Only a ferry-ride away from Washington’s capital, Seattle, Bainbridge Island and Bremerton have emerged as a favorite destination for both in and out of state adventurers looking to explore Washington state.
Both Bainbridge Island and Bremerton are renowned for their unrivaled natural landscapes and scenic waterfronts, making them ideal locations for a classic American getaway. But it can be hard deciding which is better for you.
That’s where we come in!
We know both these destinations well, and in this article we will provide a detailed comparison of Bainbridge Island and Bremerton to help you decide which Washington gem you should visit on your next day trip or weekend away. By the end we are sure you will know which one suits you best.
- A Quick Overview
- Outdoor Activities
- Shopping and Dining
- Entertainment and Museums
- Getting There
- Where You Should Stay According to Your Budget
- Our Verdict
A Quick Overview: Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton
Bremerton is a small waterfront town situated in the Kitsap Peninsula, a sheltered peninsula west of Seattle nestled between a number of waterways that lead into the Pacific Ocean.
Though Bremerton only has a population of about 38,000 people, the town is the largest in Kitsap County and is divided into two sections by a narrow body of water, the Port Washington Narrows. Bremerton is known for its rich naval history and home to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Bainbridge Island is also located in the Kitsap Peninsula area and in the Puget Sound between Seattle and Bremerton.
With an abundance of green space including the lush forested Bloedel Reserve and over 53 miles of coastline, Bainbridge Island offers the perfect retreat for visitors looking to escape the rush of big city life.
Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton: Outdoor Activities
Bremerton has a fine selection of outdoor activities ranging from cycling and fishing, to hiking and boating.
The famous Bridge to Bridge Urban Trail is an excellent way to get acquainted with the town and perhaps the most popular activity for day-visitors. This easy 3-mile trail can be done on a bike or by foot and the trail starts in downtown Bremerton at Evergreen Rotary Park, a scenic waterfront park. There visitors can enjoy a picnic or make a quick detour to 4th Street and Pacific Avenue, a bustling area with enough charming local shops, galleries, and eateries to captivate visitors for an entire afternoon.
The Bridge-to-Bridge Urban Trail then continues over Manette Bridge to Manette neighborhood in East Bremerton. There are also plenty of landmarks to be spotted along the way like the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial, the Manette Bridge murals wall, and the Constellations steel sculpture just to name a few.
Manette is loaded with local foodie hidden gems so visitors can grab a bite while they enjoy breathtaking views of the distant but towering snowcapped Olympic Mountains that shelter the Kitsap Peninsula from the Pacific Ocean. The trail then goes back to west Bremerton via the Warren Avenue Bridge.
Bremerton also has options for visitors looking to unwind deep in nature – namely the Bremerton Illahee State Park in east Bremerton, and the Green Mountain State Forest in west Bremerton.
Illahee State Park is a 75-acre prime beachfront park and wonderland for fishing, birding, paddling, swimming, and hiking. Visitors can spend the day splashing along the shell-laden bayside or exploring the dense forest that surrounds the coast. The park has 24 camping sites, all available for just $10 per group per night.
Green Mountain State Forest has 16-miles of trails to discover that ascend through thick forests and lush meadows. The Green Mountain Vista trail ascends 1,639 feet to Green Mountain, Kitsap’s second highest peak where hikers can enjoy unmatched views of Seattle’s famous skyline.
Bainbridge Island is beloved for its beautiful coastal landscape and has a variety of both beachfront and inland forested parks and reserves to adventure in. The Waterfront Trail runs along the picturesque Eagle Harbor, and though only about 15 minutes long, it offers visitors an excellent way to get acquainted to Bainbridge Island while providing scenic views of Bainbridge’s signature habitats like Douglas fir, groves of madrones, and historical sites like the Hall Brothers Shipyard.
Fay Bainbridge Park, a 17-acre park on the northeast tip is Bainbridge Island’s most popular marine park. Though the water is quite rocky and not ideal for swimming, visitors can enjoy relaxing picnics, beachcombing, and strolling as they watch driftwood come in with the tides. On clear evenings, the park offers stunning views of Mount Rainier from the sandy beach.
