Hope Island is a good start
Like spokes on a wheel, a half dozen inlets and passages fan out at the southwest end of Puget Sound, each crying out to be explored.
At the hub is Hope Island, a lovely and popular marine park where you can comfortably mull your options about where to head next.
Hope Island is accessible only by water, with campsites and forested hiking trails. For boaters, there is protected anchorage around the island, with good holding in mud and sand. Depths of just 2-6 fathoms at zero tide permit deploying adequate rode without requiring excessive swing room. As well, there are five mooring buoys for vessels up to 45 feet in length.
Several beaches offer easy access up for dinghies and kayaks and convenient access to the island’s network of hiking trails.
Hope Island was named by Commander Charles Wilkes after one of his crew in 1841 while on a mission to chart Puget Sound. Then, in the early 1900s, Louis Schmidt and his family homesteaded the island, building a farmhouse, sheds and a windmill. They raised livestock and planted an orchard of fruit and nut trees.
They also maintained a vineyard that supplied grapes to area wineries. Vines can still be found growing wild, winding to the tops of tall Douglas firs at the southeast end of the island.
The park has eight campsites, as well as a Cascade Marine Trail site which is available only to those who arrive by canoe or kayak.
Hope Island is a perfect location from which to launch explorations of the southwest sound. It is less than one nautical mile from the entrance of lovely Hammersley Inlet. From there, best taken with the current, it is another seven nautical miles up the inlet to Oakland Bay Marina at Shelton, a friendly community with the feel a mill town in the US Midwest.
Here, there are opportunities to provision with most everything you might need. If mechanical help is needed, it can be sourced through the Oakland Bay Marina or from a helpful resident boater.
Repair services can also be found at the popular Boston Harbor Marina, three miles south from Hope Island at the mouth of Budd Inlet. Here is transient moorage, as well as fuel and groceries.
Farther south is Olympia, with moorage opportunities split between the Port of Olympia’s huge Swantown Marina in East Bay, and the popular smaller docks in West Bay which also offers visitor berthing close to the city’s heart.
In the East Bay is the Swantown Boatworks, also managed by the Port of Olympia, which can haul vessels up to 80 feet long and complete virtually any marine repair or service.
Or head north up Pickering Passage to Jarrell Cove, another popular marine park. Note, this route is not suitable for boats requiring more than 31 feet of vertical clearance to get past Harstine Bridge, about 3.5 nautical miles north of Hope Island.
Sailboats and large motor cruisers will need to travel up the east shore of Harstine Island to visit the splendid protected anchorages near the north of Case Inlet.
You will find it is easy to take your time at Hope Island while deciding where to head next. It’s best not to hurry such important decisions.
(Hope Island and the many other anchorages and marinas in southwest Puget Sound are covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to Puget Sound.)