Affordable Outdoor Adventures and Cultural Experiences Abound on the Kitsap Peninsula

Affordable Adventures Await Visitors To The Kitsap Peninsula

In a Nutshell: The Kitsap Peninsula offers visitors thrilling outdoor excursions and unique cultural experiences. Visit Kitsap Peninsula is an organization that shines a light on all the peninsula provides. The peninsula’s towns host festivals and parades throughout the year. Nature lovers will appreciate the region’s hiking and biking trails and engaging in water sports. Located in northwest Washington, the Kitsap Peninsula is a year-round destination for those looking to get away from it all.

The United States offers an abundance of unique adventures to suit a variety of tastes. Are you looking for an exhilarating outdoor getaway? There are world-class mountains to climb and ski, caves and canyons to explore, and oceans to surf.

Are you interested in learning more about history or science? There are museums and cultural events held across the country celebrating the tapestry of American history and innovation. 

Regardless of your interests, destinations across the country offer activities to spark anyone’s imagination and wanderlust.

The Kitsap Peninsula is located in the northwest corner of the contiguous U.S., jutting out from mainland Washington into Puget Sound. Olympic National Park lies to the west of the peninsula, and Seattle — the Emerald City — is to the east.

Aljolynn Sperber, a native Hawaiian, is the Executive Director of Visit Kitsap Peninsula. We caught up with Sperber to learn more about the peninsula and the experiences it offers to visitors.

Visit Kitsap Peninsula logo

“Visit Kitsap Peninsula is focused on attracting visitors to this beautiful place we call home,” Sperber said. “With over 230 miles of coastline, we’re known as the ‘natural side of Puget Sound.’”

Sperber said peninsula residents are proud of their home, but the area has also received national recognition. The U.S. Department of the Interior has designated the Kitsap Peninsula as a part of the national water trail system. The Department of the Interior establishes national water trails to “conserve natural areas along waterways” and “increase access to outdoor recreation on shorelines and waterways.”

Sperber said July is the month Kitsap welcomes the most tourists.

“Tourism really starts to pick up in May and continues through the middle of October,” Sperber explained. “The weather is typically the best during these months, allowing visitors to take in the flora and fauna of the region in comfort. It’s an outdoorsy type of community here, and the summer months are a great time to head out on our biking and hiking trails. We also host a number of festivals in the summer.”

Year-Round Events Entertain and Educate

Though there is an uptick in tourism during the summer, the Kitsap Peninsula hosts events and activities that attract visitors throughout the year.

Sperber said the peninsula comprises five main municipalities, and each of them hosts Christmas festivities, including tree-lighting ceremonies. 

“Our Christmas events start the weekend after Thanksgiving and continue through the second weekend in December,” Sperber said. “Outside of those events, December is just a time that a lot of visitors show up to experience the small-town charm of the holiday season.”

Bremerton is a city located in Kitsap County. Bremerton holds a St. Patrick’s Day parade and an Armed Forces Day parade every year. Sperber said the peninsula, which is home to Naval Base Kitsap, celebrates naval tradition. 

Viking Fest kicks off in May in Poulsbo, a city in Kitsap County on Liberty Bay. Sperber said Norwegian settlers founded Poulsbo, and the city is affectionately known as Little Norway.

Aljolynn Sperber
Aljolynn Sperber is the Executive Director of Visit Kitsap Peninsula. (Poppy Photography)

Sperber said many of the peninsula’s events are either free or affordably priced. 

Farmer’s markets are popular attractions in the summer and fall, and the Kitsap Fair and Rodeo entertains visitors each August.

Visitors can enjoy free admission to local museums, including the Kitsap History Museum in downtown Bremerton, and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

“Bremerton has a Bug Museum that is so cute and unique,” Sperber said. “It’s the only bug museum I’ve ever been to, and it has different live insects and reptiles people can check out.”

Chief Seattle, from whom the nearby city of Seattle takes its name, is buried in Suquamish, a census-designated place in Kitsap County. Sperber said Suquamish is an attractive destination for those seeking to learn about the history of the area. The Suquamish Museum preserves and displays relics and records related to the Suquamish Tribe, which is indigenous to the area.

“The SEA Discovery Center in Poulsbo explores marine life,” Sperber said. “It’s located right on the water. Visitors can pair their visit to the center with a stroll along the coastal waterfront into downtown Poulsbo, which offers shopping and dining attractions as well as parks.”

Exploring the Natural Side of Puget Sound

The Kitsap Peninsula offers a smorgasbord of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and those who appreciate nature. Sperber said visitors from across the state and beyond visit the peninsula to mountain bike and hike.

“The peninsula has trekking opportunities for hikers of all skill levels,” Sperber said. “There are beautiful views for hikers to take in, and some hikes also wind past landmarks and structures — which can be a nice spot to take a break and have a picnic.”

Water sports enthusiasts aren’t left wanting on the Kitsap Peninsula. Sperber said kayaking is very popular in the region’s waterways, and kayak rental stores are plentiful within the area’s municipalities, towns, and ports.

Kayaking at night allows visitors the rare experience of viewing bioluminescence, which is a living organism’s production and emission of light.

Kayakers off the shores of Kitsap Peninsula
Kayaking is a popular activity for visitors to the Kitsap Peninsula.

“Bioluminescence viewing opportunities mostly occur between June and the middle of September,” Sperber explained. “It’s a popular activity for families. Kayakers are trained before going out on the water, and participants wear life jackets. Paddling out on the water and viewing bioluminescence in the moonlight is a really beautiful experience. It’s something you go back home and tell your friends and family about.”

Sperber said there are affordable lodging options on the peninsula. Both Illahee State Park and Kitsap Memorial State Park offer year-round campsites. Sperber said she encourages people looking to camp at the state parks during peak travel season to make their reservations as soon as possible. Travelers book reservations for campsites well in advance of their visit.

Sperber said there are plenty of accommodation choices for those looking to sleep under a roof.

“There are unique inns located right on the water,” Sperber said. “And Airbnbs can be another affordable accommodation option for budget-conscious travelers.”

Easy to Access, Difficult to Leave

The Kitsap Peninsula offers a plethora of fresh air and memory-building experiences that can work up a visitor’s appetite. Sperber said the peninsula, particularly Bremerton, has dining options to suit a variety of palates.

Suzy’s Kitchen is a Korean-fusion spot that reminds me of food that I used to eat in Hawaii,” Sperber said. “The Oak Table Cafe is probably one of the more popular places for breakfast or brunch. The food there is tasty, and the views from the cafe are great. The staff is very friendly. They serve German pancakes and European-style breakfasts. The meals are large, which makes them ideal for sharing.”

The Kitsap Peninsula is the type of locale that visitors are in a hurry to arrive at but, after experiencing the enchantment of the area, aren’t as excited to leave.

Sperber said the peninsula is easy to access. Three ferries bring visitors to the peninsula. Two ferries arrive from Seattle — one goes to Bainbridge Island and the other to Bremerton. The third ferry travels from Edmonds to Kingston, Washington.

Sperber said transportation options on the peninsula, including public transportation, shuttles, and car rental services, are plentiful. 

Visit Kitsap Peninsula is working to produce guides that educate visitors about the various events and attractions in the region.

“There’s something here for everyone,” Sperber said. “We’re working to make sure that everybody feels embraced when they come to Kitsap. Because we want everyone to feel like they’re accepted here and free to explore all the peninsula has to offer.”