If you’re new to Kitsap County, Washington, you’re probably on the hunt for great local tips, and we’re here to help. We’ve often heard people say they wished they would’ve known about certain places and resources sooner, so let’s make sure that’s not you. We spoke to a mix of locals and newcomers to create this list of tips for life in Kitsap, a beautiful place to live.
1. Umbrellas Aren’t Really a Thing Here
Instead of umbrellas, locals invest in high-quality rain jackets and waterproof boots or shoes. We love supporting local businesses and hope you do too. In Poulsbo, Indigo Plum is a great shop to find quality outdoor clothes for the whole family. Wildernest, in downtown Bainbridge, has a wonderful assortment of outdoor clothing and gear.
2. Don’t Underestimate IPA’s Popularity
The PNW is known for having lots of micro-breweries, but if you haven’t ever been to this area, you may underestimate how popular India Pale Ale (IPA) is. At local breweries like Crane’s Castle, Hood Canal, and Silver City, you’ll find many different varieties of IPA on tap at all times.
3. Coffee is Life
Okay, we realize not everyone loves lattes and such, but coffee shops really are a staple here. Sure, Seattle is known as the Starbucks headquarters, but outside of the city, you’ll find cute little coffee places down side streets and main drags. Some Kitsap favorites include The Coffee Oasis, Pegasus Coffee House, Austin Chase Coffee, Cups Espresso & Cafes, and M&T.
4. A Little Snow is a Big Deal
If snow is in the forecast, be prepared to stock up on essentials. Unlike other parts of the country, the hilly landscapes and many small streets can cause the whole area to be brought to a standstill thanks to a few inches of snow. And, if you’re from a place where winter means frequent blizzards and heavy snowfall, we’re sure you’ll get a kick out of the way some of us act when we have an actual snow day.
5. Outdoor Schools Are On the Rise
Even with the rain and chilly weather, outdoor schools, originally popular in Scandinavia, have gained popularity in Kitsap County. Magnolia Forest Preschool, Barnacles and Bees, and Kitsap Life Academy are some of the local options. So if you’re thinking of moving here, it’s helpful to know about these options in advance.
6. Not All Homes/Areas Have Access to High-Speed Internet
With so many rural areas, fiber-optic cables have not made it to every neighborhood. There are other options available, but for those who are worried about work-from-home life, there are lots of Coworking spaces that serve up WiFi (and coffee).
7. Don’t Put Off Getting a “Good to Go” Pass
Skip the lines on toll roads by purchasing a “Good to Go” pass. It may seem like a simple thing, but doing this now will save you time. You’ll never be stuck in line waiting and wishing you would’ve just gotten a pass sooner. Drivers beware: without the pass, if you go in the “Good to Go” line, they will find you. You’ll get a ticket in the mail, so sign up or stop to pay.
8. Each Area of Kitsap County Really is Unique
Make time while you’re new to the area to really explore each part of Kitsap County. This will help you discover so many great restaurants, boutiques, museums, beaches, and more. Plus, there are many great local events going on that you won’t want to miss out on.
Almost every town has a historic “downtown” area. Sure, there are larger shopping centers with big box stores, but you don’t want to miss the charm of Downtown Bremerton, Historic Downtown Poulsbo, Old Town Silverdale, Downtown Bainbridge, Port Orchard, Kingston, and Suquamish. Smaller seaside gems like Port Gamble, Hansville, and Indianola also have parks, trails, and more to explore.
9. You Don’t Have to Go into the City for Arts & Culture
The Bainbridge Island Art Museum, Bremerton First Friday Art Walk, and Poulsbo’s Second Saturday Art Walk are all wonderful options for multimedia art. There are wonderful live music venues like Bremerton’s Admiral Theater and Suquamish’s Clearwater Casino and Resort. Great, local cultural festivals include Bainbridge’s Mochi Tsuki Festival, Suquamish’s Chief Seattle Days, and Poulsbo’s Nordic Julefest. You’ll also find many options for paint and sip nights, art classes, and performing arts events.
10. Military Discounts Are Prevalent
Kitsap County is home to thousands of military personnel and their families. Many local establishments will offer discounts to military families – from daycares to coffee shops, even if not listed or advertised. So, if this applies to you, don’t forget to ask.
11. Don’t Wait to Discover Our National Parks
The Olympic Peninsula is home to multiple National Parks, and you can visit snow, waterfalls, a rainforest, and natural hot springs all in one day. Just over the Hood Canal Bridge, this is perfect for a day trip adventure or weekend outing. We highly recommend purchasing a Discover Pass and checking out our state park’s free days. Trust us, there are so many beautiful places to explore that you don’t want to end up wishing you would’ve known about a park or trail months ago. And, if you enjoy camping, be prepared to reserve your campsite in advance. Some fill up six months in advance.
12. Sunshine Can Mean Traffic Jams
When the weather is nice, be prepared for traffic jams – and not just on the roads. The Washington State Ferries are one of the coolest parts of living in Kitsap County. But during the summer months, extra traffic from tourists can fill up the boats, causing drivers to wait sometimes two hours. Walk-on passengers can avoid this fate, so if you are able to walk or bike on – DO! Also, if the Hood Canal Bridge opens up for large boats or Navy vessels, drivers sometimes have to wait for 60+ minutes to cross. Download the WSDOT App to get real-time alerts.
13. Don’t Miss the Beauty Nestled in the Trees
When driving from point A to point B, it may seem like you’re just passing through forests, but tucked inside you’ll often find parks, hiking trails, mountain biking trails, beaches, and amazing vistas. Local favorites include Fay Bainbridge Park, Anderson Landing Preserve, Port Gamble Heritage Trails, Fish Park, Buck Lake County Park, Scenic Beach State Park, and Illahee Preserve.
For additional information about our area, check out our free Guide to Kitsap, which features local videos, articles, and much more.