treaty signed on January 26, 1855, at a treaty council with the Governor of the Washington Territory and the S’Kallam, Chimakum, and Skokomish tribes. They called this spit of land Hahdskus.

Other great sites to experience Native American Culture is the Suquamish Museum, House of Awakened Culture, and Chief Seattle gravesite. These combined sites give an overview of the history and legacy of these original peoples and a glimpse into their contemporary culture. The indoor and outdoor exhibits are family-friendly, visit 6861 NE South ST, Suquamish, WA.

The Suquamish Museum houses historic and contemporary examples of tribal culture in both interior and exterior exhibits

The historic town of Port Gamble is also a must-visit for shopping, history, great eats, and ghost tours! Visit the extensive historical collection tucked below the delightful General Store and cafe. Breakfast or lunch at Butcher and Baker Provisions is a treat.

With so much to see and do so close to Seattle a visit to Bainbridge Island and the greater Kitsap Peninsula is welcome any time of the year, but the stunning gardens are a springtime delight.

Poulsbo is proud of its nautical and Scandinavian heritage. Here is a replica at the Maritime Museum

This trip was sponsored by Visit Kitsap Peninsula and Visit Bainbridge Island.

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