If there is one part of the Washington State that stands out in this spectacularly beautiful part of the country, it is its islands. Covered with old forests mixed with rolling fertile hills, circled by miles of sandy beaches, and with views of the surrounding mountains, the Washington State islands are hidden jewels. Some, linked to the mainland with bridges like Mercer, are a suburb of Seattle. Fairly close to Seattle, many islands are an escape for the busy and affluent from the stress of life. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Orcas Island

Orcas Island
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Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, located in the northwestern Washington state. At the northern end of the island is the village of Eastsound, the largest of several quaint villages and hamlets on the island. “The gem of the San Juans,” as the locals call Orcas, is a thrilling mix of magnificent shoreline, 2,409-foot-tall Mount Constitution, fertile rolling hills, dense forests with waterfalls, and endless ocean stretching to the horizon. The island is fantastic to explore on a bike or on foot, along good, curving country roads that pass by ancient apple barns, artists’ studios, and small villages. Constitution Mountain is part of the 5,252-acre Moran State Park, with several clear blue lakes and over 38 miles of hiking trails. Hike up the mountain to enjoy the breathtaking view of snow-capped Mount Baker and the island-dotted sea.

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2.San Juan

San Juan
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San Juan Island is located in northwestern Washington and is the second-largest of the San Juan Islands. The island is connected to the mainland by Washington State Ferries, which dock at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island's major town. The old landmarks and remnants of British and American camps are now part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park. Just outside Friday Harbor is the University of Washington’s marine research lab and campus, which was established in 1909. Other interesting places to visit are the Whale Museum, the new art museum, the San Juan Community Theatre, and the outdoor sculpture park near Roche Harbor. Lime Kiln Park is the place to sit and watch orcas swim by.

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3.Bainbridge

Bainbridge
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Located in the heart of Puget Sound, Bainbridge is a picture-perfect island with spectacular views in all directions: The Cascade Mountains Range and Puget Sound to the east, the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic Mountains to the west, and Mount Rainier magnificently looming from the southeast. The island is a wonderful place to live, and is a popular tourist destination. It is famous for its seven wineries, a craft brewery, an organic distillery, charming B&Bs, and miles of hiking and biking trails through the lush parks. The picturesque village of Winslow is just a short walk from the ferry, a perfect introduction to the island with its waterfront park full of quaint restaurants as well as a lively marina. Things to Do on Bainbridge Island

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4.Camano

Camano
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Camano Island is a large island in Puget Sound located between the mainland and Whidbey Island. The island is accessible via the Camano Gateway Bridge and is an unspoiled paradise with rolling hills, a rarely crowded shoreline, a rich array of wildlife in ancient evergreen forests, a big sky with bald eagles, and blue herons strolling along the beach. The island has two state parks: Camano Island State Park, a 134-acre camping park covered in protected forest with a rocky beach, hiking trails, fishing, boating, and scuba diving, and Cama Beach State Park, which has lovely small beach, charming restored cabins, and long trails through the forests. A popular tourist destination, Camano is famous for its numerous festivals, from the Port Susan Snow Goose and Birding Festival in February to the Spring Art Show in June to the Stanwood–Camano Chili & Chowder Cookoff in November.

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5.Seattle Islands: Fidalgo

Seattle Islands: Fidalgo
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Fidalgo Island is an island in Skagit County, Washington, about 60 miles from Seattle. The island is separated from the mainland by the Swinomish Channel and connected by the iconic Rainbow Bridge. Deception Pass separates it from Whidbey Island. The main city on the island is Anacortes, called the "gateway to the San Juans.” Anacortes has a number of popular annual events such as the Spring Wine Festival in April and the  Anacortes Waterfront Festival in June. Anacortes is also gaining a reputation for its art galleries, which feature works of local and well-established artists. Washington Park is a 220-acre park in the heart of the city with lovely hiking and biking trails. Part of the famous Deception Pass State Park is located at the south end of Fidalgo, a hikers’ heaven with old-growth forests, beautiful beaches, rich wildlife, and 38 miles of hiking trails.

