Exploring Bainbridge Island, Washington

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Bainbridge Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle but a world away. Read on for why you must visit Bainbridge Island. 

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I fell in love with Bainbridge Island. Just across Puget Sound from Seattle, Bainbridge Island is a world apart. The pace is slower. Time seems to be relative. The natural beauty surrounds you. It is a place to stop and smell the flowers—and I found so many flowers to smell! Read on for some of my favorite things to do while exploring Bainbridge Island.

So many flowers on Bainbridge Island.

So many flowers on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Taking the Ferry to Bainbridge Island

If you are flying into Seattle, I recommend renting a car at SeaTac airport and heading to the Seattle Ferry Terminal. If you’re going to Bainbridge for more than a one-day visit, you’ll definitely need a car to get around the island.

NOTE: If you’re only heading to Bainbridge for the day, you can walk on the ferry, explore the area around the ferry terminal, and return to Seattle in the afternoon.

Taking the ferry to Bainbridge is part of the fun. Once onboard, grab a beverage and watch Seattle slip away as you approach the tree-covered island in the distance. It takes about 35 minutes to cross Puget Sound. The round-trip cost for a walk-on adult is $9.25. The cost for a regular automobile and the driver is $16.40 (you’ll have to pay for additional passengers). You’ll arrive at the historic main street on Bainbridge Island.

Heading away from Seattle onboard the ferry.

Heading away from Seattle onboard the ferry. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Exploring Winslow Way on Bainbridge Island

As you depart the ferry, you’ll be on Winslow Way, the historic main street. I recommend starting with a great cup of coffee. After all you’re in the Pacific Northwest, home to some amazing coffee.

Pegasus Coffee, located a block off Winslow, opened on the island in 1980. I was lucky enough to sit down over a cup of coffee with Pegasus founder David Dessinger, discussing his love of coffee and how he came to open Pegasus on Bainbridge Island.

In the 1960s, Dessinger fell in love with coffee as a regular at Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley, CA. When he moved to Bainbridge in the 1970s he was disappointed that there was no good coffee on the island. So, out of necessity, he learned to roast coffee—with Alfred Peet as his mentor—and opened Pegasus Coffee in late 1979. In 1980 he expanded into the ivy-covered building that still houses the original Pegasus Coffee.

As you sip your coffee check out the walls for local art. You’ll want to spend some time here because this is coffee the way coffee is meant to be served—locally roasted, freshly brewed, and poured with love. Don’t forget to sample one of the donuts while you’re there!

Shops on Winslow Way

After your coffee break, find a spot to park your car for a few hours and wander through the shops on Winslow Way. You can spend hours wandering through shops, galleries, and boutiques.

Step into Bainbridge Arts & Crafts to get a feel for the art culture on the island. The nonprofit gallery supports more than 200 local and regional artists. In addition to the gallery, Bainbridge Arts & Crafts provides art education through 100+ programs to more than 10,000 youth, adults, and seniors each year.

Bainbridge Arts & Crafts on Bainbridge Island

Stop by Bainbridge Arts & Crafts on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

If you are on Bainbridge Island on the first Friday of the month from May through October, you can check out even more arts during the First Friday Art Walk. You can sample food and drink as you wander along Winslow Way. You’ll find everything from handcrafted treasures to exquisite artwork.

Eating and Drinking on Bainbridge Island

I was wowed by the incredible flavors I enjoyed as I explored the island. If you start out your day craving more than coffee, I recommend stopping by Streamliner Diner. This is a busy breakfast spot, but well worth the wait. It’s on the corner just as you drive off the ferry and onto Winslow Way. The little diner serves up homemade comfort food. You must order the buttermilk biscuit and jam. This is one of the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten. There are usually homemade scones also available. I also had the ABT Benedict with avocado, thick-cut smoked bacon, and tomato topped with a perfectly poached egg and hollandaise.

Streamliner Diner

Don’t miss breakfast at Streamliner Diner when you’re on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Culinary Treats All Day

As you make your way along Winslow Way, you can have your pick of great spots to stop for a treat. Mora Iced Creamery offers ice cream made using local and sustainably sourced ingredients. Or perhaps you’d like to try the local fudge and truffles from Bon Bon Candies. I am a sucker for great croissants and constantly compare each to the perfect ones I get in France. If you’re also a croissant connoisseur—or yearn for a delicious pastry—stop by Coquette Bake Shop.

Time for Happy Hour

If you are on the island’s south end head to Pleasant Beach Village. The Village has several great restaurants, but I suggest an afternoon break at Earth & Vine. They open at 3 pm each afternoon, and it’s such a pleasure to sit on the sidewalk and sip a curated glass of wine. You’ll find plenty of Washington wines or options from around the world.

Dinner Bounty on Bainbridge Island

When you’re looking for something more substantial I recommend Bruciato for dinner. James Beard nominee Brendan McGill owns the restaurant. Chef McGill pulls many of the restaurant’s ingredients from Italy, his own farm on the island, or other local sources. The menu changes seasonally, but there are a few favorites you’ll always find.

I started with beautiful burrata and heirloom tomatoes. That paired perfectly with the housemade wood-fired focaccia bread.

I started with a housemade burrata and heirloom tomatoes. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I started with housemade burrata and heirloom tomatoes. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The Neapolitan-inspired wood-fired pizza featured mushrooms foraged from the Olympic Peninsula. Now that’s something you’re not likely to find anywhere else. We also sampled the Datteri E Prosciutto with dates, mozzarella, grana padano, basil, and San Daniele prosciutto. Another favorite is the Puttanesca with anchovies, taggiasca olives, oregano, and Calabrian chili oil.

