Here’s our latest destinations feature from Lynne Picard of, — the second in a three-part series on cruising Puget Sound, this installment covers the waters around Seattle and Bainbridge Island.

This photo was taken from above the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks. (Photo by Ana Quach)

Central Sound, from Port Orchard to Seattle’s inland lakes

Desolation Sound it is not, but rest assured that amid the urban attractions of central Puget Sound there are also lovely, peaceful and protected anchorages where the forces of enterprise are not constantly prying open your wallet.

Looking across the anchorage at Eagle Harbor with the city of Seattle in the distance across Puget Sound.

And given the densely populated areas nearby, relatively speaking, it astonishes that these anchorages are often uncrowded, even during the highest of the high season. At least they were pre-Covid, and perhaps will be again once the US-Canada border reopens, a perfect opportunity to stresslessly explore Puget Sound.

The central sound is rather busy year-round. It is criss-crossed by ferry traffic, and freighters inching toward Seattle and Tacoma. Adding to the summer mix are recreational boats, both daysailers and overnight cruisers, scurrying from place to place. Weekends are even busier.

Looking south across Dyes Inlet from the public dock at Silverdale. (Photo by Eric Greth)

Arriving from the North Sound, sheltered Poulsbo might be your first stop in the central region. With its Scandinavian heritage, five craft breweries, wonderful bakeries, cafés, delis and craft shops, boaters are often tempted to stay longer than planned. An afternoon, or two, is easily killed at Longship Marine which is chockablock with new and used marine hardware and chandlery items.

Nearby is the Port of Keyport, a friendly little dock and charming place to overnight, next door to the Naval Undersea Warfare Engineering Station where they develop and test underwater weapons and such. Here is also the impressive and free Naval Undersea Museum.

The lovely Japanese Exclusion Memorial at Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.

Alternatives to Keyport include Port Madison, Brownsville and others. Port Madison, at the north end of Bainbridge Island, is an anchorage with limited swing room, but is a pleasant place to sit in the cockpit admiring the lovely waterfront homes, with a small park with shore access and hiking trails. Brownsville has a good marina, with fuel, WiFi and nearby shops.

Eagle Harbor, in southeast Bainbridge Island, is one of the most enjoyable anchorages in Puget Sound. It is off the City of Bainbridge Island, also known as Winslow, in a well-protected inlet where there are also marinas and a public dock. Local attractions include a public swimming pool with hot tub and steam room, a movie theatre, scores of restaurants and cafes, shops and ice cream stands. What’s not to love?

The many splendid anchorages at Bainbridge Island and off Port Orchard. Chartlet is from Salish Sea Pilot’s cruising guide to Puget Sound.
Marinas and anchorages at Seattle, the inland lakes and the Lake Washington Ship Canal from the Ballard Locks. Chartlet is from Salish Sea Pilot’s cruising guide to Puget Sound.

Browse a thrift store a short walk from the public dock or paddle across to the south shore of the harbor to the touching Japanese Exclusion Memorial. At night, the lights of Seattle cast a lovely glow across the sound, calling to the urban tourist in you.

And the cross-sound ferry from Eagle Harbor to Seattle provides easy access to all the metropolis has to offer. Seattle is a great tourist destination, the list of activities is too long, and this is just a start.

But while in Seattle, whether arriving by ferry or tying up at one of the city marinas, do take a bus to the Ballard area, which is home to funky shops and restaurants as well as the Hiram M. Chittendon Locks (aka Ballard Locks) where vessels transit up from salty Puget Sound to the freshwater Lake Washington Ship Canal and inland lakes.

A bridge opens for us and an oncoming vessel in the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The experience of locking up into the ship canal should not be missed. Once in the lakes you have easy bus or Uber access to all that Seattle has to offer, as well as the town of Kirkland which is a favourite of ours. Lake Washington has several marinas with transient ties, well-protected anchorages and parks. Swimming in freshwater off the boat is a highlight.

And first visiting the locks by land is a good way to feel more confident about the locking procedure. There is lots of information about using the locks and the equipment boaters need, both online and at the Ballard Locks information office.

The tech district at South Lake Union is a nice spot to overnight or stop for lunch, as well as take in the Center for Wooden Boats and Museum of History and Industry.

After all the excitement of Seattle, it’s a short distance to Blake Island; best to go on a weekday to avoid the off-work crowds. Deer roam the forest trails, sandy beaches beckon for a picnic and mooring balls offer good moorage. It should be noted that in mid-May 2021, due to Covid crowding, Washington State Parks limited consecutive night stays on Blade Island mooring buoys to three.

A little gem in Port Orchard is Illahee State Park with five mooring balls and anchorage available just north of a small public dock. It can be busy on warm summer days with arrivals by land enjoying the beach, barbecues and outdoor showers, but once the sun goes down it is serene.

Ostrich and Oyster Bays lie in the southern reaches of Dyes Inlet offer excellent protection from southern and westerly winds. The lovely NAD Marine Park lies on the western shore of Ostrich Bay and offers a pleasant walk to long disused navy bunkers. Enter tiny Oyster Bay by the dredged passage on a rising tide, keeping an eye on the charts and your location. Once inside, surrounded by lovely homes that tend to reduce privacy, enjoy a perfectly calm night on the hook.

The USS Turner Joy museum ship at the Bremerton Marina. (Photo by Firas Sultan)

Navy buffs will want to dock at Bremerton Marina in Sinclair Inlet and tour the USS Turner Joy, a former destroyed turned into a museum. An option is to tie up at, or anchor off, the pleasant Port Orchard Marina and take a foot ferry across the inlet to Bremerton.

With pump-outs easily available at private and public docks, Uber to make getting around on shore fast and easy, many chandleries to facilitate work on boat projects, provisioning options galore and a plethora of fun night spots, cafes and restaurants, we think Puget Sound is a wonderful cruising destination and should be on every boater’s bucket list.


The first of this three-part series focuses on the South Sound. Watch for Part 3, coming soon, which will cover destinations in the North Sound.

Also watch their webinar about cruising Puget Sound which we presented at the 2021 Vancouver Virtual Boat Show.

As well, our Salish Sea Pilot cruising guide to Puget Sound details scores of anchorages, marinas and docks, each with an illustrated chartlet and updated facilities and prices ashore.