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6.Fox

Fox
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Fox Island is located just off Kitsap Peninsula in the Puget Sound. The island is quiet and fairly rural and is accessible via a bridge near Gig Harbor. It enjoys spectacular views of looming Mount Rainer across Puget Sound, and this lovely lush island is best explored by boat. The view of the iconic Fox Island lighthouse, with Mount Rainer in the background, is picture-perfect. Fox Island Historical Museum, with more than 3,000 artifacts, is a great place to learn about the island’s history as well as that of the people who lived on it. Chapel on Echo Bay, on the edge of the water, is a must-see; this lovely 100-year-old chapel is also a popular venue for romantic weddings. Kopachuck State Park on Henderson Bay is a 109-acre marine park with 5,600 feet of shoreline. Fox Island Sand Spit is a public camping park, while the Fox Island Nature Center is a beautiful protected area with deep forest, year-round island streams, and a number of wetlands.

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7.Guemes

Guemes
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Guemes Island is a small island in Skagit County, north of Fidalgo Island and about a 5-minute ferry ride from the town of Anacortes. It is small rural community, and apart the Guemes Island Resort offers limited facilities. Most beaches are public and so are the boat launches. There is the small Schoolhouse Park in the heart of the island, while Young's Park, on North Beach, is not far from the Guemes Island Resort. There is a beautiful 2.2-mile well-maintained trail up Guemes Mountain, winding through a western red cedar and Douglas-fir forest, moderately difficult, with a few switchbacks and a moderate elevation gain. The trail is surrounded by magnificent nature and some rare native plants, while the views are breathtaking.

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8.Harstine

Harstine
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Harstine Island is located in southern Puget Sound, west of Case Inlet, just under 10 miles from Olympia. It is easily accessible from the mainland via a bridge near the end of the Kitsap Peninsula. Most of the island is rural, undeveloped, and heavily forested. The best way to explore its shady country lanes is on a bike or by paddling around the island’s gnarly shores in a kayak, a good way to spot seals or whales. Towering evergreens evoke a timeless atmosphere of the world long gone. There are three great parks, including McMicken Island State Park, which has 1,661 feet of shoreline and is known for its serene cove, where you can throw an anchor and relax. It has great hiking trails through a forest full of wildlife. Don’t miss the Wild Felid Advocacy Center, a sanctuary for cats big and small, from abandoned household cats to leopards and cougars.

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9.Herron

Herron
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Herron Island is a tiny, about 300-acre island in the southern part of Puget Sound. Most of the island is owned by the HMC corporation, which comprises the property owners, and is accessible by the corporation ferry for the residents and their guests. The corporation owns the North Beach Park with a small boat dock, the undeveloped South Beach, and Goodpastor Park with the adjacent wetlands as well as the roads, fire station, community building, ferry, ferry docks, and water system. The rest of the land is owned by other private owners. With only a few hundred inhabitants, the island is quiet and serene, completely unspoiled, with forested areas and wetlands and trails crossing the island. Quiet waters around the island are often visited by passing whales and dolphins.

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10.Lopez

Lopez
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One of the largest San Juan islands, Lopez Island is 15 miles long and has 63 miles of shoreline. It is covered in lush forests and rolling farmlands, deserted beaches and quiet bays, overlooked in the distance by snow-capped Mount Baker. The largest community on the island is Lopez Village, with charming shops and quaint cafes, a library, a historical museum, and a number of art galleries. Scandinavian farmers fist discovered the island in the 1850s, and were later joined by artists attracted by the magnificent nature and relaxed village vibe. The local farmers’ market is a delight with plenty of local produce such as pears, apples, kiwis, and local grapes. There are also llamas and sheep grazing peacefully on the green hills.

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11.Lummi

Lummi
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Lummi Island is quiet and relaxed small island near Bellingham, Washington, accessible by a short ferry ride from Gooseberry Point. This vibrant artist community doubles in size in the summer when Canadians and Americans come to relax. Anywhere you go, the vistas of the Salish Sea are spectacular. There are only two restaurants, one store, a few B&Bs, a post office, a library, an old school, and a church. Lummi Island is well known for its reef-net salmon fishery, lively artist population, and wonderful hiking opportunities along quaint, narrow rural roads. A trail up Lummi Mountain is slightly more strenuous and it takes hikers through the lush Baker Preserve to breathtaking views of the San Juan islands.

