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War on Christmas 2022 @ Theatre Off Jackson

Take a vacation from Seattle’s Christmas Industrial Complex 🎄

A Day Trip to Bainbridge Island Without a Car

Leave your car(es) behind 🚗💨

November 10, 2022

An illustration of a ferry moving toward Bainbridge Island

If you live in Seattle, a trip to Bainbridge Island feels like a true getaway despite being so close to the city. Don’t have a car? Even better. Bainbridge is the #1 day trip we recommend to carless city people. 

The island’s town center is very walkable and close to the ferry terminal. If you’re journeying from Seattle, make your way to Colman Dock’s pedestrian overpass and snag a cheaper passenger ticket. You won’t have to worry about misbehaving drivers or whether there’s room for your car on the ferry. And after the pleasant 35-minute ferry ride, this fun and relaxing itinerary awaits you. 

Let’s get into it.

Heads up 🎟️

Walk-on passenger fare on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island is currently $9.45 for adults ages 19 to 64, $4.70 for adults ages 65 and older or with disabilities, and youth ages 18 and under ride free. Fare is roundtrip and there’s no ticket collection from Bainbridge to Seattle, so you don’t need to worry about keeping track of your ticket once you’re there.

1

Fuel up at the chopsticks stand 🥢

Wagyu Suliyaki beef bowl with cucumbers, corn, lettuce, green onions, sliced tomatoes, and an onsen egg from Hi Life.
📸: Hi Life

One of the first places you’ll see when you leave the ferry terminal grounds is a former service station with an inviting patio. That’s Hi Life, a poke restaurant that charmingly calls itself a “chopsticks stand.” Not to be mistaken for the defunct, similarly named Ballard brunch institution, and definitely not to be mistaken for the cafeteria-line fast-food versions of poke often perpetrated in Seattle, Hi Life crafts a more nuanced poke and is every bit as comfortably casual. A bite of their supple fish (say, ahi tuna or salmon) is basically transcendent. “Oh,” you might find yourself musing, “this is why people love poke.” 

It might be a little early in the day for a Toki Highball (or maybe it’s not!), but a refreshingly tart housemade yuzu soda or ginger ale could be just the ticket. Even if you intend to do more fancy snacking on Winslow Way later, Hi Life is the place to get started.

📍 Hi Life: 220 Olympic Dr SE, Bainbridge Island

Open daily 11 am-8 pm.

Speaking of fancy snacking 🌰

Bainbridge Island is home to so many acclaimed restaurants that you could create an entirely food-oriented itinerary. Seattle Times‘ Tan Vinh shows you how over here.

2

A free trip to the museum 🏺

An art exhibit at the Bainbridge Island Art Museum. An elephant stands on a pedestal in the corner
📸: Bainbridge Island Museum of Art

A two-minute walk up Olympic Drive will bring you to Winslow Way, Bainbridge Island’s commercial core. At the intersection’s northwest corner is the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which features a permanent collection of contemporary local art and rotating exhibitions. 

It’s a certain kind of pleasure to find a top-tier activity that‘s also free! You can drop some cash into the donation jar if you’re inspired, and it’s worth considering museum membership, but all you need to do to get in is check in at the front desk. From there, you’re all set to wander both floors and enjoy the variety of BIMA’s displays.

BIMA’s current rotating exhibits are Ginny Ruffner’s ambitious retrospective What If?, the artist’s book-themed mixed media collection Shapes of Things to Come (both of which run through Feb 13), and the Elizabeth Donnally Davidson introduction The Poetry of Ordinary Things (through Jan 29). BIMA also hosts events like film screeningsconcerts, and lectures. There’s something like that there almost every day, and you can find the events schedule here. Note that some events are ticketed (i.e., not free), but even a ticketed event at BIMA still falls squarely into “doesn’t cost as much as you’d think it would.”

📍 Bainbridge Island Museum of Art: 550 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island

Open daily 10 am-5 pm.

3

Browse the stacks and crates 📚

A large display of books inside Eagle Harbor Book Co.
📸: Eagle Harbor Book Co.

