The Key Peninsula: Beauty and Recreation in the Pacific Northwest
Beauty on Every Side
The Key Peninsula is a 17 mile long peninsula surrounded by the waters of the Puget Sound and filled with forests and countless views of the majestic Mount Rainier. Just west of Gig Harbor, Washington, the Key Peninsula provides scenic beauty you will not soon forget. It is a photographer's dream, nature lovers paradise, and recreational boaters and campers heaven.
It All Starts at Purdy
The Peninsula begins in a little place called Purdy. I am not sure where the name Purdy came from, but I used to tell my kids that long ago an explorer came along, looked out of over Henderson Bay and the spit of land that enters the peninsula and said, "Gee, look at that fellers, ain't it Purdy." I know, that's pretty dumb. But my kids loved it. My aunt used to live on the beachfront in Purdy back in the 1960s. My family and I spent many hours on the beach swimming, beach combing, boating, water skiing, and fishing. The beach on the spit is a favorite gathering place for families to sun themselves, picnic, have bonfires after dark, and it is a hot spot for windsurfing and wind sailing. You can also witness some pretty amazing fireworks there on the 4th of July.
When you come off highway 16 from Gig Harbor, you turn left onto highway 302 in Purdy to head down the Key Peninsula. The view of Henderson Bay as you cross the spit is vast, and there are many moods as the seasons go by. You can see lots of waterfowl, and in the fall, you can see the autumn trees on the hills overlooking the bay reflected in the water.
On windy days the water is full of windsurfers, and you can spot a few hang gliders from time to time soaring over the bay. It's exhilarating just watching it.
Once you get over the spit, the highway begins to twist and turn uphill. This network of curves is known as "the Wauna curves" and they are lined with a beautiful canopy of trees with little snippets of Henderson bay in view. There are gorgeous homes along here, each with their own unique personalities.
The Key Peninsula is roughly a 17-mile drive from Purdy to Taylor Bay. It is the best place I can think of to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon driving through non-stop beauty. If you feel like exploring, there are many places to see and experience, but you won't be able to see it all in one day, one week, or even one month. Come once and you'll be returning again and again.
Penrose Point State Park
Penrose Point State Park is a marine and camping park located on the Puget Sound on the Key Peninsula. Visitors will be able to take in several views of Mount Rainier, a western Washington monument. Upon arrival at the park, you will cruise slowly down a tree-lined road. If you walk in, you feel like a small speck of living matter as you see and feel the massive trees towering over you. The day use area is dotted with picnic tables, a fire pit, and very scenic main beach. It is the most popular place to visit in the summer. Families beach comb and wade in the water, and water ski. There are several nice lengths of driftwood that make a great bench to sit enjoy the beauty and watch the kids swim. To the left during very low tide is a long sand spit and it is ripe for the picking with crabs, shells, starfish, and other treasures of living things.
To the left of the day use area with the lawn, there are flat trails that wind through the woods. Most of these are relatively short but very beautiful. I often stroll these paths with my dog. One minute I am on the beach with chattering families, and the next I feel like I am deep in the forest smelling the aroma of heavy loam and moss. There is an interpretive trail there with markers for various points of interest. One trail leads all the way to the other side of the park and ends at the marina where you can find a few picnic tables, a barbecue grill and you can play on the beach, or fish off the mooring dock.
To the right of the day use area there are more trails with a few more options and more rugged trails. There a couple of trails there that lead to other scenic beaches. Depending on the time of year, you will observe a wide variety of wild flowers, and other northwest plant life. It's also a great place to go bird watching.
Penrose park also sports a camping ground with individual and group sites. There are restrooms all throughout, shower facilities, and the park and a ranger station if you have any questions or concerns.
There is a $10 users fee to visit the park.
Joemma Beach State Park
Joemma Beach State Park is located at Whiteman Cove on the beautiful Puget Sound on the Key Peninsula. Joemma Beach State Park has a perfect combination of forest and beach. Camping is available, there is a picnic shelter, a small wooded hiking/biking trail, boat launch, and a wonderfully large beach in which to scavenge for crabs and shells. Joemma Beach is an excellent place for water sports such as swimming, boating, and water skiing.
Though much smaller than Penrose Park, Joemma Beach has it's own unique scenic splendor and a day spent at there is a day well spent full of fun and sun.
