Eagle Harbor of Bainbridge Island offers more to the boater than just the Winslow Way boutiques that are often full of tourists fresh off the ferry from Seattle. This harborage is protected from the wind on all sides with free anchoring, affordable (but limited) public docking and mooring buoys, and private slips of all sizes. Additionally, the array of restaurants, parks, recreation, and more make dropping the hook in Eagle Harbor an entire weekend affair if you have a little insider knowledge. A bicycle or kayak, both available for rent, can go a long way for those who wish to explore.
The warm, calm summers bring stunning Olympic Mountain views to the west and hoards of tourists from the east. The brooding, misty winters transform Bainbridge into a quiet community of locals, ranging from the sea salts of a bygone past that invoke imagery from Snow Falling on Cedars to tomorrow’s yuppie tech families. Whether you’re coming in from afar and want to take a rejuvenating break before continuing on an extended cruise or you need an escape from the Seattle hustle and bustle, Eagle Harbor is there for refuge.
Boaters should take notice of Eagle Harbor’s relatively narrow entrance between Wing Point and Bill Point, for it is shared with the ferry that must be respected. Once in the harbor, one should consider Puget Sound’s dramatic tides, for great swaths of Eagle Harbor are reduced to wading depths and mud flats at low tide. Mind the anchoring restrictions (described later) and the Markers, especially Marker 3 and Marker 5 off Pritchard Park as you exit Eagle Harbor (it gets shallow in there at low tide). Cruisers also need to be aware that there are no fuel docks in Eagle Harbor, so plan accordingly.
Hit the Beach
Most visitors to Bainbridge restrict their visit to the north side of Eagle Harbor, where the public dock and ferry terminal reside, only to gaze at the golden sands of Pritchard Park’s towel-n’-sandcastle friendly beach from afar. But for those with a dinghy or kayak, the short paddle across with a picnic basket is a perfect afternoon waiting to happen. The park’s short trails wind through a lush forest and, for those in need, bathrooms are situated near the park entrance. The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is just down the road.
Pick up a Paddle
It’s hard to avoid Waterfront Park, especially if one uses the public dock that is nestled inside of it. Showers and bathrooms are available, and old madrona trees (Arbutus menziesii) and shaded park benches by the water are a picturesque setting in which to relax. But Waterfront Park is also the perfect staging area for an afternoon of adventure, for the best way to explore Eagle Habor is with a paddle in your hand. Great blue heron rookeries and harbor seals are a few of the common sights, along with hidden inlets to investigate. Fortunately there are rental options and a boat ramp.
To the Back of Beyond outfitters owns the historic barge Furious II that is permanently moored on the public dock and offers rentals of one- and two-person kayaks, stand up paddleboards (SUP; including the 10-person SUP Squatch, when available), and canoes. Eight-plus person Native American style canoes are also available for a voyageur-style experience. Exotic Aquatics Kayak and Scuba shop also delivers kayaks to the boat launch for your enjoyment.
Be Fresh,Be Local
The Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market is open from March 26 to December 17 every Saturday from 0900-1300 hours in the Town Square in front of City Hall and easily has enough vendors and offerings to fill up an entire morning. Local farmers offer their finest produce and crafters have everything from artisan lavender soaps to glasswork.
Take in the View
The Harbour Public House stands among Eagle Harbor’s many great waterfront-dining options due to its English public house layout, local heritage feel, and raised outdoor deck. It is slightly off the beaten path off Winslow and is the perfect local mainstay to enjoy a salmon on rye sandwich over a local IPA or Bainbridge wine while gazing at the masts of sailboats. It doesn’t get much more Puget Sound than that. Be warned, it gets crowded and minors are not allowed.
If you want to venture further afield, the Bike Barn is open seven days a week during the months of June, July, August, and September. The island is hilly and the shoulders aren’t the best, but if you’re bent on seeing the