Spending a day in Port Gamble is like taking a step back in time. This wonderful historic community setting on the northwest shore of Kitsap County was developed beginning in 1841 by a U.S. Navy expedition on the 2-mile-long bay at the mouth of Hood Canal. Named after Lt. Robert Gamble, who was wounded in the War of 1812, it was established as a true company town to support the sawmills that provided lumber for the world market. The Pope and Talbot mill finally closed in 1995 and is now a historic site, preserved to reflect an authentic company mill town.
Port Gamble is the perfect place to spend a day and enjoy the old Victorian homes and buildings that were all built in the mid 1850s. The downtown main street is like a Christmas card, with wonderful old buildings full of interesting shops and restaurants.
The most well-known building is the famous General Store, which has served the community for over 100 years. At the height of the mill operation, more than 900 people lived in the town and shopped at the General Store, still in business today alongside the Scratch Kitchen restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Please be hungry when you go to the Scratch Kitchen because the helpings are amble. Another wonderful place to eat in Port Gamble is the Butcher and Baker bakery, which serves a great lunch and the best pastries in the county.
If you enjoy crafts like knitting and sewing, you’re in the right place. The Artful Ewe has wonderful yarn from all over the world. You can also spend hours enjoying the Quilted Strait store, which specializes in materials required to sew decorative blankets and quilts. If you love handmade baskets imported from around the world, then stop by the Wish Gift Shop and the Tango Zulu store, which is awash in beautiful baskets and other handcrafted gifts. Also on the main street is Gamble Bay Textiles, another great shop.
As you spend the day in Port Gamble, you’ll find other interesting places to tour and enjoy. The original post office, which opened in 1906, is still serving the community today. Near the old post office is the original fire station building that now houses the Olympic Outdoor Center, where you can purchase or rent kayaks and bikes. Right next door is the Port Gamble Theater, which was built in 1906 and is still offering live performances today. Also located on the main street is House 11, a taproom and bottle shop for those who tire of touring crafts stores.
A really interesting place to visit as you enjoy your day in Port Gamble is the old town cemetery that overlooks Puget Sound. Walk up the hill to get to the cemetery and read the markers dating back to the mid 1850s. If you’re interested in hosting an event in Port Gamble, check out the Hood Canal Vista Pavilion overlooking the bay — it can seat up to 200 people for weddings, parties and special meetings.
On a personal note, my wife, Kerri, and I never tire of visiting Port Gamble. The location is spectacular, the buildings are historic, the shops are fun and you cannot help but take yourself back into an interesting time in American history.