Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island Community Page


Written for The Collection Magazine, Spring 2013


Visit the published article on page 64 here


Aprivate and secluded sanctuary awaits you in the island community of Bainbridge Island, WA. Only a 35-minute ferry ride away from Seattle, the community wows residents and visitors alike with its stunning mountain views, gently rolling hills, and small-town America feel. In 2005, the island was named by CNN/Money and Money Magazine as the second-best place to live in the United States. It was recognized again in 2011, earning the top spot in a nationwide study of the best island enclaves by With gourmet food shops, a vibrant artisan community, and an impressive selection of local wineries, it’s no surprise that Bainbridge Island continues to be a favorite hamlet for those seeking luxury and a low-key island lifestyle.

LOCAL FLAVOR: The charm of Bainbridge Island begins to show itself the moment you step aboard the ferry that connects it to Seattle. In fact, the commute to and from the Island is one of the biggest reasons people consistently choose the Island over mainland locations a similar distance away. For those residents, traffic and honking are things of the past, a far cry from the gently lapping waters of the Puget Sound and the sun setting on the mountains in a panoramic view. The ferry ride is different every day, allowing unparalleled enjoyment of the changing seasons and sometimes even a sighting of the elusive Orca whales.

It’s almost as if time travel is achieved by getting off the ferry at the bustling dock on Bainbridge Island. Suddenly you are transported back to a time when people walked down Main Street, live music floated on the air, and the dominant aroma was roasted coffee and cinnamon muffins. For many, the town center, affectionately called Winslow, is a storybook community.

Surrounded by tall trees, pastoral fields and wooded hills, it certainly looks like a storybook community. And its rustic charms don’t end there. They extend into the variety of eclectic storefronts, bustling coffee shops, and gourmet restaurants that keep the community connected.

With only 65 square miles of land and just over 22,000 residents, Bainbridge Island could have fallen into the trap of being just another sleepy village. But its thriving artisan industries and the resulting strong economy based on small and medium sized businesses have made the town into a strong intellectual and cultural center. The variety of contemporary art available, as well as the traditional crafts that residents are so proud of, continue to draw many visitors each year.

Because of the strength of its community, Bainbridge Island continues to be a haven that unites people of different strengths, from the civically-minded to the creative to the intellectual. All of these people enjoy the lifestyle that is made possible by the Island and its lack of traffic, where everything you might want to do is only minutes away. It is truly a place where there is something for everyone, from the golf enthusiast to the hiker to the quiet reader.

Once you experience everything that Bainbridge Island has to offer, it’s likely you won’t want to go anywhere else. And yet the ability to do that, to go somewhere else quickly and easily, is one of the Island’s most endearing qualities. Seattle is not the only destination nearby. The Kitsap Peninsula and Hood Canal are wonderful spots for weekend travel and are accessible by bridge.

Bainbridge Island unites more than just the country with the city. It unites the convenience of modern life with idyllic values from long ago: artisanship, community, and natural beauty. And that has made it more than just a place to live. It has made it a place to relax and enjoy the best that life has to offer. And that, even more than the ferry ride to get there, has made all the difference.

HISTORY: Although Bainbridge Island has become increasingly popular in the past several years, it actually has a long and rich history dating back to the Native Americans. Not much is known about the Island, however, until 1792, when Captain George Vancouver anchored off its south shore in his quest to map the area while searching for the mythical Northwest Passage. His interest in the Island wasn’t strong, however, and there wasn’t any push to name the land until 1841, when U.S. NAVY Lieutenant Charles Wilkes visited on a survey expedition. Lieutenant Wilkes named the Island after Commodore William Bainbridge, the commander of the US frigate Constitution in the War of 1812.

At the time of its naming, Bainbridge Island was still under the ownership of the Suquamish Indians. In fact, it wasn’t until 1885 and the Treaty of Point Elliot that Chief Sealth (Seattle) signed the land over to the US government. Bainbridge Island was already making a name for itself by the mid 1880’s, claiming the world’s largest sawmill on its shores.

The logging industry was particularly strong on Bainbridge Island because of the natural abundance of tall and accessible cedar trees, which were in demand for ships’ masts. Shipbuilding also became a staple of the Island’s economy.

It wasn’t until most of the huge cedar trees were gone that Bainbridge Island started to grow as an urban center instead of just an industrial playground. The area was popular with Japanese immigrants, many of whom grew strawberries.

