Shopping doesn’t need to be a chore. It can be an excuse to get out of the city and a perfect time to jump on a ferry and discover (or get back to) the lands that float out there in the Puget Sound.
But before you venture out—by foot, bike, or car—make sure to mark a date that doesn’t coincide with the holiday rush; the earlier in the season, the better. Also bring a jacket, as you’ll want to enjoy the scenery of the Sound out on the ferry deck. Here we go.
A 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle will get you to the island just on the other side of the Sound. One of the most charming aspect of Bainbridge Island’s downtown is how walkable and bike-friendly it is. Once you arrive at the ferry terminal on the island, head for the home of the “best ice cream in the U.S.” (according to Food & Wine), Mora Iced Creamery (139 Madrone Lane N., 855-1112). The shop has more than 70 Old World flavors to choose from, including marron glace and dulce de leche, as well as new-school favorites such as goat cheese with fig and banana split, plus seasonal specials like eggnog. Afterward, ice cream cone in hand, head downtown toward Winslow Way, where you’ll find a variety of independent shops, a bookstore, several galleries, and restaurants. Visit Petit and Olson (150 Winslow Way E., 201-3262), a cottage-like retail shop similar to Anthropologie (think luxury artisan with a rustic boutique-y vibe and aromas of rich rosehip candles) but locally owned. The store prides itself as a lifestyle shop, selling everything from antiques and fine linens imported from Europe to 100 percent merino wool Oleana blankets. If you’re looking for gems and handmade jewelry made exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, stop by Mill Stream
(120 Winslow Way W., 842-4495), filled with whimsical pieces made of sterling silver, bronze, and semiprecious stones—one-of-a-kind “wearable sculptures” that will make you swoon with regional pride. Around the corner to the left is
Plum (124 Winslow Way E., 201-3654), an Asian-inspired boutique where you’ll find many locally made home-decor items, accessories, and gifts—like hand-dyed silk scarves, reclaimed wood furniture, bamboo paraphernalia, and felted handmade “vessels” and jewelry by Laura Sebastian, an Island native.
A “rural paradise” as the locals describe it, Vashon Island is only a 22-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle. With a population just over 10,000, the hilly and forested island makes for an ideal home-away-from-home day trip offering a slower pace. Forget for a moment the weekly farmers markets you see in Seattle: Vashon is home to more than a dozen small family farms selling organic lettuce and kale and accepting payments on the honor system. Once you leave the ferry terminal, you’ll want to make your way (via car) along Vashon Highway southwest to get to the main part of town. Once there, stop by Vashon Tea Shop (17610 Vashon Hwy. S.W., 463-5202), a homey cafe and store where you can find bulk teas and an eclectic mix of tea implements like teapots and tea sets reminiscent of Pacific Northwestern pottery. Browse Dova Silks (17600 Vashon Hwy. S.W., 463-4888), a wearable-art boutique where Vashon fashion designer Dorothy Dunnicliff specializes in hand-dyed silk garments using charmeuse, organza, and chiffon. What’s unique about Dunnicliff’s creations is that each design is hand-painted using colors unseen anywhere else: swirls of metallic grey, bronze, and taupe blend harmoniously, giving the illusion of a mixed palette. Now that you have a taste of the small-town shopping experience, explore further by stopping by Treasure Island
(17722 Vashon Hwy. S.W., 463-2083) for the eccentric on your gift list. Raved about by locals and tourists alike, it offers the most unexpected and one-of-a-kind items, trinkets, and hokey junk. Life-size skeleton props, old illustrated children’s books, vintage jewelry: it’s all here. For the most worldly hippie friend on your gift list, visit Giraffe (9905 S.W. 174th St., 463-1372), an artsy, peace-loving shop selling fair-trade goods and home decor. Their business model and mission is to help the environment by using reclaimed and recycled material from around the world—selling, for example, purses made of recycled inner tubes and coffee sacks from El Salvador and sustainable candles made with soy and essential oils from Haiti.
San Juan Islands
This archipelago is, collectively, the most-sought-out destination for active Seattleites. With pristine waters ideal for kayaking and flat paved roads for cycling, the San Juans offer breathtaking and scenic views of Puget Sound. San Juan Island’s main shopping hub is located in the town of Friday Harbor, where you’ll find artisan goods, souvenirs, and gift shops. Start at Mystical Mermaid (65 Spring St., 360-378-2617), where you can get yourself and a special someone custom-made cuffs for the holidays, or sustainable and locally made suds by Bare (for the missus) and Dr. Squatch (for the mister). The enchanting shop also carries tarot cards, Dungeons and Dragons paraphernalia, and crystals, quartz, and fossils, some of which, according to store owner Brian Moore, are four million years old. Don’t miss Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and Country Store
(3501 West Valley Rd., 360-378-6125), where you’ll see the largest herd of alpacas in the San Juans. The store, located inside the farm, is set up within a cozy cabin selling everything alpaca. From capes and sweaters to toys and slippers, your [non-vegan] friend will be sure to jump for joy this season, bundled up in alpaca goodness. Wind down and spend a few hours browsing through Serendipity Used Books (223 A St., 360-378-2665). With nearly 40,000 used books on every subject imaginable, you’re likely to find a gift for the bookworm on your list. If all else fails, go to Funk & Junk Antiques (85 Nicols St., 360-378-2638), the island’s oldest antique shop, which carries unique treasures like Native American tribal masks, vintage musical instruments, and false teeth from the ’30s. E