Stroll Through Bainbridge

Bainbridge Island is a historical place rich in culture.

When cruising central Puget Sound, a must stop for us is Eagle Harbor and the city of Bainbridge Island, only six miles from the Seattle downtown waterfront. For Arlene and me, Bainbridge’s attraction is its convenient location on the north shore of Eagle Harbor, its successful blend of Pacific Northwest heritage with a casual, artistic sensibility and its overall beauty.

A walk through downtown unveils the unique and easy character of the island, from boutique stores to local wines, outstanding restaurants and cafes to independent bookstores. Add a scenic waterfront walk, and it makes for a pleasant visit.

Winslow Way, the island’s original main street, is just three city blocks up the hill from the waterfront and features a unique shopping experience that includes comfortable coffee shops, clothing boutiques, bakeries, specialty shops and outdoor gear.

Fine art and antiques, funky collectibles, and original works from local and regional artists offer an eclectic array of goods to tantalize both the collector and the curious.

Main Street has changed with the times but is still rooted in the past — a pedestrian- friendly thoroughfare that for more than 150 years has served the residents of Eagle Harbor.

The island became one city in 1991 when the city of Winslow annexed the rest of the island. Also in 1991, residents voted to change the city’s name to Bainbridge Island.

Start the morning at Blackbird Bakery for coffee and pastry. When confronted by Blackbird’s pastry case, making a decision is no small matter.

For lunch it’s Hitchcock Deli, one of the best delis in the Northwest. The menu includes house-made charcuterie that can even make a vegan salivate. Try a sandwich made with the charcuteries, such as the Cuban or the Laziio (both starring Hitchcock’s own porchetta) or the Martino (with house-made sweet Italian sausage). When it’s time for dinner, two headliners serve up their own style of Northwest cuisine.

Hitchcock (a separate restaurant next to the deli) transforms farmed, foraged and fished ingredients into eyeand palate-pleasing dishes in a casual atmosphere created out of a reclaimed bowling alley. Restaurant Marche offers a French twist on Northwest fare. Here, you can dine in the delightful mid-century modern bistro or ask for patio seating where you can watch island life pass by.

Boaters need to exercise caution when approaching and entering Eagle Harbor and allow the captain to practice his navigation skills. Long Tyee Shoal extends off Wing Point and crosses the largest portion of the harbor mouth, so careful charting is essential here. Once inside the shoal, skippers can follow navigation aids into the harbor, while keeping a keen eye on Washington state ferries that are arriving and departing.

Eagle Harbor offers a choice of three moorages. The Waterfront Park Municipal Dock, with no water or power, is the first moorage inbound boaters encounter to starboard, but it can get crowded during the height of the season. Harbor Marina offers mooring as available. For our visits, we stay at the Winslow Wharf Marina, just west of Waterfront Park, which does not have any designated guest moorage, but the harbormaster will assign empty permanent moorage to visitors. Reservations are recommended. The marina offers power, water, clean restrooms with showers, laundry and Wi-Fi.

Boaters also need to be aware that there are no fuel docks in Eagle Harbor, so plan accordingly. The nearest fuel dock is at Elliot Bay Marina. 

The island is bicycle friendly with rolling hills. If you didn’t bring your bike, you can rent bikes during the summer at the Bike Barn next to the ferry terminal. Walkers will enjoy the waterfront Loop Trails. The four miles of trails run along the waterfront and feature informative signs along the way.

History buffs will want to visit the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and learn about the area via award-winning exhibits. Nearby is the Bainbridge Island Art Museum, which offers contemporary work by artists from the Puget Sound region.

The Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market is open from April to November every Saturday in the town square in front of city hall. Local farmers offer produce and crafts.