Bring a cooler to stock up on fresh local shellfish, shrimp, or salmon from Hama Hama Oyster Company, or buy smoked seafood for a perfect snack while driving around the canal.
Bounty above and below
As you take the 115-mile loop drive around the canal, it's still possible to spot the occasional orca pod and plenty of seals and birds. Below the surface, scuba divers haunt Sund Rock Marine Preserve and Octopus Hole, where the world's biggest octopuses share the water with fairy shrimp, shellfish, and Dungeness crab.
Farther north, stop at the Hama Hama Oyster Company's unpretentious sales shack; this month, local shrimp and geoducks supplement the steamer clams, crabs, and fresh or smoked oysters and fish that are year-round staples.
If you'd rather dig your own shellfish, try the flats on the north side of the Dosewallips River in Brinnon. The delta's geoducks, which can weigh several pounds each, are legendary.
Like most Olympic Peninsula rivers, the Dosewallips is fed by snows melting off 7,000-foot peaks just a few miles west. The steep watershed has produced some spectacular waterfalls. Just 3 miles west of Brinnon via Dosewallips River Road, Rocky Brook Falls is a local favorite. Brinnon's other big draw is Whitney Gardens & Nursery, where show gardens are at peak bloom this month.
Brinnon was one of many logging towns on the canal. One of the best preserved is Port Gamble, a company town, full of century-old, perfectly maintained buildings. Start a foot tour at the general store, then wander down the sidewalk in search of truffles, tea, and antiques, all sold in restored houses.
From a knoll on the north side of town, tree-shaded Buena Vista Cemetery commands a sweeping view north to the mouth of Hood Canal. From here, it doesn't seem much changed from the way it must have been on that May morning in 1792 when Captain George Vancouver first laid eyes on the point where you stand.
There is an important difference, however. Vancouver came to explore, map, and ultimately to claim territory for England. Two centuries later, the canal's ownership seems less important than its stewardship: It's beautiful, all right, but more fragile than anybody knew.
But if the new resort and environmental research projects are any indication, Hood Canal's fans―and fish―can start breathing easy, literally. As can those of us who have yet to discover its pleasures.