35 Things To Do On Vashon Island : Day Trips & Longer Stays

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 3 July 2024 |

I’d never heard of Vashon Island before we visited Washington State.  When we flew into Seattle Airport a passenger on the plane told us that we must use the Washington State Ferries during our stay. Always one to take the advice of a local, we searched for somewhere to visit and Vashon Island looked ideal.

I fell in love with the Island.  It’s the kind of place where you have to slow down, you need to linger and savour all that’s on offer.  There are a host of things to do on Vashon Island and it’s the perfect place for a day trip or a much longer stay.

Read on and start planning your visit because if you love to relax and love the great outdoors then you are going to love Vashon.

there's lots of things to do on Vashon Island but we never got bored of looking at the view across Puget Sound of Mount Rainier

Where is Vashon Island?

Vashon Island is located in Puget Sound in the very beautiful state of Washington. As its name suggests it’s an island, to the west of Seattle.  

Vashon Island A Few Statistics

  • Vashon Island covers approximately 37 square miles (96 km2).  It also boasts around 44 square miles (113.6 km2) of the waters of Puget Sound.
  • The island is home to around 11,000 residents but those numbers swell in the summer.
  • The island is not too hilly, which is great for more gentle hiking and biking, with the highest point at around about 500 feet (150 meters) above sea level.

When To Visit Vashon Island

The island enjoys a mild maritime climate with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters.  The main holiday season is between May and October and some of the attractions are only open during the busy summer months. 

For us we visited in early September and it was perfect.  It wasn’t too busy and the weather was glorious for hiking. 

Many of the Island’s festivals are in Spring and Summer so if there is something specific you’d like to see like the Garden Tour or the Strawberry Festival then check the dates well in advance and start planning you trip.  If like us you’re looking for the great outdoors then Autumn might be the perfect time for you.

How Do I Get to Vashon Island?

Vashon is surrounded by water so the only way in is by sea or air.  However, Vashon is very well connected, by way of the Washington State Ferry and a few other Water Taxi options.

There was once a plan to construct a bridge but islanders rejected this, preferring to preserve the rural splendour and character of this wonderful little island.

  • Fauntleroy-Vashon Ferry departs from West Seattle and is the most direct route from Seattle.
  • Point Defiance-Tahlequah Ferry is the one we used from Tacoma. The crossing was only 30 minutes and the water was calm, the sky so blue and we stayed on deck and searched for whales who are frequently spotted in the Sound.
  • Southworth-Vashon Ferry arrives from the Kitsap Peninsula and is perfect if you’re coming from the west from the Olympic Peninsula or Port Angeles area.

In summer the ferries are busy; especially during school holidays.  Whilst the journeys are only 30 minutes, we read that some folks had to wait for the same time just to get on the ferry; so just be prepared to wait for slot.

gerry enjoying the view and the ride on the Washington state ferry to Vashon Island

Will I Need a Car Whilst On The Island?

We drove which allowed us to make the very most of our short time on the island.  I would recommend a car but, I can also imagine for a longer stay, if you really wanted to get away from it all, you could rely on walking or cycling around the island.  (Bike hire is possible).

There is also an excellent little bus service, albeit limited, and local taxis.

Top Tip : Discover Cars are excellent for finding good quality hire cars at reasonable rates. We’ve used them across the US and always been happy.

Things To Do On Vashon Island

The island packs a lot into a little space.  If you love hiking, being on the water or biking then you’ll love Vashon.  If you love history there are a few heritage buildings to explore and we also adored the little shops and galleries that line the main town.  The island has a very vibrant arty feel and a strong sense of community; it made us want to stay and build a life!

And don’t discount the food and drink.  There are also opportunities for wine tastings and some really excellent restaurants too.

When I initially researched Vashon I created a pretty big to-do list.  We didn’t get to see it all but take a closer look below and choose the things that speak to you.

Top Tip : Some of these things are seasonal like Garden and Art tours.  If you’re interested then make sure you mark your calendar.

1. Art Studio Tour

Vashon Island is home to a vibrant arts community and Vashon Island Visual Artists (ViVA) organise a annual art studio tour where you can visit local artists.  The tour is most often in the spring and offers visitors a chance to explore the studios of local artists, see their creative processes, and purchase unique artworks.

