Kitsap Peninsula

The Kitsap Peninsula is in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America. It lies in Puget Sound between the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and it is almost an island connected to the mainland by only a relatively small landmass near Belfair.

Point no Point lighthouse on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula is the oldest lighthouse on Puget Sound

Cities

Old growth forests made travel by land nearly impossible for early settlers so towns grew around harbors on Puget Sound to take advantage of the relatively easy water transportation. Although roads have since come to dominate the area many towns still spread out from their harbors and downtown areas are usually close to the water.

North Kitsap

Historic northern area includes the oldest lighthouse on Puget Sound.

Victorian house in historic Port Gamble

Central Kitsap

The most urban and populated areas of the Kitsap Peninsula.

South Kitsap

The least populated area of the Kitsap Peninsula and home to many state parks.

Key Peninsula

This remote southern region south of Purdy is a sub peninsula of the Kitsap Peninsula.

Other destinations

Islands

Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island

Several islands are accessible from bridges or ferries from the Kitsap Peninsula and are included in this entry.

Understand

Just a short ferry ride from Seattle or a picturesque drive across the Tacoma Narrows or Hood Canal bridges, the Kitsap Peninsula offers a nice mix of rural and urban activities. Quaint harbor towns offer shopping, dining and regional cultural experiences while rural Kitsap Peninsula offers a wide variety of parks, beaches, golf courses and endless rural charm. With its nearly 400 miles of coastline and dozens of public marinas and boat launches the Kitsap Peninsula is a popular place to arrive and explore by boat and many harbor towns cater to boaters. For clarity we will also include Bainbridge, Blake and other nearby islands in this entry.

The region has a rich and diverse history. Giving a combination of Native American, Scandinavian, military and pioneer attractions. The Kitsap Peninsula is "almost" an island, accessible primarily by ferries or bridges with highway access from the south.

Kitsap County is the governmental body covering the majority of the Peninsula, with Pierce County lying in the SE portion of the Peninsula, and Mason County lying in the SW portion of the Peninsula. Mason County extends west beyond the Kitsap Peninsula into the Olympic Peninsula region.

Talk

Although English is the most common language spoken in the region, there is an incredible variety of languages used in the area.

The Suquamish people called Puget Sound 'WulcH, which simply means “place of clear salt water” in the Southern Lushootseed language that was originally spoken in the area. Many of the names in the area come from the Southern Lushootseed language including 'Kitsap' which was named after their chief and even 'Seattle' which was named after chief Seattle.

Get in

By ferry

By boat

With its nearly 400 miles of coastline, boating is a major tourist draw on the Kitsap Peninsula and many businesses cater specifically to boaters. Some restaurants and shops provide their own docks for easy access and some golf courses offer shuttles from major marinas. Check individual city listings for specific marina information. Larger marinas can be found in Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Brownsville, Gig Harbor, Poulsbo and Port Orchard but even some smaller towns such as Lakebay offer marinas with services and fuel and even some of the state parks such as Blake Island offer docks with restrooms and picnick shelters.

By air

sea plane on Puget Sound

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA), universally nicknamed "Sea-Tac", is located to the east across Puget Sound. Domestically it's a major hub for Northwest and West Coast destinations, and internationally handles especially frequent trans-Pacific routes, as well as direct flights to the major European airports.

All international flights arrive at the south satellite terminal, but after immigration and customs, passengers are then funneled onto a train back to the main terminal, outside the security checkpoint. You'll need to pick up any checked bags to clear customs, then place them right back on the conveyor for transit to the main terminal. Reclaim checked bags once again from carousel 1 in the main baggage hall, to the right after leaving the train and going upstairs. Allow plenty of time for this dance! All connecting passengers will need to re-check their baggage with their airline and pass through security.

By airport shuttle

Bremerton-Kitsap Airporter,  +1 360-876-1737. offers shuttle service from Seatac airport into various locations on Kitsap Peninsula.

By sea plane

By car

The impressive Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the south or Hood Canal bridges to the north are the two main road access points into Kitsap. The Tacoma Narrows is a toll bridge but only for east bound traffic leaving the area.