Camping is available at Fay Bainbridge, though depending on the season, facilities may vary. The historic Fort Ward Park on the southern end of the island also has a substantial beachfront to wander and exciting views of the Seattle-Bremerton ferry and other boat traffic, a delight for boat aficionados. The marine park is one of the stops of the Cascadia Marine Trail, with campsites available for paddlers.
Forest hikes are in abundance as well. Grand Forest houses a healthy population of old cedar and Douglas fir trees and over 6.5 miles of scenic lush green hiking trails on more than 240-acres of land.
While Gazzam Lake Nature Reserve features a secluded forest surrounded lake. Visitors can marvel at the many species of birds, fish, or navigate the 7-miles of trails, one of which leads to a serene hiker-only beach.
Finally, the famous Bloedel Reserve offers 150-acres of manicured and forested garden to explore and is particularly renowned for its bright and distinct rhododendron flowers. But entry to Bloedel Reserve is a little steep at $17 for adults.
Which Has Better Outdoor Activities?
Both Bremerton and Bainbridge Island have superb opportunities to explore the outdoors. That being said, Bremerton seems to be the more logistical option if you are travelling without a car, and it has more camping opportunities.
Bainbridge’s main parks like Fay Bainbridge are at least a 2 hour walk or 40-minute bike ride from the ferry. If, however, you have a whole weekend to spend on Bainbridge Island, you will have no problem fitting in all the main highlights, both near and far. Bainbridge has more nature to explore too.
Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton: Shopping and Dining
The Bremerton Marina, Bremerton Boardwalk and the bustling 4th and 5th Street are the heart of Bremerton shopping and dining.
Visitors can promenade along the boardwalk to experience the dynamic energy of a naval city, making a pitstop at the free Puget Sound Naval Museum to learn about the fascinating history and evolution of naval activity in Bremerton. 4th and 5th Street offer over two blocks of charming shops and eateries, featuring quirky local gems like Avebury Mystikals, a metaphysical healing and spiritual store, Bigfoots House of Vinyl and More, a funky record store that sells hard to find vinyl classics, and The Dusty Pig, a adorable gift shop that stocks antique oddities.
For dining, local ma and pa eateries are plentiful and the way to go in Bremerton. Local favorites include the Family Pancake House, a family-owned diner that has going strong since 1963, Horse and Cow Pub and Grill, a no-frills restaurant that serves up gigantic portions of hearty American dishes like wings, burgers, turkey roasts and more. It is also worth hopping over the bridge to east Bremerton for a bite.
Hound and Bottle in Manette neighborhood offers a higher-end menu featuring fresh seafood, vegan options, and seasonal craft cocktails. Larry + Kristi’s Bakery sells gourmet fun flavored doughnuts and Saboteur Bakery, like its name suggests, sells French-style sweets and pastries.
Bainbridge’s main shopping and dining hotspot is just a stone’s throw away from the ferry terminal and follows Winslow Way. Filled with local shops and restaurants, Winslow Way makes for a great afternoon of window shopping or ducking into stores to chat with friendly locals.
The variety of artisan crafted treasures to be discovered here is impressive and ranges from handmade scarfs and teas at Churchouse Yarn and Teas to glass molded sculptures from Amy Roberts Sculptures.
There are several gastronomical highlights too. Wine lovers can visit the tasting room at Amelia Wynn Winery and Bistro, a laid-back winery that features regional art. And sweet tooths can be satisfied at Blackbird Bakery, a friendly café in the heart of downtown Bainbridge.
Harbour Public House and Doc’s Marina Grill offer waterfront dining facing Eagle Harbour, perfect for special occasions and unwinding during the summertime.
Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton: Entertainment and Museums
Perhaps surprisingly, Bremerton has numerous fine arts galleries and performance centers, despite its small size.
The best way to experience Bremerton’s artistic richness is by visiting downtown Bremerton for Art Walk on the first Friday of each month, when galleries feature special exhibitions and restaurants offer exclusive food and drink deals.
