Things to Do on Bainbridge Island: The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide
As a dear friend aptly described, visiting Bainbridge Island feels like you’ve been dropped right in the middle of a scene in a Hallmark movie. The island is so perfectly picturesque, I was almost caught off guard that I wasn’t on a film set in a rom com. With just a 35-minute ferry ride from the Seattle Ferry Terminal, and multiple departures daily – you can head back to the big city as late as 1am most nights – Bainbridge Island is an accessible adventure for anyone looking to experience the true pleasures of the Pacific Northwest. And because there are around 25,000 residents living on the island, there are plenty of things to do on Bainbridge Island.
Do you need a car on Bainbridge Island?
You don’t need a car on the island but you do have the option to take one on the ferry with you. So, if you have a car in Seattle and plan on visiting attractions on Bainbridge like the Bloedel Reserve, you might consider it even though the price is quite high. There are only about 200 available spots per ferry crossing, so if you plan to visit on a busy weekend day, you will want to purchase your tickets in advance.
The good news is that you absolutely don’t need a car to have a really enjoyable time exploring the island because the main shopping and dining area is walking distance from the ferry terminal. Passenger ferry tickets are only $9.25 from Seattle to Bainbridge and free on the return. There are 2500 passenger seats available for each crossing, so you won’t have to worry about these selling out.
If you do make plans to tour parts of the island that are a bit out of reach, there are bikes available to rent right near the ferry terminal at either Classic Cycle or the Bike Barn.
Whether you decide to take a car or not, arrive at the Seattle Ferry Terminal 10-15 minutes early. Download the WSDOT app to get an extremely accurate read on how many drive-up spaces are available and if the ferry will be departing on time. Use the vessel watch feature to track where exactly the ferry is on its route.
Get there by: Car, Tour, Bus
This 150-acre botanical garden is one of the main attractions on Bainbridge Island. Spend a couple of hours at the reserve walking a 2 mile loop trail where you have the opportunity to explore the various landscapes and wildlife found in the gardens and in the surrounding forest. On the far end of the trail is the primary residence and former home of Prentice and Virginia Bloedel.
The reserve is around a 15 minute drive from the ferry dock; if you don’t have a car, you can take this tour of the reserve or plan your trip around the bus times. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for youth (13-18) and $5 for children (5-12) and the reserve is open Tuesday – Sunday.
PSST: Here is the official website for the Bainbridge Island bus schedule.
Bainbridge Island Shopping
Get there by: Foot
Along Winslow Way – Bainbridge Island’s main drag – are a plethora of cute shops that are a great place to seek out local accessories, housewarming gifts, and souvenirs. You can easily walk through the majority of the shops on Winslow in about an hour or two.
The following local shops were my personal favorites:
Eagle Harbor Book Company: a beautifully curated independent bookstore
Salt House Mercantile: a gift shop with local gourmet products and unique home good items
Dana’s Showhouse: a fun, artsy gift shop with interesting puzzles, quirky cards, stationary, etc.
Bainbridge Island Restaurants
Get there by: Foot
Most of the island’s best restaurants are along Winslow Way, so you’ll be able to walk there easily from the ferry terminal. If you’re arriving mid-morning, I highly suggest having brunch at Streamliner Diner for some classic American fare. The omelets are delicious! The diner doesn’t take reservations, so prepare to wait for a bit to be seated.
If you’re more in the mood for coffee and a pastry, there are great baked goods available at Blackbird Bakery. Plus, there’s a cute coffee and tea stand called Coquette Bake Shop that is really conveniently located right on Winslow Way. I will say, however, that if you’re willing to venture out a bit further to the harbor – which is still walking distance from the ferry – the coffee at Pegasus Coffee House was absolutely delicious.
My friends that live on the island recommend Bruciato restaurant for dinner. The restaurant is famous for their Neapolitan-style pizzas and they serve it with scissors instead of a knife and fork to cut the pizza slices. How unique is that?!
Bainbridge Island Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries
Get there by: Foot, Car, Bike
Visiting Bainbridge Vineyards was a trip highlight for me, and one that I highly recommend for anyone planning to spend some time on Bainbridge Island. Not only are the grapes grown on the island and certified organic, but Bainbridge Vineyards have a perfectly serene outdoor seating area to enjoy your tasting.
You will need a car or a bike to get to Bainbridge Vineyards, but there are a number of other wineries and tasting rooms near Winslow Way if you arrive to Bainbridge on foot. Amelia Wynn Winery, Fletcher Bay Winery, Eagle Harbor Wine Co. and Eleven Winery all have downtown tasting room locations and some even have live music on weekends.