There is a $10 users fee to visit the park.
Glen Cove is a lovely little inlet just before you enter Key Center. Turn left onto Cramer at the light and you will drive right through it. Glen Cove is host to the oldest camp on the peninsula, Camp Seymour, a YMCA camp. It is run year round and offers awesome natural beauty, and everything from kayaking to rope climbing to hiking, to swimming. They also host conferences and receptions of all kinds.
Right across the water is the Historic Glen Cove Hotel, a beautiful Victorian manse now used for receptions, weddings, and as a bed & Breakfast. The Hotel was built in the late 1800's as a resort spot. It is now a registered Historic place.
Key Peninsula Resources and Traveler Information
There's No Place Like Home, Washington
The little town of Home is a charming place about half to three-quarters of the way down the Key Peninsula. Back in the 1920s, Home was a community of anarchists. Today, it is home to just plain folks. The community is populated with homes, many of them waterfront, and a few key businesses.
A few years ago, Home Park was built right along the highway. Though it's small, it packs a punch with plenty of grass, a very cool playground, and picnic tables under a wonderful shelter. This little place has brought lots of joy to the community, especially the children.
Scenic Walks and Photo Ops
Home has a character all its own. Across from the post office at the intersection of Key Peninsula Highway and Herron Road, there is a great photo op of an old house that stands over the water. If you go the opposite direction, you have A Street, which runs right along the water. It makes for a lovely, picturesque walk.
Dining, Gas, and Other Amenities
You can stop for lunch at Lulu's Homeport restaurant. The food is homestyle good and it's a great place to meet the town folks. Servers know everyone and are downright friendly. You also may find the Home Country Store where you can buy pop, beer, a few groceries, and they have great little hot food counter. Home is also the last stop for gas. The gas station also has a little food mart for snacks, pop, and beer.
Across the street is the Lakebay Post Office for those of you who wish to mail out a postcard or two. There is also a little laundromat next door.
The Lakebay Marina
Recently, the Lakebay Marina Resort was re-opened under new ownership and is being renovated. It has become one of the most popular social spots on the peninsula. The Lakebay Cafe and Store offers an amazing menu of burgers, and local specialty beers and wines, and offers a small variety of goods for purchase. There is live music every Friday night between 6 and 9 p.m., often times offering open mic, and frequent beer tasting events as well.
Lakebay Marina offers overnight, weekly, and monthly moorage and is the only marina on the Key Peninsula to sell gas for boating. There is also a boat launch.
There are campsites on the water with many amenities, and RV sites as well, all for reasonable prices.
There is kayak and stand up paddles board rentals.
The owners are working on renovating cabins for future use.
The Lakebay Marina Resort is located at 15 Lorenz Rd. in Lakebay.
This is a place you don't want to pass up when visiting the Key Peninsula.
The Stunning Longbranch Marina
Hands down, the Longbranch Marina is the most breathtaking spot on the Key Peninsula. On a clear day, Mount Rainier stands watch majestically over Filucy bay, with deep blue skies, water, dark green forests, and the marina in the foreground. This is the best photo op you're going to get on your visit to the Key Pen if you come on a sunny day. In the fall and winter, sometimes the marina is enveloped in a foggy mist which also makes for a nice photograph.
Longbranch Marina is the largest marina on the Key Peninsula and has all the amenities.
To visit the Longbranch Marina, follow the Key Peninsula Hwy past Home, and Lakebay, and well into Longbranch (the last town on the Peninsula). You cannot miss it if you're on the Highway. It is a stunningly, beautiful spot.
Another must see.
Longbranch Marina on Filucy Bay
Two More Must-See's
Taylor Bay Park- Natural Convservation park with wetlands and estuary. A must see if you enjoy wildlife beauty.
Minter Creek Salmon Hatchery - Salmon is one of the most common large fish in Washington. This hatchery is fascinating and very educational for children.
A fascination look at Minter Creek Salmon Hatchery
Sport Opportunites on the Key Peninsula
Sports opportunities abound on the Key Peninsula. Other than the obvious boating, fishing, camping, and water sports, the Key Peninsula Park district's many parks, the two State Parks (Joemma and Penrose), and the Key Peninsula Civic Center all offer a variety of sports opportunities.
