One of the very first islands I visited when I first moved to Seattle years ago was Vashon. As a resident on West Seattle, the Vashon ferry was super close by, so naturally this was my first choice. Since then, I’ve discovered many of the best things to do on Vashon Island. In this weekend guide, I’ll share them with you!
Providing a glimpse into a slow, PNW way of life, you can’t miss a trip to Vashon. This is one of my favorite day trips from Seattle, and it will soon become your favorite as well. Full of picturesque views of the nearby mountain ranges, cute shops, and AMAZING food, here are all the best things to do on Vashon Island.
What Is Vashon Island, WA?
First, what even is Vashon Island? If you’re a first-time visitor to Seattle, you likely wouldn’t have seen Vashon Island mentioned in any of the Seattle must-do guides for first-time visitors. Still, Vashon-Maury Island is a Puget Sound favorite for a reason.
Quick Vashon Island Facts
- Population: 10,624
- Connected to: West Seattle, Kisap Peninsula, and Tacoma by Washington State Ferry
- Total area: 80.8 square miles
Though Native Americans were the earliest inhabitants up until the 1700s, the island actually has human activity dating back 10,000 years. This was because it was the perfect site for fishing in the cold water of the Puget Sound basin. It was also central for many tribes as they traveled in the region. You can learn more about Vashon’s Native American history at the Vashon Heritage Museum.
European settlers began to explore Vashon Island in the 1800s when it became a logging settlement. Fishing and logging continued to be the primary forms of economic activity until the turn of the 20th century. Then, Japanese Americans began to grow strawberries on the island. One particular settler, Denichiro Mukai, became renowned in the area for his special message of barreling fresh strawberries. This became an important part of Vashon Island’s economy.
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have the happiest of endings. The Japanese American population was forcibly removed into internment camps during WWII, and this left a scar on the local Vashon population. You can learn more about Mukai and the Japanese internment at Mukai Farm and Garden, a historical farm that’s preserved by the islands inhabitants today.
Getting to Vashon Island
Before we share some of the best things to do on Vashon Island, how do you get there? Though very close to Seattle, you can’t exactly drive or walk there whenever you feel like it. Like all Puget Sound islands, you’ll need to take the ferry or the watertaxi.
The easiest way to get there from Seattle is with the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry. This ferry stops at Vashon Island on its way to Port Orchard, and it takes about half and hour. Though the ferries are frequent, you should still check the specific timetable to make sure you get there on time. If you can, arrive early. You’ll pay for your round-trip ticket to Vashon Island at the first ticket booth.
You can also take the ferry from Point Defiance in Tacoma, but it’s much more accessible from the West Seattle, Fauntleroy location. It’s highly recommended to have a car on the island to get to all of the sights, but you can also walk and use the bus to get to downtown Vashon Island on foot.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Vashon Island?
I’ve been to Vashon in the winter, spring, summer, and fall, so I can confidently say that any time of the year is a great time to visit. The most popular time to visit is in the summer when the weather is warm and bright, so you might encounter longer wait times at popular restaurants and around town.
However, the most beautiful times to visit are in the spring and fall. Watching the seasons change is a blessing in itself, but the weather is typically best during this time of year. Still, bring layers in case of rain!
Winter, though less popular, is still a nice time to visit. Just keep in mind that the beaches will be particularly cold, and many local shops close early during winter months. You’ll want to plan your visit towards the middle of the day.
@seattlecouple Have you been to Vashon Island, WA? #seattle #seattletiktok #pnw #pugetsound #seattlewashington #lifeisgooddance ♬ Sunny Day – Ted Fresco
Things to Do on Vashon Island
Now, let’s talk about the best things to do on Vashon Island. I’ve broken these down into different sections, but I’d recommend choosing some activities from all parts of this list. You likely won’t be able to do it all in a single day or weekend, but you can always come back to visit a second (or third!) time.
Outdoor Activities in Vashon Island
There are so many beautiful outdoor spots in Vashon, and these are what draw people here in the first place.
Point Robinson Lighthouse
If you do nothing else, you have to visit the Point Robinson Lighthouse. Located on Maury Island, it’s a quick drive from downtown Vashon to get here. There are short trails here to explore, but the real draw is the lighthouse itself. On the weekends, you can take a guided tour of the lighthouse all the way to the top, and the local shop is sometimes open.
Even if you can’t get into the lighthouse, this is still the best place to take in the views of the island. Spot Mt. Rainier on a clear day, and keep an eye out for local wildlife like orcas, bald eagles, sea otters, and more. If you can, I highly recommend bringing a picnic or snack for one of the many picnic tables.
Maury Island Marine Park
if you’re looking for a short hike, this is just a short drive from Point Robinson Lighthouse. This 320-acre park is an easy loop walk to a 500-ft point. Once you get to the top, you’re rewarded with stunning views of the Puget Sound and nearby mountain ranges. In total, this is just a 2-mile trek that’s fit for the whole family.
