Day Tripping: Seattle’s Vashon and Bainbridge Islands

Catch a ferry to these two islands where good food, the arts and small-town living come together.

There are a number of islands along the coastline in Washington, and each has its own beauty and personality. But if you're limited on time, a trip to Vashon or Bainbridge is a short (and gorgeous!) ferry ride.

Each island has plenty to keep you busy for a few hours or a whole day.

Sunrise at Vashon Island
Sunrise at Vashon Island (©Andrew E. Larsen/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Visit Small, Artistic Vashon Island

A 20-minute ferry trip brings you to Vashon Island. A good start is the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, located in a 100-plus-year-old building made of old-growth island fir. If you enjoy art, this is the spot to go: Galleries include Heron’s Nest Gallery and Hinge Gallery. There are also great spots to itch the shopping bug, including Giraffe, which has fair trade and ethically sourced home goods and Dova Silks, home of custom and hand-painted silk creations.

Relax with a wine tasting at Palouse Winery, open weekend afternoons or by appointment, cider sampling at Dragon’s Head Cider, open most weekend afternoons, or Nashi Orchards that's open weekend afternoons or by appointment, or try the spirits at Seattle Distilling, open Thursday-Sunday afternoons.

Bainbridge Island
A marina at Bainbridge Island (©Larry Koester/Flickr, Creative Commons)

A Perfect Day Trip to Bainbridge Island

A short 35-minute ferry ride away, Bainbridge Island has plenty of activities. Boutiques and galleries line Winslow Way E., including Danger, offering jewelry, accessories and home goods from local and national artists. For a treat, head into Bon Bon for Bainbridge Island Fudge and other chocolate goodies.

Be sure to visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, spend time wine tasting—try Eagle Harbor Winery or Island Vintners—or head to Bainbridge Organic Distillers for a tour and tastes.

Another great spot to explore is the Bloedel Reserve, 150 acres of public gardens and forest preserve. When you get hungry, there is plenty of dining, including Restaurant Marché, SuBI Japanese Restaurant and Hitchcock.

Bainbridge Island sunrise
Bainbridge Island sunrise (©Jason Taellious/Flickr, Creative Commons)

A Few Tips for Your Trip

  • Take the Fauntleroy ferry out of West Seattle to get to Vashon Island.
  • Bainbridge Island’s ferry leaves from the downtown Seattle ferry terminal.
  • Both ferries do carry vehicles, so you can walk on, bike on or drive on.
  • Schedules, directions and fare information about the ferries are available from the Department of Transportation.
  • During the busy summer months, drive-on spots fill quickly: Arrive at the terminal early and bring a book or deck of cards to pass the time if you have to wait for the next boat.
  • The main drag of Bainbridge Island, Winslow Way, is walkable from the ferry terminal. Spots like the Bloedel Reserve and Bainbridge Organic Distilleries are further out, so consider driving onto the ferry if you wish to visit these spots, or check bus schedules through the Kitsap Transit.
  • Seattle Cycling Tours has a bicycling tour of Bainbridge Island Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
  • If you like quirky attractions, Vashon Island's bicycle-in-the-tree is a must-visit. While stories of its origin vary, the most likely story is that of resident Don Puz leaving the bike behind when he was a kid in the 1950s. See it near 20312 Vashon Hwy. SW, about 50 feet into the woods on the northeast corner of Vashon Highway and S.W. 204th St.
  • You can also get to Vashon from Point Defiance in Tacoma: check out the info from the Department of Transportation on how to get there.