Sitting at what looks like a stone’s throw away from Tacoma, Vashon Island rests. Many in Tacoma don’t give any great thought to Vashon, yet this landmass, reached only by ferry, is a perfect getaway for the weekend or day off, full of incredible experiences, quirky shops, and fantastic festivals. Whether you have visited Vashon before, or are looking to go somewhere new, we talked with locals to plan out the perfect adventure. This weekend, hop the ferry and head west to discover what is sure to become your new, favorite local spots.
Getting to Vashon from Tacoma is simple. From Point Defiance, there are usually around 19 ferries a day heading to the Tahlequah terminal on the south end of Vashon. While the trip over is just 15 minutes long, the journey is just long enough to start to unwind and relax, letting you enjoy the salty air and stunning views around the South Puget Sound. The cost to take a car is $15.40, but can be more, depending on how many passengers you have. The cost includes passage both to and from the island. It is also much cheaper to take a bike on the ferry and peddle your way up and down the island’s rolling hills.
Once you arrive on the island, there are a few important things to know. While there is no main visitor center, any of the main storefronts in town can help you explore, giving you awesome locations to check out. While driving on the island, remember to respect handmade speed limit signs, as there are a lot of equestrian enthusiasts who ride on trails around the area and on the main roads, too. You are a guest here, so embrace the locals’ way of life.
Must-Stop Places to Eat and Drink
For most, the top foodie destination in town is called The Hardware Store. Here, the food is always amazing. With a comfortable layout and relaxed environment, The Hardware Store has a nice homey feeling to it. You can see into the kitchen and bask in the beautiful, open interior. The drinks are fantastic, the food is well priced and the restaurant is a cornerstone for the community. Each year, the owners help pay for the amazing 4th of July celebration on the island and are involved in the community.
Close by, Cafe Luna is a coffee shop that has a little of everything. Offering good food and drinks, with the artsy vibe of Vashon, this is where you need to go if you want to connect with the arts and crafts that the islanders have made. Cafe Luna is the best place where strangers can get to know each other, as it was designed for a community feel. This is a great place to be social.
Elsewhere on the Island, a stop at Nashi Orchards needs to happen. Home to award-winning cider, Nashi Orchards will leave your taste buds tingling and your eyes in awe at the gorgeous grounds. If you love cider and perry, this is worth the trip to the island and super unique. Whether you sip libations, wander the grounds or watch the goats, you’ll quickly fall in love with this place.
Exploring the Beaches and Trails
Since Vashon is an island that celebrates nature, there are beaches and trails everywhere. For those looking for sandy shores and a place to swim in the warmer summer months, head to Point Heyer, known locally as KVI Beach. Great for sandcastle building, wildlife watching and watching the water, KVI is always a good stop.
Those looking for something a bit more rugged need look no further than Lisabeula Beach. Rocky and wild, this area that was once a resort is now a great place to see seals, otters, eagles and salmon. For a beach with an iconic lighthouse, head to Point Robinson. While many may feel they should avoid this area because the lighthouse is featured on tourist information, missing it would be a shame. With breathtaking views, wildlife watching possibilities, picturesque views and a rich history, Point Robinson is a can’t-miss destination on the island.
Those looking for hikes and adventures on trails have numerous options, but there are two classic places to explore. The first is the Judd Creek Loop Trail, a newer trail that passes through salmon habitat and native plants. Judd Creek has several bridges spanning the creek, and while best seen in the fall, the trail is immaculate year-round, thanks to the hardworking people at the Vashon Maury Island Land Trust.
Another great place to go is the often overlooked “old quarry” on the southeast side of Maury Island, now connected to Vashon island. Known as Maury Island Marine Park, this remote park has three miles of trails all around the forest and the old quarry, with some trails gaining nearly 500 feet of elevation. This is also one of the largest undeveloped stretches of land directly on the Puget Sound. Old quarry machinery still rests on the land and from the top, you can enjoy a great view Mount Rainer.
Can’t-Miss Festivals and Events
Like anywhere around the country, Vashon Island’s events bring community together. The most well-known island event is the Strawberry Festival that occurs in late July every year. Started in 1909 and still going strong, this event draws thousands upon thousands of visitors to the island, letting them enjoy the parade, run races, taste incredible foods and get to know the fun, unique culture of the island.
While the Strawberry Festival gets most of the attention, there are a few other events that need to be experienced. The first is the Garden and Art Tours of Vashon. Each year, a handful of residents on Vashon open their homes and yards to the public, showcasing their art, as well as their passion for gardening and landscape design. Typically held in late June, signing up for a tour will let you experience the culture and vibe of the island in a unique way.
Every Saturday, starting in early April through the fall, Vashon Island holds a Saturday market in town. While best in the summer time, when the weather is warm and more people are out, this weekend market is always great. With local vendors, art and music, this event is like a little festival every weekend!
Finally, one of the best kept secrets on Vashon is the incredible 4th of July fireworks display. Every year, a barge full of fireworks is loaded up and sent out to Quartermaster Harbor, where locals say the fireworks show rivals some of the big city shows. If you are looking for 4th of July plans, consider this one!