Looking for an escape from the city? Blake Island Marine State Park — a secluded little spot 8 miles from downtown Seattle, in the middle of the Puget Sound — is a doable day trip and perfect add-on to your summer bucket list.
My family was amazed by the sights, hiking trails, delicious food, and the Native American culture on this island. It’s definitely a must-do in our book.
About Blake Island
Blake Island Marine State Park has over a thousand acres of land and is owned and operated by the Washington State Parks Department. Once home to the Suquamish Tribe, the island is speculated to be the birthplace of Chief Sealth, Seattle’s namesake.
Today it’s a cultural center for Native American art, food, and history. The land has miles of hiking trails, shoreline, and is a great place to kayak, fish and hunt for shellfish.
Getting to the island
There are two ways to get to Blake Island Marine State Park: Argosy Cruises or your own personal boat. We chose to go with Argosy Cruises, located at pier 55 on the Seattle Waterfront.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to park your vehicle or opt to take the bus into the city. We found a spot near the pier and headed over to start our journey. Argosy offers up to 3-hours of free parking in nearby lots (see website for more details).
We waited in a short line to board the Good Time II ship. Argosy offers a fast ferry service to Blake Island, but due to mechanical difficulties with the ferry, we traveled on a larger ship. Boarding the boat, my sons — ages 7 and 9 — were excited to walk across the wobbly ramps and onto the boat.
Climbing up some steep steps, we made our way to the top deck. We took our seats and said goodbye to the city. My oldest son was nervous that we might sink and searched high and low for life jackets.
Once the boat got moving, he settled in and we watched the other boats on the water, as the Seattle skyline grew smaller and smaller in the distance.
The wind and waves swayed the boat along the way (tip — use the handrails)! Bathrooms are located on the lower deck and masks are required on the boat.
We walked around the boat, checking out the top and bottom outer decks. The views were fantastic: Mount Rainier was out in all her splendor as we floated past West Seattle and surrounding islands. It can be windy and cold on the boat, so be sure to bring a light sweater or jacket.
If you booked one of the tours or talks at Blake Island, listen to the Captain for directions on how to confirm your reservations. We had a crewman give us wrist bracelets for the nature activity that we had planned on the island that day.
After a 45-minute ride out at sea, we docked at the Tillicum Village on Blake Island and made our way to the Longhouse Cafe. The Cafe is adorned with Native American paintings, totem poles, masks, statues and various tribal artifacts.
“Whoa, look — a boat!” my sons observed. Hanging off the ceiling was a canoe; a replica of one used by Native Americans to fish the Puget Sound.
Although the Longhouse carries many historical Native American artifacts, the building itself was built for the Seattle World’s Fair, and then converted to a space for visitors.
Bring your own snacks and food to enjoy, or order from the cafe. We tried the calm chowder, salmon chowder, and the smoked steelhead. Through mouthfuls of chowder, my oldest son declared, “Mmmm, this is so good! I’d come here just for the food!”
The cafe also offers wine flights, specialty cocktails, and a happy hour. They also host local wine and beer tastings on various days.
We indulged in a special treat offered at Tillicum Village. We rented fireside tables, ordered a s’mores kit, and let the roasting begin! Staff from the cafe keyed up a roaring fire for us, while we relaxed in Adirondack chairs. My husband and I watched boats coming and going at the dock, while our kids attempted to toast the perfect marshmallow.
“I just love this!” was the sentiment from both my children. We finished our treats and headed to the restrooms (open inside the cafe) to clean up, before our next activity.
Argosy offers two formal activities on Blake Island: a Native American cultural tour and a nature hike.
We chose the nature hike; a 2.5-mile trek to the beach and back. A friendly and knowledgeable Nature Guide led us through the forest along a mostly-flat trail. The path is spotted with nettle plants so wear pants and long sleeves. (Tip: for nettle stings, rub the underside of a fern over the area). And bring plenty of water, especially on hot days.
Our guide, Roniq, gave my boys a laminated scavenger hunt worksheet. They had to find a variety of wildlife, flora and fauna. “I found three types of berries!” “I found a bug!” were some of the call-outs during our walk.
Along the way we stopped to see a glacial rock, an enormous nurse tree, and plenty of alder and maple trees. We learned about a plant that Native Americans burned to make tools. Roniq also shared with us that Natives used red cedar wood to make diapers and boats!
Berry picking and bird calling
There were berries aplenty along the path, and the boys didn’t hesitate to try them. “Oh, this one is sweet, but sour. I like it!” said my youngest son about the salmonberries. “These huckleberries are so good!” shared my oldest.
Walking along, we heard bird calls, stopped to listen, and then searched for them in a birding book. Sometimes we imitated their sounds and listened for their calls again.
The end of the line
The end of the trail led to the beach, typically used for camping. The water was calm and weather was hot. Boats bobbed back and forth, lapping at the waves. We rested for a moment then searched the shore for shells, animals, and rocks.
We saw many wild flowers along the shore. “Look what I found!” My youngest held up a large eagle’s feather. Keep an eye out for three resident eagles; two adults and a juvenile.
Backyard games and heading home
We made it back to the the Longhouse Cafe after our hike and played games in the backyard. Then we relaxed in the hammocks until it was time to leave. We boarded the boat and headed back to Seattle, new memories and the taste of berries still fresh in our minds.
“I really really had a great time, mom,” said my oldest son. We hope to go back again over the summer and explore the area more. It’s hard to stay away from a place that has such rich history and wonderful people. It definitely is a memorable experience and the perfect trip to escape the city.
Know before you go:
Argosy Cruises is located at Pier 55 on Alaskan Way; See the Argosy website for parking details.
Ticket prices: $29/person; 3 and under are free.
Be sure to book roundtrip tickets in advance.
Masks required on the boat and in the Longhouse Cafe.
Boat and dock are handicap and stroller-friendly.
The Longhouse Cafe offers meals, drinks and snacks at various prices. See menu for more information.
Book your tour experiences in advance: Offering Native American cultural tour and Nature Guided Hike.
Nature hike is not stroller-friendly, but suitable for all ages (babies should be in a pack).
Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and hats for the hike and time at the beach.
Published June 25, 2021
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