Day Trip Discoveries: Kitsap explorations — Heronswood, Suquamish Museum, Poulsbo

Trumpet flower fountain and spring bed preparation at Heronswood.

Heronswood Garden, Suquamish Museum and Scandinavian-flavored Poulsbo make a fun springtime exploration via the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. The first two attractions are Native American-owned, so you’ll also experience cultural connections. Poulsbo adds another historical perspective and browsing discoveries that range from local art co-ops and antiques/collectibles to microbrew pubs and truly outrageous ice cream.

Heronswood was originally founded by Daniel Hinkley and Robert Jones in 1987. Over the course of two decades, it evolved into a nursery and botanical garden with a vast inventory of exotic trees, shrubs, vines and perennials. Hinkley collected most of them during bi-annual trips to Vietnam, China, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The nursery flourished and supplied plants to all 50 states, Europe and Asia.

Heronswood garden entry

In 2000 Hinkley and Jones sold the operation to a national seed and plant distribution firm, which unfortunately went bankrupt. The garden sat neglected until 2012 when the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe purchased Heronswood at auction and enlisted Hinkley’s help to resurrect it. As the only Native American-owned botanical garden in the U.S., Heronswood has become “a meeting place for our two cultures to connect,” says Hinkley. Special events, educational programs and tours recognize both the heritage of the garden and the tribe.

Walking through the botanical garden at Heronswood.

Beginning this spring, Heronswood is now open three days a week — Friday, Saturday, Sunday — through Oct. 19 for self-guided tours. It also offers guided tours with a staff member on weekdays throughout the year for groups. The garden is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the last garden entry at 2:30 p.m. See website for entry fees and group reservations.

Arched arbor and decorate pot sculpture at Heronswood.

The woodland botanical garden also opens to the public for its highly popular Plant Sales on May 11-12 (Mother’s Day weekend), July 20 and Sept. 14. Then visitors can buy starts of some of the rare and unusual plants, many from Hinkley’s continuing world travels.

From Heronswood, drive south to the Suquamish Museum, located on the Port Madison Indian Reservation. It is the former site of Old-Man-House village, winter home of Chief Seattle, and nearby, his grave.

Chief Seattle’s gravesite at Suquamish Museum.

The Suquamish Museum displays both objects it owns and those on loan from Suquamish families and other museums. Its permanent exhibition is “Ancient Shores — Changing Tides,” which presents the cultural story of the Suquamish People over time. Spanning the length of the exhibit hall is a remarkable cedar timeline from the end of the last Ice Age to the present.

Carrying our Culture through Time sculpture at the Suquamish Museum.

The Suquamish Museum also integrates the Lushootseed language into its exhibits so you can better understand Coast Salish culture. It features the award-winning video, “Come Forth Laughing,” updated for the exhibit.

In its rotating gallery, the next display will be the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition “Roots of Wisdom” from June 15 through Nov. 24. It explores ways in which traditional native knowledge can work with modern science to provide innovative solutions — such as utilizing native food sources and traditional medicine plants — to meet health and ecological challenges.

Cedar root baskets and materials at the Suquamish Museum.

The Suquamish Museum’s gift store features Suquamish and Coast Salish tribal members’ arts and crafts. The museum is open daily 10 am to 5 pm. See the website for admission fees.

Nearby, the historic town of Poulsbo proudly maintains its Scandinavian heritage. First settled in the 1880s by Norwegians, Poulsbo today calls itself the “Viking City.”

Viking ship mural on the Boehm Chocolates building in Poulsbo.

A dramatic Viking ship mural covers one side of the Boehms Chocolates’ building, the Marina Market carries Scandinavian products hard to find elsewhere, and the Historical Museum showcases immigrant life here in the 1880s to early 1920s.

Traditional women’s dress at the Historical Museum.

The Maritime Museum adjoins the Visitor Center; both it and the Historical Museum are free to the public. Learn about the town’s fishing heritage and see historic boats being restored. The wheelhouse of the Hyak, a vessel in Puget Sound’s famed “Mosquito fleet” 1909-1933, went on display in April as a new highlight in the outdoor, covered area.

Poulsbo’s Front Street

Then walk along Poulsbo’s Front Street to browse boutiques, book stores, antique/collectible shops and art galleries, including Verksted and Front Street Gallery — both co-operatives featuring local artists. You’ll encounter way too many temptations — from local Mora Iced Creamery to authentic Sluys Poulsbo Bakery — plus many dining options ranging from casual to ethnic to waterfront view. Discover microbreweries Valholl, Slippery Pig and Western Red.

Waterfront Park in Poulsbo.

Stroll just a block to the waterfront and enjoy Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park with its view of the harbor and marina. Visit the SEA Discovery Center, operated by Western Washington University. This public aquarium offers an up-close look at our local marine ecosystem. Here you can see more than 100 species of marine animals and plants, including a wily resident octopus. Kids love the touch tank.

Crocheted Viking helmets for sale in Poulsbo.

Poulsbo’s annual Viking Fest is May 17-19 this year, so you may want to visit then to get a full dose of its Nordic energy: Viking-clad men in horned helmets, women in traditional bunadergarb, kids wearing both, and everyone enjoying the festive parade and weekend activities.


Heronswood Garden
31912 Little Boston Rd. N.E.
Kingston, WA 98346
Phone: 360-297-9620 (8 a.m. — 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday-Friday)

Suquamish Museum
6861 N.E. South St.
Suquamish, WA 98392
Phone: (360) 394-8499

Poulsbo Visitor’s Center
19010 Front St. N.E., Poulsbo, WA 98370
Phone: 360-779-4848

— By Julie Gangler

Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.




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