Finding a place to live at a new duty station you’ve never been to can be daunting, to say the least. If you prefer to live off-base (or are subject to a 12-18 month waiting list), that can be even harder. How do you know what community to live in? What’s the reputation or best fit for my family? How close is it to base? What about me and best places for my job opportunities? The questions are endless.
First step, we encourage you to find the Facebook group for your new duty station. These spouses have an aresenal of knowledge and experience for you and can help share their experiences. For Bangor, be sure to join: Military Spouses of Kitsap, Bangor Base Naval Families and Naval Base Kitsap PCS Pay-It-Forward.
Secondly, we hope to offer some help here. If your family has orders to Washington state, here is a list of Kitsap County cities to live in and some quick notes to consider:
- Commute to base: 45 minutes
- Bainbridge Island is a beautiful and vibrant community, offering rural farmland, wineries, hiking trails, scenic vistas, waterfronts, an electic downtown and local arts.
- The 10 mile island is only a 35 minute ferry to downtown Seattle, making it the most convenient access point in Kitsap County (especially convenient for working spouses). But given its proximity to Seatte, Bainbridge Island is also very expensive. The median home price is $1.3 million, according to Realtor.com.
- Throughout the year Bainbridge Island hosts a variety of events and festivals, including the Strawberry Festival in June and Quilt Festival in September. For a full list, click here.
- The downtown core has a variety of unique shops and restaurants, some of our favorites include: Calico Toy Shoppe, Blackbird Bakery, Plum, Eagle Harbor Book Co. and others.
- Attractions: Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Kids Discovery Museum (KidiMu), Bloedel Reserve, Battle Point Park, and nearby Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort
- School district: Bainbridge Island School District
- Bainbridge Island is home to half a dozen wineries, offering unique tasting rooms and vineyard experiences.
- The island is also home to a darker period of U.S. history, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The state established the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, to honor those who suffered this injustice.
- Outdoor recreation: Grand Forest Park Trail, Gazzam Lake Park Trail, Fort Ward Hill Trail, and more ideas here.
- Commute to base: 35 minutes
- Population: 2,913 (2019)
- Kingston anchors the western end of the Washington State Ferry Edmonds-Kingston route. It’s a beautiful and scenic 30-minute ferry ride, perfect for a walk-on ferry adventure in either direction, especially during the summer.
- Kingston’s charming main street is lined with shops, pubs with local brews, and assorted restaurants. Some of our favorites: Aviator Coffee & Teas, Borrowed Kitchen Bakery, The Paisley Whale, Kingston Bookery and others.
- Comparable to its neighbor Poulsbo, Kingston’s median home price is around $600K.
- School district: North Kitsap School District
- Kingston is a great destination for outdoor recreation and attractions: North Kitsap Heritage Park, Heronswood Botanical Garden, Saltair Beach Park, and others.
- Commute to base: 20 minutes
- Population: 10,602 (2019)
- Poulsbo’s historic “Little Norway” is one of Kitsap Peninsula’s most popular destinations for visitors. Founded by Norwegian immigrant Jørgen Eliason in the 1880s, Poulsbo was settled in its early years by a large number of Norwegian and other Scandinavian immigrants because of its similarities to their native countries. Today, you can see that heritage celebrated throughout the town.
- The town’s charming Front Street downtown offers galleries, museums, unique shops and restaurants along the waterfront. Some of our favorites: The infamous and beloved Sluy’s Bakery, Red Plantation, Hot Shots Java, Liberty Bay Books, Tickled Pink, The Loft, and Slippery Pig Brewery.
- Poulsbo is a coveted place to live for families. Given its proximity to nearby Bainbridge Island and surrounding attractions, homes can be more competitive and expensive. According to Realtor.com, the median home price in 2022 is $619K.
- Poulsbo hosts a variety of events an festivals throughout the year, including Viking Fest in July and Julefest in December. For a full list of events, click here.
- School district: North Kitsap School District
- Commute to Base: 15 minutes
- Silverdale is a convenient, central hub for shopping with familar chain stores including Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, REI and others. The town also offers the Kitsap Mall (Macy’s, Bath & Body Works, H&M, Cost World Plus Market, Kohl’s, Torrid, etc.) and The Trails, an outdoor shopping center with HomeGoods, Marshall’s, Old Navy, Chipotle, and several restaurants.
- Silverdale also has great recreation opportunities. The popular Clear Creek Trail stretches eight miles from the Silverdale Waterfront Park on Dyes Inlet north to Trigger Avenue. The trail meanders through wetlands and forests, with mixed terrain of smooth pavement,boardwalks and gravel roads.
- School district: Central Kitsap School District
- Popular breweries: Silver City Brewing, Breaking Waves Brewing
- The waterfront also offers two of the largest hotels in Kitsap County, the Oxford Suites and the Best Western Plus Silverdale Beach Hotel.
- Commute to Base: 25 minutes
- Nicknamed “Bremer-lo,” Bremerton is centrally located and has a heavy Navy presense with Naval Base Kitsap and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Parts of the town can feel very shipyard-like and industrial.
- The area offers convenient access to Seattle, with the Bremerton Ferry (a 60 minute sailing) or the Bremerton Fast Ferry (Mon-Fri, 30 min). For more info on Kitsap County ferries, click here.
- Fun attractions for children: Ahoy Kitsap Playland, Valentinetti Puppet Museum & Evergreen Theatre and the Bug Museum & Nature Gift Shop filled with crawly creatures.
- Bremerton offers a wonderful waterfront Evergreen Rotary Park, which has a great, inclusive playground and hosts seasonal farmers markets May-Oct and a year-round 9/11 memorial.
- Between the shipyard and ferry passengers, Bremerton is notorious for traffic. While it’s managable, be prepared for busy commute hours and stop and-go-traffic during busy hours.
- School district: Bremerton School District
- Commute to Base: 30-40 minutes
- Port Orchard is the county seat of Kitsap County, and the original city established in 1890.
- Port Orchard also has a convenient Kitsap Transit Foot Ferry, which crosses over to Bremerton. The scenic ride travels between Bremerton and Port Orchard and goes out about every 10 minutes. Schedule is Monday through Saturday and some weekends for special events.
- The area has a small, charming downtown waterfront with antique shops, paved walking paths, a playground and community park for family-friendly activities. Farther down the waterfront, you’ll find excellent dining options.
- While the city offers plenty of grocery stores, other shops like Target, Costco and other errands require a drive to Silverdale or Gig Harbor.
- School district: South Kitsap School District
- Popular breweries and micropubs: Slaughter County Brew Co., Yoked Farmhouse & Brewery, Peninsula Beverage Co.
- During the spring and summer, Port Orchard features many free and exciting events and concerts. Come and stroll through the Saturday Farmers Market, or sing and dance during the Thursday evening Concerts on the Bay at the Gazebo by the water. Meet and greet with local artists on the First Friday Artwalks, or join the thousands of people who gather downtown during the car shows.
- Port Orchard is also home to the South Kitsap Regional Park, one of the largest skate parks in the area with ball fields, hiking trails and picnic areas. It’s a great place to let children and pets run and enjoy the outdoors. The park also features the popular Kitsap Live Steamers Train Park and the new Forest Explorer Trail.
This list only scratched the surface of Kitsap County. Other smaller communities include Keyport, Gorst, Seabeck, Port Gamble and others. To learn more, visit www.visitktsap.com. For more PCS resources, check out other blog posts: “How to Find Your Next House,” “How to Buy a House with a POA” and more.