For Seattle tourists, Bainbridge Island can be an excellent day trip and an opportunity to see more of the Pacific Northwest beyond urban Seattle without needing to have a car. It’s easy to get from Pike Place market to Bainbridge Island, and the opportunity to take this unique form of transportation across the Puget Sound is a worthy thing to put on your Seattle tourist bucket list.
Some tourists simply ride the ferry over and back from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge and back again, without ever leaving the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. While this ride is an inexpensive (about nine dollars per foot-passenger) way to see the Seattle skyline from the water and enjoy an hour cruising the open waters, it’s definitely worth getting off the ferry in Bainbridge Island to explore many of the fun things to do on Bainbridge Island.
How Long to Spend on Bainbridge Island
A typical day trip to Bainbridge Island, on foot, will take most of the day. Often, when I visit Bainbridge from Seattle with friends or visitors I’m showing around, our Bainbridge Island day trip is not-quite a full day- but way too much to cram into a half-day. In my opinion, the best way to plan your Bainbridge visit is to allow 3/4ths of the day for exploring the island.
I recommend arriving by ferry in the morning, exploring, lunching, and wandering back towards the ferry to catch a mid-afternoon ferry back to the city. After a bit of a siesta to recharge in your hotel or Airbnb, you’ll still have time (though energy might be harder to come by!) for an evening out on the town in Seattle.
Getting to Bainbridge Island on Foot
Navigating to Bainbridge is straightforward- thanks to the many commuters who travel these routes daily. Check out my step-by-step guides to learn how to get from the Seattle Airport to Bainbridge Island or how to get from Pike Place Market/Seattle Downtown to Bainbridge Island.
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My experience visiting Bainbridge Island
When I moved to Seattle in 2015, my graduate school orientation week included a day in which new students could sign up for various day trips. Excited to try riding a ferry for the first time, I signed up for a day trip outing to Bainbridge Island.
From our location near Pike Place market, we walked to the ferry terminal and rode a ferry to Bainbridge Island. It was there, on my first visit, that I began to discover just how much I loved this unique island and the way it offers a completely different life just a few minutes away from dense and crowded downtown Seattle. Over the subsequent years that I lived in the Pike Place market, whenever I needed to clear my head with a view of an open horizon and a long walk through a more pastoral environment, I walked down to the ferry terminal, hopped on a ferry, and spent an afternoon walking around Bainbridge Island.
It was through exploring the island on foot that I had the chance to try many new and different experiences, to shop in news stores, and to taste my way around the island. I discovered, also, that Bainbridge Island at Christmas is particularly magical, and previously I’ve written on the best ways to enjoy the holiday season on the island. Based on all of those experiences, here is my guide to things to do in Bainbridge Island.
Curated for Car-less pedestrians
If you, like me, find yourself in Bainbridge Island without a car, this list is perfect for you. You don’t need a bus pass or public transportation on Bainbridge Island- so much is walkable! While travelers with a car can enjoy all sorts of activities in Bainbridge including hiking, wineries, a Japanese American Exclusion Memorial (acknowledging the World War II-era internment camp on Bainbridge Island), and botanical gardens, tourists visiting without a car who are navigating the island by foot as pedestrians will be a little more limited in the distance that can be covered.
This list of things to do is curated specifically for Bainbridge Island visitors without a car.
Things to do on Bainbridge Island for couples, families, kids, and solo travelers
Keeping in mind that not every traveler has the same goals for their visit, my list of things to do on Bainbridge Island includes a few items for everyone. Kids and families will love the large, locally owned toy store (with more dog stuffies than you can possibly imagine!) and the Kid’s Discovery center at 301 Ravine Ln NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. While adult travelers and couples may be drawn more towards the Island’s history museum and art museum.
Bainbridge Island can be a fun place to visit as a solo traveler. It’s easy to be alone on Washington State ferries, with thousands of individuals commute between home and work each day, making it easy to blend in. Once on Bainbridge Island, it’s a comfortable place to explore solo as you enjoy the waterfront, walking trails, coffee houses, shopping, and museums alone.
Getting around: Walk, Bus, Bike, or Kayak!
After arriving on the island as a foot passenger on the ferry, you’ll have a few options for getting around the island. For most people who just want to explore the waterfront and the quaint business district of Bainbridge Island’s waterfront town (called Winslow), 2 feet are all you need to spend a day exploring things to do on Bainbridge Island.
