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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
Photo:
Looking back at Seattle from the ferry to Bainbridge. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

Taking a cruise to a beautiful island is not canceled. We just did a kid-friendly one that cost a total of $13.55.

This unicorn is the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island: $9.05 fare for walk-on adults, $4.50 for youth and free for kids under age 6. You get killer views of the Seattle skyline, a 35-minute ferry ride (my kids loooove that the ferry stows cars below) and a day to explore an exceptionally charming small town.

Keep in mind that here in King County, we are in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which technically allows only essential travel. And think about your own risk tolerance; every outing opens you up to some level of exposure.

Kids love a ferry ride

At downtown Seattle's Colman Dock, new ferry terminal is in the works, scheduled to be completed in 2023. Right now only the first section of the new building is open, a much smaller space than the smelly old terminal, but not terribly crowded on a weekday at mid-day.

On board the ferry, we found seats taped off to indicate social distance. Not that there was a need; there were hardly any passengers. (Keep in mind that passengers who drive onto the ferry are asked to remain in their cars.) From the outdoor deck on the third level, we watched downtown slip away. Then we watched as the ferry approached and docked on Bainbridge.

Exploring Winslow

Walking around the town of Winslow, nearly everyone we saw was wearing a mask or a face shield or both, even the busker playing her harp. My kids had only ever worn a mask for a few minutes before; this was a good trial run to see if they could keep them on all day. (They did!)

grygiel boys wearing masks happily on day trip to Bainbridge Island
The author's boys wearing their masks. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel

At Winslow's waterfront park, we saw a group of friends gathered with lawn chairs, seated six feet apart, and each one had brought their own snacks. We observed what felt like all around good social-distancing vibes.

Play time alert: Yes, playgrounds on Bainbridge are open! Bring your own hand sanitizer, wear your masks and keep your social distance. Note that the playground in downtown Winslow is closed for fence repair — and that’s the only one within close walking distance of the ferry terminal. If you've got good walkers, you can reach the phenomenal and inclusive Owen's Playground with a walk of a little over a mile from Winslow.

The beloved Kids Discovery Museum and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art are still closed, but most of the shops along Winslow Way East have their doors wide open for business. Again, every shop we saw was strictly adhering to COVID safety guidelines. Most places put a small table at the entryway, with hand sanitizer, masks if you need them and a polite sign asking everyone to wear a face covering.

At Eagle Harbor Book Co., visitors are asked to wear gloves to browse, or put things on a quarantine shelf after touching them. At Calico Toy Shoppe, you can press a buzzer out front if you don’t have a mask. We were impressed by all the steps we saw businesses taking to keep things clean and safe.

Ice cream time

Since I’d only spent $13.55 on our ferry ride, I didn’t feel bad about splurging on a double scoop at Mora Iced Creamery. What’s changed with coronavirus? The dining area inside and the restrooms are closed; plus no waffle cones, no cash… and sadly, no more sampling of flavors. But also, no line! We got our scoops in record time and I've got no photos to document this treat; the ice cream was eaten way too fast.

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

I’d also never seen Blackbird Bakery without a line snaking out the door, but when we went by, there was hardly anyone inside. We popped in to pick out treats and ate them sitting in the park.

Our first outing

This ferry ride was our first time setting foot outside Seattle — and our first time using a public restroom — since March. It felt a little strange after so many months at home, but Bainbridge is a fun destination that's not too far. I found Winslow safe and uncrowded, which made for easy social distancing.

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

On the ferry ride home, I asked my kids what they liked best about Bainbridge. The unanimous winner: Mora's Swiss chocolate ice cream!

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: Note that ferries are operating on a reduced and sometimes variable schedule; you might not want to build yourself a tight timeline when taking a ferry ride. (There are additional minor delays planned July 27–31 at Colman Dock.)

Read more about the ferry system's COVID-19 updates.

Ferry fares:

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

  • Adult (ages 19–64): $9.05
  • Senior (ages 65 and older) and disabled: $4.50
  • Youth (ages 6–18): $4.50
  • Kids ages 5 and younger: free

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

  • Standard-size vehicle and driver: $20.40
  • 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, with safety precautions in place, of course.

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