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12.Marrowstone

Marrowstone
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Marrowstone Island, near Fort Flagler, Washington, is a hidden gem, a pastoral oasis with rolling hills covered with ripening strawberries where rugged beaches are dug for clams, artists are finding themselves at home, and everyone who visits is in awe of the snow-covered peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Marrowstone Island was settled by Norwegian immigrants in the 1800s and their descendants are still farming the island’s fertile lands and oyster beds. The main town is Nordland, with a general store, small rustic cabins, a boat dock, and a lovely vineyard that produces its own wine. There is also an art gallery where local artists showcase their works. Former military base Fort Flagler is today a state park, with lovely hiking trails offering spectacular views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and the San Juan Islands.

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13.McNeil

McNeil
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McNeil Island is located in western Puget Sound just west of Steilacoom. The island is best known for the United States Federal Penitentiary, a jail that existed from 1875 under different names until it was closed in 2011. It was the last island prison in the country. Since the closing of the prison, the island has remained the home of the state's main Special Commitment Center (SCC), which indefinitely holds sexually violent predators after they have completed their prison sentences. The island is government-owned.

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14.Seattle Islands: Mercer

Seattle Islands: Mercer
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Mercer Island is located on Lake Washington, about halfway between Seattle and Bellevue, and is considered one of Seattle’s most affluent suburbs. The Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge and the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge span Lake Washington and connect the island with Seattle. The city of the same name is a fast-growing commercial center of the island, the place where islanders go shopping, eat in gourmet restaurants, or visit a gym. The island is known for its affluent population with large luxurious homes and mansions, but also for its beautiful parks, which offer spectacular views. There are more than 475 acres of parks, three public beaches, and over 50 miles of hiking trails.

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15.Seattle Islands: Blake Island State Park

Seattle Islands: Blake Island State Park
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Originally privately owned by Seattle millionaire William Pitt Trimble, in 1959 the state of Washington turned the whole of Blake Island into Blake Island Marine State Park. With the views of the Seattle skyline and Olympic mountains and 5 miles of beach, this 475-acre park is a very popular destination for camping, hiking, boating, and enjoying the wilderness. Tillicum Village, located on the northeastern end of the island, exhibits Northwest Coast Indian culture, arts, and food. Argosy Cruises' Tillicum Excursion offers live performances with Northwest Native American storytelling and a locally inspired buffet meal with traditionally prepared fire-roasted fish. There are 7.5 miles of biking trails, 8 miles of hiking trails, and 1,500 feet of moorage for private boats.

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16.Puget

Puget
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Puget Island, Washington, is located in the Columbia River, across from Cathlamet, Washington, and is connected to the mainland by the Washington State Highway 409 bridge across the Cathlamet Channel. Puget Island is connected to Oregon, on the other side of the Columbia River, with the ferry landing in Westport, Oregon. Norwegians established the first permanent residence on the island, farming its fertile land and fishing the rich river waters. The island is today known as “Little Norway.” Norwegians built the two Gothic Lutheran churches in 1929. The Two Islands Farm Market is great place to get fresh produce and socialize with the locals. The Svensen Park and Boat Launch is popular with fishermen and very active during the fishing season. A part of Puget Island is protected within the Puget Island Natural Area Preserve.

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17.Anderson Island

Anderson Island
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The southernmost island in Puget Sound, Anderson Island is located just south of McNeil Island, close to the Key Peninsula, a part of the Kitsap Peninsula. It is separated from the mainland by Puget Sound and can be reached by a roughly 20-minute ferry ride from Steilacoom, Washington. Lushly green and very tranquil, Anderson Island has been a retirement destination since the 1960s. There are three parks on the island, meaning that most of its resources are protected from development. Andy’s Wildlife Park consists of 170 acres of forests, wetlands, and estuary, and there is a 2-mile trail that meanders through the park. Andrew Anderson Marine Park is lushly forested with magnificent ancient Douglas firs and many native plants. The trail ends at the tidal inlet known to be a salmon nursery and a lovely beach. Eagle Island State Park is a remote island off Anderson Island with 2,600 feet of shoreline where seals love to rest, along with many enjoyable trails and camping areas.

