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A Visit to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, WA

  1. Bainbridge Island

The beautiful Bloedel Reserve is not the only feature on Bainbridge Island worth exploring, but it’s a good one. Bainbridge Island, located in Kitsap County on the western side of Washington state, is only a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle. If you are already on the Kitsap Peninsula, you can drive there via the Agate Pass Bridge. The island itself is ten miles long and five miles wide, and it makes a nice Seattle Suburb. Many people commute back and forth, working in Seattle but living on Bainbridge.

Google Map showing Bainbridge Island on the Kitsap Peninsula of Washington

Bainbridge Island is worth exploring. Biking, fishing, sailing, hiking, golfing, and scuba diving are some of the outdoor pursuits. Indoors, there is theatre, ballet, art museums, shopping and more. The island also has some great playgrounds and parks. When my children were young, we loved taking them to Battle Point Park. Their playground structures are perfect for climbing, crawling, and playing hide and seek. I remember they used to have some interactive musical sculptures at the park as well. For this trip to Bainbridge Island however, our focus was the beautiful gardens of Bloedel Reserve.

Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island in 2006

Bloedel Reserve

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island is a 150-acre garden and forest reserve that is open to the public. My parents and I visited there recently and thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely two-mile walk around the grounds. There were many photo opportunities, great landscaping ideas, and enough benches to sit and take it all in.

The author sits with her 96-year-old father (yes, I’m bragging about his age)

Over a period of thirty years, Prentice and Virginia Bloedel created the Bloedel Reserve. They bought the  property in 1951, moved into the existing home, and hired landscape architects to develop Mr. Bloedel’s vision of the grounds. Years later, the Bloedel’s established a non-profit and gave the reserve to the community of Bainbridge Island. The 150-acre reserve opened to the public in 1988.

The Bloedel residence was designed by Seattle architect J. Lister Homes in 1931. It was not lived in by the Bloedel’s until 1951.

Not The Garden You Might Expect

If you go to Bloedel, don’t expect to see a garden with a wide variety of flowers. The reserve was designed to showcase the natural flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest. There are many flowers, but they are the wild type. Don’t get me wrong however, the reserve is absolutely beautiful as these photos will attest:

Some of the pictured trees include maples, cedars, and firs.
Looking like a fairy-tale garden
Skunk Cabbage line this stream in the Moss Garden. The cabbage only smells bad if you crush or break them!

The Japanese Garden

The Japanese garden includes a guest house and sand and stone garden. The guest house, designed by architect Paul Hayden Kirk, combines the features of a Japanese tea house with that of a Northwest-Native-American longhouse. We were not able to go inside but could peek through the windows.

The Japanese Guest House
The Sand and Stone Garden was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana in 1986.
The East Entrance and Japanese garden was designed by Fujitaro Kubota in the late 1950’s.

In Bloom

Virginia Bloedel made sure that plenty of flowering shrubs and reseeding plants were included in the reserve. We visited toward the end of April and saw many different types.

Rhododendrons in bloom!
A split log used as a planter – good idea!
Fritillaria blooms add a touch of purple.
These look tropical!
Part of the back garden behind the Bloedel residence.

Non-Flowering Beauties

We also appreciated the unusual:

Fungi growing on a stump
I wish I knew what kind of tree this is! If anyone knows, please write it in the comment section of my blog.
I’d never seen a “cute” slug until this one.

If You Go:

Every public place seems to be following the CDC recommendation of requiring guests to make a reservation ahead of time. These organizations must be afraid that if they don’t take every CDC-recommended precaution they will be sued. It’s annoying, but that’s the way it is for now. At least Bloedel doesn’t require vaccines or masks!

Prices range from $5 to $20. They are closed Mondays. For more information, please visit their website.

My Blog

If you enjoyed this blog, please remember to share it on social media, thanks! And if you missed my series on Traveling Massachusetts (one more to go!), visit the New England category.

And for something completely different, take a virtual visit to South Africa. Our family did a self-guided tour there in 2018. Here’s the blog that started the series – it has some good lessons!





  1. Jeannine Jeannine

    That slug is very cute! I think it looks like a miniature chocolate hedgehog. And what a beautiful location to enjoy with your parents.

    • KarenGough KarenGough

      Thank you Jeannine! 😁

  2. Pat Parker Pat Parker

    The mystery flower looks like a fritillaria that I had growing in my garden last month. It is grown from a bulb around here.

    • KarenGough KarenGough

      Thank you Pat! I will put that in the photo caption. Glad you commented!

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