Cruising with Kids review: Blake Island State Marine Park

Blake Island State Marine Park is a tiny island in the middle of the busiest part of Puget Sound. Just an hour by sailboat from Seattle, and with Bremerton to the west, it feels both primitive and developed. Which makes sense, if you consider its history.

The history of Blake Island is fascinating for anyone who wants to read it. It once was the ancestral camping grounds of the Suquamish tribe. Then, it became a target for logging until a family purchased the island, built a home and decided to preserve the island from further logging. Tragedy ended the family’s reign on the land and it went derelict until it became a state park in 1959.

The iconic Tillicum Longhouse Cafe.

Nowadays, it’s a popular stop for boaters, particularly in the summer. Argosy Cruises brings visitors to the Tillicum Longhouse Cafe for guided tours of the island and salmon bakes during the high season. We prefer to visit in the winter and early spring, though, when the visitors are fewer. It’s one of the few state marine parks with a dock and an electrical hook-up. True to most of the state marine parks, however, there is no place to dump trash and no grocery store, so plan accordingly.

A feast of flora and fauna

Apparently a troop of deer swam over to the island years ago and now make Blake Island their home.

The island is home to a troop of deer and an indeterminate number of raccoons. The first time we stayed at the docks on Blake Island we were advised to shut the hatches on our boat lest a raccoon sneak in for a midnight snack. We did as advised and did hear tiny footprints walking all over the foredeck that night. Nowadays, there are fewer raccoons and they seem to be more wary of climbing on boats, a park ranger told us. Still, keep those hatches closed, keep trash inside and don’t leave food in your cockpit.

The island’s beaches are great for walking and a little bit of beach-combing. The south side of the island has several downed trees for exploring and climbing with kids. Our son enjoyed clambering over the felled trunks and still talks about how cool they were. Just be mindful of the tide cycle—you don’t want to be caught near them during high tide.

Blake Island has 6.5 miles of hiking trails that allow you to go from one side of the island to the other.

There are 5 miles of trails allowing you to trek from the dock on the east side to the sandy beach on the west side. Before loggers came, this was home to an old-growth forest. The trees here are still big today and there are ferns, grasses, mushrooms and bushes abound. The trails are well-maintained, though during the wet months of the winter and spring, they can get very muddy.

There are plenty of birds for bird-watchers to enjoy, too. In the summer, you can rent kayaks, play volleyball or challenge your friends or family to a game of horseshoes.

Cruiser’s conditions

There’s a great view of the Olympic Mountains from the dock on Blake Island.

There are 24 mooring balls in all, some on the north side and the others are on the west side. We have tied up to a mooring ball only once, and were rocked by ferry wakes most of the night. Since then, we just use the dock, though we plan to try the mooring balls on the west side one of these days.

I know of boaters who have anchored off Blake Island, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Looking for a great anchorage near Seattle? Try here.

The details

  • Distance from Elliot Bay in Seattle: About 6.5 nautical miles
  • Good place for: Hiking, beach-combing, sight-seeing

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