The Best Things to Do On Vashon Island: A Weekend Guide
Vashon Island offers an idyllic island escape to a place where it feels like time stands still, providing a glimpse of the Pacific Northwest as it was 30 years ago, yet it’s not a difficult jaunt from Seattle.
Once you arrive, you’ll be immersed in a friendly atmosphere surrounded by tranquil beauty with breathtaking views of the Puget Sound, Olympic and Cascade mountains, including soaring Mount Rainier on a clear day. Whether you want to enjoy it at a relaxed pace, take part in exciting outdoor adventures, or a little of both, you’ll find plenty of things to do on Vashon Island.
You might meander along the picturesque, wooded trails, stroll peaceful sandy beaches, browse the Vashon Farmers Market and perhaps do a little wine tasting. Or take part in everything from sailing and kayaking to hiking and biking in an atmosphere where the silence is often only interrupted by the sounds of the gulls and the water lapping the shore.
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What to Do on Vashon Island
With a short ferry ride to the island, no matter which ferry route you take you’ll get to enjoy the many things to do on Vashon Island if you’re coming for a day trip from Seattle, but of course, the more time you have the better. Many first-time visitors discover that once they get there, they don’t want to leave.
Hike to Point Robinson Lighthouse
The Point Robinson Lighthouse is more of a stroll to reach than a hike, with a series of very short trails in Port Robinson Park leading to and around the site. You can tour the lighthouse, enjoy the sandy beach and lunch on the picnic tables that provide a perfect vantage point for watching for wildlife like bald eagles, great blue herons, sea otters, and the occasional orca whale.
Visit the Farm Stands Across the Island
Vashon has a strong farming culture, with many food-related activities available. You can visit farm stands across the island – the Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) offers an excellent map of them all here – including the La Biondo Farmstand where you can pick up meat, dairy products and produce throughout the year, along with made-to-order soups.
Try Some Local Cider at Dragon’s Head or Nashi Orchards
Tasty local ciders can be enjoyed at Dragon’s Head Cider and Nashi Orchards, both of which use apples mostly grown in their own Vashon Island orchards. They’re open on weekends for tastings, with Dragon’s Head hosting a fabulous garden that’s ideal for sipping a flight on a summer day.
Hike Maury Island Marine Park
One of the top things to do on Vashon Island is to visit Maury Island, which isn’t actually it’s own island, rather a peninsula at the south end of Vashon, home to 320-acre Maury Island Marine Park. An easy, short and mostly flat loop will bring you to the island’s highest point at close to 500 feet above sea level, with magnificent views as your reward. If you descend to the beach and take the highpoint loop, it’s only a two mile trek, but you can extend it with a stroll along the shoreline.
Explore the Town of Vashon
In tiny downtown Vashon with its quaint streets and just one blinking stoplight, you’ll find a vibrant arts community that includes a homegrown arts collective, along with restaurants and niche shops. Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, a local landmark, is must-stop to start the day off right with fresh coffee, antiques, and local art in a more than century-old building, while Snapdragon is famous for its delectable baked goods, including huge cinnamon buns.
Visit the Farmers Market
Vashon’s farmers market may be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to places to visit, ideal for families and just about anyone who wants to shop for fresh local produce, baked goods, handmade crafts, and even cuddle up to rabbits, goats, and llamas.
One of the best things to do on Vashon Island, if you’re here during the season you won’t want to miss it – it’s open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday from April through October.
Rent a Bike and Tour the Island
Vashon’s peaceful, tree-lined roads make the island ideal for biking, and you can pick up rentals at Vashon Bike in the center of downtown if you don’t bring your own. You could simply pedal away and discover all sorts of surprises and impressive views, tour the farm stands, visit the lighthouse or cycle along the two-lane Vashon Highway with its red-barked madrone trees to the little village of Burton, looping around Burton Acres Park for fabulous views of Quartermaster Harbor.
Get Out on the Water
When the sun is out and you’re wondering what to do on Vashon Island, there may be nothing better than getting onto the water with Mount Rainier soaring in the distance, but even if it isn’t, you can always bundle up and enjoy a good paddle. Rent a kayak or SUP through Vashon Adventures and explore the island’s shoreline on your own or join a guided tour.
