Vashon Island Top Things To Do
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Looking for the best things to do on Vashon Island? We've got you covered here. There are many beaches, trails, shops, art galleries, and restaurants to enjoy on the island. Make yourself at home on the island and explore at your own pace.
I lived on Vashon Island from when I was 5 years old until I graduated high school and have been back to visit for both short and long stays ever since. I find the island the perfect reset for my mind, body, and soul. I've done it all on the island including the best hikes, cafes, restaurants, beaches, wineries, art galleries, and shops. Here, I will count down the top things to do on Vashon Island, including islander tips that will help you explore “The Rock” like a local.
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Vashon Island Things To Do
Hike to the “Bluffs”
This hike boasts the best view on the island! Park at the trailhead (25998 79th Ave SW) and then walk 15 minutes to the Bluffs lookout where you will see stunning views of Mount Rainier from the viewpoint. There is a bench to have a break and take in the view overlooking the Puget Sound and Gold Beach below. Take a moment to enjoy this serene area. with bench seating. If you keep walking down the trail you will get various views of Gold Beach and can also make a loop out of it if you walk down to the beach. The hike will take you 30 mins - 3 hours depending on how long you want to make it.
Visit Snapdragon Cafe
Grab a coffee and brunch here for a true island atmosphere. Their pastries are to die for. I highly recommend the cheese bread myself if you’re looking for something to fill you up for a full day of exploring on the island. Insider tip: Check the window on your way in for posters of the upcoming local music (there might be a show at the connected “Home Sweet Home” bar later that night). You can find their menu here.
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Point Robinson Lighthouse
Point Robinson Lighthouse is located on the beach and is great for a bit of Vashon history and scenery. It has a lot of driftwood as well as sand. This is also one of the most popular spots on the island to see orca whales passing by. It is recommended to park at the top of the hill and then walk down to the beach from there. The trail-head address is: 3705 SW Point Robinson Rd.
Do Wine Tasting at Palouse Winery
This is one of the island's best local spots for wine tasting. They import their grapes from the Palouse region of Washington and create the wine itself on Vashon. The winery is located on the North End of the island is a short drive from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. Head there Saturday or Sunday and enjoy an hour or two in their character-driven tasting room. Check out their current wine list.
Sunbathe at KVI Beach
This is the sandiest and most well-kept beach on the entire island. It features a sand volleyball net, long strips of driftwood on sand, and an inlet that is home to many birds and small fish. When the tide is out, a long sandy "spit" is revealed and can be walked on and reached without getting your feet wet. It is a perfect spot to sunbathe and chill or take a long beach stroll. The address for the beach trail-head is 20336 78th Pl. SW.
Experience Authentic Thai Food at May Kitchen
May Kitchen is a recent addition to the Vashon restaurant lineup and has taken the island by storm. Their ingredients are authentic, fresh, and pure. Couple this with their true Thai furniture and decor and you’ve got a great evening out on the island. I highly recommend getting the Phad Thai. May Kitchen creates a one-of-a-kind spin on a classic. The server wraps fresh ingredients (cut in front of you) in a banana leaf and describes why the process is important to retain the flavor of the dish in this traditional style. A must try! This is one of the most popular dinner locations on the island, so be sure to make a reservation in advance! Their contact information is: (206) 408-7196 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their current menu here
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Relax at the Vashon Coffee Roasterie
This is the birthplace of "Seattle’s Best Coffee Company". When you step inside Vashon Coffee Roasterie, you will be surrounded by the aroma of freshly ground coffee. That’s because a giant coffee roaster is open to the public in the corner of the shop! Their Orca Blend coffee is a can't miss and my personal favorite tea is the “Lady Grey” (an Earl Grey tea with a hint of lavender). The roasterie also features an upstairs where you can find local art and organic produce or small groceries. Make sure to stop there if you get the chance. It’s worth it! Their website is old-school but does a good job telling the story behind the shop
Visit the Vashon Art Galleries
Vashon Island is well-known for its vibrant art scene. There have been and currently are many local artists that have made a name for themselves on the national stage. These include names like Betty MacDonald, Alex Borstein, Matt Alder, Donald Cole, and many more. There are numerous local galleries and viewing rooms across the island, however, the majority are located in the greater downtown region (with the exception of the Vashon Centre for the Arts, located next to Vashon Coffee Roasterie just outside of downtown). Here is a list of the most notable galleries to visit on Vashon:
Raven's Nest - Local native art
SAW (Starving Artist Works)
Studio V - Located right next to the Vashon Bookshop
Vashon Coffee Roasterie - Has local art for sale on the 2nd floor
Vashon Centre for the Arts - Host musicians and rotating exhibits
Love home-made art? Maybe you'll enjoy this artsy mountain bracelet!
