When you live in Seattle, not only do you get to be called the really cool Sci-Fi-sounding name of “Seattleite”, but you also have the fortune of having the entire Pacific Northwest (lovingly known to locals and bumper stickers as the “PNW”) at your fingertips. Within only a three-hour drive, you can be in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, B.C. Canada. You can also be: hiking in the rainforest, surfing at the ocean, soaking up sun in the desert, getting ready to summit a 14,000-foot volcano at the base of Mount Rainier, or observing mountain goats in the Cascade Mountain Range. However, there are a myriad of options if you want to stay closer to home but still feel like you’re taking a little “staycation” from the city. Luckily, Seattle has ferries for that. And a pond. A giant pond. Okay, it’s a Sound. Puget Sound. And lots of islands! In this blog post I’ll be focusing on Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, which are the perfect towns to visit on a day trip from Seattle.
Located only a 30-minute scenic ferry ride from the downtown Seattle ferry terminal, Bainbridge Island has a quaint neighborhood feel to it. Chic and local, this adorable beach town has only one main street (Winslow Way East) that runs for only a few blocks of downtown, but it packs a punch with what it has to offer! From artisan sandwich shops to locally made ice cream, this is a great day trip from Seattle, and easily seen all within a day. So, what’s the best way to spend one day on Bainbridge Island?
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The Perfect Day on Bainbridge Island
Downtown Bainbridge is small and completely walkable, so if you don’t have a car, don’t worry! You’ll still be able to experience the essence of this wonderful town. If you do have a car, there is free angled parking all along Winslow Way for 2 – 3 hours. Parking is strictly enforced, so don’t surpass your time limit. Biking is also a popular activity, especially during warmer months. You can simply ride on with your bike and use it as your vehicle once you arrive on the island!
ONE-DAY ITINERARY FOR VISITING BAINBRIDGE ISLAND & POULSBO
Board the Ferry From the Downtown Seattle Ferry Terminal
You can either walk on, or drive your car. Ferries run every half hour to every hour, depending on the day of the week. You can check the time table schedule here.
Depending on the time of day, a ticket usually costs around $15 – $35 each way.
Head to Blackbird Bakery for Coffee & Pastries
This local cafe and bakery is always buzzing with island residents and tourists alike.
This poor guy’s owner left him out in the snow to stare at his own reflection and wish he was inside, sipping on a pumpkin spice latte and talking about the latest politics.
Visit Eagle Harbor Book Company
Not many towns still revere book shops, but Seattle certainly has its fair share of them! People love to read around here. Perhaps it’s because the average IQ is higher than in other cities, or because the University of Washington, Amazon, Expedia, Google and Microsoft bring all the nerds to the yard. Or perhaps it’s because it’s overcast and rainy for about 9 months out of the year, so people adopt a favorite pastime of staying indoors and reading. Oh, and speaking of grey and rainy, it snowed for an entire three hours when we visited in early November!
Whatever it is about Seattle’s bookworm following, this town is proud of their local bookstore. They host several events each month, including readings from local authors, which we were lucky to watch! So whether you’re browsing for the next Twilight series, looking for the perfect cookbook to gift to your foodie friend, or simply want to sit down, rest your feet and read a magazine to pass some time before your ferry arrives, this place will welcome you.
Visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
This small two-story museum may be little, but it’s a great way to spend around one hour of your day, especially if it’s cold and rainy.
Location: on the corner of Winslow Way right across from the ferry terminal
Cost: Free admission
Walk Up an Appetite for Lunch
You won’t see Pizza Huts or chain restaurants, and there’s only one Starbucks, but that’s the way locals want it around here! This island is all about supporting mom and pop shops. What you will find, are local boutiques and small businesses. Whether you’re just window browsing past the jewelry and gem stone shop next to the museum, or in the market for a new Turkish rug, Bainbridge will surprise and delight you!
Break for Lunch at Hitchcock Delicatessen
By this point, you’ve had your coffee fix, eaten a cookie (or two), walked around to visit the local shops, and visited a museum. I’d say you’ve earned a delicious sandwich and the chance to rest your feet! Come on in to this delicious eatery. Their restaurant, Hitchcock, opens at 5:00 PM for dinner, but the deli is open from 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM (hours may vary.) The deli receives far better reviews than the restaurant itself. Even though the below photo makes it look like a ghost town, they are, in fact, open on Sundays.
Get a Sweet Treat at Mora Iced Creamery
Mora means “blackberry” in both Italian and Spanish, and with all the wild blackberries rampant in the State of Washington during summer season, this seems an ever-so-fitting name for an ice creamery. This ice cream is made from scratch the old-fashioned way: by using fresh local ingredients and creating unique (and classic) flavors by hand. At any point you will find at least 48 flavors, though they rotate based on what’s in season!
Relish in specialty artisan chocolates at L’atelier where you’ll find a life-size chocolate fountain on display.
If you need anything for groceries or just want to grab a quick bite on the go, there are a few grocery stores including the large Central Market, and a small health food store called Willowtree Health Market.
They even serve kombucha on tap! It’s kind of a big deal here in Washington. We like our fermented beverages. 😉
Drive or bike to Fort Ward State Park for a Nature Walk
This state park occupies 137 acres with 4,300 feet of saltwater shoreline along the Puget Sound. There is a boat ramp, a long, rocky beach, and even an underwater park for scuba divers! On a clear day you are treated to beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains. There is no entrance fee, as the park is open to the public.
If you’re visiting during winter, be sure to dress very warmly and in layers. Don’t forget your beanie, scarf and a long puffy or insulated coat!
Drive 10 minutes outside of town to Grand Forest West and hike the Forest to Sky Trail.
Enjoy a pizza & salad at Bruciato
This Italian restaurant opened its doors in February 2017 and occupies a large warehouse-looking space. With high ceilings and wooden fixtures, this space has a brewery-like feel. The pizzas were delicious, though pricey for the portion size.
Stop By Salt House Mercantile, a locally-owned shop with all kinds of handcrafted local goods.
Drive to Poulsbo
Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Bainbridge is the most adorable Norwegian town called Poulsbo! It looks like a street straight out of Disney Land.
Fun fact about Poulsbo…it’s misspelled! Here’s the history:
While you’re here, pop into the Maritime Museum (free admission) and read about the history of this port town.
Take a photo inside the red telephone booth, London style, or sit and relax on adirondack chairs with a coffee in hand.
Don’t miss Sluys Bakery, where all sweets are made from scratch, with love, by hand without big machinery or equipment.
Visit the Sea Discovery Center, a small aquarium free of entry where knowledgeable volunteers will tell you everything you could ever know about octopus and sea stars.
Eat at Sogno Di Vino, the best authentic Italian food I’ve had since our last trip to Italy.
Before heading back into the ferry queue to return to Seattle, fuel up (your tummies, not your vehicles) at Hi Life, owned and operated by Japanese folks who lived in Hawaii (my home state!) Because I was raised on Oahu, my standards for poke bowls are very high, and this place did not disappoint!
If you time your ferry ride back to the city with the sunset, Seattle may just put on a spectacular sky show for you on your way back into port! This view never gets old!
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