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18.Shaw

Shaw
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Shaw Island is the smallest of the San Juan islands, a tiny green jewel, private, quiet, carefully guarded with no development permitted. Just sandy beaches, easy biking and hiking trails through the woods, a quaint general store providing all needs, an old red school, a small island museum, and a little library. The island is shared by reclusive billionaires and Benedictine nuns and the nuns are probably the more hospitable of the two. Stroll or bike through the scenic shorelines at the Shaw County Park or the biological reserve run by the University of Washington. While nuns used to practically run the island, ferry included, until few decades ago, today they running Our Lady of the Rock Benedictine monastery and welcome visitors to their well-run farm. If you want to stay longer, there is a lovely campsite in the woods along the beach with views of the Olympic Mountains.

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19.Vashon-Maury

Vashon-Maury
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Vashon-Maury Island is located south of Admiralty Inlet and is the largest island in Puget Sound. Until 1916, Vashon Island was separate from Maury Island, but the local owners built an isthmus that today connects the two islands and has the little hamlet of Portage siting on it. The island is only 13 miles long and 8 miles wide and has 45 miles of shoreline. It is very quiet and rural and is accessible from the mainland only by a short ferry ride from Seattle, Tacoma, or Kitsap County. The island is very popular with tourists, who are attracted not only by the beaches but also by excellent restaurant, quaint accommodation, art galleries, and frequent festivals.

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20.Seattle Islands: Whidbey

Seattle Islands: Whidbey
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Whidbey Island is located in Puget Sound, just north of Seattle, Washington. The island is very picturesque and rugged, with miles of beaches, rolling hills, and fertile farmland. Deception Pass State Park, located on the island’s northwest tip, offers fantastic hiking opportunities, with spectacular clifftop views, trails through dense old forests, and crystal-clear freshwater lakes. On the southern part of the island is Fort Casey Historical State Park, a home to a historic gun battery and a lighthouse. The island has several quaint coastal towns. Coupeville, Oak Harbor, and Langley have restaurants, shops, cafes, and art galleries.

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20 of the Most Beautiful Washington State Islands


  • Orcas Island, Photo: Courtesy of sabina - Fotolia.com
  • San Juan, Photo: Courtesy of LoweStock - Fotolia.com
  • Bainbridge, Photo: Courtesy of quasarphotos - Fotolia.com
  • Camano, Photo: Courtesy of Mike - Fotolia.com
  • Seattle Islands: Fidalgo, Photo: Courtesy of Jdubsvideo - Fotolia.com
  • Fox, Photo: Courtesy of Yury Zap - Fotolia.com
  • Guemes, Photo: Courtesy of Scott Patterson - Fotolia.com
  • Harstine, Photo: Courtesy of MaZvone - Fotolia.com
  • Herron, Photo: Courtesy of Chrispo - Fotolia.com
  • Lopez, Photo: Courtesy of Alysta - Fotolia.com
  • Lummi, Photo: Courtesy of LoweStock - Fotolia.com
  • Marrowstone, Photo: Courtesy of Alex - Fotolia.com
  • McNeil, Photo: Courtesy of Naj - Fotolia.com
  • Seattle Islands: Mercer, Photo: Courtesy of Jdubsvideo - Fotolia.com
  • Seattle Islands: Blake Island State Park, Photo: Courtesy of David Webber - Fotolia.com
  • Puget, Photo: Courtesy of cascoly2 - Fotolia.com
  • Anderson Island, Photo: Courtesy of Lydia - Fotolia.com
  • Shaw, Photo: Courtesy of galinka_zhi - Fotolia.com
  • Vashon-Maury, Photo: Courtesy of Gudellaphoto - Fotolia.com
  • Seattle Islands: Whidbey, Photo: Courtesy of Vinny George - Fotolia.com
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of LoweStock - Fotolia.com

Attraction Spotlight: Suquamish Museum

Located within the Port Madison Indian Reservation in Suquamish, Washington, the Suquamish Museum preserves artifacts related to the history and culture of the Suquamish indigenous tribe. The occupation of the Kitsap Peninsula and Puget Sound regions by the Suquamish indigenous tribe dates back more than 10,000 years, with the area thriving as one of the most populated cultural centers north of present-day Mexico City prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Americas.

