Stroll colorful Kitsap for shoreline vistas and Scandinavia

It isn’t easy to find a day trip where you can roll out of bed at 9, catch an 11:10 a.m. ferry and still have plenty of time to eat-drink-play-shop-sightsee-gamble.

And be home by dark.

You need only to look as far as Kitsap County. Make sure to go soon to beat the summer tourist onslaught so you can sit in outdoor cafes, not traffic.

In one swoop you can tour Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island, explore forested back roads, the waterfront and, if you’re still craving excitement, the casino between the two destinations.

Driving from Snohomish County, avoid Seattle congestion by boarding the Edmonds ferry to Kingston. From there, it’s under 30 minutes to get to Poulsbo, including a stop for a goofy photo-op with those carved wooden troll statues on Highway 104.

Velkommen to Poulsbo.

That’s welcome, Norwegian style.

Scandinavians settled in this town on the shore of Liberty Bay because the fjords reminded them of their homeland.

It is the fourth largest city in Kitsap County with a population of about 9,300 lucky people.

Who wouldn’t want to live here?

The place is straight out of a storybook. There are colorful houses, a giant red clock, Viking murals and a bakery with pastries as big as the boats.

A bench on the breezy Poulsbo waterfront is the perfect place to relax and daydream.

I witnessed proof of the town’s prevailing Viking hardiness when I saw two boys about 10 years old, in shorts and no shirts, skateboarding on the marina. When one boy’s skateboard rolled into the chilly water, he jumped right in after it.

Brrrrr.

The historic downtown is a quaint village of pubs, fishhouses and rosemaled shops offering up consignment treasures to fine art.

Speaking of fine treasures: The spread of pastries at Sluys Bakery, home of the World Famous Poulsbo Bread, is as pretty as it is tasty. The pizza flavored buns are a savory version of bear claws. A bag of a dozen was only $6.

Those rolls should be on the eating contest roster at The Viking Fest. The annual event, May 17, 18 and 19, has competitions to see who can eat the most lutefisk and oysters. Other highlights are Leikarringen dancers, stand-up paddleboard races and a parade. (Check it out at www.vikingfest.org.)

The little hand on the town’s big red clock was inching toward 3 as we headed to Bainbridge. We didn’t brake for that majestic midway temptation known as Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort. Not this time.

Bainbridge Island is about five miles wide and 10 miles long. You can veer off main roads and not get too lost. Sheep and llamas graze the rolling hills. A heart-shaped sign reads “Take your time.”

The island has 53 miles of shoreline. It is especially fun to drive around and look at the homes with killer views of the Seattle skyline.

There are lots of real estate offices in Bainbridge’s Winslow downtown district, just in case you decide you never want to leave.

The Winslow strip has a bevy of boutiques, bistros, wine-tastings and galleries, all within walking distance for those who hop the Bainbridge ferry from downtown Seattle.

The sidewalk display of embroidered velvet boots outside Tasdemir Rugs &Island Ambiance will stop you in your tracks. So, too, will the friendly shopkeeper.

The $210 leather-lined Russian boots are made for walking and hold up in the rain, said Murat Tasdemir, a Winslow merchant for 18 years. “Everybody who buys them love them so much they drool about them. It is their favorite piece,” he said. “We have every size, up to size 12.”

Not your thing? No problem.

“My wife owns the store across the street that you have to visit. She has a lot of cute stuff,” he said.

The downtown is a spectrum of sensory delights for all ages and wallets.

Everything looks good on the menu photo mural on Emmy’s Vegetarian House, a kiosk take-out that sizzles with the aroma of Asian stir-fry. Partaking takes cash only and not much of it. Ten dollars buys a heaping plate and a drink, with change back for the Tip Jar.

Whimsical rock sculptures greet visitors strolling along the marina a few blocks from downtown. The scenic pathway lets you experience the vicarious thrill of sailboating without getting your feet wet.

For that, you can wait to dip your toes in the water at Fay Bainbridge Park in the northeast corner of the island.

The 17-acre state park has a sandy beach, fire circles and panoramic views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.

What better place to cap off the day.

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com.

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