Camping at the Beach

I was all set to write this inspiring post about camping at the beach, and then I checked the weather. We’re dropping from a high of 74 today to a high of 50 tomorrow. And that’s just how June goes in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. One day we're enjoying summer and the sun is shining, the next we have a week of cold and rain. Well, I’m going to go ahead and write this post because we’re all bound to be inside, dreaming of sunnier days to come and, hopefully, you’ll be online planning for said sun to return! So, grab a cozy cup of coffee (maybe a cookie or two) and enjoy this little mini vacation, reminding yourself that the sun will, indeed, return.

I need to start this post with a caveat: my idea of camping is a very swanky hotel. It’s a personal flaw, so I am, perhaps, not the most qualified person to be writing about camping. That said, this place is so special I’ve actually considered booking a spot and bringing the family this summer for a little stay-cation fun. Trust me, if I can be tempted to go camping, this place must really be something special.

Spread over 17 pristine acres, Fay Bainbridge Park boasts a saltwater shoreline stretching 1,420 feet along the northeast corner of Bainbridge Island. With sweeping vistas of our stunning Puget Sound, the beach offers views of Mount Rainier and a glimpse of downtown Seattle to the south, the glacier Cascade Mountains due east, Mount Baker to the north, and resident pods of Orcas if you’re very lucky. This is an especially amazing place to watch a full moonrise. Bring your camera – you will not be disappointed.

While a sighting of the resident Orca pods is not common, there is an abundance of wildlife guaranteed to delight any nature lover. You are certain to see (and hear!) the majestic bald eagles who nest in the tall, evergreen trees forming the western border of the park. There are often harbor seals who sweetly poke their head out of the water to check out what’s going on, Canada geese winging their way overhead, blue heron spending the day fishing, seagulls cracking clamshells, and tiny crabs hiding under rocks who skitter away remarkably quickly when their private, hideout is disturbed. The list of critters living in this stretch of paradise goes on and on because, honestly, wouldn’t you choose to live here if you could?

My children love to seek out the local crabs. They are always very careful to put them back where they found them and they don’t often get pinched. These guys are pretty friendly. 

And speaking of wildlife, this is a dog friendly beach and it is ideal (even required) to please keep Fido on a leash. That said, you are sure to meet lots of friendly dogs who feel that a leash is simply not for them. Bainbridge dogs are notorious for blatantly ignoring the island’s leash law. Renegades.

The beach at low tide leaves behind treasures galore in the little tide pools: tiny fish and baby crabs, lots of slippery seaweed, and sometimes you can even find a starfish (according to my children who love to correct me, the modern term is "sea star").

Fay Bainbridge is littered with beautiful driftwood, perfect for connecting with your inner architect. Feel free to start a new creation or add to any number of remarkable constructions already underway. There are always several amazing forts to investigate and these delight the little ones no end.

Leaving the beach, there is handicap access at two different points along the park. Alternately, it is good fun to forgo the established dirt paths and go for the up and over approach on the logs. Kind of like a steps class so you can feel good abut getting your workout in!

The playground at Fay Bainbridge Park is one of the island favorites. It is adjacent to the very clean and conveniently located facilities and seems to be crawling with children of all ages. On a lunch break from our geology field trip, look how much fun these 7th graders are having! I bet they would have told you they were too old for the playground! 

Oh did I mention camping? Camping options at Fay Bainbridge Park are diverse and come with a friendly host to help you get your lay of the land, er, beach. Hosts enjoy a complimentary camping spot as a thank you for their attentiveness to fellow campers who choose between drive-in spots near the beach, some of which accommodate RVs and campers, as well as standard cars, like this:

This spot is perfect for campers who want to feel like they're in the middle of a Pacific Northwest garden!

Or perhaps you’d prefer more of a park setting with trees? This area up on the hillside has multiple spots to pitch your tent and a common covered area to make new friends. So much more organic than Tinder!

Aforementioned facilities! I do get excited at an opportunity to avoid "going" in the woods. Fay Bainbridge is well equipped with efficient and clean facilities housed in charming bungalows. In addition to toilets and sinks, they also provide showers for $0.25 per minute and a half. I’d love to have my teenage daughter experience this! Conveniently located across from the playground, this is an excellent feature for parents who don’t get a lot of notice from the younger set!

If you’d rather not set up camp, you are welcome to use any of the picnic tables and BBQs provided to set up your day camp. The more organized parents I know love to reserve a shelter for celebrations planned more than a day in the future. There are two shelters available and they come with lots of tables, a fireplace, BBQ, and garbage and recycling on-site. The rustic shelters are especially helpful when rain is a possibility so, um, that would be any month other than July and August. While there might not be rain in the forecast, these are the absolute best months for a beach picnic, or clam bake, complete with fireside s’mores! 

The shelters at Fay Bainbridge are available to rent in 4-hour blocks (11am–3pm and/or 4pm–8pm) and there are two shelters to choose from. Each has a different rental fee but they both inlcude a $10 administrative fee per booking. Please note that serving alcohol requires additional fees as well as the purchase of insurance. 

The Beachside Picnic Shelter is closest to – yep, you guessed it: the beach and is also adjacent to the playground. I love the Roosevelt-era feeling of this camp and that great stone fireplace. It honestly makes me want to host a Moonrise Kingdom party. Uh, if you haven’t seen it please –immediately- stop reading this post and go watch it. Cinematic genius! This shelter rents for $140 for 4 hours, with each additional hour being charged at $35/hour.

The Hillside Picnic Shelter sits up on a hill behind the parking lot and has outstanding views. It also has the added bonus of being far away from the playground if you’d prefer more of a relaxing and quiet experience. It rents for $120 for 4 hours, with each additional hour charged at $30.

Oh, and if your names happen to be Bob and Alice, I have just the spot for you!

More info on camping at Fay Bainbridge Park:

  • $3.00 non-refundable reservation fee for online reservations, or $10.00 fee for reservations made over the phone
  • Two night minimum stay for reservations on weekends (Friday-Saturday)
  • You may not make a reservation within 10 days of arrival, after that time all available sites are first come first serve
  • No refund for cancellations made ten days or less from first day of reservation; for cancellations ten days or more from the first day of reservation you must call 206-842-2306 x118 before 4:30pm
  • Check-in time is 2:30 p.m., and check-out time is 1 p.m.
  • Quiet hours are from 10pm to 6:30am. Engine-driven electric generators may be operated only between the hours of 8am and 9pm.
  • Length of stay: You may stay up to 10 days in any 30-day period during the summer. 

Please visit Fay Bainbridge Park & Campground for more information and to make reservations.

Happy camping!