Destinations, Seattle, Travel Guides

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands

March 30, 2016
Islands no band

If you’re feeling land-locked, there are plenty of islands within a stone’s throw of Seattle. When you visit, you’ll find that many have a small-town vibe and a slower pace that’s worlds apart from the city.

All are easily accessible by car and ferry, most by bike, and some by alternative transit (bus + ferry, or bus + train). (When in doubt, click the Google Maps links I’ve provided and switch them over to “transit” to see what your options are.)

Bainbridge Island

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands | Destinations Seattle Travel Guides

Heading to Bainbridge on the ferry / joenevill via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

One of the easiest islands to visit from Seattle, you don’t even need a car to get to Bainbridge: you can catch the ferry right from downtown. Walk on, take your bike, or drive; the ferry conveniently comes every hour, and the ride is only 35 minutes long.

Dedicated cyclists can turn a trip to Bainbridge into a 33-mile bike ride. If you don’t feel like bringing your own bike, a few bike rental companies are also available on the island.

Right off the ferry is the Bainbridge Museum of Art (free admission), and from there it’s less than half a mile into Winslow, the main stretch where you’ll find shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafes.

Looking for something sweet? Try the Mora Ice Cream Company, Blackbird Bakery, or J’Aime Les Crepes. For a delicious wine tasting, consider visiting the Island Vintners, where they offer $20 wine flights as well as small plates.

If shopping is more up your alley, there are many fun boutiques and galleries; my favorites includeEagle Harbor Book Company (an adorable local bookstore that you can easily lose hours in), Bay Hay and Feed (a small-town store with everything from farm and garden supplies to gifts, clothing, and coffee), and Churchmouse Yarns and Teas (tea and yarn lovers alike will rejoice).

If you’re driving or biking, it’s also worth the trip out to Battle Point Park, with its pond and many walking trails, or Bloedel Reserve ($15/adult). The latter, once a private estate, is now open to the public. Meander its paths and enjoy the beautiful sweeping grounds, Japanese gardens, and seasonal displays; a visit can easily occupy a few hours, particularly if you’re taking photos.

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands | Destinations Seattle Travel Guides

A mossy tree at Bloedel Reserve / MissLydia via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Whidbey Island

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands | Destinations Seattle Travel Guides

Sunrise from Whidbey Island / hj_west via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Even if forts and bridges aren’t for you, Whidbey is worth exploring for other reasons: it’s scenic, larger than Bainbridge, and farther from the city. In other words, there’s more to explore and fewer Seattle commuters, so it has that “getting away from it all” vibe. Plus, if you’re skipping Deception Pass and Fort Casey, you can cut the trip down to 1.5 hours each way with the car ferry.

Two major destinations are Coupeville and Langley. However, if you’re limiting your visit to the southern part of the island, I recommend sticking to the latter. A quaint island village with a population of just 1,000 people, Langley is right along the Saratoga Passage, overlooks the water, and is a great place to whale-watch, spot bald eagles, or participate in the town-wide murder mystery that takes place at the end of February.

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands | Destinations Seattle Travel Guides

A whale in Saratoga Passage / Minette Layne via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Langley might be small, but there’s still plenty to do. Wander around the quaint downtown and go to a winery, brewery, or distillery for a tasting. If you’re feeling exploratory, rent a kayak or go on a photography adventure around the island. And if you’re feeling amenable to exploring the outdoors, there’s always Double Bluff Beach. It’s just 15 minutes away from Langley, and you might even spot seals sunning themselves along the shore.

In a “treat yourself” mood? Settle in for a gourmet meal or a spa treatment at The Inn at Langley, which gets rave reviews across the board. But watch out—after a glass of wine, a 10-course tasting menu, and a massage, you may not want to leave!

 

Camano Island

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands | Destinations Seattle Travel Guides

Rowboats along the beach on Camano Island / a.pasquier via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Conveniently enough, Camano is actually connected to the mainland by a bridge. Getting there doesn’t require a ferry, and it’s a quick hour-ish drive from downtown Seattle.

Of the islands mentioned here, Camano feels the slowest-paced of all. There’s a reason why so many photos feature lone stretches of shoreline, idyllic wildlife scenes, and sleepy rows of beach cabins—it’s the sort of place that evokes those feelings of sweet solitude. Nonetheless, whether relaxation or adventure is your goal, you will still find plenty to fill a day or two.

For a truly unique treat, on Fridays through Sundays you can pay a local to take you out crabbing (call to book in advance). Participate as much or as little as you’d like; either way, at the end you head back to the island where you cook and eat your fresh-caught crab. Yum!

If you’re into a bit of excitement in the treetops, I highly recommend Canopy Tours for a fantastic zip-lining experience. As someone with a fear of heights, let me be the first to reassure you: it’s is not nearly it’s not as intimidating or scary as it looks. However, it is a fun way to get a breezy new perspective.

An absolute must is Iverson Waterfront Preserve, where you can hunt for shells along the shore, relax on the beach, explore marshes, hike a “Hobbit Trail”, or meander along birding paths. It’s a beautiful and peaceful respite from the modern world. On the opposite part of the island, about a 15 minute drive away, you can also hike the trails and beaches at Camano Island State Park, a beautiful state park with both forested trails and beach areas.

Seattle day trip: Visit the islands | Destinations Seattle Travel Guides

Walking the beach at Camano Island State Park / daveynin via Foter.com / CC BY

If you’re feeling up to a slightly longer trek (1.3 miles, or about 25 minutes), from Camano Island State Park you can continue on to Cama Beach. Pack a lunch and blanket to eat a snack on the beach, or, if it’s a Friday-Sunday before 2 pm, skip the picnic and instead head to the Cama Beach Café for a delicious brunch (homemade scones, anyone?)

Even if the outdoors aren’t your thing, Camano Island still has plenty to offer: the Camano Island Marketplace has a great assortment of food, arts and crafts; while you’re there, be sure to visit Camano Island Coffee Roasters for a truly excellent cup of coffee.

If you need to seriously unwind, consider dropping in for a class at Movement Arts, the local yoga and pilates studio, or head to nearby Stanwood for a massage or spa treatment at The Skin Care Lounge. No matter how to choose to spend your time on Camano, you’re practically guaranteed to come away feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to re-join humanity.


These are my top choices for island day trips near Seattle. What are your favorites, and what do you like to do when you get there? 

(Psst… Want to continue wandering? Wanderu has featured me as one of their favorite travel and lifestyle bloggers in their post on Seattle Day Trips!)


Featured photo: Olympic range across Elliott Bay / @sage_solar via Foter.com / CC BY

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