The Salish Sea, a large estuary on the Pacific Northwest coast, represents a great tidal stream resource because of its strong tidal currents in many tidal channels. However, the tidal energy resource in the Salish Sea has not been systematically characterized. This paper presents a modeling study conducted to characterize the tidal energy resource in the Salish Sea based on a high-resolution tidal hydrodynamic model, which was validated using data derived from 10 tide gauges and 132 current stations. A total of 16 tidal channels with strong currents were identified as hotspots for potential tidal energy development in the Salish Sea. Probability distributions and exceedance of the cross-channel average velocity were calculated at all 16 channels based on international standards for tidal energy resource characterization. The tidal energy resource at the 16 hotspots was also characterized using power density distributions and kinetic energy fluxes. The ranking of the kinetic energy fluxes suggested that Admiralty Inlet, Rosario Strait, and Middle Channel are the top three tidal energy hotspots in the Salish Sea. The study demonstrated the need of a high-resolution modeling framework for accurate simulation of tidal currents in large complex estuarine systems, in the context of tidal resource characterization and assessment.