For families who want an adventurous day trip without a long commute, Bainbridge Island is easily one of the most accessible ways to enjoy the island life in Puget Sound. After many of our own visits, it’s become a little like a home away from home for my family. Read on for tips to make your own trip feel like the escape you need.
Bainbridge Island: getting there
Ferries to Bainbridge Island depart right from the Seattle waterfront and kids ages 18 and under ride for free as of October 2022. Check the online schedule ahead of time and give yourself plenty of time to navigate waterfront construction and busy weekend evenings. Consider walking on the ferry for a virtually guaranteed spot and exploring downtown Winslow on foot. You can even use BI Ride, a ride-share service at the cost of a bus fare, to get around the island without a car.
Alternate itineraries include driving around the Kitsap Peninsula via Tacoma or taking the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston. Both routes will take you through the charming town of Poulsbo and near the Suquamish Museum (an excellent place to learn more about the Suquamish People who have stewarded our region since time immemorial, and to play on the lovely playground just behind the museum).
Bainbridge with kids: what to do
One thing we’ve learned after nearly 25 (and counting!) visits to Bainbridge with kids is that there’s something for everyone.
The Kids Discovery Museum (aka KidiMu) is a can’t-miss stop. Crowd favorites like a grocery store, bank and indoor treehouse are available throughout the year, but save time for the STEM-focused learning spaces that change regularly. The space shares a parking lot with the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (which has free admission, so it’s a risk-free way to introduce kids to art).
If your February plans include a staycation, keep Seattle Museum Month in mind. Guests of participating Seattle hotels get a pass for 50% off admission at most Seattle-area museums for the entire month, which includes KidiMu!
Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial: While not technically a museum, this must-see memorial honors the many Bainbridge residents of Japanese descent who were incarcerated during World War II. Its outdoor location and easy walking path make it very family-friendly, while your heartstrings will feel a tug seeing the names of toddlers who were forcibly removed from their homes.
You’ll find noteworthy playgrounds throughout Bainbridge Island, but make sure you save time for at least one of our three favorites:
- Battle Point Park KidsUp! Playground: This inclusive play space features a custom-built ferry climbing structure, sand pit, swings and a wheelchair-accessible We-Go-Round. Don’t forget your family’s favorite athletic gear — there’s also a pump track, pickleball courts, roller hockey rink and disc golf.
- Fay Bainbridge Park: Catch views of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier from the beach while your kids play on the pirate ship playground.
- Owen’s Playground: Enjoy nature-inspired play structures and fun water features at this inclusive play area that’s a short drive away from downtown Winslow.
If you look at Bainbridge Island on Google Maps, you’ll notice it’s completely speckled with green space, meaning you’ll find a park and trails nearly everywhere you go (check out the full list here).
Fans of the trio of large Triangle of Fire forts will appreciate climbing around the smaller bunker at Fort Ward Park. A loop trail winds through the trees in the park (occasionally there are fairy houses to find) while a paved waterfront trail is perfect for a family-friendly bike or scooter ride.
For an experience that is truly unique to Bainbridge Island, scout out the Community Events on IslandWood’s calendar. Roughly once a month (usually on the first Sunday), this environmental education nonprofit opens its trail network to the public. Don’t miss climbing the lookout tower and checking out the treehouse with canyon views.
Summer might be the most popular time for a day trip, but seasonal events add an extra touch of magic to an island visit.
- Suyematsu Farms provides multiple opportunities to make the most of the changing seasons. Pick your own bouquet of dahlias in the late summer, visit the cozy pumpkin patch in the fall and cut your own Christmas tree as winter arrives.
- Bloedel Reserve has spectacular trails to explore year-round, but don’t miss the fall gourd scavenger hunt or the pathways lined with snow people crafted from natural materials during the holiday Winter of Wonder celebration. If you have a reluctant hiker in the family, the surprise-and-delight trail elements just might keep them going!
- You could spend an entire winter afternoon at Pleasant Beach Village. Enjoy sliding across their skating rink (we’ve found it easier for little legs to balance on the faux ice), build your own gingerbread house at one of their intimate parties and then settle in for a warm beverage and appetizers under Joe’s beautifully lit holiday tent.
Bainbridge with kids: where to eat
From morning till night, you’ve got plenty of options to fill hungry bellies before or after your Bainbridge activities.
Our day trips usually start with a pastry from Blackbird Bakery or a latte from the beautifully vine-covered Pegasus Coffee. On overnight trips, we get in line early for waffles from Streamliner Diner.
We just can’t quit Bruciato’s Neapolitan-style pizza and have to stop nearly every visit. If we’re staying overnight or are lucky enough to be in town for another meal, we opt for Proper Fish’s perfectly crispy fish and chips or comforting pho from Thuy’s Pho House (definitely add the chili oil for a kick of extra flavor).
For a kid-friendly happy hour, head over for a glass of cider and a board game at Sisters Cider House. Don’t forget to stop at the Ravine at the edge of downtown for a scoop (or two) of Emma & Otto’s ice cream before catching the ferry home. You could take it to go, but during the summer it’s more fun to sit down for live music and lawn games.
Staying on Bainbridge Island with kids
With its close proximity to Seattle, Bainbridge is one of the more developed islands in terms of options for overnight accommodation.
The Marshall Suites are close to downtown with a lobby full of 24/7 snacks, while the Inn at Pleasant Beach offers a shuttle service with unique rooms and summertime access to their fabulous pool (typically between Memorial and Labor Day).
Expect significant variability in overnight rates based on seasonality. Winter hotel stays are surprisingly budget-friendly at around $100 per night, whereas a peak season summer stay will set you back as much as $400 per night.
Camping at Fay Bainbridge is also another fun option — with your tent, RV or cabin spot, your family can get early access to the playground and mountain views.
Whether you take a short day trip or extend your stay into a long weekend, Bainbridge Island offers families the perfect taste of island life with plenty of delicious food and exciting activities.
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