The Port of Kingston lies on the shores of Appletree Cove and Puget Sound in northwest Washington State. The Port of Kingston is just 4.4 nautical miles across Puget Sound (eight kilometers or five miles west-southwest) of the Port of Edmonds, with which it is linked by Washington State Ferries. The Port of Kingston is about 13 nautical miles (23 kilometers or 14.5 miles) northwest of the Port of Seattle. The 2010 US Census reported a population of 2099 in the Port of Kingston.
Before Europeans arrived in the future Port of Kingston area, the Nux Sklai Yem (Strong People), or S'Klallam, inhabited the region from the central British Columbia Coast to northwest Oregon, including the Columbia River basins. These Salish-speaking people had lived in the Puget Sound and Port of Kingston area since 1400 AD, benefiting from the abundant natural resources. They lived in permanent villages, although families moved around the area during warmer seasons to fish, hunt, and gather.
At the turn of the 18th Century, Spanish and English explorers entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca looking for the rumored Northwest Passage. Then fur traders, gold prospectors, missionaries, and finally settlers came to the Port of Kingston area. White settlers brought diseases like smallpox that decimated the S'Klallam population, some estimating that as much as 90% of the native population died. By 1845, there were as few as 1500 S'Klallam in the Port of Kingston area and, by 1853, the new Washington Territory government documented only 400 S'Klallam.
By the 1850s, about 4000 white settlers (that the S'Klallam called "Bostons") lived in around Puget Sound and what would become the Port of Kingston. Conflict with the S'Klallam grew more frequent, and Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs Isaac Stevens made acquiring Indian lands a top priority. In 1855, several tribes met with Stevens to negotiate a treaty that ceded more than 438 thousand acres to the Territory. Although the S'Klallam retained their right to fish in their traditional lands under the terms of the treaty, they were to live at the Skokomish Reservation far to the south of the future Port of Kingston. It would be the 1970s before the US Courts affirmed the S'Klallam's treaty rights.
Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the US government bought land near Point Julia at Port Gamble about 8.5 kilometers (five miles) northwest of the Port of Kingston. The Secretary of the Interior set aside those lands as a reservation for the S'Klallam. Today, the S'Klallam reservation covers about 1340 acres. The people pursue their traditional fishing and hunting, and they practice traditional customs and rituals.
Benjamin Bannister founded Appletree Cove, later the Port of Kingston, in 1853. Considered the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, the Port of Kingston is known as the "little city by the sea," and it is the economic and social center for the northern Kitsap Peninsula.
By 1880, the Port of Kingston had become a lumber town. Michael King built a cabin there and brought in ten men and ten oxen to log the hills around the Port of Kingston. King built buildings along the shore to house the men and oxen. When he left the area in 1882, the buildings provided shelter for squatters, drifters, and old loggers. Known as King's Town, the name slowly evolved until becoming the present Port of Kingston.
In 1890, C.C. Clakins and Samuel B. Brierly platted the Port of Kingston townsite with the hope of developing a resort town for Seattle vacationers. Unfortunately, their hopes did not materialize, and the town grew slowly.
In 1919, the Kingston Port District was formed as a dock facility for the "Mosquito Fleet," a fleet of steam vessels traveling Puget Sound waters during the era and servicing the Kitsap County area through the Port of Kingston docks. In 1951, the State created the modern Washington State Ferries System, and the Port of Kingston continues to be a major ferry terminal in that system.
The Port of Kingston provides the terminal property, and the State maintains the facilities. In 1954, the State built the terminal in the Port of Kingston and expanded the vehicle-holding area in the late 1970s. The State built a parking/holding lot and a passenger terminal, bus drop-off, and overhead walkway in the 1990s.
Marina facilities in the Port of Kingston were built in the 1960s. The Port of Kingston dredged the basin and used the dredged sediment to create today's Mike Wallace Park and holding and parking areas for the ferry terminal. In 1966, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the breakwater while the Port of Kingston planned and built piers, a boat-launch hoist, a fuel dock, and bathrooms for the Marina. At that time, the Port of Kingston was designed to provide permanent moorage for commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft.
The Port of Kingston began as a boat yard with a repair shop and hoist. Today, the Port of Kingston provides recreational facilities and gives the community a scenic park-like setting.