Bremerton has always been a city that rides on the fortunes of the maritime industry. With its close ties to the U.S. Navy, it boomed during times of war and declined during times of peace. By the late 1970s and for the next two decades, the downtown area slipped into abandonment and disrepair, with huge retail anchors vacated by JC Penney and more. By 2000, the derelict commercial district had become an eyesore…but no more.
If you haven’t experienced Bremerton’s renaissance, it’s time to take a quick day trip. From high-end condominiums and a beautiful waterfront park to multiple cultural delights and quaint shops, Bremerton offers activities for all ages. Here’s just one itinerary that’s sure to please.
Stop 1: Port Orchard foot ferry. You can certainly drive directly to Bremerton, but it’s more fun to park in downtown Port Orchard and take the foot ferry. Parking is free for four hours on weekends, and the fare is a mere $2 for a beautiful 15-minute jaunt on the water. Ferries depart on the hour and half-hour, with return ferries leaving at the quarter-hour marks.
Stop 2: Horse & Cow Pub and Grill, 536 Fourth Street. Walk off the ferry and up two blocks to Fourth Street. Time your arrival at the pub for around 11:30 a.m. and you can enjoy lunch at this home-away-from-home for submariners. You can even see a yellow submarine among the artifacts. It’s iconic—and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can grab a delicious burger and fries for just under $5.
Stop 3: Kitsap County Historical Museum, 280 Fourth Street. You’ll find entertaining exhibits tracing area history and sharing space with Valentinetti Puppet Museum in the historic Seattle First National Bank building. Admission is $4 (discounts for seniors and children), and it’s open Wed-Fri, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday, noon – 4 p.m. The museum is near the historic Roxy Theater, which debuted in 1941. It recently reopened after extensive renovations to return it to its former theater glory.
Stop 4: Collective Visions Gallery, 331 Pacific Avenue. CVG is an artist-owned and operated gallery representing approximately 20 of the area’s most innovative visionaries. It occupies the former McBride’s Hallmark building and is open Tue-Sat, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Stop 5: Harborside Fountain Park, 251 First Street. Continue strolling down Pacific Avenue past the ferry terminal. You’ll eventually find a unique waterscape park that reflects the city’s maritime history. Children will especially enjoy the intermittent water and noise from columns resembling surfacing submarines. The park is a terrific place to spend an hour watching ferries and marine vessels come and go.
Stop 6: USS Turner Joy, 300 Washington Beach Avenue. The USS Turner Joy has a long history of participating in American war efforts, but it is most famous for firing the first shots in the Gulf of Tonkin at the start of the Vietnam War. Now a floating museum, it is open March through October 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets are $15 for adults, with discounts for active and retired military, seniors and children.
At this point, you might be ready to head home. But if you still have energy and time, you can go back to Pacific Avenue and discover the thriving brew pub scene (Dog Days Brewing and Lovecraft Brewing on Fourth Street are just two) or unique boutiques such as the upscale vintage clothing shop Ish (249 Fourth Street) and F.R.O.G. Soap (530 Fifth Street). You’ll also pass several public art installations that make terrific selfie photo backdrops.
It is approximately 35 miles from the Key Peninsula to Bremerton via SR-16 and SR-3. Two-hour street parking in Bremerton is available, depending on the day of the week and time. There are several paid lots throughout the downtown area, particularly near the ferry terminal.
Rachel V. Berry lives in Port Orchard.