  • US Hwy 101 in Olympia at Exit #103. Follow Hwy 101 to WA-Hwy 3 intersection. Follow Hwy 3 through Shelton (as a local street) and up along Hwy 3 into Bremerton. Or go west on WA-Hwy 302 from Hwy 3 (21mi/33km north of Shelton) to get to Purdy & Gig Harbor.
  • WA-Hwy 16 through Tacoma at Exit #133. Hwy 16 goes across the Narrows Bridge up to Bremerton where it merges into Hwy 3. ($6 toll to cross the Narrows Bridge from Gig Harbor to Tacoma. No toll going the other way.)
  • I-90 WEST from Exit #164 south of downtown Seattle. I-90 ends into 4th Ave by Safeco Field. Follow signs to ferry terminal.
  • WA-Hwy 104 in Mountlake Terrace (follow signs to 'Edmonds Ferry') at Exit #177 (going north) or #178 (going south). From the ferry terminal go on Hwy 104 which becomes Hwy 307 (past the Hwy 104 turn-off going north towards Hood Canal Bridge via Port Gamble). Continue west on Hwy 307
  • Hwy 3/104 turn-off 3mi/4.8km south of Discovery Bay (where US 101 intersects Wa-Hwy 20). Hwy 3/104 crosses the floating Hood Canal Bridge into Key Peninsula.
  • Hwy 3 turn-off from south of Shelton which goes through Shelton while Hwy 101 by-passes Shelton.

Get around

the M.V. Carlisle II the historic Mosquito Fleet boat that shuttles passengers between Port Orchard and Bremerton.

Just a short journey by Washington State ferry, Tacoma Narrows or Hood Canal bridges, and surrounded by nearly 371 miles of shoreline and dozens of marinas the Kitsap Peninsula is an excellent place to travel by car, boat or bike.

By foot ferry

By bus

By bike

The Kitsap Peninsula is a great destination for bicycles with its rolling hills and spectacular scenery. During the summer you'll find bike rentals near the ferry dock on Bainbridge Island but be forewarned that it may be some distance between pit stops so plan accordingly.

By taxi

By charter bus

See

Fox Island Lighthouse

The Kitsap Peninsula is known not only for it's busy sea ports and picturesque towns but also for its rolling hills, thick forests, miles of coastline, scenic farmlands and many public parks.

Lighthouses

Lighthouse viewing on the Kitsap Peninsula is an excellent way to explore the area, while some lighthouses are accessible to the public others such as the Point No Point Lighthouse offer tours and can even be stayed at overnight.

Nature reserves

Museums

Museums offer visitors a welcome change of pace and an opportunity to learn more about the Kitsap Peninsulas maritime history.

The Puget Sound Navy Museum

Raceways

Bridges

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Two bridges connect the Kitsap Peninsula to the mainland.

Convention Centers

Historic military areas

State Parks

The Kitsap Peninsula's State Parks are the coveted Jewels of the area. Offering miles of public access beaches and forested trails, many also offer camping and moorage opportunities and are well distributed throughout the area.

Fay Bainbridge State Park

State Forests

County Parks

mountain biking in Banner Forest.

Many county parks are located outside of urban areas and many provide camping, biking, hiking, horse trails, fishing and access to lakes or Puget Sound. A Quiet Place Park, Anderson Hill Athletic Fields, Anderson Landing Preserve, Anderson Point Park, Arness Roadside Park, Bandix Dog Park, Banner Forest Heritage Park, Bill Bloomquist Rotary Park, Billie Johnson Kingston Skate Park, Buck Lake County Park, Carpenter Lake/Nike Site/Saltmarsh, Chico Creek Estuary, Coulter Creek Heritage Park, Erlands Point Preserve, Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve, Hansville Greenway, Harper Park, Horseshoe Lake County Park, Howe Farm, Illahee Preserve Heritage Park, Island Lake County Park, J.A. & Anna F. Smith Park, Kingston Community Center, Kingston Tennis Courts, Kitsap Fairgrounds & Events Center, Kitsap Kids Playground - Fairgrounds, Kola Kole Park, Long Lake County Park, Newberry Hill Heritage Park, Nick's Lagoon, North Kitsap Heritage Park, Norwegian Point Park, Old Mill Park, Point No Point, Lighthouse and Park, Silverdale Community Center, Silverdale Rotary Gateway Skate Park, Silverdale Waterfront Park, South Kitsap Regional Park, Veteran's Memorial Park, Wicks Lake, Wildcat Lake County Park,Wynn-Jones Preserve

Do

Birdwatching

The Kitsap Audubon Society has been actively meeting since 1972 and has a broad coalition of birders actively tracking and sharing sightings since then. They also maintain an active website with updates of the latest sightings, suggestions on areas for birders and even a regular newsletter. They also developed a checklist of birds likely to be seen birds in the area.