History

The traditional Southern Lushootseed name for the region roughly translates to “place of clear salt water.” Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Pacific Northwest, the Suquamish tribe sustained primarily on salmon and clam harvesting practices and lived in a network of affiliated autonomous small villages connected by intermarriage, political and trade agreements, and broader culture and language elements.

Following the 1853 establishment of the Washington Treaty and the 1855 signing of the Point Elliott Treaty, the Suquamish were relocated to the Port Madison Indian Reservation, located near its traditional winter village on Agate Pass. The modern Suquamish Tribe partners today with the State of Washington on a number of economic and cultural endeavors, including co-management of the state’s salmon fishery. In 1983, the Suquamish Museum and Cultural Center was opened by the tribe as a means of preserving their history and culture for future generations in a public museum setting. A major capital campaign was embarked on in 2009 for the construction of a new long-term facility for the museum, aided by the efforts of Senator Patty Murray and Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro. In 2012, the new facility was opened to the public, tripling the former museum’s exhibit and activity space.

Permanent Exhibits

Today, the Suquamish Museum is owned the Suquamish Tribe and is governed by a five-member board of directors overseeing its operations. The museum’s current 9,000-square-foot facility was designed by Seattle architectural firm Mithun at a cost of $6 million and has received LEED Gold certification for its environmental sustainability efforts. It is located within a botanical garden setting in the Suquamish Village region of the Port Madison Indian Reservation and is open to the public daily throughout the summer months, with five-day operations during the fall, winter, and spring.

Two galleries are featured at the museum, one housing the museum’s permanent collections and the other hosting rotating temporary exhibits related to aspects of Suquamish history and culture. The museum’s permanent Ancient Shores: Changing Tides exhibit gallery showcases a wide variety of cultural artifacts on loan from Suquamish tribe members and families, many of which have never been featured on display elsewhere prior to their acquisition by the museum. The exhibit, designed in collaboration with Seattle’s Storyline Studios, uses symbolic design elements to chronicle the story of the Suquamish Tribe’s past, present, and future and foster deeper understanding of culture than is usually created by modern historical narratives. The tribe’s native Lushootseed language is heavily integrated into the exhibit, emphasizing critical analysis of communication between cultures. Highlights of the exhibit include a 300-year-old carved canoe and a cedar-designed timeline display that spans tribal history from the end of the last Ice Age through the present day. An award-winning documentary produced in collaboration with Seattle’s Sadis Filmworks, Come Forth Laughing, is also shown periodically in a 50-seat auditorium within the exhibit.

Past exhibits within the museum’s rotating exhibit gallery include Trade of the Northwest Coast, which examines the relationship and commerce between the Suquamish and early European fur traders in the first part of the 19th century. The works of artist Danielle Morsette were the focus of Woven: Contemporary Salish Wool Weavings, which highlighted traditional tribal clothing design techniques.100 Years: Photographs from the Suquamish Tribal Archives showcased a retrospective of historical images of the tribe in order to challenge contemporary Western romanticizations of indigenous life, while Salish Bounty: Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound worked with Native Coastal Salish advisors to explore the tribe’s diverse culinary traditions and diets.

In addition to exhibit gallery spaces, the museum also stores artifact collections in a climate-controlled storage vault, which is accessible to tribal members and accredited researchers on an appointment basis. The Leota Anthony Museum Store offers a wide variety of merchandise celebrating elements of Coast Salish indigenous culture. All products for sale are produced by Native-owned companies and artisans or allied ethical corporations working in conjunction with the Suquamish Tribe.

Ongoing Programs and Education

Guided tours of the museum are offered for small groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school groups. Tours may include showings of documentaries related to Suquamish and Salish cultures, tours of the nearby Old Man House village and Baba’kwob site, and in-depth exploration of current temporary exhibits. Special workshops may also be designed to focus on topics related to group needs. Researchers wishing to access the museum’s archives may also make copies of photographs, documents, and oral history transcripts by special arrangement with museum staff.

