The fresh smell of salt air, the warmth of sunshine we all crave in these early summer weeks, and an unreal panoramic view of the Seattle skyline – pretty great way to start off an adventurous Tillicum Excursion with Argosy Cruises, right?
Aboard Argosy Cruises, on our way to Blake Island. Brittany Carchano
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that just off the waterfront of downtown Seattle in Puget Sound, there are beautiful islands that sit only a short boat ride away. Nuzzled between Vashon and Bainbridge Island is Blake Island, which once served as an ancestral gathering place for the Suquamish tribe and is now a marine state park boasting 475 acres of lush forest and beach shoreline. Blake Island is also home to Tillicum Village which was created in 1961 before the World’s Fair in Seattle to serve as an attraction, providing tourists with a look into local Northwest Native food, culture, and art.
Fun fact: It is believed that Blake Island is the birthplace of Seattle’s namesake, Chief Seattle.
The shoreline on Blake Island – quintessential Northwest. Brittany Carchano
The 40-minute ride to Blake Island is scenic, to say the least. As you peel away from Pier 54 on an Argosy vessel, you are surrounded by the full Seattle skyline to the East, the Olympic Mountains to the West, and historic West Seattle to the South. As you take in the sights and fresh air, you’re given a brief overview of the local geography, animal life, and history of the land by one of the crew members. Did you know there are five species of salmon native to the Puget Sound?
Fun fact: The Denny Party, the first European settlers in Seattle, initially landed in West Seattle on Alki Point. It wasn’t until after they survived their first winter in nearly unbearable weather conditions that they decided to move inland to what we now know as Pioneer Square, thanks to advice from the local Duwamish tribe.
Crushed clam shells make up the pathway toward the longhouse at Tillicum. Brittany Carchano
Oh, and be sure to bring your appetite! Once on shore, guests are greeted by a mug of warm steamed clams (don’t forget to follow tradition and crush the shells on the pathway!) and then seated for a Northwest inspired meal in the longhouse. As you enter, the smell of salmon cooking on cedar stakes around open alder wood fires instantly saturates your senses. And it’s no wonder, the fish is being cooked right in the front room before you enter the dining area! Once you fill your plate with delicious food from the buffet, including Northwest stew, wild grain harvest rice, field greens salad, and of course, salmon, make yourself comfortable for one of the highlights of the tour: storytelling performed by the Tillicum Village dancers.
Salmon prepared in the Coast Salish tradition – slow roasted on cedar stakes around open alder wood fires. Brittany Carchano
After the meal and performance have concluded, guests are given the remainder of the time to explore the island. Take in the views on the beach, go on a short hike and learn about different trees native to the Pacific Northwest, explore the traditional paintings and totem poles placed throughout the longhouse, and meet some of the dancers who have their customary carved masks on display.
The Tillicum longhouse and surrounding grounds are decorated with Coast Salish totems. Brittany Carchano
The boat ride back is just as gorgeous as the way there, and you’ll learn some more interesting facts about early Seattle as you pull back in to Pier 54. If you’re looking for more fun places to explore close by after disembarking, make sure to check out the historic Miners Landing and Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, or take a short walk up to Pike Place Market!
Back in Seattle, Argosy Cruises docks at Pier 54. Brittany Carchano