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Judy Crowell: Bainbridge Island — Seattle’s Own Bali Ha’i

A 35-minute ferry ride from downtown, the scenic escape boasts one-of-a-kind boutiques, mouthwatering eateries and charming inns

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“Most people long for another island, one where they know they would like to be.”

So says Bloody Mary in South Pacific’s evocative and lyrical “Bali Ha'i.” One such island escape is Bainbridge Island, a scenic 35-minute ferry ride from Pier 52 in downtown Seattle and within the Central Puget Sound Basin.

Approximately 5 miles wide and 10 miles long with 53 picturesque miles of shoreline, you’ll find every water activity imaginable and quiet country roads for hiking and biking. This is a decidedly "green" environment with a pedestrian-supportive town center — all an easy walk from the ferry.

One-of-a-kind boutiques and funky collectibles line the sidewalks along with wine tasting and eateries such as Bee’s Luncheonette, Emmy’s Vege House and Doc’s Marina Grill.

Above all, don’t miss Harbour Public House, built in 1881 in the tradition of the English Public house, with proprietors Jim and Judy Evans and their family living there for several years. This is not a place to count calories. As a certified purveyor of an "Honest Pint," it ensures that a patron receives at least 16 ounces of beer when a pint is poured. Follow this up with the pub clam chowder. I’m a connoisseur of clam chowder and order it at least once every place I travel. Never have I tasted such ambrosia. Baywater Salish blue clams, left happily in their lovely shells, arrive in a large steaming bowl of potatoes, onions, smoky chunks of bacon and heavy cream. I’m not finished. A drizzle of white wine floats on top. Still not finished. Topping all this beauteousness is a one-ounce pat of butter, melting into all the wonderment.

If that doesn’t do it for you, try its Poutine, a Quebec dish invented in 1957. Basically, it's French fries topped with brown gravy, curd cheese and sometimes ground beef, sautéed mushrooms, carmelized onions and/or black beans. Canadian Fernand Lachance, upon seeing this first served, exclaimed, “Ca va faire une moudite poutine.” Translated, “It will make a damn mess.” It does.

Charming inns, such as Island Country Inn, are available, but I loved the Eagle Harbor Inn, a "petit hotel" offering five one-of-a-kind hotel rooms and three custom townhouses built around a garden courtyard.

A short drive or bike ride from the downtown area is the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, an outdoor exhibit commemorating the forcible relocation and interment of 272 Japanese Americans in March 1942. Most of these families were moved to Manzaner, Calif. About 150 returned to the island after World War II, and many family members reside on the island today.

Cycle along the lovely meadows and residential areas to see where many in this art colony live. And the arts are everywhere. So much so that one might assume that every island resident is an artist. Not too much of an exaggeration, actually, as the art scene encompasses the entire island with resident artists, actors, dancers, designers, filmmakers, illustrators, musicians, painters, photographers, poets, sculptors, singers and writers. Whew!

All of this beneath the sleepy backdrop of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains — Seattle’s own Bali Ha'i.

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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