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Bainbridge Island: An Easy Ferry Day Trip for Seattle-Area Families

A safe and fun island outing with kids

Published on: July 27, 2020

kids looking across the bay at the space needle from the deck of a ferry
Looking back at Seattle from the ferry to Bainbridge. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

What do you do when everyone else on social is posting vacation pics…. but your wallet’s looking empty?

You don’t have to go far to go big.

A cruise to a beautiful island is always in style. The best bargain around is a $9.45 Bainbridge Island getaway.

The island’s claim to fame is that it’s where pickleball was invented and where Buy Nothing was founded. It’s also really pretty. The village of Winslow is an easy walk from the ferry terminal, and has everything you need for a lovely day with the kids.

boys looking back at bainbridge island on return ferry trip to seattle
Enjoying the view from the ferry. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel 

Kids love a ferry ride

At downtown Seattle's Colman Dock, a new ferry terminal is in the works. Signs aboard the ferry claim the building will open this summer, but a crewmember told us it’s more like the end of 2023. You know how things go with construction.

The Seattle-Bainbridge ferry costs $9.45 for walk-on adults, and youth under age 18 are free. It’s a steal for the killer views of the Seattle skyline alone.

On board the ferry, we stood on the outdoor deck to watch the cars loading. A little boy counted them: “87… 88… 89… .” Downtown Seattle slipped away, then 35 minutes later, the ferry approached and docked on Bainbridge.

We looked and looked but did not see any orcas on the way over. A crewmember told me, when orcas are spotted, everyone on the boat runs over for a look and you can actually feel the boat lean.

Where to play

Your first stop on Bainbridge should be the Kids Discovery Museum, which is located a half-block from the ferry terminal. The sweet spot for this children’s museum is ages 2 to 8, although more than one adult has been caught playing with the Lite Brite wall upstairs. Admission is $9 for adults and children over 1. Don’t miss Kidimu’s neighbor, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, where admission is always free. It’s a beautifully curated space and the price is right.

The playgrounds on Bainbridge are fantastic. If you drive on, make sure you hit Fay Bainbridge and Battle Point Park. The phenomenal and inclusive Owen's Playground is either a very short drive or a very long walk (1.6 miles) from the ferry terminal.

There is a small playground in downtown Winslow, right behind the Town & Country Market. It’s fully gated, and has a set of swings and a play structure for ages 2-5. From the playground, it’s just a few steps down to Eagle Harbor, where you can walk out onto the dock. We even saw a heron!

We love wandering through Winslow’s charming shopping district. Eagle Harbor Book Co. has a large children’s section, where my kids were delighted to find the newest Magic Treehouse book. And we always stop to browse the creative and fun toys at Calico Toy Shoppe.

mora raspberry sorbet mora iced creamery bainbridge island washington
Mora's raspberry sorbet. Image courtesy of Mora Iced Creamery

Exploring belly-first

The best way to explore Winslow, of course, is with your stomach. We ate our way down Winslow Way and we have no regrets. Have the kids bring their tooth fairy money and let them pick out little treats (and practice math skills).

We started at Bon Bon Candies, where we were greeted with the magical words, “Would you like a sample of our fudge?” The fudge is island-made, and it is delicious.

The kids picked out scones and a window booth at Blackbird Bakery. Next stop was the all-important Mora Iced Creamery, where samples are back! Mora has an entire section of the menu devoted to chocolate flavors. These are my kind of people.

At the end of downtown Winslow, check out Proper Fish, tucked just around the corner on Madison Avenue South. It’s a kid-friendly hole-in-the-wall serving up fish and chips on newsprint.

If you need more fuel, hit up the excellent deli section at Town & Country Market. There’s a second-floor dining area with a view of Winslow Way, where you can have a low-key lunch without worrying about kids having to be “good” at a restaurant.

If you go...

Find it: Catch a boat ride to Bainbridge Island at Seattle's Colman Dock, located at Pier 52, 801 Alaskan Way, Seattle. Reach the town of Winslow via a 35-minute crossing aboard Washington State Ferries.

Bus it or plan to pay for parking in downtown Seattle in order to walk on the ferry.

(You can also reach Bainbridge Island on land, via the town of Poulsbo. Winslow is about an hour-and-15-minute drive from Tacoma, but that leaves out the fun of the ferry ride.)

Schedule: Check the schedule online, but you might not want to build yourself a tight timeline when taking a ferry ride.

Ferry fares:

Walk-on fares (collected westbound only for walk-on passengers):

  • Adult (ages 19–64): $9.45
  • Senior (ages 65 and older) and disabled: $4.70
  • Youth (ages 6–18): Free, but you need to get a ticket
  • Kids ages 5 and younger: Free, no ticket needed

Drive-on fares (collected each way for vehicle and driver; westbound only for passengers):

  • Standard-size vehicle and driver: $17.20
  • Vehicle passenger fares are the same as for walk-on passengers

Buy tickets online in advance, or with card at the dock.

More fun on the Seattle waterfront: Need more fun with kids before or after your ferry ride to Bainbridge? You'll find that many Seattle waterfront attractions are open.

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