On a sunny spring afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite places in the whole world – Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, a 40 minute drive from Port Ludlow.
The reserve is an award-winning 150 acre, public garden that has a mixture of perfectly fern and foliage lined trails, landscaped gardens, a Japanese garden, a moss garden, a reflection pool, and the Bloedel family’s former estate home.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted at the gates to the Reserve by a friendly guest services representative who provided me with a map and let me into the grounds. As I opened up the map to figure out my path, only to get lost later on (whoops!), I was immediately drawn to the quote at the bottom of the map – “Nature can live without man, but man cannot live without nature.” And with that, I began my journey from the Gate House & Gift Shop out onto the Reserve.
I walked down beautifully manicured woodland trails with distinctive tree stumps, flowers, ferns, and foliage. As noted in the map, Mr. Boedel thought signs and labels on plants were distracting to the experience and instead, wished for each guest to interpret the gardens from their own perspective. This lead me to, arguably, my favorite spot in the whole Reserve – the Reflection Pool.
I sat on a bench overlooking the pool and took a few minutes to breathe in the fresh air and take in my surroundings. I started to feel immediately relaxed. Mr. Bloedel believed that nature has restorative powers and as I sat at the Reflection Pool I started to feel those restorative powers Mr. Bloedel alluded to.
After a meditative break at the Reflection Pool, I made my way over to the Japanese Sand & Stone Garden. The beautifully raked gravel and stone garden transported me to what felt like a different place and time. Each fixture of the Reserve is unique and the Japanese Sand & Stone Garden is no different. One aspect of the Reserve I love so much is the perfectly placed benches. Throughout the trails and features, you can always take a seat, relax, and enjoy your surroundings.
I stumbled upon a beautiful pond with views of the Bloedel family’s former estate home. Stunning? Breathtaking? Magnificent? All of these adjectives, and more, cannot accurately describe the incredible views and feeling of serenity. I felt at peace walking land I know many have walked before me and many will walk after me. I felt incredibly miniature while simultaneously feeling a deep connection to the ground below me. I once read somewhere “There is no WiFi in the forest but you will never find a better connection,” this certainly held true.
As I made my way to the Former Residence, I spotted a family of geese and the signs of spring were everywhere. Life was in bloom.
The Former Residence which was finished in 1931 and was the Bloedel family’s home from 1951-1986. The historic home features many of the original home furnishings and is a great place to ask volunteers questions or learn more about the Reserve. I spoke with a sweet gentleman who has been a volunteer at the Reserve for the past year. I asked him what he loved about the Reserve and he told me his favorite thing is that there is always something new to take in each and every time you visit the Reserve – so true. Behind the Former Residence, there are spectacular views of Puget Sound. I highly recommend taking the time to walk out onto the lawn and imagine what it must have been like in 1931.
After leaving the Former Residence, I got a little lost…but with my trusty map and carefree attitude I did not mind being found – wherever that may have been. I ended up back at the Reflection Pond. I took another minute to reflect on what a lovely day I had at the Reserve and kept finding my mind traveling to the Prentice Bloedel quote “Nature can live without man, but man cannot live without nature.” In that moment, nothing felt truer.
I highly recommend taking the short trip out to Bloedel Reserve during your stay in Port Ludlow. The Reserve is located at 7571 NE Dolphin Drive on Bainbridge Island and is open year-round, Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Written by: Kaitlin Chester