Ports of Call: Kingston, Washington
Just a short ferry ride from Edmonds, the town of Kingston, Washington, holds the unofficial moniker of “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.” Kingston was once host to commercial freighters and private ferries for decades and today, welcomes hundreds of day-trippers from the ferry to the peninsula every day.
A laid-back feel greets visitors as soon as they step onto dry land with public parks and beaches just minutes away. Giant Adirondack chairs are scattered around the town, each uniquely painted and beckoning visitors. The “Kingston Big Chairs” were suggested by a local businessman to promote Kingston as a place to sit and stay awhile.
Kingston started as a logging town, at the time called Appletree Cove. A logger named Michael King ran an operation there in the 1880s, building housing for his crew and their animals. After they moved on, these cabins remained and were occupied by old loggers, drifters, and squatters. The area was humorously referred to as King’s Town, which was eventually shortened to Kingston. The bay that Kingston overlooks retains the name Appletree Cove to this day.
The sheltered harbor and steamship dock at Kingston made it a natural stop for boats in the Mosquito Fleet, the name for the privately owned steamers and sternwheelers that served as freight boats and an unofficial ferry system in the early 20th century. The easy access to freight ships made the town a hub for loggers and farmers moving goods from the peninsula to the rest of the state. On the
recreational end, Kingston became a popular day trip for Seattleites looking to escape the city.
The legacy of the Mosquito Fleet continues today in Kingston, with hundreds of passengers crossing back and forth each day. Arrivals step off their boats and are just a block from a scenic downtown lined with eateries that few can resist. All summer long, a farmer’s market stocked with local fare is open nearly every Saturday morning, while Saturday nights are filled with live music played at free concerts. Sweet shops and ice cream parlors—or maybe even The Point Casino—tempt those who pass by to catch a later ferry or wait just a little longer before heading back to their boats.
The Port of Kingston provides guest moorage and is within easy walking distance of the Kingston Ferry Terminal, the Kingston Yacht Club, and the amenities available downtown. Visitors can stop by the Kingston Chamber of Commerce to learn more about the
Anyone looking for some of the best gaming on the Peninsula should swing by The Point Casino and Hotel. Operated by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Point Casino offers visitors a huge selection of slot machines and table games including blackjack, craps, roulette, Emperors Challenge Pai Gow, and more, with limits in the $5 to $500 range. Play PokerNanza, a Bingo-based video poker game, every weeknight with tournaments on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
A night of live music is never far away, with tribute bands covering acts like Tim McGraw, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, and Metallica. Every Thursday night is karaoke night at the casino. Stop by during the summer to take part in blackjack competitions and charity golf tournaments. If you’d like to spread out after too many nights onboard, The Point has an attached hotel and several restaurants. The Market Fresh Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with themed buffet-style dinners Wednesday through Saturday, and the Little Boston Bistro offers casual dining with steaks and seafood each night.
Golf the Day Away
Golfers shouldn’t miss the chance to tee off on one of the best golf courses on the Olympic Peninsula. The White Horse Golf Course is playable for golfers of all skill levels with five sets of tees to choose from. The course is surrounded by beautiful old-growth forests and the sighting of the local wildlife on the course adds to every visit.
The course changed owners in 2010 and they brought in local architects to remove bunkers on the course, making approach shots more accessible, and creating a more enjoyable experience in the process. The grounds have 18 holes, a chipping area, and an all grass practice facility. A clubhouse, designed after Northwest lodges, offers light meals and a view of the surrounding golf course. A free shuttle that runs from the Kingston ferry to the golf course is available upon request.
Slice of Nature
One of the best parts about visiting small towns is that natural
A few miles from downtown lies North Kitsap Heritage Park, a wild park lined with hiking trails. This spot is perfect for a light hike through the woods, mountain biking, or taking the dog for a walk. Kingston itself is home to several open parks, one located at the Port of Kingston, overlooking the marina, and other near the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Both have excellent views of Mount Rainer and the silhouette of Seattle in the distance.
Kingston’s main street is host to a candy shop, plenty
The Kingston Bookery sells new and used books to the area’s reading enthusiasts. Mora Ice Creamery in downtown Kingston dishes out old-fashioned ice cream with flavors like dulce de leche and banana split, and original takes like goat cheese and fig
Some of the best salmon fishing in Washington can be found in the waters near the mouth of Kingston’s harbor. The underwater terrain near the harbor creates an area where Chinook and coho like to gather on both sides of the tide. There is plenty of food there, so salmon can hang out all summer. A natural sand bar that runs north along the peninsula collects the food and provides space for the salmon to congregate.
“Fishing can be good on either a high or low tide, but is often the most productive just before low tide change. Trolling lures such as Coyote spoons, Coho Killers, or a plastic squid trailed behind a dodger works best,” adds Mark Yuasa, Director of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series. Both downrigger trolling and mooching are popular methods of fishing in this stretch of water. Trolling works best moving north from Kingston up the peninsula during an outgoing tide, and south during an incoming tide. Hatchery Chinook season is open July 25 through August 31, while coho season opens in early June and goes until mid-July. Check
Home to dozens of species of plants from all over the world, the Heronswood Botanical Gardens are a must visit for anyone with a green thumb or simply looking for a quiet place to relax for the day. With plants native to China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Tasmania, and Chile to name a few, visitors are sure to come upon new and unique plants they’ve never seen before.
The garden was founded in 1987 and passed through several owners until it was purchased by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe at auction in 2012. A new garden was planted since then, paying homage to the original garden while adding to the unique vision. Heronswood consists of winding paths through woodland beds, a potager with fountain, a carpinus hedge, and small ponds. Stone columns and other stone features are positioned around the grounds.
Drop by for a class on practical botany or identifying the native plants of the Northwest. Several times throughout the year, Heronswood sells the products of their botanical efforts during plant sales. Guided tours for large groups are available. The garden is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1000 hours to 1500 hours.