While it is easier to navigate Vashon Island with a car, it does not mean that a car is required to get around.
Vashon is a place with two faces. Some people live or visit here but still access the urbanicity of nearby Seattle and the rest of the world. Others focus on the aspect of a rural island with the life of a small town. Access to both sides of life makes it attractive for people of all ages who enjoy rural life and outdoor activities. Artists who like the peace and quiet from the city life visit and often try to live here.
The longer answer to “Do I need a car on Vashon Island?” lies with each individuals preferences, and often with the means by which residents can expend the expenses of a car. Fortunately, a Vashon Island visit does not require a car which does not mean that driving on the Island is impractical and can be a bit easier to navigate the long ferry lines and wait times.
Do I need a car on Vashon?
Exploring Vashon by Car
Distances on the Island are short, but the drives are scenic. Exploring the Island by car allows visits to more places as there is much to see when driving around.
A ferry is still the only way of accessing the Island by car because there is no bridge (and don’t bring up building a bridge to any locals unless you want an earful). The best way to get to Vashon is by a ferry that ferries vehicles across the waters docks at West Seattle (Fauntleroy), on the peninsula side at Southworth and North Tacoma at Point Defiance. Another one in Downtown Seattle is just for passengers. The ferry charges $15.40 to carry a car and driver. Each additional passenger pays $5.55.
Driving a car onto the ferry is an exhilarating experience for newcomers, and the kids love walking around outside on the decks. The Island has just as much excitement once you arrive and plenty of means to keep you going. We have three gas stations, but the price at the pump is higher than at the mainland so fill up before you get here. For those with electric cars, the Island has Level 2 chargers for electric vehicles, but a lack of fast chargers should not be a bother since the distances are short, and there might not be a need to recharge.
Explore Vashon without a Car
Many people visit and move here to experience the quiet life without vehicles. The trip starts with a ferry ride from one of the three points. The ride takes about 20 minutes. Many describe it as “relaxation and a chance for interacting with Vashonites on the deck”.
After descending, there are many sights to visit using:
- Bus – A ferry to Vashon Terminal leads to Metro route `118 or 119. A ride on the Tahlequah ferry from Tacoma ends at route 118, but anyone going to hiking trails on Maury Island side needs to transfer. Drivers direct visitors if they are unsure about their alighting point and stop at the closest bus bay to the trailhead.
- Bike – The nature trails, especially those at Island Center and Dockton Forests, are fun to explore by mountain bike. It is safe to leave your bike locked up and walk further on the trailhead on foot. There is an option to ride a bike from home or rent one once you’re on the Island at Vashon Adventures. Ferries charge bikers $1-4 for a bike (depending on the route) and a passenger fare of $5.55. It is cheaper than the fee for a car and you don’t have to wait in line for the next ferry. Bikers should load a motorcycle 20 minutes before ferry departure, but they line up in the same area as passengers on foot. Bikes get to load and unload before cars.
- A trip to hiking trails is mainly through a flat area after the long arduous ferry hill. If you don’t want to ride your bike up the hill, some of the bus routes include a bike rack to strap your bike to and pop off once you’re at the top.
- On Foot – Vashon Island has many hiking trails to explore on foot after alighting from a bus. Some drivers, bikers, and bicycle riders decide to walk after reaching a particular point. An advantage of these trails is that they are not busy. Bikers and equestrians share these trails and are courteous to hikers, so remember to respect them as well. All tracks have very few roots or rocks due to constant maintenance. The trails are open to dogs, but they should be on a leash. Vashon has many trails to choose from for hiking including: Island Center Forest, Maury Island Marine Park, and Vashon-Maury Natural Area are some exciting places to explore. Dockton Forest, Fern Cove, and Shinglemill Creek Preserve are other interesting parts of the Island to visit.
So, whether you’re apt to take your car to venture on the Island, or want to take a leisurely visit on foot, the Island is a fun place to get around and explore.