Poulsbo is one of Washington State’s hidden gems. This small town is tucked inside Liberty Bay on Kitsap Peninsula, surrounded by the waters of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Downtown Poulsbo still reflects its Scandinavian heritage, making it one of the most popular and unique day trips from Seattle.


Poulsbo WA
Poulsbo WA

In the 1880s, a large number of Norwegian and Finnish immigrants settled in the area that would become Poulsbo, noting its resemblance to the waters and mountains of Scandinavia. Within a decade, the settlement was named and a post office was established. The chosen name was actually Paulsbo after a village in Norway meaning “Paul’s Place”. However, the name was misspelled as Poulsbo on the official documents in Washington DC. The city of Poulsbo was incorporated in 1907.

The town’s Scandinavian heritage was so strong, Norwegian remained the primary language in Poulsbo until the middle of the 20th century, when World War II caused a greater need for housing near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in nearby Bremerton. Approximately 300 additional homes were built in and around Poulsbo, tripling the population and broadening the cultural influence. However, Poulsbo is still recognized as a symbol of Scandinavians in the United States. In 1975, King Olav V of Norway visited the town, commemorating 150 years of Norwegian settlement in America.

Poulsbo Marina

Much of Poulsbo’s history surrounds its maritime access. For many years, the town’s supplies were brought across Puget Sound from Seattle. This 18-mile journey across the sea was undertaken by rowboats, steamboats, and eventually, ferries. While the town’s location on Kitsap Peninsula is convenient to the greater city of Seattle, its position inside Liberty Bay provides protection and calm waters for boats and other watercraft.

The Poulsbo Marina remains the heartbeat of the town today. Providing anchorage for many types of water vessels, the marina is easily located only a short distance from downtown Poulsbo, offering great shopping and dining options. The greater Port of Poulsbo also offers a boardwalk along Liberty Bay, several parks, and a marine science center.

Things to do in Poulsbo

One of the most enjoyable activities in Poulsbo is simply walking along Front Street, enjoying the Norwegian architecture and Scandinavian decor. The shops lining the colorful street offer antiques, fashion, and fine art. Cafes offer European chocolates, gourmet coffee, and smoked salmon. The Poulsbo Bakery is famous for its delicious and healthy Poulsbo Bread.

Poulsbo’s location on Kitsap Peninsula makes it a convenient location for many outdoor activities. Water sports enthusiasts enjoy kayaking in Liberty Bay, taking in the peninsula’s wide variety of wildlife. Fishing enthusiasts can choose from a variety of methods to cast their line, but fly  fishing is especially popular. The city of Poulsbo also prides itself on its developing trail system, offering various types of hikes and hiking groups throughout the town. Kitsap Peninsula is also home to several world-class golf courses, including Bremerton’s Gold Mountain and Port Orchard’s Trophy Lake.

Those who prefer the indoors can indulge in Suquamish Clearwater Casino, just outside the city of Poulsbo on Kitsap Peninsula. In addition to traditional casino gaming, Clearwater also offers several dining options and a comfortable hotel. Guests can relax in the spa or take in a game of golf on the golf course.

Poulsbo Hotels & Lodging

Poulsbo offers several traditional hotels with typical guests amenities, such as the Poulsbo Inn and Guesthouse Inn and Suites. The personal touches of a bed and breakfast are an excellent way to experience this small, waterfront town. Some of the most popular B&Bs include Manor Farm Inn and Foxbridge Bed and Breakfast. Private vacation rentals are also plentiful along the waters of Liberty Bay, offering unique privacy and amenities to guests. Visitors to Poulsbo can also choose to stay at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino hotel, offering several dining options and a spa.

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