This 150-acre preserve at the northern tip of Bainbridge Island (35 minutes by ferry from Seattle) is a mix of pristine second-growth forest and meticulously landscaped gardens. The self-guided loop trail takes roughly two hours and leads you through a bird refuge that’s home to trumpeter swans, great blue herons, and kingfishers; across hand-hewed wooden bridges and through fern-choked forest; and into a Japanese garden where leaves fall gracefully among wooden gates. The path eventually ends at a grand mansion, the former private residence of the Bloedel family—prominent in the timber industry’s forest-conservation efforts during the 1940’s and 50’s. Advance reservations to tour the property are essential: to protect the serenity of the grounds only 20 people are admitted each half hour.
Tip: If you want to combine your visit with other activities on Bainbridge, check out Fort Ward and Fay Bainbridge State Parks (info on both available at www.parks.wa.gov). Winslow, the main town near the ferry terminal, has some cute shops and restaurants (try the Blackbird Bakery or Mon Elisa’s). Download a detailed walking and cycling map at www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us.
Admission: $12 adults; $8 seniors; $6 children. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.