Today was a glorious day. The weather was like Summer. We were going to stay at home and work on finishing more episodes of our Austria video series, but the weather was just too good to pass up. So we hopped in the car, drove to the Seattle ferry terminal, and bought a round-trip ticket for two to Bremerton. We have never visited Bremerton, and I always wanted to visit a curious garden there called the Elandan gardens, just off State Highway 16.
The ferry ride was about an hour long and the weather was fantastic. We could see all the Olympic mountains and tons of blue sky. The ship deck was very windy but not too cold. We took a lot of pictures. As we passed by Bainbridge Island, we saw shoreline lined with expensive view-homes and sea lions basking in the sun on buoys. Lots of sea birds looking for lunch and skimming along the tops of the waves.
Our ferry was the Kitsap, a large two level car and passenger ferry. The ferry was so large that you didn’t really feel like you were on the water. The waters were fairly calm today and that made for a very pleasant journey to and from Bremerton.
As we got close to our destination, we could see the famous Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, right next to the ferry dock. Once we docked, we drove to Elandan gardens. The drive took us past the Naval Station and we could see the huge aircraft carriers anchored there. The USS Turner Joy is one of the huge carriers anchored there. It is a refurbished Vietnam-era destroyer that is now a floating museum operated by the Bremerton Historic Ships Association. It’s moored at the north end of the Bremerton Boardwalk.
The drive was mostly on highways and only took about ten minutes to get to Elandan. We had a little trouble finding the entrance because you had to turn around on the highway to get to it.
Once we arrived, we were surrounded by an assortment of garden statues, giant pieces of driftwood, and a veritable sea of bonsai. First we visited the tiny gift shop which has a personality all it’s own. Here you can find an eclectic collection of home and garden items for every mood and taste you might have. There’s a tiny greenhouse which has some tropical plants and lots of Asian art items.
The garden is the creation of Dan Robinson who travels all over the world in search of bonsai. Leonardo da Vinci, Kubla Khan and Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi were each alive when some of the trees at Elandan Gardens took root. The collection, which includes trees more than 1000 years old, represents Dan’s over 40 years of dedication to the art of bonsai. In 1993, Dan, his family, and his son Will Robinson started creating Elandan Gardens.
The six-acre site, located on the shores of Puget Sound, was an abandoned, bramble-covered landfill from the 1930s that was never developed. After three years of planning and applying for permits, the Robinsons were finally granted permission to create Elandan Gardens. In the fall of 1993, the Robinsons brought in 30,000 cubic yards of sandy fill dirt and over 800 tons of boulders – some close to 8 tons each – and began to give shape to this unique environment. Dan’s wife coined the name “Elandan”, which is a combination of “Elan” – French for spirit or courage – and Dan, her husband’s name, who of course is the spirit behind the incredible bonsai collection and garden.
The majority of the trees in the collection were harvested from wild places all over the world, and each specimen exhibits a design induced by hundreds of years of nature’s weathering. One of the oldest trees in the collection is a Rocky Mountain Juniper approaching 1500 years old.
Dan’s son, Will Robinson is a successful stone sculptor and Elandan Gardens features many of his pieces on display in and around the bonsai specimens.
After several hours at Elandan, we drove back along Highway 3 bordering the shores of Puget Sound along the Sinclair Inlet near Bremerton. We were heading back to the ferry terminal to wait in line for the next ferry back to Seattle. Along the way we stopped to get this great photo of the massive aircraft carriers parked at the Naval Base.
When we got back to the ferry terminal, we had about an hour wait time, so we just parked the car in line and walked over to the Puget Sound Navy Museum, which is right next to the terminal. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations, so we just took some photos in front of the giant submarine sail from the USS Parche in the front courtyard of the museum. Then we strolled along the Louis Mentor Boardwalk to enjoy some of the best views in Bremerton. The boardwalk was named after Louis Mentor, who was regarded as the father of the Bremerton downtown boardwalk, which he saw to completion during his term as mayor in the early 1990’s despite considerable obstacles.
The harborside is located right next to the ferry terminal along beautiful Sinclair Inlet. We took a lot of photos around the playful fountains, and we walked along the wide plaza and took in all the sights along the harbor.
It was a romantic end to a wonderful day – our first adventure to Bremerton. On the way back, we captured this remarkable panorama of the Seattle city skyline from the deck of our ferry:
Video from our visit: