Vashon Ferry: Navigating the Island Commute and More

Being well-informed and prepared is crucial when planning your journey to or from Vashon Island. The Vashon Ferry serves as a primary mode of transportation, connecting the island to the mainland. However, there are certain things you should keep in mind to ensure a smooth travel experience.

Vashon Island Ferry Information

There are two docks in which the Vashon ferry arrives on the Island. The North point of Vashon brings cars and passengers from Southworth (Olympic Peninsula) and from West Seattle (just South and West of Downtown Seattle). The South End Ferry brings cars and passengers from Point Defiance in Tacoma. In addition to the car ferries the passenger-only ferry is set up for commuters to downtown Seattle running weekdays in the mornings and evenings only. For more Vashon ferry information with directions on how to get to the various locations visit our page on how to get to Vashon. Vashon Ferry fees and route schedules are on our ferry schedule page.

Navigating the Vashon Ferry Schedule: Key Information

Navigating ferry schedules can be a bit daunting, especially for first-time visitors to Vashon Island. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) provides an online schedule that is integral for planning your journey efficiently. Below, we’ve outlined key details and helpful hints for using Washington State Ferries Official Schedule.

1. Viewing the Schedule:

  • Terminals: The schedule indicates departing from Terminal 9 and arriving at Terminal 22.
  • Roundtrip Details: The link provides roundtrip details, ensuring a comprehensive view of your travel timeline.
  • Time Frame: The schedule is regularly updated, so always check the latest version for accurate departure and arrival times.

2. Utilizing Filters:

  • Date Selection: Adjust the date according to your travel plans to view the specific schedule for that day.
  • Vehicle/Passenger: Filter by vehicle or passenger type to get relevant schedule and fare information.
  • One Way/Round Trip: Customize your view by selecting either one-way or roundtrip options based on your needs.

3. Special Notices:

  • Regularly check the ‘ Special Notices ‘ section to stay informed about service alerts, schedule changes, or other important announcements.
  • Sign up for email alerts to receive real-time updates on ferry services and schedules.

4. Travel Tips:

  • Peak Times: Identify peak travel times and consider traveling off-peak when possible to avoid long waits.
  • Fares: Review fare information and payment methods ahead of time to facilitate a smooth boarding process.
  • Flexibility: Be prepared for occasional delays and schedule alterations; flexibility can greatly enhance your travel experience.

Plan Ahead

When leaving Vashon, we recommend aiming for the ferry scheduled one slot before the one you think you need. This extra buffer will help you arrive punctually for any appointments or commitments on the mainland. Keep in mind that schedules can change, boats might break down, and unforeseen circumstances can arise, so it’s always wise to be flexible with your travel plans.

Alternative Transport Options

While the ferry is a popular choice, there are two alternative ways to reach Vashon:

  • Private Boat: If you have access to one, arriving by your own boat offers a scenic and independent way to travel.
  • Local Airport: Vashon Island has a small local airport that accommodates light air traffic for those who prefer to fly.

Security and Restrictions

There are no security checkpoints for traveling to and off the island, providing a hassle-free commute. However, it’s not uncommon to see patrol dogs around, ensuring the safety of travelers by checking vehicles for prohibited items, such as bombs and/or drugs.

Please note the following items are strictly prohibited:

  • Hazardous materials (as per CFR Title 49, Parts 170-180)
  • Explosives or incendiary devices (as per CFR Title 33, Part 6)
  • Chemical, biological, or radiological agents or devices (as per CFR Title 33, Part 6)
  • Unlawfully or illegally possessed firearms (as per RCW, Chapter 9.41)
  • Illegal fireworks (as per RCW, Chapter 70.77)
  • Acetylene tanks
  • Unescorted or unaccompanied freight

Amenities on Board

Washington State Ferries aims to make your journey as comfortable as possible by providing various amenities. Passengers have access to restrooms and trash receptacles on board. In addition, a galley is available, offering a selection of snacks such as hotdogs, popcorn and a variety of beverages including coffee, beer, and wine.

Vashon Ferry History

By the 1930s, ferry service for Vashon was predominantly provided by Captain Alexander Peabody, owner of the Puget Sound Navigation Company. The Islanders felt he had a bit of a monopoly on the Puget Sound ferry service. In 1947 the feeling came to a head when a strike shut down the system for 6 days, just as Peabody was planning massive rate hikes.

Panicked from being stranded on the Island Vashonites formed their own ferry system in 1948, just in time for Peabody to shut down the system one more time. When Peabody started up again he tried returning to the island for fares, but vigilantes armed with hoes and pool cues met one of his ferries at the dock and fought him away.

The Vashon Ferry System run by locals managed to keep going for three years until the Washington State Ferries began operating on June 1, 1951. With all the rigmarole surrounding the past few years of ferry service to the island, state officials thought maybe the time was ripe to connect Vashon-Maury Island to the mainland with bridges.

Don’t Even Talk About a Bridge to a Vashonite

At first, a few island residents thought bridges to the mainland might be a good idea. They were proud to have run their own ferries and fought the system, but it was hard work. The technology for a cross-sound bridge was available, and talks had begun with the state. But, just as the islanders do now, the people then began worrying about how much their island would change. The people of Vashon moved to the Island for a reason: to avoid urban sprawl. Some pointed out that Lake Washington’s Mercer Island had once been farmland like theirs, but the floating bridge was changing that.

The majority of Vashon Islanders began fighting any plans for a bridge. They fought one in 1955 and another in the mid-1960s. In 1992, a small meeting to discuss another bridge plan was held, and 2,000 of the island’s 9,000 residents showed up… some wearing signs reading: “Don’t Mercerize Vashon Island” and “Bridges Bring Death.” The topic is brought up on occasion in our Vashonites Facebook group which quickly ensues a barrage of irate comments and drama that unsettles the group’s dynamic.