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Cover Story
The quest for tourism
Local tour operators offer scenic rides on land, water

Cover Story: The quest for tourismTom Drohan inherited the love of water and boating from his parents. He was 10 when the family moved to Gig Harbor, living on a boat for a while. He recalls giving tours about Puget Sound to visitors as a youngster, sharing his fascination with them.

These days, Drohan still loves to tell people from all over the world about Puget Sound. After a 20-year career running the family restaurant, Gig Harbor Inn, six years ago he put on an official captain’s hat and founded Destiny Harbor Tours (destinyharbortours.com). With two boats, one based in Tacoma and another in Gig Harbor, Destiny Harbor Tours offers three scheduled runs a day. According to Drohan, his is the only company south of Seattle with tours that charge per person. Charter events are also available for up to 33 people, everything from memorials to corporate outings.

“I’ve taken what I love and turned it into a business,” Drohan said. “I find it remarkable how rewarding it is every day.”

Tourists on a cruise with Destiny Harbor Tours out of Gig Harbor explore the waters of Puget Sound and take in stunning views of Mount Rainier. (Photo by Jan's Marine Photography)During the tours, passengers learn about Puget Sound history, ecosystem and geology. “In two hours, you have the full Puget Sound experience,” he said. He has met people from as far as Australia and Europe but there are also many locals, who get a unique view of their area from the water. “The views are different from the water,” Drohan said. “It changes people’s perspectives, even where they live. And the information on the tour opens their eyes to the color of the fabric of the place where they live or visit.”

For Drohan, the business is the best combination of his love for boating and his experience serving customers as a restaurateur. “I’ve been able to capture my experience and skills and create a product to bring an outstanding outcome — and that shows in our reviews,” he said.

Kitsap Harbor Tours

Those who want to add some entertainment to their water-cruising experience may find the right combination in tours from Bremerton to Blake Island, culminating in a salmon bake dinner and a Native American show at Tillicum Village. Kitsap Harbor Tours offers departures from Bremerton on weekends in partnership with Argosy Cruises.

Kitsap Harbor Tours partners with Argosy Cruises to take tourists from Bremerton to Blake Island, where they can visit Tillicum Village and enjoy a traditional salmon bake.Kitsap Harbor Tours offered the Tillicum Village voyage independently in the past and teamed up with Argosy three years ago. Additionally, the company (which also operates the Kitsap Transit foot ferry between Bremerton and Port Orchard) offers private charters on its Admiral Carlyle II and Captain Pete boats.

“People just don’t get out on the water a lot and we’re the only access besides the state ferries,” said Kitsap Harbor Tours operations manager Ed Morgan, who is also a boat captain. “They can see areas they don’t normally see without a boat.”

He’s taken people on charters to areas such as Agate Pass, Sinclair Inlet and Bellingham, and has watched them celebrate reunions, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events. The passengers can bring their own food and music to create a real party on the water — even during the winter season for occasions such as New Year and Christmas.

Kitsap Tours

While water is a big attraction for Kitsap visitors, there’s also plenty to see on land, in Jean Boyle’s mind. More than three years ago, she teamed up with her husband, Jim, to create a new business, Kitsap Tours (www.kitsaptours.com), featuring half — and full-day tours around Bainbridge and North Kitsap. Jim Boyle, who drove presidents and other VIPs during a career with the Secret Service, now drives the Kitsap Tours luxury mini-coach while Jean serves as the guide.

“People are coming from all over the country and the world. Every tour is different because the people are different,” Jean Boyle said.

Boyle especially targets the tours to Seattle visitors, marketing the ferry ride as the start of the tours. Two of the tours feature trips to the Bloedel Reserve, where Boyle serves as the interpretive guide. The full-day North Kitsap tour makes stopovers around Bainbridge, Poulsbo, Suquamish and Port Gamble.

Boyle said the main reason they started the company was to get people to go beyond downtown Bainbridge. It took a year or so to build momentum with distributors as well as get reviews, but once they did, Kitsap Tours grew quickly to keep the couple busy every week (except for three months they take off during winter). They also offer custom tours anywhere on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas (without overnight stays) and have done things like Hood Canal loops, culinary tours and Navy themes.

The service is so popular, the couple could easily expand to more trips beyond North Kitsap. But Boyle said they like to keep it small and are content with not growing.

“There’s tremendous opportunity in it and if I were at a different point in my life, I’d be growing it,” she said. “For us, this is what we want to do. We’re having fun but I dream that someone will come along and take it to another level.”

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