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Explore Fern Cove
This short hike is a must-do while you're on the island! To start, park your car at 11299SW Cedarhurst Rd. and walk down the designated path to the beach. Take a left and you will find a large sandy beach (depending on the tide) with a small tree sticking out of a large stump facing the Olympic mountains. This view is worth it in itself, but there is more beauty to see! From the beach, go up Shinglemill Creek path to find hidden sand beaches, a lovely stream, and an old-growth forest. Depending on how far you want to go up the path, the hike will take between 1-3 hours round-trip.
Get on “Island Time” at the Wild Mermaid
The Wild Mermaid is a lovely coffee shop and bar located at the end of the North End ferry dock. In my opinion, it is the best view on the island for any shop or restaurant as it overlooks the water directly towards West Seattle. Inside the cafe, you will find a cozy fireplace, chique furniture, and much charm. The big glass windows surrounding the cafe allow natural sunlight to come through while you enjoy the view of the water. The cafe has the same ownership as Snapdragon so you know the food and coffee are amazing! At night, the upstairs also turns into a bar so you can have a glass of wine while the sun sets over the Puget Sound. For hours and information, check their Facebook page
Swim at Raab’s Lagoon
This hidden lagoon is Vashon's best-kept beach secret! Located on the edge of Quartermaster Harbour, you can find a small inlet that fluctuates with the tide. On low tides, you will see the water rushing between the pylons and many starfish. Being located in Quartermaster Harbour, this is the warmest ocean water you will find on the island. In the summer, this is also a hot spot to see hundreds of jellyfish Go for a swim here, but watch out for the jellyfish! To get there, park at 23605 Kingsbury Rd. and take a short two-minute walk towards the ocean on your right.
Find Yourself by Getting Lost in the Island Centre Forest
Vashon's Centre Forest has a large variety of trails to choose from. Whether you want easy, difficult, long, or short. There is great signage on the trail and it is covered by tree canopy for the majority, so is a great option if it rains. I always like to come to this place to clear my head while on the island. I recommend to take the 188th Trail, then a left on Fir Hill Trail, and then a right on Valley of the Firs Trail and back. This loop will take 45 mins to an hour and features the best view in the forest with hundreds of fir trees! For this hike, the trail-head address starts at 10612SW 188th St.
Vashon Island Strawberry Festival
The popular Strawberry Festival only happens once per year. If you are on Vashon in mid-July, definitely go to this event! There is live music at various locations downtown for the whole weekend, vendor booths, a parade, beer gardens, and more. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming as it is a common time for islanders to come together for the biggest event of the year. Everyone is welcome at the festival and the weather is almost always sunny for it!
Local Vashon Music
I have many favorite local Vashon musicians! These bands or performers will sometimes play live shows on the island at Snapdragon Cafe, the Red Bicycle, or Vashon Brewing. The shows are generally free and if there is a cover charge, it's generally very small. Enjoy the atmosphere at these events for a true island experience. You can generally fund upcoming shows at the Vashon Events website
My favorite island-based bands include:
Vashon Island Ferry
The beauty (and pain) of Vashon Island is that you have to take a ferry boat to get there. The Washington State Ferries operate three different routes to get to and from the island. King County also runs a passenger-only boat on weekdays which runs straight from downtown Seattle. This route takes about 30 minutes one-way and arrives at the North End of the island.
The first route runs from West Seattle and is called the Vashon / Fauntleroy ferry. The ride takes about 15 minutes and is the most common route to get to the island. During peak hours, there is generally a boat every 20-30 minutes. Once you arrive on the island, you will be at the North End ferry dock and have about a 15-minute drive to get to the center of the town. Click here for the Vashon / Fauntleroy ferry schedule.
The next route departs from Southworth, which is just to the east of Port Orchard. Since this is a less-common route, the boats are less frequent to the island from here. However, there are still generally boats every 45 minutes during peak hours. In the late evenings, you may need to endure the long ride to West Seattle first and then back to Vashon, which takes about an hour in total. If this is the case, it will be indicated on the schedule. Click here for the Vashon / Southworth ferry schedule.
The last route runs from Point Defiance, near the Tacoma side of the island. This ferry is also less frequent and has even fewer runs during the day then the Southworth boat. However, since it is less popular, there is usually never a problem of catching the boat as it doesn't usually overflow. Click here for the Vashon / Point Defiance ferry schedule.
Since the public transportation on the island is lacking (there is a bus, however, the timing is infrequent), it is highly recommended that you drive a car onto the island to be able to enjoy all the natural and artistic surroundings it has to offer.
Things to bring for a Vashon trip
Vashon is a remote island with variable weather throughout the year. It's important to pack for all conditions and be prepared for whatever adventures you are getting into. Since it can end up raining, I recommend bringing a good pair of hiking boots, a rain jacket, rain pants, and a comfortable backpack for any outdoor activities.
If you are going to drink coffee or tea at the local shops, you may get a discount if you bring your own reusable mug as well.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Vashon Island as much as I always do! Have you been to Vashon yet? Comment your favorite part of the island below!
Seattle is also just a short ferry ride from Vashon. For things to do in Seattle, read our "Explore Seattle Like a Local" article.
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