The rural roads on the west side of Puget Sound unwind city stress like a good masseuse. The tree-lined routes lead car and driver between harborside hamlets and quiet islands filled with cafe?s, shops, and surprising finds.
Greet the day in the maritime city of Gig Harbor, where you’ll get your fill of maritime tales at the new Harbor History Museum. One-story restaurants and shops line the waterfront along the pedestrian-friendly Harborview Drive. From Gig Harbor, drive about 20 miles north on Highway 16 to Port Orchard, where the local business line-up includes artsy antique stores with a special focus on redeemed wares. From Port Orchard, climb aboard the beloved Carlisle II; an original 1900s Mosquito Fleet vessel still transporting foot passengers between Port Orchard and Bremerton's Harborside District.
Bremerton sparkles with waterfront fountains and regional attractions like the family-friendly USS Turner Joy and the Puget Sound Navy Museum. Directly across the street from the museum, you'll find casual dining at the Bremerton Bar and Grill or the insanely popular Salvadorian diner, El' Balcon. Quench your thirst at one of Bremerton's several brewpubs boasting frosty refreshments like LoveCraft Brewing to try one of their classic Belgian brews.
Just 20 minutes from Bremerton on Highway 3, charming Poulsbo blends Norwegian heritage with Northwest culture. Located on the Kitsap Peninsula, Poulsbo’s Front Street offers bakeries, bistros, and bookstores. Stop at Marina Market to sample Dutch and Scandinavian foods, including vast array of black licorice! The SEA Discovery Center anchors the town’s family offerings. Poulsbo is home to multiple breweries and tasty restaurants, including Tizley's Europub.
Head southeast on Highway 305 to cross Agate Pass Bridge onto Bainbridge Island, a 10-mile-long refuge blanketed with firs, oaks, and maples. On Bainbridge, everyone enjoys a slice of small-town island life—and a pie at Blackbird Bakery. Children climb into the Kids’ Discovery Museum’s pirate treehouse, couples share dishes at Winslow Way bistros, and college students study over cups of java at the Pegasus Coffee House and Gallery. A killer ice cream shop, Mora Iced Creamery, rounds out the scene.
From here, Seattle, just a 20-minute ferry ride away, feels close enough to touch. But you may wish to tarry awhile. After all, you’re millions of mental miles from the big city. What’s the hurry?
—Lora Shinn and Shannon Harkness