You may not have been to Bainbridge Island, but odds are good you know what it looks like. The gorgeous Puget Sound spot has been a filming location for Grey’s Anatomy and is a regular backdrop for style bloggers and Instagrammers. While it’s mostly a quiet residential getaway, Bainbridge—about 30 minutes from downtown Seattle via ferry—is a romantic, laid-back place to spend a day, and you’ll feel like you’re many miles farther away. The elegant island vibe (more nautical stripes than surfer shorts) makes it feel like a West Coast equivalent of Nantucket, and it’s possible you may not want to head back to Seattle at the end of the day.
As you exit the ferry, go to the top of the small hill and you’ll find yourself in the town of Winslow, where most of Bainbridge’s best restaurants and shops are located. You can walk around or rent a bike from Classic Cycle (which also has a mini-museum full of vintage bikes, if you’re a big fan) to get started.
Along Winslow Way East, the town’s main drag, are some of the best restaurants in the area. Hitchcock, with its locally sourced meat dishes and a “name your price” tasting menu, was named to Eater Seattle’s best-of list and draws foodies from well beyond Seattle. Aside from Sunday brunch, they only serve dinner, though, so if you just have a day, hit Hitchcock Deli, the affordable sandwich outpost where a steelhead trout tartine or turkey-breast bánh mì will keep you full all day. For sweets, don’t miss Mora Iced Creamery, a Washington state institution where the best flavors are made from local ingredients—think lavender, green tea, and blackberry. And while Seattle is known for being the birthplace of Starbucks, there are better coffee options on the island. Head southward to Pegasus Coffee House, a local chain whose Bainbridge location is in a brick building covered in ivy, or Blackbird Bakery, where you can get fresh-made cherry-almond coffee cake, bluebarb (blueberry-rhubarb) tarts, and a range of gluten-free noshes.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its craft beer, and there’s plenty of the good stuff to be found on Bainbridge. A few miles north of the ferry dock, you can find Bainbridge Island Brewing Company, which excels at IPAs made with Washington State–grown hops. Try the Kommuter Kolsch, a wink at the many island residents who go to and from Seattle every day, or the brand’s signature Single Hop Pale Ale, which rotates through a new variety of hop every two months or so based on crop production. If you’re not up for the hike or want to try some other brands, the Harbour Public House, on a southern tip of the island overlooking Eagle Harbour, has a range of local beers (plus wines, ciders, and kombucha) on tap—standouts include Mac & Jack’s Brewery African Amber and Fremont Brewing Company Session Pale Ale. Ask to sit in back overlooking the wharf: You can have a cheeseburger or mussels as you watch the boats come and go.
The best way to kill time between decadent meals? First up, stop in at Salt House Mercantile for owner Carrie Schei’s carefully curated mix of housewares and cute objects, including Rifle Paper Co. notecards, Formulary 55 soaps, and jars of Bee Local honeys (get the “smoked cherry wood” flavor, which is worth checking a bag for). Across the street is Paraffine, a punningly named love letter to all things candles (they’re organized by color, with yellow at the front door and dark purples toward the back), but don’t miss the lovingly selected batch of obscure Swedish and Finnish teas, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in America. On the way back to the boat, stop in at the three-year-old Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA), which is free to visit and has a small but thoughtful range of paintings, films, and objects by Washington State artists. Its cafe, BIMA Bistro, has tasty but hearty dishes like cinnamon brioche toast and croque-madame sandwiches, and the gift shop is a perfect spot to pick up bright paper “box totes” and wrought-metal earrings.
Bainbridge might enchant you enough that you’ll decide to stay the night. Near the Harbour Public House is the Eagle Harbor Inn, a dainty yellow-and-brick “petit hotel” with just a handful of rooms. The island’s casual vibe continues to the hotel, which doesn’t have a front desk—once you’ve made your reservation online, you’ll be emailed a punch code for the room you’re assigned to—but there are cleaning staff and helpful employees who put out coffee in the morning. The Bainbridge Island Country Inn, about a mile and a half due north of the ferry dock, has a more rustic B&B feel with its green wooden doors and heated outdoor pool. The next day, continue on to the stunning Olympic National Park, the Pacific Northwest’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. About two hours west of Bainbridge, in the town of Port Angeles just shy of the Canadian border, this park’s impressive terrain varies from forest to glacier to meadow.