Dirt Bike Riding - 360 Park
Frisbee Golf - Volunteer Park
Golf - Horseshoe Lake Golf Club
Horseback Riding - 360 Park
Kayaking - Lakebay Marina Resort
Tennis - Key Peninsula Civic Center and Volunteer Park
Skating and Skateboarding - Key Peninsula Civic Center Indoor Skate and Volunteer Park Skate Park
Soccer and Softball - Volunteer Park
Walking and Nature Trails - Volunteer Park, Rocky Creek Conservation Area, 360 Park, Maple Hollow, Penrose Point State Park, Joemma Beach State Park
Wind surfing and hang gliding - On Henderson Bay by the Purdy Spit is a popular spot with prime conditions for windsurfing and Hang gliding.
Key Peninsula is coffee country
Key Peninsula residents are crazy for coffee; thus one can find espresso stands strewn along the highway, from Purdy to Key Center.
Morning Star Espresso can be found just past Lake Kathryn Village on Hwy 302 in the parking lot of the Chevron Station. The coffee is great and the prices are the best on the peninsula. Morning Star is a drive-through espresso stand, both windows servicing. Morning Star Espresso was nominated for the best coffee shop by King 5 the Best of Western Washington 2013 (coffee shop category). You can find Morning Star on Facebook. 9522 State Route 302 NW Gig Harbor, WA.
Ravensara Drive-Thru Espresso and Bakery is also right on Hwy 302 and 118th Ave. just past Charboneau's Landscape and Supply. The front of the building is home to Serenity Salon, a day spa specializing in hair in nails. The Ravansara sign is prominently displayed. Drive around behind the Salon and you will find the drive up window to Ravansara. Ravanasara is one of the most popular espresso stands on the Key Peninsula. They offer many organic products, and their homemade soups and freshly baked pastries are killer. They have very friendly service, reasonable prices, and an extensive menu of coffees, teas, lattes, and all things espresso. You can find Ravansara Espresso on Facebook. 11818 State Route 302, Gig Harbor, WA.
Close to Home Espresso resides in Key Center, nestled in the brand new Food Market shopping center. Close to Home is a walk up coffee stand and is the oldest coffee shop on the Key Peninsula. It was nominated for best coffee shop by KING5 Best in Western Washington (coffee shop category) in 2013. There are tables outside under the eaves (or out in the sun during good weather) where locals and visitors hang out, shooting the breeze while sipping their java. Local artists and artisans have some of their wares on display and for sale. Barista Margaret wows Peninsulans with her daily stunning bouquets of fresh flowers from her garden. They can be purchased at a low price. Everyone knows the barista's, even if they aren't coffee people. Owner Laura McClintock has many of the same barista's she had back in the beginning, twenty-one years ago. It's like a family. Not only is their menu extensive and creative, but their home, fresh baked goods make it extra special. Let me tell you, the fresh, hot, cheddar bacon scones are to die for. You can also find them on Facebook. 9021 Key Peninsula Hwy, Lakebay, WA.
Dining on the Key Peninsula
Back 9 Barbeque @ Horsreshoe Lake Golf Course - 1250 SW Clubhouse Court Port Orchard, WA
Buck's Steak House -15610 92nd Street Kp N, Lakebay, WA 98349
Burger King - 14320 92nd Ave NW Wauna, WA
Dexter's Drive-In - 6701 Tyee Dr. NW Purdy, WA
El Sombrero Mexican Restaurant - 15611 92nd St. KPN Lakebay, WA
Figaro's Pizza - 9023 Key Peninsula Hwy. North, Lakebay, WA
Flotation Device Pub & Grill - 14511 Sherman Dr. NW Purdy, WA
Lakebay Cafe (at the Lakebay Marina Resort) - 15 Lorenz Rd. Lakebay, WA
Massimo's Italian Restaurant - 13802 Purdy Dr. Nw Purdy, WA
Seabeck Pizza - 9501 State Rount 302 Wauna, WA
Subway - 9023 Key Peninsula Hwy North, Lakebay, WA
The drive through the Key Peninsula is a beauty. At Key Center, the midway point of the peninsula, State Route 302 becomes the Key Peninsula Highway. At Longbranch, the last stretch of the Peninsula, it is often called the Longbranch highway. They are all one highway.
SR 302>Key Peninsula Highway>Longbranch Highway
* See map below.
Map of Key Peninsula in Washington state
© 2011 Lori Colbo