Bainbridge Island Art Museum
The Bainbridge Island art museum is free to all and open almost every single day. It’s also just a few steps from the ferry terminal, making it a great way to kill time if you find yourself missing a ferry and having to wait for the next one.
The Bainbridge Island Art Museum is well funded by the affluent community on Bainbridge- meaning that this small museum often has well-curated exhibits far beyond what you might expect from a small island art museum. Often, the art museum has amazing exhibits geared towards kids, so check their website or call ahead to see what might be on display during your visit.
Bainbridge Island History Museum
The Bainbridge Island history Museum is a fun chance to poke your head inside of one of Bainbridge’s original old schoolhouses. If you’re willing to walk a few blocks out of the way to visit this small museum, you’ll learn much about the history of Bainbridge Island and how it has changed over the last few centuries.
Toy Store, Book Store, and More – Bainbridge Island’s main business thoroughfare- called Winslow Way0 is an adorable arrangement of charming shops, perfectly positioned to appeal to pedestrians visiting from Seattle. My must-stop shops when I visit Bainbridge include the toy store, the book store (don’t miss the used book store downstairs), and various charming shops of home decor and antiques.
Best Places to Eat on Bainbridge Island
If you read my guide to Pike Place Market, you know that my best advice for enjoying the restaurants in Pike Place market is all about small bites and progressive dining. Tasting your way through is the best way to visit Pike Place Market, and there’s a strong argument for approaching Bainbridge Island’s restaurants in the same way. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants in Bainbridge Island that are easy to walk to from the Seattle ferry terminal.
[cash only] A bakery of impressive- but not too stuffy- confections can be found at Blackbird Bakery, located among the shops of Winslow Way. Scones, cake, and pie by the slice are highlights of their menu.
Part cocktail lounge, part deli, and part lunch spot, Hitchcock deli is my favorite lunch spot on the Island. Grab a sandwich piled high with artisanal deli meats and pair it with a Bainbridge Island-made Kombucha from the tap.
Mora Ice Cream
Most of the time, when I visit Bainbridge Island without a car, every single trip ends with sprinting down the hill with an ice cream cone from Mora. While I do recommend allocating enough time to enjoy your ice cream cone, a sweet treat from this elevated ice cream parlor can be a great way to end a trip to Bainbridge or get an afternoon sugar rush to power you back to the ferry and on with your trip.
Habor Public House
My best pick for dinner on the island is Harbor Public House, which offers quality seafood and land food with a view of the sailboats in the marina and the waters of Eagle Harbor.
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As a gardener and plant lover, when I visit Bainbridge Island in the summer, I always stop in at the Eagle Harbor Church’s Community Garden. This creatively maintained community garden is open for all to explore and wander through. It’s worth visiting this whimsical Bainbridge Island community garden because there you’ll find botanical-garden-worthy blooms, in unusual varieties that are nurtured by the unique climate of Bainbridge Island.
Pegasus Coffee House
When you’re ready to sit and rest your legs for a bit, you can’t find a better spot than Pegasus coffee house. It’s hard to tell if the coffee is better than the ambiance, since both are top-notch in my book. If Pegasus was across the water and located in Seattle, I think I would have written the Great American Novel, by now, in the amount of time that I would have spent in their cozy and ivy-covered window seats. (Pegasus coffee house also offers breakfast and lunch, and I once ordered a breakfast cobbler here that haunts my food-dreams).
Sailboats gently bobbing in the waters off Bainbridge Island is an iconic site that’s so signature Bainbridge Island that it shouldn’t be missed. Just next to Harbor Public House, you’ll find a small walkway that leads out into the Marina. Portions of the marina docks are open for sightseeing and casual visitors – just observe the signs on some closed gates that indicate visitors should not enter.
Waterfront Walking Trail
Adjacent to the ferry terminal is a small walking trail that hugs the coastline of Bainbridge Island. It’s worth visiting for the sake of viewing this area, but can also be a quick shortcut between the ferry terminal and the things to do on the western edge of the walkable area of Bainbridge Island.