The state Audubon society developed 'The Great Audubon Birding Trail' which includes key migration flyways. Flyways are major north-south routes of travel for migratory birds and likely areas to see birds along the route extending from Alaska to Patagonia. Point No Point County Park near Hansville at Kitsap County's northern tip is particularly important for birds migrating the Pacific Flyway. The Audubon Society designated it an IBA or an Important Bird Area but there are six other areas along the trail that are also important. Penrose Point State Park near Lakebay, the Sinclair Inlet north of Port Orchard, Lions Park in Bremerton, the Old Mill Park in Silverdale, Liberty Bay near Poulsbo and Fort Ward Park on Bainbridge Island.

The Lakebay Marina is one of the last marinas in the area from the Mosquito Fleet era that is still in use

Boating

Puget Sound offers some of the best Cruising on small craft in North America. Breath taking views of the snow capped Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges along with glimpses of Mount Rainier mingle with thick forests and clear bays and streams to create a humbling cacophony of natural sights. Carved by ancient glaciers, Puget Sounds intricate and complex waterways provide endless opportunities for exploration while the many harbor towns built on protective bays cater to boaters and provide an wide array of services, restaurants and shops.

For visitors, the Kitsap Peninsula is uniquely situated amongst Puget Sound with its convenient proximity to Seatac airport and major urban centers, it nonetheless offers a rural boating experience with many state and county parks located right on the water and miles of forests reaching into the Puget Sound. The well distributed harbor communities on the Kitsap Peninsula were mostly built before roads and tend to be centered around the docks offering boaters easy access to amenities and historic retail areas, even small towns tend to have a country store with access to a dock. Major ports can be found in Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Brownsville, Gig Harbor, Kingston, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Silverdale while dozens of other communities have smaller areas to rest and resupply and many State Parks offer secluded moorage closer to nature. See individual city listings for more info.


Sailing

sailboats on Puget Sound

The Puget Sound is a destination celebrated by sailors from around the world and the Kitsap Peninsula is a prime example of why it is so popular. The scenery around Puget Sound can be so amazing that it borders on the surreal and could only possibly be appreciated more from the deck of a boat under sail. From isolated moorages in such places as Blake Island State Park to historic harbor towns with fine restaurants, museums and shopping all accessible from convenient harbors.

Visitors to the area will often be treated to the sight of a flotilla of sailboats on Puget Sound as local yacht clubs organize events that sometimes attract hundreds of sailors. These ‘races’ such as the Gig Harbor Yacht Club Islands Race are often informal events that are more of an opportunity for fraternization and attract many types of sailboats and many different skill levels of sailors.

Sea kayaking

Sea kayaking can be a rewarding way to explore the Kitsap Peninsulas nearly 400 miles of coastline allowing the paddler a closer and slower look at their surroundings and making Kitsap one of the most popular areas to kayak in Puget Sound. Thick forests of majestic pine and deciduous trees and hundreds of creeks and estuaries dot the coastline. Or just explore Kitsaps many harbor towns that cater to kayakers with shops and restaurants accessible from the water. Harbor Seals, Otters, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles and Blue Herons are common sites while the occasional viewing of an Orca or Grey Whale is not out of the question.

Kayak trails

Organized trails offer overnight camping options and maps of appropriate lengths and scenic travel destinations.

Kayak rentals

There are several companies around the Kitsap Peninsula that rent kayaks and offer classes from beginner to expert.

Beach combing

What Puget Sound beaches lack in white sand and warm water is more than made up for in the amazing scenery as the clear waters play against wild coastlines and snow peaked mountains scatter on the horizons. Kitsaps many State Parks are an excellent place to start a beach combing adventure offering miles of beaches from the rugged to the sandy smooth. Small crabs, moon snails, sea stars and sand dollars are common sites and tide pools can offer hours of exploration.

Be warned that sea shells and driftwood are considered part of the natural environment and should not be removed, however the often rocky and wild shores are havens for creating and revealing beach glass and anything artificial found is fair game for removal. Be respectful of private property and gentle with sea creatures. Keep a wide distance away from nesting birds, seals and other shore animals and always put back anything removed from the shoreline.

