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Day-trips to Bainbridge and Vashon islands

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For a brief escape from Seattle, the ferry ride across Elliott Bay to Bainbridge Island provides a relaxing, scenic experience. Washington State Ferries leave from Pier 52 (hourly 5.30am–1.35am; foot passengers $6.90 (collected westbound only in peak season); vehicle and driver $11.85 non-peak, $14.85 peak season; t 206/464-6400 or t 1-800/84-FERRY, w http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) for the 35-minute trip to the island, a green and rural spot occupying less than fifty square miles. The island’s only conventional attraction, the Bloedel Reserve, 7571 NE Dolphin Drive, off the Agatewood Road exit of Hwy-305 (Wed–Sun 10am–4pm; $12; t 206/842-7631, w http://www.bloedelreserve.org), is a conservatory containing nearly 150 acres of gardens, ponds, meadows and wildlife habitats. If you want to pitch a tent on the island, there’s camping at the far end in Fay Bainbridge State Park ($14–28; t 206/842-3931, w http://www.parks.wa.gov). Area accommodation is limited to B&Bs, details of which can be obtained from the visitor centre in the town of WINSLOW, 395 Winslow Way E (t 206/842-3700, w http://www.bainbridgechamber.com). Decent choices for eating in Winslow are the Harbour Public House, 231 Parfitt Way SW (t 206/842-0969), for its seafood, salads, burgers and microbrews and Café Nola, 101 Winslow Way (t 206/842-3822), for its tasty pastries and breakfasts, and agreeable Sunday brunch.

Other routes from Seattle and West Seattle make the short trip to easy-going, bicycle-friendly Vashon Island. King County water taxis from downtown Seattle’s Pier 50 are passenger-only (Mon–Fri 5.40–7.40am & 4.30–6.30pm; 35min trip; $4.50; t 206/684-1551), while trips from the West Seattle Fauntleroy terminal are by ferry and also for vehicles (daily 5.20am–2am; 20min; foot passengers $4.45, vehicle and driver $15.20, $19 peak season). A few nice beaches lie along the coast of this island, where the community of VASHON is little more than a simple hamlet. The AYH Ranch Hostel, 12119 SW Cove Rd (May–Sept; t 206/463-2592, w http://www.vashonhostel.com; $61–80), six miles from the Seattle–Vashon ferry dock at the north end of the island, offers log-cabin dorm beds for $23, or private rooms ($61–80). There are also a number of good B&Bs, among them Artist’s Studio Loft, 16592 91st Ave SW (t 206/463-2583, w http://www.asl-bnb.com; $101–130), and the Swallow’s Nest Guest Cottages, 6030 SW 248th St (t 206/463-2646, w http://www.vashonislandcottages.com; $101–130).

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