During the summer, Bremerton city throws live concerts in the waterfront Evergreen Rotary Park, which are a highlight for visitors and locals alike.
Theatre buffs can also visit Bremerton’s two performing stages, the Bremerton Community Theatre which puts on plays from various genres ranging from classics like Shakespeare, to family friendly performances and musicals in the summer and spring, the Kitsap Forest Theatre provides a dreamy background for al-fresco performances.
Bainbridge Island has a number of museums to explore. The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum is free and tells the story of the island’s past starting from the earliest history of native people. The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art features regional art and special exhibitions. While the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial recounts the history of Bainbridge Island Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in 1942 after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbour.
Bainbridge also offers several opportunities to listen to live music, from flamenco jazz to acoustic trios. The Rolling Bay Hall and The Marketplace, in particular, always have something on for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Which is Better For Shopping, Dining & Entertainment?
In terms of shopping and dining, both Bremerton and Bainbridge Island have plenty to offer.
But if you are interested in naval history and shipbuilding, you will learn a lot more in Bremerton. However if you prefer to learn about native history and heritage, then Bainbridge Island would be the better option for you.
Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton: Getting There
Most visitors travel to Bremerton via Seattle. There are a few options. The first is a 60-minute ferry that carries cars and pedestrians. The second option is a fast ferry. It takes just 28-minutes one way, though cars are not allowed.
From the ferry, you get outstanding views of Seattle from behind and Bainbridge Island at the front, as well as panoramic vistas of the Southern coastline of Bainbridge Island and Wautauga Beach as the Ferry snakes into the Sinclair Inlet.
The price for one adult pass on the regular ferry at the time of writing is just $9.25 or $16.40 for a car though most visitors opt to leave their car at home because Bremerton is a highly walkable and bikeable city.
Like Bremerton, Bainbridge Island is easily accessible from Seattle. The Seattle-Bainbridge ferry takes 35-minutes and is the same price as the Bremerton ferry. The ferry ride offers slightly different but equally breathtaking vistas of the Puget Sound, minus the views of the Sinclair Inlet next to Bremerton.
Both Bremerton and Bainbridge are also accessible by car. The travel time is about 1 hour and 50 minutes from Seattle to Bainbridge and about 1 hour and 13 minutes from Seattle to Bremerton—though you of course would miss out on the breathtaking Puget Sound scenery travelling by car.
Which is Easier to Access?
In terms of getting there, the travel costs to Bremerton and Bainbridge do not differ drastically. However, if you only have a few hours to spend, you do save about 25 minutes if you choose to travel to Bainbridge. But if you are travelling without your car, the Bremerton fast ferry option takes about the same time as the Bainbridge ferry.
Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton: Where to Stay According to Your Budget
Shoestring: Quality Inn & Suites one of the few hotels on the island and offers affordable, clean, and welcoming accommodation near some of the main attractions like Clearwater Casino, Bainbridge Island Winery and the golf course.
Budget: The more upmarket Marshall Suites by Best Western is right in the heart of Bainbridge, has excellent facilities including a gym and aquatic center, and is within a fantastic location for exploring and enjoying the island.
Shoestring: Oyster Bay Inn & Suites is a friendly basic hotel situated on Oyster Bay so you get wonderful water views when staying here. They do a great complimentary breakfast too.
Budget: Also situated on the waterfront, but right in the heart of the action, is Hampton Inn & Suites. This hotel features a pool, fitness center, and is beside many attractions. The ferry terminal is close by too, so the location is extremely convenient for visitors to Bremerton.
Bainbridge Island vs Bremerton: Our Verdict
Both Bainbridge Island and Bremerton are exciting day trip or weekend getaways from Seattle. Each has its own unique variety of natural hidden gems to be discovered.
Yet perhaps the most distinct difference between the two locations is the overall vibe. Bremerton is very much a navy town and provides a fascinating introduction to shipbuilding and maritime life. While Bainbridge Island attractions are less centered around naval history.
Although both are magical and beautiful destinations, and being so close to each other you can also visit both on your vacation!