6861 NE South St, Suquamish, WA, Phone: 360-394-8499

More: Things to Do on Bainbridge Island

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Attraction Spotlight: Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

Located on Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County, Washington, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum showcases the social and cultural history of the Bainbridge Island area, housed within a preserved historic schoolhouse facility. The Bainbridge Island Historical Society was formed as an organization in the 1930s, holding informal meetings at members’ homes throughout the following decades.

History

In 1949, the Society was merged with the local Kitsap County Historical Society and was incorporated as the Bainbridge Island branch of the organization. Following the merger, Elnora Parfitt was elected as the Society’s first official president. In the 1970s, the Bainbridge Island School Board donated the historic Island Center schoolhouse, which had been constructed in 1908 and operated until 1923 as a one-room schoolhouse, for the Society’s use as a museum facility. The schoolhouse building was moved to the island’s Strawberry Hill Park, which formerly served as a site for a Cold War-era Army missile base. Difficulties in public access to the Strawberry Hill Park site prompted a multi-phase move of the museum’s facilities to the island’s downtown area, which began in 2003 with the approval of a 90-year lease of a lot on Ericksen Avenue. The museum’s collections were temporarily stored while the museum’s buildings, including the historic schoolhouse facility, were relocated to the downtown site. The museum’s new downtown location officially opened to the public in August of 2004.

Permanent Exhibits and Collections

Today, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum serves the Bainbridge Island community by preserving its social and cultural history through a variety of museum exhibits and public programming events. The museum’s 1908 schoolhouse facility is preserved as a historic landmark, serving as the primary facility for exhibit showcase, while an annex building contains a gallery for rotating temporary exhibits, along with office space and a research library facility. A core staff of five employees oversees operations along with a team of more than 100 volunteers and a local Society membership of more than 800 islanders. As a result of its new location, the museum has become part of the island’s downtown cultural corridor, located near the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse and Winslow’s City Hall building.

The museum’s collections, which are stored within the annex building’s climate-controlled basement when not on display as part of exhibits, showcase the social and cultural history of the island from the mid-19th century through the present through a variety of artifacts, documents, and multimedia objects. More than 9,000 photographs are preserved as part of a historic photography collection dating back to 1854. Other items include collections of historical maps and nautical charts, logs from early area settlers, civic data and documents, industrial artifacts, ephemera memorabilia, and archaeological and geological materials related to the island’s natural and indigenous history.

All museum exhibits are geared toward families and children, with a variety of hands-on interactive and accessibility features, including audio recordings, multimedia presentations, and touch drawers. The schoolhouse building’s main An Island Story exhibit spans the island’s history from its indigenous days through the present day, focusing on ethnographic timeline elements. Focused historical exhibits include World War II From An Island Perspective, which examines the island’s participation in World War II, including the 492 islanders who served in troops such as the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the use of Fort Ward and Battle Point as radio communications posts, and the use of Winslow Shipyard for the construction of steel-hulled minesweepers. The Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar exhibit provides a visual retrospective of the experiences of the 227 island citizens transported to Manzanar, California in 1942, the first Japanese-Americans to be relocated in internment camps during the war. Other exhibits include the Overland Westerners exhibit, which documents the three-year journey of four island horse riders across a 20,352-mile of the continental United States, and the Port Blakely: Portrait of a Mill Town historical photograph and multimedia retrospective.

Ongoing Programs and Education

The museum’s research library is open to the general public, with special hours for students, researchers, and visitors with accessibility needs available by appointment. Collections include a large variety of books, oral histories, biographical files, and multimedia pieces related to the island’s history. A variety of public educational programming is offered at the facility, including curriculum-incorporated tours of the museum for elementary and secondary students. Outreach educational programming includes in-classroom storyteller visits and trips to area historical sites for student groups. An annual Friendship Camp is presented for area youth in conjunction with the local Suquamish Tribe, and a variety of public special events are hosted at the facility annually, including a Historic Tree Walk, Cruise Around the Island, and a number of neighborhood celebrations and community walk events. Free admission to the museum is offered on the first Thursday of every month, and a StoryShare program solicits local community narratives through an outreach initiative.

