Poulsbo, a beautiful village on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula, is an ideal getaway for those who need a quiet retreat. Just across Puget Sound from bustling Seattle, Poulsbo was founded by Norwegian fishermen. Today, it remains a little town rooted in Scandinavian culture and maritime heritage. Come along and wander the wonders of the village of Poulsbo, Washington.
Nowadays, yachts join fishing boats at moorings on Liberty Bay. Festivals spring up in the bay-side city park and visitors relax in bakeries and coffee shops. Poulsbo, surrounded by natural beauty, is anchored by the historic Lutheran Church high on the hill overlooking Liberty Bay. It is said that the church served as a beacon to returning fishermen.
Getting To Poulsbo, Washington
From the Seattle area, a fun way to get to Poulsbo is to take the car ferry from the Seattle waterfront terminal to Bainbridge Island. Traveling by ferry is one way to begin a relaxing getaway. You’ll drive a short distance across Bainbridge Island to a bridge that will take you to Poulsbo. Follow WA-305 to the city center.
Others will come across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma to the Kitsap Peninsula. Drive North on scenic Hwy 3. There’s much to see on the Kitsap Peninsula so getting to Poulsbo will make for a fun outing.
Shopping Poulsbo’s Main Street
Front Street runs through Poulsbo’s historic downtown area known for coffee shops, bakeries, Northwest-style boutiques, galleries, and festivals.
A popular first stop is Sluys Bakery, a Poulsbo favorite since 1966. All of the baked goods, from donuts to the famous Poulsbo bread, are made in-house. You may have seen Poulsbo bread on supermarket shelves in the Pacific Northwest as the rights to the name were sold by the family. But here in Poulsbo, Sluys Poulsbo Bakery continues to make Poulsbo Bread as originally created. Sluys is the only bakery that is legally allowed to manufacture Poulsbo bread from scratch.
Sluys is known for making old-world bread such as Julekake, Stollen, Cardamom bread, Kransekake, and Fattigmand. But I love their pastries… a morning Danish or a cinnamon roll hits the spot after traveling to Poulsbo.
After you are fortified with a treat from Sluys, you’ll want to explore the downtown area. There are an independent bookstore, galleries, and boutiques. The Front Street Gallery and Verksted Gallery are cooperatives. Local artists sell jewelry, art cards, woodworking, blown glass, and sculptures.
A great way to enjoy the galleries is to join in on the Art Walk held every second Saturday of the month from 5-8 p.m.
The clothing boutiques, some featuring hand-knitted sweaters, shawls, and scarves, are fun to explore. And don’t forget to check out Boem’s Chocolate. Enter via the door framed by the massive Viking ship mural. There is a gourmet shop featuring Scandanavian foods nearby and, up the street, a nautical souvenir shop to explore.
Dining in Poulsbo, Washington
There are several restaurants in Poulsbo, some with outdoor patios and balconies for those highly anticipated warm days. Dining in Poulsbo is casual.
I like to eat at JJ’s Fish House. Fresh salmon is usually on the menu. While there, consider a bowl of their Poulsbo-style chowder. It’s a meaty chowder prepared with a touch of herbs and spices with celery, sweet onion, red potatoes, smoky bacon, and heavy cream.
By the Bay – Recreation and Festivals in Poulsbo, Washington
One street over and you’ll be walking along Liberty Bay. In the city park, you’ll find annual art festivals, music in the summer and—of course—there is Viking Fest! Viking Fest is a celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day of May 17 (in Norwegian, “Syttende Mai”). You’ll find everything from a Lutefisk eating contest to a parade down the main street.
One year I attended the art show set up in the park and enjoyed a food stand lunch with the view of the bay and snow-capped mountains. In the evening, there was an outdoor dance party and the main street was closed to traffic.
You can enjoy walking the docks and checking out the historic vessels, fishing boats, sailboats, and visiting yachts. Get out on the water yourself and rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard from the Olympic Outdoor Center dock in Poulsbo.
When You Go to Poulsbo, Washington
Poulsbo, Washington is just one destination on the beautiful Kitsap Peninsula. Weather-wise, the spring, summer, and fall are the best times to go. Any time of year, layering clothing is smart and bring your walking shoes. Enjoy wandering Poulsbo, Washington when you want to experience a quiet retreat and a bit of Washington's Norwegian roots. See Wander's articles covering things to do and see in Washington State for more ideas.