Just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle can transport you to a totally different world, says Mickey Molnaire, director of marketing and tourism for the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce. You can leave the big-city stresses behind, and you’ll find a vibrant, welcoming community. “I love the way people who live or work here get active and involved,” she says, “and just the friendliness and slower pace of life.”
Of course, the 360-degree picturesque setting doesn’t hurt. With the Olympics to the west, the Cascades to the east, Mount Rainier standing tall to the southeast and Puget Sound all around, it’s hard to imagine a more beguiling location. And though it’s an island, it’s connected by bridge to the Kitsap Peninsula, making it accessible even without ferry service.
Molnaire, who hails from the Chicago suburbs of Elmwood Park and Hoffman Estates, followed a circuitous path to Bainbridge. “I was teaching English abroad and returned to the U.S. in 1979, when many Southeast Asian refugees were coming to Seattle,” she says. “There was a huge need for English as a Second Language classes for adults, so I moved here. In 1985, I met my husband, who had been living on Bainbridge for 20 years, and became an islander.”
Today, Molnaire enjoys sharing her love of the island with visitors, whether they are on Bainbridge for a day trip or staying awhile in one of the 150 guest rooms spread among two hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts, along with “an unknown number of Airbnbtype properties.”
Event planners will also find several meeting space venues on the island that can handle 100–250 people, Molnaire says. “And the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, just over the bridge, has convention space for larger groups.” Bainbridge also has seven artisanal wineries, a brewery and an organic distillery, so your group can enjoy post-meeting tasting tours (and will never go thirsty, despite being surrounded by saltwater).
If all of that isn’t enough to pique your interest, Molnaire offers three more reasons event planners will find Bainbridge Island a unique, fun and thoughtful host location:
1. It’s Puget Sound’s best day trip—only a 35-minute scenic ferry ride from downtown Seattle—with one-of-a-kind, locally owned shops, restaurants, galleries and museums that are a five-minute walk from the ferry terminal.
2. Visitors on foot can use the BI Ride bus and local taxis to get to other parts of the island, such as the Bloedel Reserve public garden, parks for hiking and beach access, the wineries, brewery and distillery, and other attractions.
3. The island’s visitor center may very well be the only visitor center that provides a brochure guide to restrooms on the island: Bathrooms of Bainbridge. That’s a gift bag item everyone will appreciate!