The wood-fired pizzas reminded me of eating pizza in Tuscany. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The wood-fired pizzas reminded me of eating pizza in Tuscany. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Oh, and order the meatballs or Polpettine made with beef and pork. I’m not a big meatball fan, but these are to die for. You won’t regret ordering them. We ended the night sampling Tiramisu and the Mezzaluna, a hazelnut-chocolate calzone.

Definitely order the meatballs while at Bruciato. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Definitely order the meatballs while at Bruciato. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

A Special Community Dinner Treat

Book one of the weekly community dinners at Heyday Farm for a real culinary treat. Owners Tadao and Tifanie Mitsui serve the most amazing locally sourced meals in an exquisite garden setting. The community dinners are available by reservation most Thursdays and Fridays throughout the summer. The dahlias were in bloom during my visit, and strolling the gardens with a glass of Washington wine before dinner was pure bliss.

The gardens at HeyDay Farm.

The gardens at HeyDay Farm. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

History and Nature on Bainbridge Island

The natural beauty surrounds you on the island. Walking along the docks feels like you’re in a Hallmark movie. I took my coffee from Pegasus and wandered down to the marina, watching boats come and go. Nature and history surround you as you explore.

Nature on Bainbridge Island

One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty is to explore the grounds at Bloedel Reserve. The 140-acre preserve was developed by the founders, Prentice and Virginia Bloedel.

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The preserve carefully blends the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest with various other gardens, ranging from a Japanese garden to a moss garden and an orchid trail. It is one of the most serene places I’ve visited.

Japanese garden at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

Japanese garden at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I also recommend that you take the time to go inside the residence. There is no additional charge, and it’s the perfect opportunity to see how the family lived when this was their home. And the views are astounding! Guides can help answer your questions as you wander through the rooms.

the residence at Bloedel Reserve.

Approaching the residence at Bloedel Reserve. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Admission to Bloedel Reserve is $22 for adults, and you must purchase a ticket in advance. The reserve has a process of timed tickets, which helps keep attendance low so you can have a peaceful visit as you wander the grounds.

Exploring Culture on Bainbridge Island

I was surprised to learn that the first Americans of Japanese heritage were the first to be forcibly removed from their homes and sent to internment camps during World War II. Thankfully, and unlike many other places across the country, many of these Americans found their land safely preserved after the war because of concerned neighbors. To remember that time, you can visit the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. It is a somber look at the impact of the war on this small community.

We were met at the entrance by Lilly Kodama. Not only is she a member of the Japanese American community on the island, but she was a little girl when her family was removed from their home and sent by train to Manzanar. In this internment camp, thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. Kodama showed us pictures of her, her mother, grandmother, and younger brother.

Lilly Kodama at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Lilly Kodama at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The Memorial Wall is a breathtaking reminder of the history here on the island. It winds down to the Eagledale ferry dock landing, tracing the exact path the residents were marched down to reach the ferry that would take them from their homes. The names of all 276 Japanese Americans exiled from Bainbridge Island appear as you retrace their steps.

Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial

Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

A series of rusted steel sculptures are at the end of the dock called the Departure Deck—where the Japanese American women and children (and some elderly men) would have stepped onto the ferry. Each sculpture shows the outline of the people. I could only imagine how it felt to move toward that boat and an unknown future, with your home, your school, your business, and your friends behind you.

Rusted iron sculptures on the Departure Deck.

Rusted iron sculptures on the Departure Deck. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The park is at Pritchard Park, less than 4 miles from the ferry terminal. The Memorial, staffed by a National Park Service ranger, is always open.

Where to Stay on Bainbridge Island

After so much exploring, you’ll want a great place to rest. I recommend The Inn at Pleasant Beach Village. The hotel sits on beautiful, manicured grounds just a block from the waterfront. It is in the walkable village of Pleasant Beach Village, with ample dining and shopping options.

The rooms at The Inn are comfortable and welcoming. Each one is a bit different, and you’ll feel quite pampered as you climb under the comforter with the fireplace burning. Each room has either a balcony or a patio. My room was in beautiful shades of blue and white, and the patio had lovely blue wicker chairs, which I found perfect for sitting, sipping a glass of wine, and soaking up the fresh air. My only regret is that I had just one night at The Inn. I must return so I have time to explore more.

The Inn at Pleasant Beach Village on Bainbridge Island

My room at The Inn at Pleasant Beach Village on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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Returning to Bainbridge Island

I fell in love with Bainbridge Island, and it is one of those places where I could imagine myself living. It is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. I fell in love so much that I am returning to spend a few weeks in our RV to explore more. If you plan a trip to Seattle, take a few days to escape to Bainbridge Island. Or better yet, plan your escape to Bainbridge Island and the nearby Kitsap Peninsula and leave the city for another trip. You’ll experience the Pacific Northwest in a much different way. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning your trip to Washington State or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Bainbridge Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle but a world away. The island is filled with great food, art, culture, and history. Read this Wander With Wonder article by Susan Lanier-Graham for why you must visit Bainbridge Island. 

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Exploring Bainbridge Island, Washington

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan is also the managing editor of North Peoria Lifestyle, a print lifestyle publication in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Susan's work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders, Alamo.com, Hotels.com, Fairmont.com, Sofitel.com, Paradise Valley City Lifestyle, Scottsdale City Lifestyle, So Scottsdale, Green Living AZ, Modern Luxury, Marriott.com, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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