If you or your travel group are kayakers or paddle boarders, kayak rentals are available just off the park near the waterfront walking trail. In the waters of Eagle Harbor, in season, you can rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard and enjoy a water view of Bainbridge Island (just be aware that the waters of the Puget Sound are very cold year-round, and due to the potential for shock it’s not recommended that new kayakers or stand up paddle boarders learn in these waters- instead, head to one of the kayak rentals on Seattle’s Lake Union or Lake Washington for calmer, warmer waters)
If you’re interested in exploring a little more beyond this list of things to do on Bainbridge Island, or if biking is just more comfortable than walking for your body, consider renting a bike from the bike rental station slightly uphill the hill from the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.
The best times to visit Bainbridge Island
Since the village (at least, the portion accessible to pedestrians walking from the ferry port) is, basically, a commuter suburb rather than a seasonal tourist-focused area, you’ll find the shops and businesses open year-round. Although the available activities may vary by time of year, there’s no bad time to visit Bainbridge Island. Some particularly great dates to visit Bainbridge include the Fourth of July, the summer harvest festivals, and the Christmas Season on Bainbridge.
Seasonal Events: Additional things to do in Bainbridge Island
Although the list above features things to do that you can do practically any day of the year (with the exception of kayaking!) There are annual, weekly, and monthly events on Bainbridge Island that may be well worth scheduling your visit around.
First Friday Art Walks – the Pacific Northwest Islands seem to have a unique draw to artists and craftspeople. Bainbridge Island is home to countless artists, writers, and other creators. Through most of the year, a visit to Bainbridge in the afternoon or evening of the first Friday of each month means that your exploration of Winslow Way will include temporary art installations by local artists and the opportunity to buy from local creators.
Second Saturday dances – love the opportunity to kick up your heels and dance? While community dances are falling out of popularity around the country, in Bainbridge Island this tradition stays alive through a city-hosted dance that occurs every second Saturday of the month.
First Sunday – For many, live music is a great reason to schedule a trip to the island to enjoy the island atmosphere and a free concert. Throughout the spring and summer, the island’s city government hosts free concerts in the park each and every first Sunday of the month. Check out the Bainbridge Island events calendar for more information.
4th of July Festival – When July comes around, so does Bainbridge Island’s biggest tourist event: a celebration of Americana featuring a parade, pageant, market, and of course a massive firework show. (Traveling to Bainbridge on the Fourth of July is particularly fun, since the return ride back to Seattle on a ferry after dark will reveal a sky exploding with massive fireworks displays along the pacific northwest beaches)
September: Bainbridge Harvest Festival – According to BainbridgeIsland.com the activities of the Harvest Fair include gardening and harvesting demonstrations, goat milking, demos of sheep shearing, beekeeping educational displays, dog agility competition, a slide, a pie contest, apple cider pressing, food trucks, music, and more.
Art studio tours – one of my personal favorite things to do on Bainbridge Island is to step into the Bainbridge arts culture a little deeper than just visiting the museum or first Friday Art walk. A few times a year, Bainbridge artists open their studio and invite visitors to view not just their art but also their homes and workspaces and sometimes gardens. There is a fee for these tours, but the profit support the arts on Bainbridge Island and the opportunity to view the artistic process as well worth the price of admission.
Farmers market – Each Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM the island host a farmers market on the town square just outside City Hall (this is within walking distance of the ferry terminal). Bainbridge Island farmers market is a vibrant market featuring music and performers and street food as well as typical produce.
One major annual draw for the farmers market? The end of summer zucchini races! A now annual event, locals outfit their biggest zucchinis with wheels and send them racing down ramps in competition for who can have the fastest zucchini. If you like roadside oddities with an Americana twist, this farmers market event on Bainbridge Island is well worth scheduling to be a part of. Learn more here
Christmas: Christmas ship Festival and ship parade – Boat parades and regattas occur regularly in the waters between Bainbridge Island in Seattle, but none of them are quite as fun as the Christmas boat parade in which highly decorated boats parade around various neighborhoods and waterways around the Christmas season. The parade only passes Bainbridge on one night during December, so be sure and check the calendar if you hope to catch it during your visit.
Artist, digital nomad, and highly sensitive person, Lynli started traveling full time as a digital nomad in 2018. Writer and Illustrator by day, remote-destination explorer by other-days, Lynli is passionate about pushing the boundaries of her own comfort zone, exploring the world as a plus size, one-bag traveler, and journaling it all on WanderBig.com