Check Out the Local Breweries
There are some great breweries for enjoying a local pint, including Camp Colvos, a new brewery with a taproom right downtown. Located in a log cabin surrounded by blackberry bushes, it’s dog-friendly with an outdoor patio and offers tasty brews like Buckhorn IPA plus highly acclaimed meat pies and other food items.
Vashon Brewing is also downtown in Vashon Village, brewing high-quality handcrafted beers inspired by the Pacific Northwest. You can enjoy Caribbean inspired dishes and pub classics, or even bring your own food to complement your favorite brew.
Go Wine Tasting
There are five wineries on Vashon, three of which can be visited, including Vashon Winery, Palouse Winery, and Maury Island Winery.
Vashon Winery: Vashon Winery is open seasonally from April to October every weekend between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Their wines are produced from grapes grown on the island, Puget Sound AVA and eastern Washington, in small batches known for their bold flavors.
Palouse Winery: This winery/tasting room is open on the weekends from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., allowing you to watch the winemaking process and enjoy a glass of the finished products. They source grapes from Palouse in eastern Washington producing a number of varietals but just a thousand cases each year.
Maury Island Winery: Small, family-owned Maury Island Winery produces high-quality estate-grown wines, growing wine grapes on the property for over four decades. The tasting room is typically open in the summer with varying hours making it necessary to contact the winery directly before a visit – curbside pickup is available for its popular estate pinot noirs.
Where to Eat & Drink on Vashon Island
May Kitchen and Bar: Surprisingly enough, you can get world-class Thai right in downtown Vashon. You’re sure to be impressed by the flavors and authenticity that includes a classic blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty, enjoyed with a backdrop of whimsical artwork and 150-year-old Thai teak paneling.
Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie: As mentioned, this is the top spot for coffee in town. It’s where the locals go for a cup and offers a fabulous atmosphere in a historic building with local art and antiques – be sure to pick up a few bags to take home because it’s that good.
Glass Bottle Creamery: A must-visit when bringing the kids (although you really don’t need an excuse to go on your own either), this is the place to go for ice cream on Vashon, even if you can’t eat dairy or you follow a vegan diet as you’ll have options. It’s dog-friendly and offers outdoor seating, ideal for a sunny day, with to-die-for sorbets that are only made from fresh, seasonal fruits, much of which is grown at local island farms.
Snapdragon: While Snapdragon is the most popular spot for fresh, homemade baked goods, looking like your typical cafe/bakery, it offers so much more. Along with yummy cinnamon rolls and cookies are soups, sandwiches, salads, and pizzas, all of which are vegetarian-friendly.
The Hardware Store: The Hardware Store Restaurant is a restaurant/espresso bar/art gallery housed in a former hardware store. It’s not only a unique venue, but it offers fantastic locally sourced fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with favorites like clam chowder and buttermilk fried chicken salad.
Vashon Island Baking Company: Enjoy island-roasted coffee, house-made pastries, sweet and savory croissants baked fresh daily, along with cupcakes, cookies, pies, and more at the Vashon Island Baking Company. There are both vegan and gluten-free items available, and by calling at least 48 hours in advance, other dietary restrictions can often be accommodated too.
Iyad’s Syrian Grill: Look for this popular food truck downtown, which serves authentic Mediterranean and Aleppo cuisine using fresh Pacific Northwest and unique Syrian ingredients following traditional family recipes with a modern twist. Everything is prepared daily from scratch, including falafels, lamb sandwiches and veggie items.
Bramble House: A farm-to-table restaurant downtown, the Bramble House is named for the brambles the island local owner navigated with her grandmother to pick blackberries. The menu reflects her Vashon roots, featuring dishes made with local ingredients cooked using old-school methods like curing, pickling, and jarring.
Where to Stay On Vashon Island
As one might expect, there aren’t any huge hotels, resorts or even well-known accommodation chains on Vashon Island, but you will find some excellent independent options here.
Lodges on Vashon. This “mini-lodge” is located downtown, making it especially convenient for those who want to leave the car at home and catch the foot ferry, with plenty to enjoy within walking distance. Once you reach the ferry terminal on Vashon, you can take the bus and it will drop you off just steps away for a stay in the Northwest-style cottages, all of which are stocked with locally made amenities, including everything from the furnishings to the soaps.
