Travel

Hidden Washington: Greetings from Bainbridge Island. Wish You Were Here!

Uncovering unique gems of the Pacific Northwest

By Natalie Compagno and Greg Freitas June 22, 2023

Tour the coast by chartered sailboat.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

This is the first in an ongoing series featuring Pacific Northwest experiences that shouldn’t be missed. 

Like a beachcomber’s paradise — sifting sand to reveal sea glass or flipping wet rocks to find sea creatures — Bainbridge Island is filled with hidden treasures worth exploring. Here are tips, finds, and local faves for a perfect weekend.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

Taking the renowned Washington state ferry to Bainbridge Island is the quintessential Puget Sound experience. Adventurous island hoppers will drive past Winslow Way to find riches off the beaten path at Lynwood Center, the lively little burg filled with fun-loving locals and breathtaking views. Grab to-go sandwiches at the Marketplace at Pleasant Beach (the Fort Ward tuna sandwich is addicting), then go strolling and creature collecting on the sands of stunning Crystal Springs. At night, take in a movie at the historic 1936 Lynwood Theatre, or party with the locals at Earth & Vine Wine Bar, where the wine is always flowing.

After you see one Polaroid-perfect hidden cove on Bainbridge, you’ll want to see them all. Sail Bainbridge offers visitors the chance to experience the yachty side of life. Choose from a two-hour sail, sunset cruise, or a dreamy overnight at anchor, while pretending it’s your own personal vessel. The locals love Captain Ben and are beyond enthusiastic about his tours and company. Just ask anyone.

Play pickleball where it was invented

The Washington state sport of pickleball is sweeping the nation. Locals take immense pride in the sport—it was invented on Bainbridge at businessman/politician Joel Pritchard’s house. In 2020, the island unveiled a brand new pickleball facility at Battle Point Park, with six dedicated courts plus tennis courts that can be converted to pickleball. Reserve ahead ($18 per hour per court for nonresidents) or strike up a conversation with the locals. With their infectious zeal for the sport, visitors are often invited to play. But beware the octogenarian with the devilish backspin serve. He’s a ringer. Before leaving the island, grab an original art-souvenir pickleball racquet at on Winslow Way at The Ravine.

Early Bainbridge Island Pickleball players

Photo courtesy of Visit Bainbridge Island

 

Pickleball player

Photo courtesy of Visit Bainbridge Island

Gaze at the largest collection of book art in the Northwest

If you go, you know: the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is one of the finest small museums in the PNW. Its collections regularly feature top Native American and local artists. The Artists’ Book Collection — 3D art in the form of books — is totally unique, with more than 1,300 volumes. Even better, admission’s free! The museum recently reopened its onsite BIMA Bistro with a new Pegasus Coffee espresso bar, plus beer and wine, for hungry art aficionados waiting to catch the ferry.

Bainbridge Museum of Art

Photo by Keith Brofsky

Listen and move through history at Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial

Beautifully designed, the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is a poignant, rewarding reminder of the island’s place in our shared history. The new audio tour brings to life the voices of the American citizens who were interned during WWII and keeps these Japanese American families’ stories alive. Nidoto Nai Yoni (Let It Not Happen Again).

Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial

Photo by Keith Brofsky

Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial

Photo by Keith Brofsky

Culinary arts

Packed with fertile farmland, talented artisans, and foodie fanatics, Bainbridge is a haven for unique food and drink. What better way to experience this than eating at a working farm? The harvested veggies and fruit go into Heyday Farm’s famed year-round Thursday and Friday night community dinners. Guests are spoiled at the community table, chef’s counter, or outdoor tables during summer. “Secret” dining is upstairs in three private dining rooms, formerly B&B accommodations. Book by clicking the reservation button on the site and making a request in the appointment notes section, availability depending. Wherever you dine, the ambiance is as lovely as the dishes themselves.

Heyday Farm

Photo courtesy of Visit Bainbridge Island

Winslow Way bustles with delicious reasons to have a progressive dining experience. Ba Sa has become quickly renowned for its elevated Vietnamese fare. Thuy’s pho, Hi Life for poke, Taco Barn at The Ravine (catch live music there, too), and Harbour Public House are all slightly off the main drag and less touristy. The Brendan McGill restaurants — Bruciato and  Café Hitchcock — are deservedly beloved. Seafood lovers, activate! If foraged kelp, geoduck crudo, or seaweed focaccia sound amazing then his latest, Seabird, is your jam.

Strolling on Winslow Way

Photo by Keith Brofsky

 

Foodie finds

Insider tip: On Saturdays at the farmers market or Sundays at Hitchcock Foods and Bakeshop in the business park off Day Road, foodies can buy their famous seaweed focaccia, fermented goods, and other yummies direct to consumer.

Take a short drive up the island’s east side to Rolling Bay. Via Rosa 11 is an island favorite, an Italian market and kitchen with immaculately curated Italian provisions. Dine on the shaded outdoor patio, or grab wine, imported sardines, and a fresh baguette for a picnic on scene-stealing Manitou Beach, with its majestic views of the Seattle skyline.

Italian fare at Via Rosa 11

Photo by Cera Rodriguez

To taste an oyster is to savor an island’s essence in one slurp. Look out for Salish Sea Greens & Moble Oyster Bar pop-ups at farmers markets, events, and wineries. Take home the kelp seasoning products and peruse the website for the health benefits of kelp, cooking with kelp tips, as well as its pivotal importance to our marine habitats.

 

Lush libations

These same farmlands also create a dynamic drinking scene. Bainbridge Vineyards sits on historic Suyematsu Farms, the oldest continuously farmed property in Kitsap County. Owner Betsey Wittick carries on the tradition of Akio Suyematsu, who made Bainbridge the strawberry capital of the PNW. She farms the land by draft horse. Taste the history with each organic sip.

Bainbridge Organic Distillers is the first and only distiller in the state producing 100% organic alcohol, on-site, from scratch. The Two Islands Collection makes the perfect gift for the whisky lover in your life. Each of the oak barrels used to age the whisky comes with the terroir and nuance of a different island: Barbados rum barrels, and Hokkaido and Islay whisky barrels. Try to taste the difference or sit back, take a sip, and dream of visiting these exotic islands.

Highside Distilling is a family owned and operated team and a little darling of the mixology world. Using cider distillate to create vodka, gin, amaro (herbal liqueur), and whisky makes the flavors smooth, curious, and refined.

 

To sleep – perchance to dream

For laid-back elegance, The Inn at Pleasant Beach has 22 lovely rooms and a three-bedroom townhouse suite that is luxury personified. Guests enjoy The Pool at Pleasant Beach Village with hot tub, full bar (hello, summer fun), and kiddie wading pool. It will be hard to leave the property, but Lynwood Center is just a staircase away.

The Inn at Pleasant Beach

Photo by Kevin Hughes

The Eagle Harbor Inn has seven beautiful rooms of all shapes and sizes, sunny terraces, and free Pegasus Coffee in the common room. The short walk to Winslow Way is a major draw. We recommend the Ferryboat Townhome, which boasts a charming private elevator replete with wrought iron gate. Heaven.

 

Natalie and Greg have written for Travel + Leisure, Fathom, Food52 in addition to Seattle magazine. They’ve been to 117 countries combined. In between trips they share a houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union.

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