What You Should Know Before Moving to Vashon Island, WA

Vashon Island is located in the middle of Puget Sound not far from Seattle, WA. It is one of the largest islands in the Sound and is home to over 10,000 people. With no direct connection from any other land mass it means that visitors and residents must take ferries to go or leave the island.
Residents and visitors travel to close by cities such as Tacoma and Seattle each day by car ferry or the quick passenger ferry that arrives in downtown Seattle. The island is 38 square miles and has 2.3 person per mile making it a rural community with easy access to friends and activities on the Island.

Residents recommend potential residents try out the island before moving there by living in a rental unit in the winter months. If you can fare through an overcast winter full of storms, power outages and crippled by the occasional snow, then the island life is for you. Rental units are few and far in-between, but they will give a renter a good example of what living on the island is like. Residents often complain that simple outings such as shopping at Costco take a whole day due to the ferry schedule. The cost of taking the ferry adds increased fees to ones budget. They say that not everyone wants to organize their life around the island ferry schedule on a daily basis.
Vashon Island residents started off as an agricultural community. Today, Vashonites mostly make due with small communal farms, work at home artists or well paid tech folks looking for break from the bustle of the city. Commuters should be wary of the ferries that break down leaving the Island on a “two boat schedule” (boats arrive every hour or longer vs every 30 minutes on a regular schedule) or when the passenger only commuter ferry getting cancelled due to high winds.
Vashonites like to have fun, from first Fridays to our regular Ciderfest or every summer when the strawberry is honored each year with the island’s Strawberry Festival, the highlight of the summer season. Other events sponsored by the Vashon Chamber of Commerce include the Spring Fling, Trick or Treat Night, and the Santa Parade and tree lighting.

Visitors can bring their cars to the island through the nearby ferry system but will pay a fee. Bicycle riding is also quite popular on the island, and bicycles can be rented by visitors. A guest can find bikes available to rent at one of the Island’s sports shops. Walking is also very common. An average walker is able to walk the entire island in one day, or just catch a ride on a bus from the main highway. Hitchhiking is also very common, though not recommended.
Visitors find the island is home to farm produce and vegetables, several parks and a beach area on the North part of the island near the port. Above all, the island is a haven for artists. All kinds of crafts are made and sold on the island near you. You can find pottery, paintings, jewelry, textiles and ceramics. Artists also perform nightly in the island’s cafes and small theaters.
Palouse Winery is one of many wineries on the island with its popularity stemming from the variety of wines produced, its excellent garden and comfortable tasting room. There are also craft breweries nearby on the island. Guests can stay overnight; there are bed and breakfasts or Airbnbs to book. Some guests feel a little isolated on the island, but many residents feel that it is part of the island’s charm.
Residents can choose from two grammar schools and one high school. There is no college on the island. There is a medical clinic on the island, but major medical procedures are done off the island. Emergency cases can be taken by helicopter or ferry to Washington urban areas. The average age of islanders in 44 and the yearly income averages $51,000 per person. The island encourages visitors to come to the island to celebrate events. The town information office has a guide for visitors on planning their wedding or event on the island.
One part of the island is connected by land bridge to Maury Island (hence Vashon-Maury). Many visitors enjoy the parks and other artist groups on this island as well.

More than anything else, the downtown area (“uptown” as the local refer to it) looks like a community from the late 50s or early 60s. Storefronts feature items such as books, many restaurants and quirky combinations of stores (A Pharmacy that has the best gifts and a Hardware Store restaurant). But, there are no department stores to be found. If you want to leave the 21st century behind for a while, give Vashon Island a try.

Jenny Mathews
Author: Jenny Mathews

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