Yesterday I took Annika and two of her friends on a fun outing over to the Kitsap Peninsula. We took the ferry over from Edmonds to Kingston, and from there it was a quick 20-minute drive to Poulsbo. Our destination was a small aquarium, the SEA Discovery Center, right on the water of Liberty Bay. The girls enjoyed the large octopus sculpture in the entrance to the museum, which invites climbing and sand play. We tore ourselves away to get to the main attraction, the large touch tank.
But first the docent on duty welcomed us and told us the rules for our visit. We needed to go wash our hands to get any harmful oils or lotions off them, and we couldn’t touch the crabs, fish, or insides of the anemones. Even with these restrictions, there were plenty of critters for the kids to touch and explore, including several types of sea stars.
The girls found it interesting that the leather stars had different textures from the ochre stars. The anemones came in various colors and sizes, and looking closely at the environment of the touch tank helped us sharpen our observational skills. I recommend wearing short-sleeved shirts for this part, as some of the sections of the tank are deep enough to go over children’s elbows.
When we were done with the touch tank, we wandered around to view the other tanks. The docents offered information about some of the creatures we were seeing, such as unique habits they had, or fun facts that the kids might not know. I find it interesting to take time to really look at a tank – it seems the more you look, the more you see, as your eyes become accustomed to new patterns and shapes. We were lucky to be there when one of the tanks was being fed, and watched as a funny flounder snapped up falling pieces of squid. We saw part of the moray eel, but it didn’t feel the need to come out of its lair to show us its full length.
We spent about a half an hour at the aquarium. It is much smaller than the Seattle aquarium, or even the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. But it is free (they gratefully accept donations) and they do lots of school programs and other public education events. It makes a worthwhile stop for younger children, or if you are doing other activities in the area.
The hours are limited, so check them on the website before you come. There is a small free parking lot at the building, and more free parking in the area and on the streets.
When we were done with the aquarium, we drove over to Hansville, where we visited Point No Point County Park.
From the parking lot, walk the sidewalk to the east, past the lighthouse keepers house, and admire the well-maintained historical lighthouse on the point.
We walked the trail through the edge of the wetland, but didn’t continue up the stairs onto the bluff; instead, we walked a little ways up the beach and explored. The girls loved all the driftwood, and we looked at lots of shells and rocks.
We found a giant boulder that had barnacles, mussels, tube worms, and seaweed on it.
The girls decided they really just wanted to play, so we walked the beach back to the parking lot and set up on the beach for the next hour.
They took their shoes off, ran in the sand, dipped their toes into the icy water, and pretended to be horses and other creatures. I tried to identify birds that were floating offshore; a spotting scope would have been handy. I did come out with a nice list of birds, including common loons, buffleheads, common mergansers, and pigeon guillemots. We saw a seal, and we saw at least 3 great blue herons in the wetlands. Red-winged blackbirds serenaded us from the bushes. We ended our stay with a quick treat of hot cocoa, before brushing off the sand and piling back in the car for the ferry.
If You Go: Point No Point is about a 20-minute drive from the Kingston ferry dock or from Poulsbo. It’s a small county park, and no parking permits are needed. If the parking lot is full, there is some overflow parking about 1/3 mile back on NE Point No Point Rd; you’ll need a state Discovery Pass to park there. There are pit toilets and garbage cans at the park, as well as picnic tables and benches, but no other amenities. It has one of the few sandy beaches in Puget Sound, and my kids found the sand soft and inviting. It is a popular birding spot, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and Seattle’s skyscrapers. The trail is about 0.8 miles from end to end. We only walked about half of that. Dogs are allowed on a leash.