It’s easy to find popular attractions in major cities, and Seattle is no exception. But what if you are looking for a relaxing break after viewing the Space Needle, Pike Street Market, and battling the crowds to get inside the very first Starbucks? Bainbridge Island is only a short 35 minute ferry ride away, taking you to a world of back-to-nature surrounded by friendly people. With more than 20 scheduled ferry trips a day, it’s an easy (and beautiful!) jaunt to this popular island, close to Seattle.
Part of the charm of traveling to Bainbridge Island is the view. As the ferry pulls away from Pier 52 in Seattle, head to the back of the ferry to look at the skyline. The view gives you a wide-angle look at Seattle in all its splendor, from the Space Needle to the Great Wheel to a waterfront park. Then stroll around the ferry to check out the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, topped off with a clear view of Mt. Rainier. The Washington State ferry system is ranked as one of the top five largest in the world, so you’ll also enjoy seeing other ferries in the distance, taking passengers to various islands and communities.
For a quick day trip, many people simply walk on the ferry and walk off as they arrive in the small town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island. You can’t miss it since the town is a short walk from the ferry terminal. After leaving the fast-paced energy level of Seattle, the relaxed, small town feel of Winslow is evident. It’s as if there was a lecturer on board the ferry telling people, “When you arrive on Bainbridge Island, turn off your phones, meander the small streets and breathe the fresh air while walking along the beach.” And they do! My 25-year-old work driven daughter actually put her cell phone away within 15 minutes.
Downtown Winslow offers an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and the not-to-be missed Mora Iced Creamery. The city is one of 12 nationally accredited historic main streets in Washington. For culture, walk to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, the Museum of Art and the Kids Discovery Museum, complete with a pirate tree house. Downtown Winslow offers plenty to do on a casual day trip. Nearby bike and kayak rentals give you alternate ways to explore the island.
If you are interested in exploring the island, a car comes in handy to visit any one of the seven artisan wineries or numerous other attractions. We spent 30 minutes simply enjoying driving without the extreme traffic conditions we experienced in Seattle.
RV Camping at Fay Bainbridge Park
Seeing a sign for a festival at Fay Bainbridge Park, we spent part of the day listening to music and eating lunch served by local restaurants. The park once again offers spectacular views and plenty of space for kids to play at the beach. On a clear day you can see both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, which thrills even local residents. The park has plenty of room for RV’ers looking to find a space to camp with hiking trails and saltwater views. There’s room for rigs up to 40’, plus friendly guest hosts to help you get settled.
Bloedel Reserve Highlights
Visiting Bloedel Reserve gives the feeling you are visiting the estate of a rich relative. A wide gate swings open to allow your car to pass through the front entrance. Once inside, simply park and follow the trail that leads you to a variety of outdoor experiences. The trail effortlessly leads you through a native Northwest forest which transitions to a moss garden, which leads to the Japanese garden, which leads to…you get the idea. Almost every bend in the trail lead to another outdoor discovery. Walking through the formal English garden, I said, “All we need now is a mansion and I’d feel like we were in England.” Sure enough, we turned the corner and there stood a stately manor house.
The park is open year round and offers a variety of classes, camps and special events. We quickly agreed that our family would buy a membership if we lived on the island. The unique design of the garden, along with the programs offered, makes this an ideal family attraction. Bloedel Reserve offers a Photo Safari for kids where they use a camera or smart phone to complete photo “assignments.” This includes photographing from a different perspective such as lying on your back or photographing something slimy. (We have lots of slugs in the Pacific Northwest, so that’s not too hard!)
Since we spent so much time exploring Bloedel Reserve, we ran short of time. On our next visit to Bainbridge Island we plan on visiting Fort Ward State Park, a reclaimed military base. The park is known for its great bike trails as well as an underwater park for scuba divers. Oh yes. It has one campsite available on a first come, first served basis. It’s only accessible by a human powered watercraft!
Much as I love Seattle and all the city’s attractions, at times it’s nice to escape and experience a slower lifestyle. Bainbridge Island is the place to go!