215 Ericksen Ave NE, Bainbridge Island, WA, Phone: 206-842-2773

More: Things to Do on Bainbridge Island

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Attraction Spotlight: Kids’ Discovery Museum

Located on Bainbridge Island off the coast of the state of Washington, the Kids’ Discovery Museum, commonly known as KiDiMu, is an interactive children’s science and art museum offering a variety of hands-on exhibits and public educational programming.

History

The Kids’ Discovery Museum was the vision of a community group of Bainbridge Island citizens, who formed a nonprofit organization for the development of an interactive educational facility dedicated to housing science and art exhibits for children and families. The museum was opened in April of 2005, showcasing a rainforest-themed inaugural exhibit. Additional exhibits were installed following the museum’s move to a new permanent facility, which was officially opened to the public in June of 2010. The new facility was recognized in 2011 by the United States Green Building Council for its environmentally-friendly design and operational practices, meeting LEED Silver standards for its core and shell and its commercial interiors.

Permanent Exhibits and Attractions

Today, the Kids’ Discovery Museum, commonly referred to as KiDiMu, is a part of Bainbridge Island’s Island Gateway cultural center, which also houses the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, a public garden facility, and a number of private businesses and restaurants. The museum is a member organization of the Association of Children’s Museums and the Northwest Association of Youth Museums. More than 35,000 annual visitors attend the museum, which offers a variety of interactive exhibits geared toward presenting family-friendly STEM and arts learning experiences for the youth of Bainbridge Island and beyond.

A variety of hands-on exhibits and permanent installations are offered at the museum, emphasizing sensory exploration aspects and encouraging interactive play for family members of all ages. The museum’s Pirate Tree House serves as its centerpiece exhibit, stretching two stories high and offering dress-up, imaginative roleplay, and active play activities. The treehouse’s top floor is a designated “no parents’ land,” offering birds’-eye views of museum exhibits and a giant slide. An Our Town exhibit recreates a small town main street, offering a variety of storefront exhibits, such as a Dollar and Sense Financial Center, a Grocery Store, and a Medical Center with interactive play activities to emphasize career principles and social interactions. A recreated Waterfront Park area features a climb-aboard KiDiMu Ferry, while a real scale-model Electric Car emphasizes sustainable energy principles. A Construction Zone exhibit also allows children to explore engineering and construction concepts through interactive play.

At the museum’s Science and Literacy Hall, STEM principles are introduced through fun, hands-on activities and exhibits, including a Big Blue Blocks playspace, which was chosen by the blocks’ Imagination playground manufacturing company as the best exhibit of its kind as part of a playspace design contest.Motion Madness and Fun With Physics exhibits emphasize concepts such as gravity, velocity, acceleration, and friction through free play with golf balls, while a Discovery Videomicroscope exhibit offers opportunities for children to explore the microscopic aspects of natural and scientific concepts. A Light Wall allows children to create colorful designs with giant pegs, while a Magnet Wall introduces magnetic principles in a creative play environment.

Reading literacy is the focus of the museum’s Imagination Station, which offers a puppet theater, soapbox derby race car, and train table, along with a variety of books and puzzles for independent family play. The museum’s Art Studio lets children of all artistic skill levels explore their inner creativity, with rotating weekly art activities themed around a particular medium or activity theme. A year-round climbing wall, solar-powered water table, and easel painting area are offered as part of the museum’s Outdoor Play Area, while a Totally TOT exhibit offers safe play experiences for the museum’s youngest visitors structured around Waldorf School educational principles. A museum gift store also offers a wide variety of educational toys, books, and souvenirs.

Ongoing Programs and Education

A wide variety of educational programming is offered by the museum, including live daily demonstrations and hands-on activities. Curriculum-incorporated field trips are available for elementary school groups, and a summer camp program developed around Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines offers small-group activities led by instructors. Weekly special events include Messy Monday watercolor workshops, Tuesday Tunes song and dance groups, and Sensory Sunday programs for children on the autism spectrum. A monthly First Thursday event also allows families to attend the museum free of charge. Annual public special events include an Easter egg hunt, a Halloween costume swap, and a gingerbread house construction station and display. The museum may also be rented for private special events such as birthday parties, community functions, and business events.

301 Ravine Lane, Bainbridge Island, WA, Phone: 206-855-4650

More: Things to Do on Bainbridge Island

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