Vashon Island is a great place to visit for a day whether you are alone, in a couple or have a family with young and teenage children. I have spent my youth on the island visiting my Grandmother in the summers and eventually ended up living year around. My Grandmother spent her youth, as did my Mother and my children have as well. In the four generations the island had changed some, but some things haven’t changed much at all.
I have many friends visiting for just a day with families or a couple wanting to get away, even my many single friends coming to visit for a bit. Each time I end up giving them the same list of things to do on Vashon, sometimes changing it up depending on their interests. While this website has a lot of great advice on things to do on Vashon this summer, I wanted to share my special recommendations to help others plan their day trip.
Getting to Vashon
Getting to Vashon is pretty easy with a drive on a ferry and a 15 minute ride from West Seattle, Southworth or Tacoma’s Point Defiance dock. Fees run $24.45 for standard vehicle and driver ($19.20 if you have a car under 14 feet) with passengers costing $5.55 and kids just $2.75. If your driving a motorcycle it can run you just $10.45 to cross and you skip the line. Do be aware that fees could change as there have been talks of raising the rates. This site has more information on the various ways you can get to Vashon.
Ferry Lines and Waiting Times
During the summer months (June through September) the ferry lins can get very long with wait times upwards of 2-3 hours during peak times. Thursday and Friday commuter times are generally the worst getting on the island with Sunday evenings heading off-island being the longest. If you’re coming just for the day on a Saturday or Sunday, be sure to leave early for a shorter wait time, and plan around the ferry schedule (though be prepared for delays as the ferries tend to get off-schedule). If you’re spending the day on a Sunday plan on leaving after 8pm for a shorter wait as most weekenders tend to leave by 7pm.
Vashon for Families
Vashon Island is a great place to visit for families with young kids, and teenagers alike. There are plenty of local beaches to choose from and a lot of great activities for kids on the Island. During the Strawberry Festival weekend you can’t miss enjoying a day with your kiddos. When visiting any other day, Ober Park has a fun play area and nice grassy lawn for the kids to enjoy. The Library has many activities planned on any given day from crafts to gaming and many learning opportunities.
Dockton Park and KVI Beach are favorite public beaches for the locals and great for families, couples or enjoy a quiet walk alone. The Point Robinson Lighthouse is a romantic walk and often used for wedding destinations.
Vashon for Foodies
Every Saturday morning the Vashon Island Growers Association hosts a market for local farmers and craftspersons to sell their abundance of fresh produce, meats, dairy and crafts. If you’re a foodie that likes to cook with fresh ingredients that are all locally sourced this is your chance to stock up before you head back home. If you can’t make it to the Island early Saturday morning, then you can tour local farms yourself. I have a map I have been keeping updated on Google.
Not many people realize this, but Vashon has a lot of fine restaurants to choose from. The recently opened Ruby Brink and Camp Colvos are among the most popular this summer. Vashonites favorites include The Hardware Store, Gravy, Bramble House, Mays (best Thai in the US), and Snapdragon. For those with dietary requirements like vegetarian visit Snapdragon, vegan visit Pure or gluten free and vegetarian samplings at Cafe Luna.
Cafes and Delis
There are a few popular cafes, tea houses and delis to grab something light or rest your feet for a little while. The newest Wild Mermaid on the North End Ferry Dock is a popular cafe to rest and take in the view. Local prefer to gather at Cafe Luna, The Roasterie and the Burton Coffee stand. You can visit Anu Rana’s for some bubble tea, deli sandwiches or traditional Nepali food just uptown to rest your feet.
For Families and Kids
Vashon for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Not many people know about the hiking trails on Vashon Island when they come to visit. In fact, there isn’t much posted publicly when looking at the larger trail sites. Our most popular are in the Island Center Forest and Shingle Mill Creek. The Maury Island Marine trailways connect to the beach for a complete view of what the island offers.
Many visitors to Vashon Island like to enjoy the roadways for a challenging ride up hills and around turns, as well as some beautiful views of the forests on our mountain biking trails.
The Dockton Mountain Biking trails opened up in 2017 with many locals supporting the trails. The trails are a great way to get out on the Island for a bit while visiting for the day. You can download the trial map here.
You can enjoy a casual bike ride through town and down the straightaways of the Vashon Highway or push yourself on the hills, valleys, gullies and tight turns on narrow roads. Every year Vashon hosts the Passport2Pain a challenging race for the road biking enthusiasts. You can download the various route maps here to try it out yourself.
Vashon Water Sports
With Vashon being an Island there are so many water activities to choose from. If you have a boat, bring it on over and launch it at Dockton Park and enjoy the day out on the water. Fishing, crabbing, shrimping and shellfish digging are all popular activities as well. Unfortunately there are no boat rentals for the aforementioned activities, but if you have your own gear you can enjoy just the same.
There are Kayak, Paddleboard and Canoe rentals at Jensen Beach which are all great fun activities for families, couples and to enjoy while on your own.
While you won’t find any night clubs with DJs playing house music, Vashon Island does have a few venues serving alcohol and playing live music and some dancing. Both Snapdragon and Wild Mermaid are owned by the same couple that share a passion for creating a warm comfortable space with live music. On special occasions (New Years, Valentine’s Day, etc) you may find a guitar playing singer at The Hardware Store. First Friday art tours are the most lively nights on the town with local bands playing at Snapdragon as well as Sporty’s, Red Bike, Camp Colvos and even Vashon Brewing. The Eagle’s is a local favorite with good food, friendly atmosphere and a taste of what the Island is really about.
All in all, Vashon is a great place to visit for the day, but if you find you can’t fit all of the fun into one day you can always plan a weekend, a week, or even an extended stay.