Cozy Bright Contemporary Cottage (ideal for couples): This stylish studio sits on a small, family-run farm and provides a relaxed, peaceful stay that will make you feel more like a local, plus there is no TV so you can truly unplug and reconnect with each other. The host goes above and beyond when it comes to providing special touches, from a gift of homemade apple butter to farm-fresh eggs, plus you’ll have a well-equipped kitchen, private wraparound porch, an outdoor fireplace, yoga mats, and a romantic clawfoot tub, all while being just minutes from downtown Vashon.
The Last Resort Guest House Airbnb (ideal for families): Located on the west side of Vashon, nestled in the forest for lots of privacy, this adorable two-bedroom cottage accommodates up to four guests. It comes with a wood-burning stove with the wood supplied, along with a charcoal BBQ with starter fluid, a hot tub, and a kitchenette that has a coffee maker with coffee provided too.
That’s all we’ve got – we hope you discovered something new and exciting to do on Vashon and have a great time exploring life in the slow lane (aka on “island time”).
Getting to Vashon Island
A relatively short and incredibly scenic ferry ride with opportunities to spot marine life, like whales, will bring you to Vashon Island, with four routes to choose from.
As the Fauntleroy ferry dock offers the closest proximity to the Seattle metro area, it’s generally the best option for most people, particularly if you plan on driving over. This is the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry which travels to Port Orchard, stopping at Vashon with a crossing time of 45 minutes. Ferries are frequent with the schedule varying depending on the time of year – the specific timetable can be accessed here.
If you plan on visiting in the summer, it’s worth checking out the tool available at the top right-hand column of each schedule page that will tell you the least busy and the busiest times to take your vehicle on the ferry to help you avoid a long wait.
During this peak season, they generally run every 20 to 50 minutes, with fewer ferries during the late evening hours. The rest of the year, they’re scheduled approximately every 45 to 60 minutes. The cost for a vehicle and driver ranges from just over $16 to about $21 with discounts available for seniors and those who are disabled.
If you’re west of Vashon, you can catch the ferry from the Southworth ferry dock in Port Orchard.
Those who are coming from the south end of the Seattle metro area may want to depart from the Point Defiance ferry dock in Tacoma.
If you prefer walking onto the island, perhaps spending the day in downtown Vashon to attend one of its many outstanding events, or enjoy shopping and dining, you can take the water taxi from downtown Seattle. Many use this “foot ferry” that takes just 20 minutes to cross, and then get a ride, use the local bus, or bike from the dock to downtown Vashon. If you want to spend the night or longer, you’ll find accommodation options easily accessible by bus or bike too. It is much less expensive at just $6.75 per adult as compared to driving over, but you will obviously be without a car which means that you won’t be able to explore as much of the island.
Best Time to Visit Vashon Island
Vashon is enjoyable to visit all year-round, although each season offers something unique of its own. The best time to go really depends on what you hope to do and your own personal preferences – many enjoy the late spring and early fall which typically bring pleasant weather and few crowds while most attractions, including the farmers market and farm stands, will be open.
While spring often starts out with clouds, wind, and rain, as it progresses the weather warms and there will be more sunny days to enjoy without all of the crowds that summer will bring. The Vashon Farmers Market opens for the season in April.
Summer, especially July and August, typically brings the best weather of the year with temperatures often around the mid-70s Fahrenheit. But, that warmth and sunshine also means many more visitors. There will be lots to do in the great outdoors and on the third weekend of July, you’ll be able to attend the Vashon Island Strawberry Festival. One of the year’s top events, it features a parade, local artists, a street fair, music, and the season’s last strawberries.
Early fall is a great time to visit Vashon with frequent sunny skies and temperatures often in the 60s and sometimes creeping into the low 70s in September. It usually begins to cool as the calendar turns another page but it’s unlikely to be too chilly, plus the farmers market will be open until the end of October and the Vashon Winery is open for weekend tastings through October first.
Winter is quiet on Vashon, bringing the opportunity to enjoy a tranquil setting with the island often surrounded in fog. While it’s a good time to do indoor things, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a misty stroll on the beach or a muddy hike through the forest – all you need is the right outerwear like a fleece sweatshirt, a hooded rain jacket and waterproof hiking boots.
More Weekend Guides in Washington
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