Friday, February 03, 2012

From Seattle to Bainbridge Island by Ferry

Not all travel has to be around the world. Here in Seattle we have a plethora of options for getting out of the city for a change of scenery and one of my long time favorites is a quick trip over to Bainbridge Island via the Washington State Ferries. If you're visiting Seattle, this is an ideal and inexpensive day trip that gives you a unique perspective of the city (and the surrounding communities).

"The Boat", as the ferry is sometimes referred to locally, leaves from Pier 52 which is located next to the famous Ivar's Acre of Clams (a place that deserves a visit on its own) and is best experienced on foot. If you prefer to drive, you can take your car on the boat, but because it's not recommended since Bainbridge is so walkable and driving on is much more expensive. Once on board, it's only a 30 minute ride over to the island with some of the best views of Seattle.

After the break, we'll have a brief photo tour of my last trip over there.

The Washington state ferry system is the largest in the United States, and third largest in the world. The ferries used on this particular route are the largest and newest of all the ferries in the Washington state fleet. The Jumbo Mark II serves as the link between Seattle and Bainbridge Island and can carry more than 200 cars and 2,500 people per trip.

The Bainbridge/Seattle route is the busiest in the system, although the most scenic is further north in the stunning San Juan islands. If you have a few extra days and car, this is an ideal weekend get-away but be warned that during the summer high season you may have to wait due to the popularity of the San Juans.

The best part is pulling away from Seattle or coming back to it. On clear days, you have a good chance of seeing Mt. Rainier in the distance and at night, you have a completely unhindered view of the night skyline. Many of the most famous skyline photos of Seattle are taken from the ferry.

In contrast to Seattle, Bainbridge Island is a world away and retains a strong small town feel. Less than 25,000 people call the island home and outside of the main downtown, the norm is still country roads with farms and ranches. Bainbridge Island has seen more people move in and more houses built in recent years, but the general sense of place here remains authentic and local. If anything, growth has let the downtown area grow with new and unique shops.

On board there are a few video games for kids and a small commissary for those that can't wait until the other side. On the west side of the boat, there is also a huge map of the entire region on the wall beside tourist information about Kitsap County and the cities on the western side of the Puget Sound.

What a difference 30 minutes can make! Once you arrive here, there are plenty of options of cafes, restaurants, and small shops to try a short walk from the ferry terminal. Boats run about every hour or so and go late into the night, which means that you don't need to stress about getting stuck on this this side of the water. Take your time and enjoy! For my recommendations on places to see, check out my next post on Bainbridge Island!

Of course, if you don't want to take the boat, you have a couple of options as well. Driving around via Tacoma will add an hour to your trip and take you through Bremerton and Poulsbo (also known as "Little Norway"). Or, if you happen to have a boat and your Washington State boating license, you can always pull up right to the marina. There is a public dock and moorage, but no fuel dock. If you plan to stay on a long term basis, permanent slips are sometimes available via the wharf.

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