Don’t like wine? Fear not! Bainbridge Brewing has two public retail locations (one in downtown and one in Coppertop Park). And, Bainbridge Organic Distillery, who created Washington State’s first USDA Certified organic vodka, gin, and whiskey, is situated right next to Bainbridge Brewing’s Coppertop Loop location.
I think it’s safe to say that if you’re looking to have some drinks during your time on the island, you’re definitely covered with all of the above choices.
Rent a Bike on Bainbridge Island
Get there by: Foot
If you’d like a bit more freedom to move around the island, but don’t have a car with you on the ferry, you have the option to rent a bike from two nearby shops. You can rent bikes either at Classic Cycle on Winslow Way, or the Bike Barn near the ferry. With a bike in tow, you’ll be able to cycle to a winery or distillery, hike the Grand Forest, watch the sunset from the beach, or visit the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. These activities are all within a reasonable distance of the ferry for bikers.
Hike through the Grand Forest
Get there by: Car, Bike
Envelop yourself in a canopy of fir trees, cedars, and maples with a hike through Bainbridge Island’s very own Grand Forest. With around 8 miles of well-maintained trails, the path is relatively flat, with multiple 1 to 1.5 mile loops to walk along. The Grand Forest is located in the center of Bainbridge Island, so it’s best for those who brought a car to the island or rented bikes.
Kayaking on Bainbridge Island
Get there by: Foot
We’ve already established just how picturesque Bainbridge Island really is, and luckily you are guaranteed to get a glimpse of its beauty from the ferry ride. But, to really get a better understanding of and see a greater portion of the island’s perimeter, you can reserve a spot on a kayak with Exotic Aquatics and paddle around the island. You can rent a single or tandem kayak and go out on your own or you can participate in a variety of tours that Exotic Aquatics has available like the Picnic Paddle, Eagle Harbor tour, or Full Moon Paddle at sunset.
Bainbridge Farmers Market
Get there by: Foot
If you don’t have a car with you on the island, the Bainbridge Farmers Market is a great way to experience Bainbridge Island’s many offerings as it is within walking distance from the ferry terminal. On Saturdays from 10am – 2pm during the months of April to November, you have the opportunity to try products from the popular locales on the island like Heyday Farms and Eleven Winery. It’s a small farmer’s market, but it really does provide a great glimpse into the various culinary and beverage options on the island.
Heyday Farms Community Dinners
Get there by: Car
Spend your Thursday or Friday night on a 25-acre sustainable and historic farm and enjoy a farm to table community dinner with the majority of the ingredients sourced directly from Heyday Farm’s own gardens. The menus change depending on what the farm is producing, but you’ll have your choice of a starter, entrée, dessert, and wine, with all items priced individually.
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial
Get there by: Car, Bus
During World War II, residents of Bainbridge Island with Japanese heritage were forced to leave and taken to internment camps. The Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is a designated Historic Site operated by the National Park Service to commemorate the 227 Japanese Americans that were mandated to vacate their homes on March 30, 1942. The memorial is located at the ferry dock where those American citizens of Japanese heritage were forced onto the boats.
Bainbridge Island Parks and Beaches
As you can imagine, there are a lot of beautiful parks and beaches on an island in Puget Sound. And while a lot of the shops and restaurants close early on the island – I’d estimate that by 6 o’clock 90% of the island is shut down – the sun sets so late in the summer! It’s the perfect time to head over to the beach or the park for a sunset stroll. Fort Ward Park, in particular, boasts incredible sunsets.
And if you’re looking to enjoy a park during the daytime, Fay Bainbridge Park has views of Mount Rainier and has a sandy beach!
Bainbridge Island Museums
Get there by: Foot
So much of the Bainbridge Island experience is meant to be spent outside surrounded by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest; but, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and the idea of visiting a museum sounds much better. So, to be comprehensive in this post, I have included a list of some of the museums available for you to visit on Bainbridge Island:
Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
Bainbridge Island Historical Museum
Kids Discovery Museum
Any of these attractions might be worthwhile to experience if it’s raining particularly hard on the day of your visit and you want a break from the elements. Not only will the museums provide you with shelter, but you’ll also learn a bit about Bainbridge Island’s history, view art collections from the Puget Sound region, or allow you kids some fun with the Discovery Museum’s play spaces and interactive exhibits.
Have you visited Bainbridge Island before? What are your favorite things to do on Bainbridge Island? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out these other posts on WOAW.
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