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Poulsbo: 15 miles NW of Bainbridge Island ferry dock, 35 miles S of Port Townsend, 45 miles N of Tacoma

Roughly 45 miles long and confusingly convoluted, the Kitsap Peninsula looks something like an arrowhead wedged between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula. Tucked amid the folds of its many glacial hills and fjordlike waterways is an eclectic assortment of small towns, each with a very different character.

For thousands of years, this region was home to several Native American tribes, including the Suquamish, who once had a 900-foot-long longhouse on the shores of Agate Pass between the Kitsap Peninsula and Bainbridge Island. Chief Sealth (pronounced See-alth), for whom Seattle is named, was a member of the Suquamish tribe, and today his grave can be visited near the town of Suquamish.

The region's earliest pioneer history is linked to the logging industry. At Port Gamble, on the north end of the peninsula, Andrew Pope and William Talbot chose to build their sawmill, which became the longest-operating mill in the Northwest. Although the mill is now closed, Port Gamble remains a company town and still, for the most part, looks as if it hasn't changed in 100 years. However, the land surrounding the historic town is currently undergoing development in the wake of the mill closing.

The state of Washington seems obsessed with theme towns; there's a Dutch town, a Wild West town, a Bavarian town, and here on the Kitsap Peninsula, a Scandinavian town. Though at first the town of Poulsbo seems merely a contrivance to sell tacky Scandinavian souvenirs, on closer inspection it proves to have much more character than that. The town's waterfront park, marinas, and picturesque setting on Liberty Bay have great appeal for the boating crowd.

The deep, protected harbors of the Kitsap Peninsula have, for more than a century, seen the comings and goings of the U.S. Navy, which has naval yards here in the town of Bremerton. Today, the Bremerton Naval Yards are also home to a large fleet of mothballed navy ships that have become the town's greatest tourist asset, with two museums and a Vietnam-era destroyer open to the public. Not far away there is also a Trident nuclear submarine base, which, however, is not open to the public.

Across Sinclair Inlet from Bremerton, and accessible via the last privately owned passenger ferry still operating on Puget Sound, lies the small town of Port Orchard, which is filled with antiques malls.