The wondrous views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Seattle’s skyline make the 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island seem like an experience of its own. However, with only a little over 23,000 residents, Bainbridge Island has a small, but vibrant community and is a destination worthy of the trip. Once named CNN/Money and Money Magazine’s second best place to live in the United States, this island is a tranquil and unique place if you are looking to escape the fast pace of downtown Seattle.
Bainbridge Island spans almost 28 square miles and has some 53 miles of shoreline. The Washington State Ferry system via Seattle and the Agate Pass Bridge to the Squamish Reservation are the main access points onto the island. Bainbridge boasts a great deal of activities such as wine tasting, hiking, exploring scenic vistas, and perusing local arts locales. The area has preserved its small-town charm of yesteryear by restoring historic downtown buildings with help from residents, local businesses, and city officials. Corporations and chain businesses are few and far between on Bainbridge Island as the community is committed to keeping green spaces, natural environments, and local shops thriving.
George Vancouver first discovered the island in 1792 while anchoring his ship, HMS Discovery, off Restoration Point. Vancouver’s maps show that he believed Bainbridge Island was a peninsula, not an actual island. However, in 1841 U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes visited the island and named it after Commodore William Bainbridge, commander of the U.S.S. Constitution in the War of 1812. The island proved to be a huge hub in the logging and shipbuilding industries due to a plethora of large cedars. Bainbridge Island is also known for its part in the Japanese imprisonment during World War II as its residents were the first to be sent to internment camps. Bainbridge Island now honors these individuals with the Japanese American Memorial. This memorial was opened on March 30, 2002, a day that was also proclaimed “Nikkei Memorial and Remembrance Day” by former Governor Locke.
The City of Winslow, which includes 1.5 square miles surrounding Eagle Harbor and the two-mile strip of shops on Winslow Way, was incorporated into the city of Bainbridge Island in 1947. Winslow Way features many of the local businesses, shops, and restaurants such as Hitchcock Restaurant, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Paper Products, and Blackbird Bakery. However, Lynwood Center, located on the south point of the island, also has a handful of restaurants and shops, such as Treehouse Café, as well as the Historic Lynwood Theater. Bainbridge Island is known for its vibrant and unique arts community. The Bainbridge Performing Arts Center and Arts & Crafts Gallery feature local artists and hosts a seasonal Studio Tour to celebrate the beauty of handcrafted art.
If you are looking for children’s activities, visit the Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) or Kids Up! Parent Child Center at the Bainbridge Pavilion. There are several restaurants at the Pavilion, as well as Bainbridge Cinemas, a six-screen movie theater.
While Bainbridge Island is mainly a residential community, there are quite a few opportunities for visitors to explore, dine, and relax in this beautiful city. It is a place for visitors to experience small-town life yet remain a short distance from the lively downtown atmosphere of Seattle.