Tots in Tents at Fay Bainbridge Park

The closest bike camping to Seattle! We rode 4.5 miles from Fremont, WA to the Seattle Ferry Terminal, followed by a 35-minute ferry ride to Bainbridge Island, and a seven mile ride to Fay Bainbridge Park.

Bicycle Adventurers: We had a huge group for National Bike Travel Weekend: 62 people, 23 families, 32 adults, 30 kids, 1 dog, 36 bikes, and 22 tents. I coordinated the trip with local family bikers using our Facebook group, Seattle Family Biking, my Twitter and Instagram accounts, @familyride, and my blog, familyride.us.

When: June 4-5, 2016, National Bike Travel Weekend.

Accommodations: Fay Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island is a short ferry ride from Seattle, WA.

Distance: 11.5 miles on day one, then back the next day.

Bonus tip for this adventure: 

  • No guarantee, but at Fay Bainbridge Park we’ve always been placed at the kayak-in campsite rather than the hiker/biker area, and we love it there! Both are by the beach, but the kayak side has more open area ... and more room for large groups like ours.
  • Don’t miss Madi Carlson’s family bike primer for plenty of great advice.

Day One

Our amazing group of 62 people and 36 bikes rolled out for a bike overnight on National Bike Travel Weekend, June 4–5, 2016.

Then, I got a flat tire — and realized how awesome and helpful our group was.

The “POP” from my tandem’s exploding rear tube echoed down our long bike train on Highway 305, only halfway through our seven-mile journey to Fay Bainbridge Park. I nominated a new leader, showed him the map, and described a nice area to pull over where I would meet up with them. 

The highway shoulder is nice and wide and drivers on Bainbridge Island are very aware and kind to people on bikes, but I didn’t want to fix the flat out in sun next to the highway, so the kids and I trekked to the meeting spot. Halfway through our trek, a dad swung back to offer one of my kids a lift on his trailer bike. I found my way to everyone, happily resting and snacking, and was given a spare tube by a well-prepared mom. I parked my bike and a dad removed my wheel and started fixing it. All fixed, I hoped for the best on a badly worn tire and pedaled the remaining three miles to camp. It held! Then at camp, a mom loaned me her bike and offered to watch my kids at the beach while I rode into town for a new tire. Later, a different dad helped me wrestle my rear wheel with a new tire back on to my tandem.

This was just my own personal experience, but I saw so much camaraderie throughout the course of the weekend. There is just something about bicycling — about arriving by pedal power — that makes us feel wonderfully strong, and maybe even more able to share that strength and go above and beyond in lending support. I think I have something in my eye. :)

Day Two

We had the best timing for our beach visit because Sunday at 11:40 a.m. was the lowest tide of the whole summer, -3.2ft! The beach at Fay Bainbridge Park is magical at any tide level with a lovely view of Mount Rainier to the south, Seattle across the water — so close, yet so far, and a great view of sailboats.

The kids marveled at sea anemones, dodged squirting geoducks, and examined moon snails, crabs, shrimp, tiny flounders (I think), and sea worms ... such an amazing array of sea life!

Families tended to leave the campground at varying times in small groups which is nice, though not as epic as the huge bike train of day one. In the past we have congregated at a kid-friendly Seattle brewery at the end of the ride, but this year we were more spaced out than last and everyone was ready to head straight home and get out of the heat. It was hot and Fay Bainbridge Park doesn’t have a lot of shade, but it was a bit cooler than Seattle and the at least the bike ride between park and ferry has quite a bit of shade.

Your favorite local bike shop? Classic Cycle, 740 Winslow Way NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Classic Cycle is an amazing bike shop right in Winslow by the ferry. This is where I came to get my flat fixed and had a great talk with Jaime, who remembered me from a previous visit. I hope not to need to visit for a problem in the middle of a bike camping trip again, but I’ll definitely stop in to say, “Hi!”

Bike overnight tips and tricks?

  • I wrote a family bike camping primer: Your Bike and Kids Want You To Take Them Camping
  • And don’t forget SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS. Lately, I haven’t wanted to stand in the long line for snacks aboard the ferry, so I bring blueberry muffins and croissants along, the kids’ usual ferry snack requests.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

1 response so far ↓

bob - Aug 17, 2016 at 5:56 PM

your adventure w/ big group,many bikes and the bow wow sounds great! thanks for story and pix!

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