Rent a Bike or Kayak
For those looking for hands-on adventure, check out one of the many rental places to pick up a bike or kayak. You can explore this island by foot, on wheels, or on the water for a unique perspective. Vashon Adventures has a lot of e-bikes, camping gear, and kayaks if you’re looking for a fun day outside. However, it’s highly recommended to check times and reservations in advance.
Shopping on Vashon Island
One of the best things to do on Vashon Island is to shop! There are a lot of cute, local shops, and each has something unique to offer.
Country Store & Farm
The Country Store & Farm is like a general store, and it sells a bit of everything you might expect to find at a local, country gift shop. I highly recommend stopping here and checking it out, and spend some time in their garden. Even more interesting, this general store is over 50 years old!
Next, Giraffe is a homegoods store in the heart of downtown that has all fair-trade pieces. This is home decoration with heart! You can’t miss it because you’ll spot the large giraffe outside!
Finally, the Kronos boutique and gallery is a stunning place to window shop. With clothes, jewelry, crystals, and specialty items, this is a cute place to stop by on your trip to Vashon Island.
Museums and History on Vashon Island
Whenever I visit somewhere new for the first time, I like to explore the local history. There’s no better place to do that on Vashon Island than these spots below!
Vashon Heritage Museum
This small museum is easy to overlook, but it’s well worth a visit. Located in an old church building that was built in 1907 by Norwegian immigrants, this is now preserved by the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association. Here, you can find cultural, historical, and environmental artifacts spanning the history of this island. Note, the Vashon Heritage Museum is only open from 1:00 – 4:00 PM Wednesday through Sunday.
The Mukai Farm and Garden
Another historical spot is the Mukai Farm and Garden. Founded by a Japanese American pioneer in 1926 as a strawberry farm, this is now on the register of National Historic Places. Not only is the home and barreling plant a work of art, but you’ll also experience a genuine Japanese Garden. Today, this is the center of Vashon Island’s Japanese heritage and history. If you can, plan a visit in September for the annual Mukai Farm and Garden Japan Festival.
Breweries and Wineries on Vashon Island
Like many other spots in Washington, Vashon also has a rich culture of wine and brews. Many of these are local to the island, so schedule a tasting before you leave.
Camp Colvos Brewing
Probably the most popular spot to grab a drink on Vashon, you’ll see a line out the door here on any sunny weekend day. Colvos Brewing is right in the middle of downtown Vashon, and they have the best patio in the area.
The Palouse Winery is one of the first places you’ll spot once you get off the ferry from Seattle. Sourcing grapes from the most infamous valleys in Washington, there’s a reason these wines have won so many awards.
Finally, Nashi Orchards is my personal favorite spot to stop on Vashon for afternoon drinks. Using sustainable growing practices, this is one of the only places you can try both hard cider and perry. All grown and produced on Vashon Island, there’s something unique about this place. Their tasting room and orchard is also beautiful, and where else can you sip on pear cider while also sheep watching?
Where to Eat on Vashon Island?
Last but not least, let’s talk about the best places to eat on Vashon Island. There are so many surprisingly good food spots here, so don’t worry if you can’t fit them all into a single trip!
- May Kitchen and Bar ($$): Known as the best spot for fine dining in Vashon, May Kitchen has some amazing Thai food in an elegant space.
- Snapdragon ($): Though this looks like a normal bakery, it’s SO good. As you walk through the space, you can see local art, unique lighting, and one of the coziest spots to enjoy breakfast and lunch. Everything here is vegetarian, so it’s a personal favorite of mine.
- Gravy ($$): When we stopped by Gravy for dinner, we didn’t expect much. One of the few Black-owned restaurants in the Seattle area, there’s a reason so many people flock here for lunch and dinner. This southern spin on PNW favorites is a must-visit. The sandwiches are perfection, and they’re also super large.
- Zamorana ($$): As Florida transplants, we’re pretty skeptical of any Mexican place in Washington that gets a lot of hype. Named after the chef’s hometown in Mexico, we can definitely agree that the food here is delicious and authentic.
- The Hardware Store ($$): Don’t let the name fool you—this isn’t the Ace Hardware. A classic American restaurant, we were surprised by how good this was!
- Caffe Vino Olio ($): Finally, no list of mine would be complete without a coffee recommendation. We loved this cute shop right on the main strip!
Plan a Trip to Vashon Island, WA
If you’re planning a trip to Vashon Island, WA, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been to Vashon Island a handful of times, and we always look forward to visiting again. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the 100th, here are the best things to do on Vashon Island.
Home to quaint charm and PNW beauty, there’s so much to love about this slice of the Puget Sound!
Have you visited Vashon Island?