Crabbing

Sport crab fishing is popular in the area with most fishermen looking for the elusive and meaty Dungeness Crab, but other less popular crabs are plentiful in the area. Crab season starts with a two-day opener July 1st and 2nd and follows up with crabbing every Thursday through Monday through Labor Day weekend. A wide array of crab traps are available from a variety of area sporting goods stores and the red and white buoys marking the traps are a common site on the water during the short crabbing season. Fishing permits are required and can be purchased from a variety of local stores, more information is available from the Washington Dept of Fishing and wildlife

Shellfishing

clams are plentiful on Kitsaps rural beaches

Shellfish are prized resources of the Puget Sound, the cool, clean waters provide some of the finest shellfish habitat in the world. Washington State is the nation’s leading producer of farmed bivalve shellfish (clams, geoduck, mussels and oysters) and with Kitsap Peninisulas dozens of Public Clam and Oyster Beaches and miles of coastline it is a popular place for individuals to find these elusive and sought after shellfish. Maps of public shellfishing areas and health warnings and updates can be found online at the States Fish and Wildlife website, as with all fishing in Puget Sound permits are required and can be purchased online or in some sporting goods stores.

Scuba diving

sea slug photographed in the Hood Canal

Scuba diving the cold waters of Puget Sound takes a bit more gear and training than other warm water locations, but the rewards are incredible. The area contains some of the best diving in the world and many areas are accessible from the Kitsap Peninsula. Many dive sites are completely covered with colorful sea creatures that defy description. Giant Pacific Octopus are common, along with friendly wolf eels. Colorful sponges, sea cucumbers, sea stars, soft corals, anemones and fish can be seen on nearly every dive. The state has offers a guide to parks with launch sites HERE

Conservation areas

There are many spectacular dive areas around Kitsap Peninsula ranging from wreck diving a wooden hull ship near Bainbridge Island known simply as The Boss to artificial reefs that were created with scuba divers in mind. In addition there are four Designated Conservation Areas which are easily accessed from various ports around the Peninsula.

Golf

The Kitsap Peninsula has several of the top rated golf courses in the state. Combined with the areas natural beauty golfing in Kitsap leaves a lasting impression. If you are arriving by boat several of courses offer transportation from popular marinas.

Casinos

Eat

Like the rest of the Puget Sound area Seafood is a specialty so look for seasonal specials and locally sourced ingredients. Dungenes crabs, clams, oysters, mussels and of course Salmon can all be found in abundance but look also for fresh produce from local farms. Blackberry season towards the end of summer usually means these tasty local berries will find their way into local dessert menus. See city listings for particular food recommendations.

Farmers markets

With its abundance of farm land the Kitsap Peninsula offers a wide variety of fresh produce and road side vegetable and fruit stands, some farms have their own stores and offer locally grown foods and goods. Christmas tree farms are also seasonally popular and offer families the opportunity to select their own trees.

Drink

Like the rest of the Puget Sound region, people on Kitsap Peninsula take their coffee seriously. See city listings for particular coffee and bar recommendations and don't forget to check out some of the regions award winning breweries, distilleries and wineries that make for a great stop over when exploring the area.

Breweries

Distilleries

Vineyards & wineries

The Kitsap Peninsula has several award winning wineries that offer a nice change of pace when exploring the Peninsula.

Sleep

The Kitsap Peninsula offers a wide variety of places to spend the night, from cozy bed and breakfast's to isolated waterfront campgrounds. More urban areas such as Gig Harbor boast a wider variety of places to stay but travelers in the know can search out more off the beaten path options like staying at the historic lighthouse in Hansville.

Stay safe

Animal safety

Though many of the animals in the Kitsap area are used to seeing humans, the wildlife is nonetheless wild and should not be fed or disturbed. Stay at least 100 m away from bears and 25 m from all other wild animals! Check trail head postings at parks for recent activity and be aware of rules keeping a distance from Orca Whales and other marine animals while boating. Regulations for killer whales require that boaters stay 200 yards away & keep path of the whales clear. These new U.S. regulations apply to all vessels (with some exceptions) in inland waters of Washington.

Don't disturb resting seal pups, keep children and dogs away and report to the local stranding hotline (253)589-7235. Seal pups 'haul out' to get much needed rest when they are young and are often alone for many hours. They are extremely vulnerable at this time and should be left alone. Only about 50% of Puget Sound seal pups make it through their first year so please help to protect their health.

10 essentials

Know your 10 essentials when going on a hike, because cell phones won't always work in many rural areas, and may not be depended on in an emergency situation. 1. Navigation 2. Hydration & Nutrition 3. Pocket Knife 4. Sun Protection 5. Insulation 6. Fire! 7. Lighting 8. First Aid 9. Shelter 10. Whistle

Petty crime

With so many people visiting Kitsap each year petty crimes are something to be vigilant against. Lock your car doors and exercise sensible precautions with valuables, especially when parking your car at a trail head or marina when you may be away from your car for a while. It would also be advisable to carry anything of value out of sight.

Go next

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