Find bliss on Washington's Bainbridge Island: A guide to experiencing the island

If you're considering a trip to the Pacific Northwest, Washington's Bainbridge Island offers something for everyone.

Conveniently located, Bainbridge is the closest of the islands to Seattle. There are several ways to get there. From Seattle, it is an easy 2-hour drive or you might want to take the 35-minute ferry ride from downtown, using the Washington State Ferries system.

The island has a wealth of things to do, places to eat and fun for every member of the family. Bainbridge’s Historic Main Street is full of boutiques, vintage shops, art galleries and local products. On Fridays, you can enjoy the Moonlight Market, which runs May through early October when downtown Winslow Way is full of outdoor vendors, artists and food options.

Best places to rest your head

The island boasts a wide range of lodging options. Among our favorites is Dahlia Bluff Cottage. Guests will love its sophisticated design and functionality. Great for families with older children and reunions, the “cottage” is a nicely sized house and is large enough to sleep five people and offers two full bathrooms. Located in the Rolling Bay section of Bainbridge, it's within easy walking distance to beaches and trails as well as restaurants like Via Rosa 11, which serves up authentic Italian dishes in its cozy restaurant or fresh pastas and sauces for an easy takeout. Owners Lani and Pino Sordello first began selling their homemade items at the local farmer’s market, with the dream of one day owning a restaurant for their island community. The restaurant offers an impressive wine selection in addition to recipes handed down generations from Pino’s mother who grew up near the coast of Italy.

Saltwater Haven is an Instagrammer’s delight, nestled on a quiet peninsula at the northeast corner with beachfront access, an oceanside hot tub and breathtaking views. While on the smaller side at 700 square feet, the cabin is thoughtfully designed, offering a well-stocked kitchen, cozy bedroom, claw-foot soaking tub and a separate studio for extra space.

Because of the location, you might be tempted not to leave and simply enjoy the peace. If that’s the case, stock up on groceries from Town & Country Market for essentials or The Marketplace for soups, salads and sandwiches.

Cultural and educational activities

IslandWood Experimental Environmental Science Education is a nonprofit organization that aids kids and adults of all ages to create a more sustainable world through a variety of programs throughout the island and Seattle area. IslandWood’s mission is education for kids and adults of all backgrounds that helps to inspire action and advocacy. They offer seasonal programs and public events to draw the community together. IslandWood partners with Washington state-elected officials and organizations to support environmental education. The center also is a great place for hosting weddings, corporate team-building events and yoga retreats.

BIMA, or Bainbridge Museum of Art, offers free admission seven days a week so visitors can meander the halls of contemporary art. The museum features imaginative arts and crafts that can appeal to everyone, and it also hosts class field trips to promote educational learning and holds workshops such as drawing and painting sessions, which change monthly. Open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., this is a good stop for adults and children alike.

Kids from 15 months to 8 years old are going to be excited upon entering KiDiMu, an interactive museum for kids with lots of learning and STEM activities. Kiddos also have the chance to engage in social interactions with other children and their families. While there, pick up the second edition of the Explore Bainbridge Activity Book, which is released every spring and is full of things for kids to do during spring break. This year’s theme is Walkable Winslow.

Although not on the island, do not miss the Suquamish Museum and a visit to the Chief Sealth Burial Site. At the museum, discover preserved exhibits of the Suquamish Tribe led by Chief Kitsap, including artifacts and relics dating back to the 1800s. Located on the Port Madison Indian Reservation in Suquamish, the Chief Sealth Burial Site is named for Chief Sealth, the Duwamish/Suquamish leader after whom Seattle is named. Known in his time to be a strong leader and kind to settlers when they arrived, the museum pays respect to the origin of the land.

If you have a short time on the island, a visit to the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial can’t be missed. This outdoor exhibit commemorates the internment of 276 Japanese Americans on Bainbridge Island during World War II. In 1942 by order of President Franklin Roosevelt, more than 120,000 Japanese people were taken from their homes and placed in concentration camps, stripped of their property and belongings. Many of the same people were in fact American citizens.

The memorial wall, made of old-growth red cedar, granite and basalt, is located opposite the town of Winslow, on the historic Eagledale ferry dock landing site.

Outdoor fun

With 53 miles of coastline and being one of the largest islands in Puget Sound, there is no shortage of outdoor activities on Bainbridge.

Battle Point Park is a former naval radio station that offers many hiking trails, pickleball courts, a playground and much more. During the summer, the park hosts Sounds of Summer outdoor concerts where families with kids and friends gather to enjoy live music and food from local trucks. Bring some lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy a show from 6-8 p.m. Check the park’s events page for up-to-date information.

