Bremerton is not a terribly interesting city, but it does have its merits. It has an interesting history and has certainly gone through many changes over the years, but in its current state, it does not lend itself well to any feelings of excitement. It does, however, share some qualities with its big neighbour, Seattle; rain. The two are also connected by a thin umbilical cord called the 'ferry'. But enough grumbling; here's the good stuff.
Bremerton is first and foremost a Navy town. Some people may try to deny it, but the Navy is far and away the largest employer in the region let alone Bremerton. There are two Naval Bases and one weapons research facility in the county. The city is the county seat for Kitsap County, which occupies the entire Kitsap Peninsula. Bremerton has been around for over a century. It has had its high points during its existence, but in its current incarnation it is merely a shell of a city. Without the Navy, there would be far fewer residences. The town does have its good qualities, such as a low cost of living and fairly affordable housing, though this has done little to draw in new residents.
The town sits on both sides of the opening to Dyes Inlet. The inlet divides Bremerton into roughly two halves of East Bremerton, and West Bremerton. The drop-off point of the ferry is right in the middle of Downtown, which is the easternmost portion of West Bremerton. Most of West Bremerton gives the impression of being slightly old and of once being prosperous. East Bremerton is dominated by Wheaton Way, on which most of the commercial business now takes place. Here you will find most local businesses and the most commonly found chain stores that you find in every other town across America.
People with strong Scandinavian roots settled most of the communities that you find in the area, like much of the rest of Puget Sound. As such you will find the occasional reference to Vikings. The city of Poulsbo is best known in the county for this fact, and many of the small towns are quaint little fishing villages where the only significant changes have been the number of book and antique stores on the main street.
Things To See
Bremerton does possess a few interesting things to see, such as the Turner Joy, a destroyer which was the first Naval unit fired upon in the Gulf of Tonkin, which helped escalate hostilities in the Vietnam Conflict. It is still an interesting piece of history and the ship will give a wonderful sense of Naval life at that time in history.
Depending upon how lucky and resourceful you are, you might be able to land a tour on the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier. It is often out to sea, but when it isn't, they sometimes do give tours. You can try calling the Public Affairs Office. They are the ones in charge of giving tours and so probably your best bet for arranging one. Make sure you ask about the current rules concerning photography and video recording, as at certain times it can be severely restricted.
If you can't arrange a tour, but want to take a look at the naval shipyard anyway, you can go to Port Orchard, which sits just across from Bremerton on the Sinclair Inlet. Once on the waterfront of Port Orchard, you can see the entirety of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard/Naval Station Bremerton. The shipyard has been around for about a hundred years now and contains what was in 1968 when it was completed, the largest dry dock in the world. The only place you can really see it from though, would be the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, if you happen to get a tour.
The surrounding countryside is lovely to drive through and once you reach Hood Canal you will be treated to a lovely view of the Olympic Mountains and their foothills. It is recommended that you find as many beautiful locations to take pictures out here as you can as it's quite breathtaking. The view in the early morning is a particular treat. Standing on the eastern shores of Hood Canal you will see about 300 metres of calm smooth water, the opposite shore rising out of the water populated by pine trees, a backdrop of mountains and mist curling in and out of the valleys. Simply amazing.
Bremerton also enjoys moderate proximity to the Olympic Mountains, though the drive is still several hours long to the park entrances near Port Angeles and weather conditions may preclude a journey at all during certain times of the year. On clear nights you can see these mountains in all their glory from an upper storey window and even other famous regional landmarks such as Mt. Rainer.
Point A to Point B
The easiest way to get to Bremerton is by ferry. You can drive there, but it's not a particularly pleasant drive and riding the ferry is actually kind of fun. The views are enjoyable. You get to be outside in the rain and you don't have to drive for an hour and a half in Seattle traffic, which is rated as the third worst in the US. The passage takes approximately one hour on the auto ferry or about 30 minutes on the passenger-only boat. Cars are about $6-71 each way plus extra per passenger, while passengers pay $4 only when leaving Seattle. Prices are certainly subject to change and will continue to rise as Washington continues to flounder with the system and try to keep the programme afloat.
Once you get off the ferry, the USS Turner Joy is immediately to your right, and you'll be able to see it as the ferry approaches the landing. For everything else you'll want to head down Burwell Street. It's the first stoplight you come to when exiting the ferry terminal. Take a left and head down the street. After a few blocks the shipyard will be on the left hand side, but you can't get in anywhere near here. Ahead of you is a large hill. Just on the other side is Naval Avenue, where the main gate is to the base is.
If you're heading to another location in the area, it's a good idea to find HWY 3. At any time on Burwell take a right. Go two block until you reach 6th St, you can follow this road through all its twists and turns and changes until you reach the HWY.
To get to the Olympic Mountains themselves, just follow HWY 3 North until it takes you to the Hood Canal Bridge. Follow the signs to Port Angeles which is a small city with a harbour at the base of one of the Olympic Mountains. Incidentally, there is also a ferry to Victoria, Canada from here. If you just want to look at them from a distance take the Newberry Hill Rd exit, which is the third exit after Bremerton, take a left and follow the road in as westerly course as you can. Eventually you will come to Hood Canal. Keep track of your turns though as it makes it a lot easier when you're trying to leave.
If you don't have a car, you can try the Kitsap County Bus. It costs about $2, and has fairly limited service. The location of the lines is not too bad, and it's fairly easy to navigate. The bad thing is that buses come in the desired direction about once every 45 minutes and take another 45 minutes to get you anywhere useful. If you're in more of a hurry, try Troll's taxi; their rates are among the lowest, have a decent-sized fleet and the drivers are usually good for a little interesting conversation. A flat rate of $12 will get you from Bremerton to Silverdale in 20 minutes. From most anywhere in Bremerton to the ferry will cost between $3-8, though usually around $5 or $6.
To get to Port Orchard you can either drive (HWY 3 South), take a taxi ($12), or another ferry, which departs from nearly the same location as the passenger ferry to Seattle.
When you're in Bremerton and you're hungry you will want to stop by either Tony's or Tom's Teriyaki House. Both have very good teriyaki dishes and very reasonable prices. Tom's has very friendly service and if not too busy he will be more than happy to sit and chat with a customer. Tony's Teriyaki is somewhat better and I've had no complaints about the service to date. Tom's is just outside of the main gate to the Naval Base on Naval Avenue one block north of Burwell Street. Tony's is on Warren Avenue a couple blocks north of Burwell St and about a half-mile from the ferry terminal.
For something a little more upscale, or an altogether richer experience, head to the Silvercity Pub and Brewery. To get there take the Silverdale Mall exit. Using the middle lane take a right. Immediately take a left at the light with another right at the next light. You will now be in the mall parking lot. Head straight until you come to a stop sign and you’ll see the pub ahead and slightly to your left.
It is highly recommended that you enjoy their wonderful selection of home-brewed beers and ales. They do such a wonderful job with them that they have even been able to win awards at the Great American Beer Festival. The highest award winning beer they make is a Scotch ale they call the Fat B*****d. It won a gold medal in 2001, and having a hefty alcohol content of 9.5% they sometimes have to limit customers to just two. If you're feeling a little hungry they have an excellent variety of delicious diners. If you have a hard time deciding, just talk to the friendly staff. They are very helpful and more than willing to help you decide how to spend your money. The bartenders are great and to sit near them is recommended.