“Oh yeah, Bainbridge, I keep meaning to head over there and check it out sometime.”
As a Seattleite, you hear this statement all too often among locals. Tethered to a vast array of fast-paced tech jobs and absorbed into a city undergoing a rapid transformation on every level imaginable, it’s easy to see how most find plenty to keep busy right here in the Emerald City. Stunning waterfront parks, world-class restaurants, museums, top-notch sports teams, a variety of neighborhoods and cultural events, all at our fingertips. And yet, even the biggest urban hounds need a break from the city’s hustle and bustle once in awhile.
Enter Bainbridge Island. A mere 8.6 mile ferry ride from downtown across the Sound on one of our iconic Washington State Ferries lands you in the heart of Seattle’s easiest island escape. The best part? No car needed.
The journey begins the moment you step onto the ferry with the familiar whirl and rumble of the diesel engines kicking up whitewash churn as you depart the dock and pick up speed. A panoramic view of Seattle’s evolving skyline quickly takes frame, chalk full of new downtown condos, high-rise apartments and too many towering yellow construction cranes for the casual observer to count.
Cruising along at a little less than 20 knots, the 35 minute ride over affords the perfect amount of time to put down the phone, flip on a warm jacket, step outside and embrace the stunning views of Alki Beach, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics and beyond. Even on a cloudy day, the turquoise water trail left by the ferry mixed with the horizon palette of grays and blues makes for a dramatic scene worth treasuring every second.
Upon arrival, rather than zipping into town, first time visitors should take a moment to stop by the Seaside Station Commuter Market. The curated collection of craft gifts ranging from locally-sourced candles and colognes to flowers and cards is a great introduction to the authentic local pride interwoven throughout the Bainbridge community.
A quick 5 minute walk from the shop lands you in the heart of downtown Bainbridge along Winslow Way, the town’s main street. Even during the busy summer months, the calm and relaxed pace of the community is immediately apparent. While one could easily funnel down main street in a matter of minutes, the beauty of Bainbridge lies in taking time to stroll and enjoy the variety of shops, restaurants and boutiques.
If a caffeine kickstart is calling your name, Blackbird Bakery is a must-stop for a proper cappuccino and slice of banana break or cinnamon coffeecake. Hungry for lunch? Fork & Spoon are a fine pick for unique soup and sandwich combos while The Public House offers up a tasty selection of burgers and brews.
Thirsty? You’ve come to the right spot. With seven island wineries and a collection of unpretentious, easily accessible tasting rooms on main street, a fun-filled afternoon is easy to come by. The Island Tasting Room Gallery Cafe is tough to beat on a warm, sunny summer day with a nice selection of outdoor tables while Eleven Winery close by is a great place to hunker down for a few sips during the colder winter months. Lest we forget the Alehouse on Winslow for those craving a fine selection of locally-sourced craft brews and ciders to quench the thirst. You really can’t go wrong.
When dinnertime rolls around, follow the footsteps of local chef celeb Brendan McGill. If you’re in the mood to take on what will surely become one of your most memorable PNW dining experiences, look no further than Hitchcock. One of my Top 5 Seattle area restaurants, you won’t regret saving up stomach space and treating yourself to Hitchcock’s tasting menu and wine pairing. It’s a culinary experience that will keep you coming back time and time again.
For a slightly more casual but equally impressive dining option, head across the street to McGill’s latest unveiling, Bruciato, a Neapolitan pizzeria that serves up some of the best pies a Seattleite could ask for. Fans of Bar Del Cotto and Delancey will feel right at home in Bruciato as Chef McGill and team fire up a menu chalk full of handcrafted doughy deliciousness.
When all is said and done on the dinner front, be sure to save room for a scoop of Mora ice cream for your walk back to the ferry. As you clamber back on for the short water home, take a moment to breathe in that fresh island air, soak in some salty ferry spray, snap that final Seattle skyline selfie and go ahead…give that next friend who is sans weekend plans a nudge towards the easy island escape.