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A four-hour cruise back in time

Get to know local culture, history and food with the Blake Island excursion by Argosy Cruises

Tillicum Village on Blake Island has a traditional cedar longhouse where you’ll eat one of the best salmon meals ever. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

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There are few ways you can enjoy everything that makes the Northwest so awesome all at once, but take a cruise to Blake Island and you can do it all, from quintessentially Northwest views to food to history. Blake Island is only accessible by boat. If you don't have your own, the only way you can visit is by booking an Argosy Cruise, which runs a four-hour round-trip excursion to the island that's worth experiencing, whether you're a local or just moved here.

The ride out to Blake Island takes about 45 minutes. On a clear day, you'll peep at a veritable treasure trove of Northwest goodness - Mt. Rainier, Seattle's skyline, a lighthouse, ferries and boats, and maybe even some local wildlife. Seals, sea lions, dolphins and jellyfish are common, but you may even see an orca if you're one of the lucky few. If you enjoy history, listen to the live narration on the journey and learn a bit about Seattle, salmon and the Puget Sound. If you don't enjoy history, there are also two onboard bars.

Historically, Blake Island was a sacred island used by shamans for ceremonies and as a place where tribes would gather for potlatches. According to most historical documents, the island is also the birth place of Chief Sealth - the peacemaking chief for whom Seattle is named.

You'll disembark at Tillicum Village, a small village that represents traditional Coast Salish structures, including a cedar longhouse. You'll be greeted with a mug of clam nectar - steamed clams in broth. Eat the clams and then crush the clam shells under foot. The entire path leading from the dock to the longhouse is made of crushed shells.

You can mill about out front for a little bit, but your best bet is to go inside, take a peek at the salmon (your dinner) cooking over open fires, and then head straight into the dining hall. The early bird gets the worm, and in this case that worm is first access to the dinner buffet and a little more time to eat before the show starts. Dinner features salmon cooked over an open flame on alder wood stakes, rice, bread, salad and a couple of side dishes. The food is Northwest cuisine at its finest - fresh, local and tasty. You can go up for a second run, but be aware that dessert will be delivered to your seat as well.

Once everyone is served, the show begins. The show is a mix of live performances as well as projected 3D images. The effect is dynamic and eye-catching and just a little bit magical (because 3D projection can be pretty cool). The show is headed up by a projected shaman and storyteller who teaches the audience about Coast Salish culture with a focus on how the tribes believe we're connected to the world around us. The stories come from local tribes and live performers in traditional costume bringing the tales to life with dancing, chanting and drums.

After the show, you'll have some time to wander before you get back on the boat. Spend your time checking out the gift shop or the gallery of historic artifacts. If you head outside, you can explore a little bit of the island. If you head to the left of the longhouse entrance, you'll find wooded trails, but if you go that route, keep an eye on time so you don't miss your boat. If you go out and to the right of the longhouse entrance, you can wander along a rocky beach. You might spot some of the island's inhabitants, most commonly otters or raccoons. You'll definitely get to see more views of Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound.

Booking in advance is recommended. To book, visit, purchase at Pier 54 or 55 in Seattle, or call 206.623.1445. Blake Island Cruises usually leave from Pier 54 located along the Seattle Waterfront between Miner's Landing and Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.

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