If you’re anything like us, the mini-exhibit of jazz album covers on BIMA’s first floor caused some record envy, so let’s stroll west into town on Winslow Way to Backstreet Beat, who provided those very records to BIMA. Their efficient selection of used (and a handful of new) vinyl always seems to contain a charming discovery. There are also plenty of used books to browse here, too, including first editions, hardcover fiction, and sometimes a display of oddities like antique postcards.

Afterward, continue your literary bent at Eagle Harbor Book Co., where you can browse an expansive selection of new/used fiction and nonfiction, plus find author events, book groups, periodicals, staff recommendations—the whole nine yards. Eagle Harbor’s been around for 50 years and is everything you want from a classic independent bookseller, right down to the shelves highlighting local authors and subjects. 

📍 Backstreet Beat: 265 Winslow Way E, #102, Bainbridge Island

Open Tues-Sat 11 am-5 pm; Sun 12 pm-5 pm.

📍 Eagle Harbor Book Co.: 157 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island

Open daily 10 am-6 pm

4

Need a fancy butter dish? 🧈

Porcelain geisha figurines on display inside Zutto Vintage & Antiques
📸: Zutto Vintage & Antiques

The best kind of vintage shop has staples like clothing and housewares, and also odd antiques to daydream about starting your own museum with. You’ll find that at Zutto Vintage & Antiques, right next door to Eagle Harbor Book Co.

Walk down the stairs and hang a right, keep going past (or linger at!) the vintage Levi’s display, and things will start to get weird. This place is loaded with historical artifacts, between the pre-bobblehead Groucho Marx caricature figurine and the antique wall-mounted crank phone. Don’t miss the big box of Edwardian tools either.

In another room full of souvenirs and intriguing obsolescence, you’ll find monochrome production stills from “all-talking pictures” with titles like So This Is College, along with printer’s blocks, Shriners charms, and washboards. Back to the main room, it’s brighter, more immediately useful goods, like vintage serving plates, butter dishes, demitasse cups, and barware. Maybe ask to try on a pair of those old Levi’s before you go. 

Zutto Vintage & Antiques: 164 Bjune Dr SE, Bainbridge Island

Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm 

5

End with a “hike” 🥾

The Waterfront trail boardwalk
📸: Mark DeJoy

Okay, it’s not really a hike per se, but continuing west on Winslow Way and turning left down Madison Ave. S. will bring you to Winslow Wharf Marina and Waterfront Trail. This part of Waterfront Trail is a short boardwalk along the harbor, and it’s so picturesque, raised above the calm water and ending around the historic circa-1881 Ambrose and Amanda Grow House/Harbor Public House.

A note: This segment of Waterfront Trail has uneven wooden slats that may be difficult for those with limited mobility. For an accessible and every bit as scenic trail toward the ferry, double back on Madison Ave S and head right on Bjune Dr SE to Eagle Harbor and Waterfront Park, which includes the smoothly paved Waterfront Trail, with wheelchair ramps in front of Waterfront Park Community Center.

From there, it’s easy to traverse the trail and gaze out at the harbor. When it’s time to head back to the ferry, you could continue east on Waterfront Trail, cross the grated bridge over the water, and follow the signs to the terminal. Or you can head north instead, bringing you back to Winslow Way and Olympic Drive/Ferry Dock—the way you came originally.

You may eventually have to retrieve your car and your cares, but your consolation is the stunning view of Seattle you’ll get as the ferry approaches Colman Dock, and the knowledge that you’re gonna do this trip again soon. 

Just so you know…

There are just so many worthwhile places within walking distance from the Bainbridge Island ferry—this guide is the very tip of the iceberg. This map from the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association lists just about everything for additional exploring. Remember to check hours!

Mark is a lifelong Seattleite (ok, Bothell and Seattle) and writes about PNW culture and travel. He doesn’t believe that the Freeze is specific to Seattle or that Seattleites “bring the rain” with them to other cities.

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