IT'S THAT TIME of year again. We've set our clocks back, pulled our sweaters out, and settled in for another light-deprived, waterlogged, chap-lipped, wind-whipped winter.

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Fast, cheap, and out of the way

IT'S THAT TIME of year again. We've set our clocks back, pulled our sweaters out, and settled in for another light-deprived, waterlogged, chap-lipped, wind-whipped winter. But you don't have to resign yourself to the gulag. Instead of trying to cure your SADness by curling up in the glow of your TV with a triple espresso and a bowl of Prozac, why not just blow this Popsicle stand? Get away for the weekend to Bainbridge Island, which has fought to retain its rural island character despite being a half hour-away bedroom 'burb. Ferry tickets for your car, yourself, and a special guest: $10.20. Two nights at a cozy B&B: $200. Regaining your sanity: Priceless.

One of the first things you'll notice on Bainbridge is that it's got more fresh air than a Japanese oxygen bar. There should be a Fremontesque sign at the Winslow ferry dock telling you to set your blood pressure and heart rate back 15 years. Breathe deep, grasshopper: That's why you're here.

Before you head to your chosen cozy B&B, stop at one of the island's 20-odd parks and take a stroll. Fort Ward State Park is particularly pretty, offering views of Rich Passage, the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Olympics. And if you're lucky enough to catch a huge tanker heading to the Bremerton shipyards, listen for its horn—because of the weird, great natural acoustics here, the echo seems like it lasts forever.

Now that you're blissed-out on nature, what's next? A great way to get to know the island is to start with an old-fashioned drive: Tool around the back roads without a destination, wave madly at passersby, and enjoy not being stuck in traffic. Be sure to cruise down Toe Jam Hill Road and Beans Bight! (Go slow to avoid deer and families out for a stroll.) As you drive, ponder this fun fact: Bainbridge's 48 square miles hold just 19,500 people. Compare that to 1.5 million people on 34 square miles in Manhattan!

Stop by the Historical Society, located in a restored 1908 schoolhouse in Strawberry Park. The folks here have a collection of video and audio recordings, archaeological artifacts, photos, old maps, and other historical documents. They can tell you everything you want to know about the island, including what a "bight" is. (You may not want to know the origins of Toe Jam Hill Road, however.) Complete your historical tour at the Blue Water Diner—a '40s dining car hauled to the island from New Jersey and painstakingly restored—where the chrome is shiny and the burgers are not.

Reward yourself for a hard day's work with a nice pub crawl. Starting out at the Bainbridge Island Winery makes this different from your normal weekend activity. Close by are two favorite local watering holes: the Harbour Public House and the bar at Winslow Way Cafe. You can stay there for dinner or move to another of the island's many excellent restaurants, including the Madrona Waterfront Cafe, rumored to have the only men's room in existence with a view of the harbor through a periscope.

You could spend the next day walking along the beach watching herons feed, looking for shells, and listening to the lovely honk of sea lions, nature's car alarms.

Or perhaps you'd like to make it a garden day. Make a reservation at the Bloedel Reserve, which offers a one-and-a-half-mile self-guided tour on the grounds of what used to be a private estate. After you say hello to the trumpeter swan and meditate in the Japanese Garden, find the tree that smells like cotton candy; then find the one that looks eerily half-human, like the mythical yet modern Daphne, who changed herself into a tree to avoid a bad date. Next stop is Bainbridge Gardens, begun in 1908 by Zenhichi Harui with seeds he brought over from Japan. Harui was forced to leave his beloved gardens, though they had become celebrated, when he was taken to a Japanese-American internment camp during WWII. Lucky for us, his story has a happy ending: His son has not only restored the original gardens, but he has added a splendid nursery as well.

Before you return to the big city's bright lights, head to Battle Point Park and attend Bainbridge's version of Outdoor Cinema: a star party with the local astronomy club. Telescopes not required; just bring your sense of wonder.

Bainbridge Island B&Bs

Agate Pass Waterfront Bed & Breakfast

16045 Hwy 305, Poulsbo

842-1632 www.agatepass.com

Beachfront location fronting Agate Pass with views of the Port Orchard Narrows.

Bainbridge Inn Bed & Breakfast

9200 Hemlock NE 842-7564

Contemporary log home on two tree-filled acres near Winslow.

Brauer Cove Guest House

16709 Brauer Rd, Poulsbo

360-779-4153 www.brauercove.com

Farmhouse located on the shores of Liberty Bay in Brauer Cove.

The Buchanan Inn

8494 NE OddFellows Rd

780-9258 www.buchananinn.com

Restored 1912 Oddfellows Hall within walking distance of Pleasant Beach and Fort Ward State Park.

Cedar Meadow Bed & Breakfast

10411 NE Old Creosote Hill Rd

842-5291

Northwest cedar home on six acres, close to Eagle Harbor opposite Winslow.

Fuurin-Oka Futon & Breakfast

12580 Vista Dr NE

842-4916 www.serv.net/~rkonzak/futonandb/index.html

House and garden featuring traditional Japanese d飯r, food, and amenities.

Herb Cottage Bed & Breakfast

4064 Crystal Springs NE 842-2625

Cottage surrounded by flower and herb gardens within walking distance of beach and public pier.

Lush Life Gardens

10145 Roberts Rd

842-9408

Antique-filled room in a private home.

Mary's Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast

5129 McDonald NE 842-4952

Farmhouse on five acres of pastureland three miles south of Winslow.

Monarch Manor

7656 Madrona Dr NE 780-0112

www.monarchmanor.com

Rooms on private beach with a view of Seattle.

Olivia's Bed & Breakfast

12168 Sunrise Dr NE

780-9904

One-bedroom apartment with a view of Seattle.

Our Country Haus Bed & Breakfast

13718 Ellingsen Rd NE 842-8425

Private carriage house overlooking lawn, greenhouse, and pond.

Rockaway Beach Guest House

5032 Rockaway Beach Rd NE 780-9427

Turn-of-the-century log home on beachfront with Seattle view.

Waterfall Gardens Bed & Breakfast

7269 NE Bergman

842-1434 www.waterfall-gardens.com

Guest rooms on five acres near Manzanita Creek with waterfalls, woods, and a salmon run.

Winslow Inn Bed & Breakfast

366 Morrill Pl NE

842-9604

One-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the Winslow ferry.

The Woodsman Bed & Breakfast

7700 Spring Ridge Rd NE 842-7386

Guest room on five acres surrounded by woods and gardens.

 
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