Vashon Island, Washington is a 15 minute ferry ride from West Seattle, a 10 minute ferry ride from Tacoma, Washington, and a visit to a more gentle, left-of-center, rural way of life than you expect to find near either of those cities. Vashon is both a residential and a tourist island.
Here’s the view as you arrive by ferry.
Vashon Island is about 13 miles long and 8 miles across; it has the same land mass as Manhattan, but with only 10,000 people. It consists of one main part and a secondary part to the south east called Maury Island connected by a thin strip of drive-able land. Vashon has always been primarily a farming community and initially was used to grow strawberries; hence it has an annual Strawberry Festival each summer. It now is the home to many other types of farms and orchards. Since it is commuting distance to two main cities, some people commute, while others rarely head in to the cities from the island. Many people try to live a self-sustaining life style on the island, growing their own food.
If you ever wondered what happened to socially active hippies of the 1960’s, you will probably find some of them migrated to Vashon.
Vashon is actually about a half hour to an hour from Seattle depending on traffic and time of day. You drive south on I-5 to the exit for the West Seattle Bridge and follow the signs towards Fauntleroy and the Vashon Ferry. The ferry takes about 15 minutes to cross to the northern tip of the island and on a clear day, you can get a great view of Mount Rainier. Vashon is also a short hop on the Point Defiance ferry from Tacoma to the south tip of the island.
Vashon’s weather is much like Seattle’s. It can be wet and grey in January and February, but it is mild and can be lovely from April through October. The gardens are green and plentiful. Many people grow flowers, fruit, and vegetables on the island. The fresh food is wonderful.
The fruit and growing season is extensive. Pick Bing, Rainier and pie cherries at the end of June. Eat or cook with apples which start being in season at the end of June with Transparents and are in season through November with Golden and red delicious, Japanese varieties, Gala, and Jonagolds. Of course, the berries are amazing all summer with strawberries a highlight for the Strawberry festival, typically in July. Different types of plums and peaches are available in late July and August. The pears typically help wrap-up with apples in the Fall through October.
Many farms grow flowers, herbs and lavender as well as raise livestock and have honey and eggs available.
In general, you will want a car or bike to stay on and visit the island. You can walk onto either of the two ferries to the island and catch a bus to the main downtown. It is possible to stay at one of the lodges downtown and just walk or bus around to the sites downtown, also. But, there are many hikes and sites around the island so if possible, you will want other transportation.
The beaches around the island are often rocky and the tide charts are useful to note when water may cover your hike back to the road or car.
This site is not an advertising site, but since people have been asking me about our farm on the island, I wanted to post information about it and Vashon.
We host Blue Sky Farm Vashon, a beautiful farm which is available as a vacation rental on AirBnb and VRBO, if you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, heading towards Mount Rainier or the Olympic Mountains, or near Seattle. This post is primarily about Vashon Island, but if you are interested in information about the farm, there is more information below.
Our almost 10 acre farm and orchard on Vashon Island’s westside is very private with a vintage 1924 farmhouse and three barns. It is reserved most weekends from April through October, but availability is updated, you can inquire about it and reserve it, if desired on AirBnb or VRBO. The listings are at the bottom of this blog about Vashon Island.
Things to Do and See on Vashon Island
Here are some fun things to do on the island. You can:
- Visit the Vashon Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings from 10 am to 1 pm on the main Vashon Highway across from the Vashon Thriftway (also the main grocery on the island). The weekly Farmer’s Market is a quirky combination of farmers’ produce, prepared food for sale, and market “wares”. It is a great, relaxed venue of island locals, tourists, and families eating Saturday brunch, listening to the occasional live band, picking up local produce and chatting.
- Drop by the Vashon Library in town on the Vashon Highway. It is part of the King County system and a public library, which is open to all, and is a great stop if you are traveling with kids.
- Shop at the main grocery store, Thriftway. It sells local produce as well as a good assortment of organic options and gifts.
- Visit a brewery or two around downtown.
- Get lost in The Vashon Pharmacy, It is a drug store and also has souvenirs, postcards and gifts.
- Wander to a number of good coffee cafes (such as Café Luna) and gift shops (like Giraffe). It is fun to park and explore.
- Visit lavender farms, such as Lavender Hill Farm which offer tours.
- Visit and do a cider tour at the Nashi Orchards or other orchards on the island.
- Drive to the south east corner of the island and see Point Robinson Lighthouse, with a rocky seashore, hikes, and a great view of Mt Rainier.
- Hike one of the on-island trails. Most of the island maps show a few which start from the island’s roads.
- Take the ferry off of the island from the north to visit Seattle or from the south to visit Tacoma. Two hours from Tacoma is the Mt Rainier National Park and two hours to the west from Southworth is the Olympic mountain range and Hurricane Ridge via Port Angeles. The Olympic Peninsula has many remote and beautiful things to see.
Charmingly, the downtown Vashon Theater shows mainstream movies, but only for a night or two, so catch them while you can. There is a posted schedule and movies are only in town for a short time.
Two restaurant and food options we enjoy downtown are May’s for Thai food (do make a reservation) and the Glass Bottle Creamery (no reservation necessary). Towards the Vashon Theater, near the Zombie Restaurant and across from the Vashon Presbyterian Church is the relatively new Glass Bottle Creamery.
We stopped there on a warm June evening to try their handmade ice creams and sorbets. My boys tried the coffee chip and mint chip. I tried their toasted coconut and one of their fruit sorbets. They were both dairy free. I tried them as a single (two flavors together) in a gluten free cone. I was impressed by the variety of options available in their dairy free and gluten free choices. Their servings were generous. They have ice creams as well as cakes available in their tiny shop on Vashon Highway. They are also at the Farmers Market in their bicycle driven cart.
Many other island hikes are covered in the books on Vashon Island available. The Country Store sells a variety. Here are general island websites with additional information: https://vashon-maury.com or http://www.vashonchamber.com/
Blue Sky Farm Vashon
Here is more information about the Blue Sky Farm vacation rental on Vashon.
You can see availability, inquire about it, and reserve it, if desired via AirBnb or VRBO :
See you on Vashon!