Explore WA’s Beautiful Kitsap Peninsula and its Rich Living Tribal Culture
Outdoor adventure and waterfront communities draw visitors to the Kitsap Peninsula, home to the Suquamish and Port Gamble S'Klallam
Miles of sandy beaches frame the Kitsap Peninsula, and wooded trails sprawl like veins across its evergreen forests. Access this oasis by ferry (less than one hour ride) across Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington, among other routes, or take a short drive via Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
The marine waters surrounding the Kitsap Peninsula teem with wildlife, including an abundance of fish, and in warmer seasons, orcas. It’s also a birder’s paradise with bald eagles and great blue herons soaring above the sapphire blue ocean and verdant land. Charming waterfront communities feature main streets lined with art galleries, shops, eateries, coffee shops and bars. It’s the current and ancestral home of two tribes: the Suquamish and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Here, Native culture mingles with Scandinavian, military and pioneer attractions.
The peninsula is flanked by 370-plus miles of saltwater shoreline. State and county parks abound within peninsula boundaries, and water trails snake throughout. A great way to experience the trails is during the annual Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails 2017 Festival, June 24-25, 2017, which includes Ride the Tide, a five-mile paddle from Bremerton’s Evergreen Park to Silverdale Waterfront Park through the Port Washington Narrows.
Beyond kayaking and canoeing, consider scuba diving, swimming or paddle boarding to experience the emerald seas of Washington’s Puget Sound. “I have a huge smile plastered across my face every time I take my paddle board out on the water. It’s just beautiful out there,” says Lydia Sigo, curator/archivist for the Suquamish Museum.
After touring the Suquamish Museum, located on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, take a self-guided walking tour of Suquamish village, including Chief Seattle’s gravesite, the Veteran’s Memorial, Suquamish dock and the community house.
Chief Seattle (siʔał), the legendary leader of the Suquamish Tribe, is internationally respected for his ideas regarding ethics, spirituality, and environmentalism.
Built in 2010 to honor those in the community who have served, the Suquamish Veterans Memorial is situated on a hill, overlooking the Suquamish waterfront. The names of veterans from the Suquamish community are carved on granite canoes at the memorial site.
The House of Awakened Culture emmulates the original longhouse of Chief Seattle, and the surrounding outdoor area is often used for teaching and celebrating the living Suquamish culture, like Lushootseed language classes, traditional weaving and carving. Here, youth train for their annual Canoe Journey, learn regalia making, and practice song and dance in the house.
Along Suquamish Dock, feel the town’s powerful connection to the Salish Sea, and dine at one of the waterfront restaurants. For a traditional experience, enjoy baked salmon, clams and oysters.
Also on the peninsula, roughly half of the 1,234 enrolled Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal members reside on the Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation on Port Gamble Bay. While visiting the stunning countryside greeted by sparkling bay waters, make sure you grab an espresso at Gamble Bay Coffee by morning and dine at Port Gamble General Store for lunch (everyday) or dunner (Thursday through Sunday). The general store was the recipient of the “Best Out-Of-The-Way Restaurant 2014” in West Sound Home & Garden magazine.
Multiple golf courses take advantage of Kitsap’s pristine beauty. Check out White Horse Golf Club, the Suquamish Indian Tribe’s 18-hole course. Nestled on high ground between the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, the peaceful surroundings of White Horse Golf Club beckon to players of all skill levels. The wide fairways and landing areas are inviting, while subtle greens and strategic bunkers offer a challenge.
Lodging options on Kitsap Peninsula abound from beachfront hotels to charming bed & breakfast spots to Airbnbs in both rural and waterfront settings. Additionally, find camping options here.
The Point Casino & Hotel: By blending contemporary styling with traditional elements adapted from the history and culture of the Port Gamble S’Klallam, The Point Hotel pays tribute to tribal heritage while acting as a modern respite for guests and visitors. “It’s really beautiful with a lot of Native artwork in the lobby,” Sigo said. (the-point-casino.com)
Suquamish Clearwater Casino & Resort: The top of Suquamish Clearwater Casino & Resort’s seven-story hotel overlooking Puget Sound is the Eagle’s View Suite for watching bald eagles soar above the evergreens and across the sapphire blue ocean. Hotel rooms, dining areas and even the swimming pool are flanked by huge glass windows. Plus, outdoor terraces, amphitheaters and fire pits encourage visitors to marvel at nature. (clearwatercasino.com)
Beyond Kitsap: Bainbridge Island
Kitsap County occupies most of the Kitsap Peninsula, includes both Bainbridge Island and Blake Island. Bainbridge Island is now home to seven artisan wineries, a brewery and an organic distillery. The vibrant village of Winslow, just a short walk from the ferry, features a number of restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops and a waterfront park. Each month of the year is packed with a full schedule of events and activities. Check ou the Bainbridge Island Visitors Guide for a thorough suggested itinerary.
Make sure you visit the ancient petroglyph, known as Haleets, under the Agate Pass bridge (the tide must be out to view).
This story was originally published April 5, 2017.