As World War II bore down on the United States, all of that changed. Because of its proximity to local naval bases, Bainbridge Island’s Japanese-American population was among the first to be sent to internment camps, first to Manzanar and then Minidoka. The experience left an indelible mark on the Island. Its remaining residents, although sympathetic to the War, were heartbroken over the loss of their friends and neighbors and the injustices they suffered at the hand of the US government. These feelings and reactions can be explored even today at the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial. The Memorial was set in motion in 2000 and is designated as a National Historic Monument as an extension of the Minidoka National Historic Site.

After the War, a large number of Bainbridge Island’s Japanese-American residents returned to the growing Island. Things continued to change. In 1947, the town of Winslow was incorporated and the area saw a more developed water system, sewers, and utilities. Winslow had become the Island’s urban center.

Despite its urban growth, Bainbridge Island settled into its position as a bedroom community of Seattle, serving as a summertime playground for the area’s affluent. Car ferry service was finally introduced in the 1960’s but the Island’s growth was still relatively slow until the 1980’s, when the Port Blakely Mill Company desired to transition its tree-growing land to a large planned community of homes.

Rampant development was halted by a concerned group of Island residents and plans were set in motion for a community that included more parks and other green space, as well as the protection of many of the Island’s pristine views.

But Bainbridge Island couldn’t be kept a secret for much longer and in the 1990’s, the Island experienced exponential growth. Thanks again to a concerned group of local residents, the expansion of the Island’s population has not destroyed the local culture but instead enhanced it.

With careful planning and thought, Bainbridge Island continues to grow and improve, harnessing its rich history through its vibrant artisan community.

ARTS & CULTURE: Known for its lively artistic community and active lifestyle, residents of Bainbridge Island enjoy more opportunities to explore art and the outdoors than almost any other city of a comparable size. This is very apparent when strolling down the main street of Winslow, where arts and crafts galleries abound, mixed in with bicycle shops and even a 1930’s movie theater.

In addition to a Performing Arts Center, the Island boasts its own community arts organization, Bainbridge Island Arts and Crafts, which supports and displays those works while also advancing local art education. Those interested in exploring art history can visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

For those interested in the exploring their beautiful surroundings, Bainbridge Island offers everything from hiking, biking, and equestrian trails to golf and tennis. There is also a unique set of campsites called the Cascadia Marine Trails, which are accessible exclusively by boat. Other great wilderness spots include the Fay Bainbridge State Park and the Bloedel Reserve.

If your flavor of fun comes in red or white, be sure to check out the Winery Alliance, which is a group of seven independent and local wineries. Each one has a tasting room and an open-door policy to meet the wine makers. Bainbridge Island Brewing is a good choice for those who prefer local beer.



ANNUAL EVENTS: No matter the season, Bainbridge Island always has something fun and interesting on the calendar. A sampling of events is below. For more information, see the complete community calendar here.

FAMILY LIFE: With its lively artisan culture and intellectual flair, it’s no wonder that Bainbridge Island has a public school system that’s consistently ranked at the highest levels in both state and national performance statistics. The district is committed to excellence in more ways than one. Seventy-five percent of its teachers have earned a master’s degree or higher. Its sports teams are also highly successful. The high school lacrosse team is known for its numerous state titles, and the sailing team is the reigning champion of the Interscholastic Sailing Association.

Outside of school, students in the area benefit from the many educational centers and parks that the Island provides. This includes the Kids Discovery Museum as well as Islandwood. At Islandwood, which has over 250 wooded acres, the primary mission is to provide environmental education to schoolchildren, as well as family adventure weekend camps that the whole family can enjoy.

GETTING AROUND: The town of Winslow, on Bainbridge Island, is a walker’s paradise. That said, access to the rest of the island is primarily by bike or car. Many residents are ardent bike commuters who get their daily workout by biking the hills of the Island on their way to the ferry. In addition to the ferry, the Island is also connected to the mainland by a driving bridge.

SPECIAL AMENITIES: For pampering, one needn’t leave Bainbridge Island at all. In fact, relaxation and rejuvenation can be found at Renew Day Spa, a boutique gem of a spa nestled in the village of Winslow. A visit at Renew starts in a sun-filled waiting area, where visitors can enjoy beautiful photography, babbling fountains, and soothing Jazz music while overlooking the spa’s gardens.

Another local favorite is the Town and Country Market, where most residents pick up fabulous meats and cheeses, organic produce, and gourmet favorites. Locals rave about the impressive wine selection.

If you want to work out before enjoying such great food, visit the Bainbridge Athletic Club. With social programs, a nutritionist, and the latest in fitness training techniques, this is a one-stop-shop for many Island residents.

The Island also offers two country clubs for those interested in golf, the Meadowmeer Golf and Country Club and the Wing Point Golf and Country Club.

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