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In July of 2016, I took a women’s kayaking trip from Bainbridge to Blake Island with a bunch of adventurous women led by Maria Cook and Spring Courtright of Journey for Purpose. In the back of the October/November 2018 issue, 1889 Magazine published my short essay about a memorable event during that trip. You’ll have to read it to find out what happened. But, as I mentioned in the article, I’ve ditched my slogan of “I love NOT camping.”
Want to kayak to a little island? Blake, an island of 1,127 acres South of Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County, Washington State, is only reachable by boat (or, it turns out, seaplane.) It’s a great short kayaking excursion from Seattle or Kitsap County.
When I was a kid, I associated going to Blake Island with going to Tillicum Village. And that’s how many people visit Blake. Argosy cruises offer excursions to the famous Tillicum Village Salmon Bake. It’s an adventure well worth it, both for the Native American entertainment and the delicious Salmon.
Blake Island Kayaking & Blake Island Camping
However, if you’re an adventurer of a different kind, you might not be satisfied by a four-hour cruise. You’ll look longingly out at the many hiking trails on the island as your boat heads back for Elliott Bay. All the while, you’ll be fantasizing about what you could do if you were padding there in your kayak.
While you can, of course, take a powered boat out to Blake, the island is very reachable by kayak. A few campsites on the sandier Northwest tip of the island are specifically for human-powered craft.
The Washington Water Trails campsites on Blake Island are first-come-first-serve, and there are limited campsites available. During the Summer, you’ll have more success getting a spot if you get there during the week instead of on a busy weekend. Be careful about water: the WWTA website says to bring water in Winter, but that there’s a spigot in Summer. Not so when we went. Fortunately, we had plenty of people to carry in plenty of water.
If you happen to be a hammock camper, however, you won’t find any good hammocking trees right at the WWTA campsites as they’re right by the beach. Just around the bend, some of the campsites available to powered boats DID seem to have some good places to hang your hammock. Of course, those sites were noisier (and smellier due to the many powered boats.) The Tillicum Village side of the island also has a campground, but the campsites I saw were not directly beachfront.
Beware the Wildlife when Camping Blake Island!
While you’re safe from bears or cougars on Blake, don’t neglect to use those wildlife boxes for food at your campsite, or you’ll quickly find it being ported off by a masked bandit.
Raccoons are numerous — and very assertive — on Blake Island. We witnessed one stroll right into the back kitchen door at Tillicum Village while we had mimosas. Yes, even if you’re camping, you might want to take a cross-island stroll for some morning mimosas.
You’ll also find many deer roaming around the island, even very near your campsite.
If you’re kayaking to Blake Island, I recall that the trip from Fort Ward on Bainbridge Island took us about 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace. Kayakers on the Seattle side often head out from Lincoln Park in West Seattle or, so I’ve heard, even Elliot Bay. However, those trips take longer, and you have to be careful about planning your trip so as not to cross ferry and shipping lines.
If I weren’t going with a group and wanted a more leisurely Blake Island kayaking adventure, I’d opt to head out with my kayak from near the Southworth ferry dock in Port Orchard. You can see that dock when you’re standing on Blake — it’s just about a mile across from there. Manchester State Park is another option in Kitsap County, but, again, that’s a two-mile trip.
Click to open page with the interactive map with pins on Blake Island kayking campgrounds.
Some Things to See When Kayaking Blake Island (or Camping Blake Island)
Besides beachfront camping and hiking, you can, of course, always hike across the island over to Tillicum Village (did I mention the mimosas?) If you want to go there for the salmon bake, though, make sure you can get reservations. The primary way to get reservations to the salmon bake seems to be through the Tillicum Village excursions.
You can also see the remains of the Trimble estate, a mansion that “mysteriously” burned down in 1948. It’s near Tillicum Village..and, basically, just the footprint of where the mansion stood.
And take some time to walk around near the harbor and take in the totem poles and views.
But, mostly, just take some time, on your Blake Island kayaking adventure, to hike, wander, relax, and get on “island time.”
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