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10 Things to Know Before Moving to Port Orchard, WA

Written by Brittany Slagle

Situated along the scenic Sinclair Inlet just 13 miles from West Seattle, Port Orchard is as charming as its waterfront views. This unique city in Kitsap County was originally founded in 1886 as Sidney, named after the father of its founder Frederick Stevens. It was later incorporated as Port Orchard in 1890, becoming the first platted and incorporated city in the county. 

Known for its manufacturing, tech, and defense industries, Port Orchard has grown into a delightful waterfront community. Featuring top-rated neighborhoods, schools, captivating scenery, and fantastic eateries, this city offers an enviable quality of life. Here are ten things to know before moving to Port Orchard, WA!

1. Get around the area on land or by ferries

Situated on the southern edge of Sinclair Inlet, Port Orchard enjoys breathtaking waterfront scenery and proximity to both Seattle and Oregon, which is about 60 miles from Seattle.

Public transportation in Port Orchard is provided by Kitsap Transit, serving the city along with other areas like Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, and Bremerton. Kitsap offers buses, vans, carpooling, and local ferries on set routes. 

Additionally, Kitsap Harbor Tours operates a ferry between Port Orchard and Bremerton across the inlet. However, there is no direct ferry from Port Orchard to Seattle. While not on an island, Port Orchard’s location on the water provides both scenic beauty and transport by sea, supplementing the public bus system.

2. A high crime rate

FBI statistics show Port Orchard has a higher overall crime rate than the state average, at 4,105 incidents per 100,000 people compared to 3,026 for Washington. The property crime rate especially, is double the national average.

While Port Orchard sees elevated property and violent crime, there are still many secure neighborhoods to call home. For instance, the southeast area of the city is considerably safer than other zones according to data. 

So despite some parts of Port Orchard appearing riskier statistically, there are plenty of options within the city that provide relative safety and security for residents. Doing your homework on neighborhoods can help identify the lowest crime sections to live comfortably.

3. A cost of living index of 121

The cost of living in Port Orchard is 21% higher than the national average, making it more expensive than the country overall. However, compared to Seattle’s sky-high index of 157, Port Orchard offers significant savings.

Median home prices in Port Orchard are around $504,945, while average apartment rent sits at $1,793 per month. Though pricier than national figures, housing in Port Orchard comes at a discount compared to Seattle averages.

4. Live in McCormick Woods, Magnolia Ridge, or Bethel

Choosing the right neighborhood to live in can be challenging, but here are some of the top neighborhoods in Port Orchard:

McCormick Woods is a lovely neighborhood in Port Orchard, conveniently located near two popular parks, McCormick Village Park and The Ridge’s Small Park.

Magnolia Ridge is another excellent neighborhood in Port Orchard, offering a convenient location and proximity to essential amenities. Whether you have children or not, Magnolia Ridge is a fantastic place to live, surrounded by other wonderful Port Orchard communities and served by some of the best schools in the area.

Known for its family-friendly atmosphere, Bethel is a peaceful neighborhood with a range of housing options. It features several parks, including South Kitsap Community Park, which offers sports fields, playgrounds, and walking trails. Bethel is also home to several schools, making it a popular choice for families.

5. Summers are dry while winters are long and cold

Port Orchard, like many areas in the Pacific Northwest, has a typical climate pattern with short, dry summers and long, cold, and wet winters, classified as a Mediterranean Climate by the Köppen system. From mid-July to early August, you can enjoy the warmer weather, with temperatures ranging from 36 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

November typically experiences the highest rainfall in Port Orchard, averaging 7.7 inches, while July is the driest month, with an average of only 0.07 inches of rainfall. The majority of snowfall occurs in December and January, with an average of 1.3 inches in January.

6. Major employers include St. Michael Medical Center & Franciscan Medical Group, Noo-Kayet Gaming Corporation, and YMCA

Port Orchard has a projected future job growth of 36.5%. The city offers an average salary of $48,000 and a median household income of $71,719.

Key employers in Port Orchard include St. Michael Medical Center & Franciscan Medical Group, Noo-Kayet Gaming Corporation (Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe), and YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap County. 

7. Kitsap County School District serves the city

In Port Orchard, you’ll benefit from the high-quality education provided by the Kitsap County School District. Standout schools in the area include South Kitsap High School, Marcus Whitman Middle School, Orchard Heights Elementary, Explorer Academy & Hope Academy, Discovery Montessori, and South Colby Elementary School.

South Colby Elementary School has earned recognition as the #1 elementary school in the South Kitsap School District and ranks #75 in Washington, according to US News.

For higher education, residents have access to institutions like Olympic College, Western Washington University at OC Bremerton, and Peninsula College in Port Townsend, ensuring a range of educational opportunities for the Port Orchard community.

8. Roads can get busy during rush hours

As with many thriving towns, traffic is a trade-off in Port Orchard. While the town itself experiences manageable congestion, commuting via Highway 16, the main route to I-5 and Seattle, can be a bit congested during peak hours. 

However, once you familiarize yourself with alternate routes, navigating around the traffic becomes more manageable. The bustling roadways are a testament to the desirability of living in Port Orchard; after all, if it weren’t in demand, traffic wouldn’t be an issue.

9. Marijuana is legalized in Port Orchard

Washington state has legalized marijuana, which might be a noticeable change for those coming from states where it remains illegal.

Here, it’s common to see people smoking it openly, and you can purchase it at various stores in the area. This openness to cannabis can be a positive for those interested, but, understandably, others might see it as a downside.

10. Explore the town’s parks and downtown area

Port Orchard boasts several attractions that cater to diverse interests. The historic downtown area is a vibrant hub with an array of shops, restaurants, and galleries, drawing visitors to its charming streets. Nature enthusiasts can explore the scenic beauty of Manchester State Park, offering hiking trails, beach access, and breathtaking vistas of the Puget Sound. 

Additionally, residents can relish in the greenery and recreational facilities of other local parks like South Kitsap Regional Park and Howe Farm Park, which feature amenities such as playgrounds, sports fields, picnic spots, and scenic walking paths, ensuring ample opportunities for outdoor enjoyment.

In Conclusion

Overall, Port Orchard offers a vibrant small town with scenic waterfront views and amenities, but a considerably higher cost of living. 

For those valuing convenience and nature, the lower cost of living than Seattle, parks, beach access, and location near the metro make it an appealing choice. However, the elevated crime statistics and traffic congestion during commuting times could be downsides, especially for families. 

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