Enjoy the Waterfront Park/City Dock, a 5.5-acre park with a children's play area that is perfect for an after-dinner walk. In spring/summer and early fall, Exotic Aquatics offers kayak and SUP rentals for great on-water action. The affordable outfitter also offers guided trips for families and couples looking to explore the island a bit more. Exotic Aquatics can also tailor each adventure to people of all sizes, ages and abilities on the water.

Book a pass at Pool at Pleasant Beach Village, which offers a main pool along with a kids splash pool to keep young ones entertained for hours of fun. Adults will find plenty of outdoor lounging for relaxation along with a pool bar.

Step into a magical 150-acre forest at Bloedel Reserve, where lush woodlands, meadows and beautifully landscaped gardens converge, offering up the elegance of nature. The loop is approximately 2 miles long and an absolute must-do while visiting. Plan to visit alone or with a friend for quiet contemplation. The Reserve was created by Virginia and Prentice Bloedel, vice chairman of lumber company MacMillan Bloedel Limited, which to this day continues to promote conservation and stewardship. Currently the reserve is only doing timed visits, so tickets must be purchased online.

Wellness warrior

Book a Hot Stone massage at Melt Massage and Body where owner Calli Jo Sawyer offers more than 20 years of experience in massage therapy and esthetics. The calming space has dedicated employees who can customize each facial or massage to an individual’s preferences.

Don’t miss a yoga session at Dayaalu Center, where virtual and in-person classes are offered. The studio has a suitable class for everyone — whether looking for a vigorous class, relaxation or stretching. The center believes in healthy living through Ayurveda, a belief system originating from India with a focus on alternative medicine. While some may find it hard to exercise while on vacation or traveling, yoga is a great way to stay active and strong.

A foodie’s paradise

You might be surprised to find the plethora of good food and restaurants on the island, but there is much to choose from.

Breakfast/Brunch & Lunch

Coquette Bake Shop is the cutest French patisserie housed in a food cart located in the Winslow Mall. Whether you walk right up to the cart or order online, service is friendly and quick. Their sandwiches come in a variety of options such as mozzarella, tomato and basil or ham and tomato with brie on fresh baguettes, available after 10 a.m. A slice of Paris in Bainbridge — it's a must-try.

Arrive hungry and be prepared for a wait at the popular Streamliner Diner in Winslow with offerings of eggs Benedict, French toast and buttermilk pancakes. Counter seating is reminiscent of another time, and if you’re lucky to sit by a window, the location is also a great place to people watch.

Café Hitchcock is a casual café offering breakfast, brunch and lunch along with organic espresso, kombucha on tap and winning salads. Ingredients are locally grown and sourced whenever possible, as the restaurant prides itself on working with local purveyors and farmers. Check out the avocado toast or breakfast skillet and save room for its famous cast-iron cookie topped with vanilla ice cream.

Brunch is only available on the weekends at Ba Sa, but it’s not to be missed. For something a little different, try the congee rice porridge, a traditional Asian morning meal. For a little sweet option, the cereal French toast will not fail to satisfy. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner as well and offers solid options.

If you are in the mood to be a bit creative and fun, check out the Farmers' Market, which is open Saturdays from April to late November. Visitors will find food vendors, fresh produce, artisans and more. A breakfast item or souvenir is out there with your name on it.

Dinner

Bruciato offers both dine-in and takeout specializing in authentic Neapolitan-style pizza and gelato. Be sure to try the pork and beef meatballs in pomodoro sauce, which is simply divine.

Hey Day Farm is a treat for diners looking to celebrate a special occasion. Family-owned and focused on sustainability, the restaurant changes its menu to reflect the season's bounty. Diners are seated at community-style tables and won’t be disappointed by the choices on the menu as it’s always a pleasant surprise. Dinners are only available on Thursday and Friday nights, so make sure to book reservations in advance.

Prepare for a dining explosion at SeaBird, a newly opened restaurant bringing local ingredients and featuring seafood as the star. Plates come out beautifully presented in shiny, vibrant colors. The restaurant’s menu changes daily to reflect the seasons along with the imagination of Chef Brendan McGill. Each dish pays homage to the diverse offerings of Puget Sound. Even if not a fan of seafood, book your seat today. You’ll quickly change your mind.

Dessert

Mora Ice Cream makes ice cream in small batches using fresh milk, eggs and minimal sugar. With dreamy flavors such as banana split, cheesecake, brownie and much more, you can’t go wrong here. The shop uses local and sustainably sourced ingredients whenever possible. Get your scoops in a cup or a super-sized waffle cone. Pick up a sweet as you stroll through Winslow Way, taking in the laid-back appeal of this blissful island.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Bainbridge Island, Washington: A guide of things to do, places to eat