Too busy to research guidebooks? With our "Do It In a Day" feature, you've got a ready-made itinerary for a good day's visit to a popular Northwest destination.

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Too busy to research guidebooks?

With our “Do It In a Day” feature, you’ve got a ready-made itinerary for a good day’s visit to a popular Northwest destination.

With gas edging toward $4 a gallon, does anyone really need an excuse to park the car, walk onto a ferry that costs less than a movie ticket and settle back for a half-hour cruise across Puget Sound?

Thousands of people travel between Seattle and Bainbridge Island every day, but for those who think of the trip as a commuter run, it helps to remember that the ferry docks at the doorstep of downtown Winslow, an urban hamlet where the air smells not so much of salt as fresh-roasted coffee, cinnamon muffins and rose-petal ice cream.

A timber and shipbuilding center with a population bigger than Seattle’s in the late 1800s, Bainbridge is a bedroom community of 22,000 residents and the gateway to the Kitsap Peninsula and Hood Canal. Traffic is heavy along Highway 305, the main route crossing the island, but a short walking detour leads to a compact slice of small-town America where everything is no more than a 10- to 15-minute stroll from the ferry dock.

This is one of those day trips that works out well last-minute when the out-of-town guests wonder about where to go next, or a sunny weekend morning that calls for an easy-on-the-budget escape from the city.

Here’s the plan:

8:45 a.m.

Cruise control

Visitors love the idea of walking on one of the big green-and-white Washington State Ferries that leave from Pier 52 on the Seattle waterfront. At $6.70 for an adult round-trip, the 35-minute ride is one of the best cruise bargains around. Ferries dock at Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor. Pick up a walking tour map at the information kiosk when you exit the ferry, then follow the signs for the five-minute walk to downtown Winslow.

9:30 a.m.

Green eggs and waffles

You might wait 45 minutes or more for a table at the Streamliner Diner, 397 Winslow Way E., on weekends, so come on a weekday or take an earlier ferry to avoid the lines at this 28-year-old favorite. Order a cup of island-roasted Pegasus coffee and get ready to make some tough choices: Will it be the eggs tinted green with pesto, buttermilk waffles or the spinach and blue cheese omelet? Not sure? Ask the boss. Chances are owner Christina Brigg will be behind the counter cooking or waiting tables.

If the lines are too long, head across the street for freshly baked bread and pastries at Blackbird Bakery, 210 Winslow Way E., or, if it’s Saturday, put together a movable breakfast at the Farmers Market in the town square.

10:30 a.m.

Shopping Winslow Way

It might look at first like every other storefront is a real-estate office, but condo and town- house developments have spawned new businesses along Winslow Way East and West and the side streets of Erickson Avenue, Madison Avenue North and South; Bjune Drive, just off Madison; and the Marina district, west of the ferry dock.

Joining mainstays such as The Traveler, 265 Winslow Way E.; Eagle Harbor Book Co., 157 Winslow Way E.; and Pastiche, 119 Winslow Way E., an antiques and collectible shop owned for 10 years by Beverly Thetford, are art galleries, cafes, restaurants and boutiques catering to an affluent new crop of downtown residents.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary is Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, a co-op representing the work of 255 local artists at its gallery and shop at 151 Winslow Way E. The backroom is devoted to a changing monthly exhibit. April features a display of 21st-century art, jewelry and black-and-white photos of the Pacific Northwest.

12:30 p.m.

Lunch stop

The idea of eating dessert first takes on new meaning at Mora Iced Creamery at 139 Madrone Lane. Produced from scratch by an Argentine couple on the island, 48 flavors of sorbet and ice cream (think rose petal, pumpkin pie, mojito and several variations of dulce de leche) are stored out of sight in temperature-controlled casks. The owners encourage tasting. Ask for a sample, and a clerk will scrape as many flavors onto little wooden sticks as you like.

Still hungry? The smallest and least-expensive restaurant — Emmy’s Vegetarian House, 100 Winslow Way E. at Madison — is across from the classiest, the Cafe Nola, at 101 Winslow Way E. You won’t go wrong at either.

Emmy Nguyen, from Hue, Vietnam, works over a wok in a closet-sized kiosk where she creates $5-$7 stir-fries for takeout. Nola is a white-linen, European-style bistro with sandwiches and salads in the $10-$16 range.

1:30 p.m.

Museum hopping

Winslow is home to trio of small museums. Newly renovated is the Bainbridge Island Historical Society’s museum at 215 Erickson Ave. N.E. in a 1908 schoolhouse moved to the property two years ago. Exhibits, videos, photos and audio recordings trace the island’s history as a shipbuilding and wood processing center and one of the first communities affected by the internment of Japanese during World War II. Admission is $2.50 for adults; $1.50 for seniors and students.

The Kids Discovery Museum, 305 Madison Ave. N., opened three years ago in an old carwash as a nonprofit learning center for children. Coming in May is a sound and science exhibit from the Boston Children’s Museum called “The Blue Man Group — Making Waves.” Admission is $5.

Cycling enthusiasts should stop in at Classic Cycle, 310 Winslow Way East. This is a bike shop with a backroom museum filled with racing memorabilia and quirky bikes. Check out the three-wheel red “cycle mower” made from lawnmower parts.

3:30 p.m.

Explore the waterfront

Take a walk along the wooded paths at Waterfront Park on Eagle Harbor. Bring a book and relax on one of the benches, or rent a kayak or canoe from Bainbridge Island Boat Rentals on the pier next to the park entrance off Brien Drive. Meander toward the Marina District via Bjune Drive. Stop for a glass of wine at the Living Room next to the Seabreeze condo complex, or taste-travel to India or Japan at August Moon, a teahouse with an Asian-inspired lunch and dessert menu.

5:30 p.m.

Dinner with a view

Cafe Nola and the Four Swallows, in a house at 481 Madison Ave. N., score high for romance, but you’ll need reservations. If this is a spur-of-the-moment outing, follow the locals to the Marina District for gastro-pub fare and local microbrews at the Harbor Public House at 231 Parfitt Way S.W., in the 1880s homestead of local newshound Ambrose Grow. The menu, printed on a faux copy of the Eagle Harbor Reporter, lists sandwiches made with bread from Seattle’s Essential Baking Company and an organic Oregon lamb burger seasoned with caramelized onion and goat cheese.

7 p.m.

Save the best for last

The brick and ivy-covered Pegasus Coffee House, 131 Parfitt, near the Harbor Public House, has been a Winslow fixture for 27 years. Open at 7 a.m. daily, it attracts a mostly local crowd who come for the build-your-own breakfast panini and afternoon coffee and card games.

Pegasus stays open until 9:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday for live music and poetry readings. Kids are welcome and there’s no cover, so stop by for dessert and coffee after dinner and hang out for a while before walking back to the ferry dock for one of the Northwest’s best Kodak moments: A photo of the Seattle skyline lighted at night as the ferry cruises toward downtown.

Carol Pucci: 206-464-3701 or