The self-guided tour showcases a wide variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, jewellery, and ceramics and if you’d like to go exploring the Vashon art scene take a look at the ViVA website to ensure you don’t miss the next event.

2. Baking Company

The Vashon Island Baking Company isn’t so much a tourist attraction but it’s an institution on the island and they offer Gluten Free and Vegan; so it was a must for us.

This charming little local artisan bakery offers an array of freshly baked pastries, bread, and sandwiches and folks love the quality and their welcome.  It’s right in the centre of town so you’ll be sure to pass it. 

3. Beaches

Vashon Island is surrounded by water and its coast is glorious and there are a few very picturesque beaches worth visiting.

  • We sat on the beach at Point Robinson and enjoyed a picnic lunch with stunning views of the distant Mount Rainier and reminisced about our Skyline Trail hike.
  • Lisabuela Beach is a popular spot with locals as is Jensen Point Beach.  The perfect place if you’re looking for kayaking or water sports.
  • KVI Beach (Point Heyer) was voted the best place to build a sandcastle by islanders. 
  • Maury Island Regional Park is another popular beach, not least because it’s part of the stunning Regional park with it’s abundance of hiking trails and mile long beach.

4. Bicycle Tree

The Bicycle Tree is a quirky landmark and subject to much local lore.  One story says that a young local lad left his bike chained to a tree before going off to fight in World War I.  Sadly the truth is the bike was abandoned by a young chap in the 1950s. 

Over the years, the tree grew around it and the bike is now 7 feet in the air.  It’s a peculiar sight that has intrigued visitors for decades. Before you go in search of the bike, bear in mind that very little of the bike remains, but if you’re passing it’s worth a stop.   

5. Bike Trails

 If you love to ride a bike then visit Vashon Island.  You’ll find a wide variety of scenic bike trails suitable for all skill levels. The island offers lush forests, rolling hills and breath-taking coastal views.

We did a few hikes and shared the path often with groups of cyclists enjoying the parks. Take a look at some of the trails offered on AllTrails to find a route that’s right for you or look up the suggestions on the Vashon Parks website.

6. Birdwatching

Gerry loves spotting birds.  With over 200 species of birds, Vashon Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise and enough for him to reach for his binoculars.  The island’s diverse habitats, including forests, wetlands, and shorelines, provide ideal conditions for birdwatching throughout the year.

Enthusiasts can spot majestic bald eagles, although we saw more at Nisqually National Park.  You might also spot ospreys, herons, and owls.

There is a Vashon Bird Alliance and you’re welcome to join them on an organised walk. 

7. Bookshop

There is something about an old fashioned bookshop that I love.  This is a beloved local bookshop that offers a wide selection of books, including bestsellers, local authors, and rare finds.   And also buys and sells pre-loved books and offer book swaps. 

It’s a glorious little shop, and you can’t help being charmed.   

take a stroll down Vashon High Street with artisan shops and lots of American Flags flying

8. Burton Store (Harbor Mercantile)

The Burton Store is a historic general store located in the quaint village of Burton. It’s a great place to pick up groceries, local products, and souvenirs. The store has been a community hub for over a century, offering a glimpse into Vashon’s past.

It’s officially named Harbor Mercantile and whilst it’s not the oldest building on Vashon, it’s the oldest continuously operating store. 

9. Camp Colvos Brewing

Gerry is a big fan of locally brewed beer and Camp Colvos Brewing was high on his list of things to do.  Camp Colvos is a craft brewery on Vashon Island known for its exceptional beers. Visitors can enjoy a variety of brews sometimes accompanied by live music and food is also available. 

10. Center for the Arts

The Vashon Center for the Arts is a cultural hub hosting performances, exhibitions and educational programs.  Whilst it exists for local residents they do offer a programme of events including theatre productions, concerts, dance performances, and art exhibits.

Check out their website to see if there is something happening when you visit.

11. Coffee Roasterie

We love coffee; as reflected in our post about the cafes in Mcloudganj and coffee in Hanoi.

The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie is a historic spot where visitors can learn about the art of coffee roasting. Housed in a building that dates back to the 1800s, the roastery offers a selection of freshly roasted beans, delicious coffee drinks, and a glimpse into the island’s coffee culture.

there are many options for coffee and food in Vashon

12. Dragon’s Head Cider

I can’t drink beer as it’s not gluten free but I can drink cider.  Dragon’s Head Cider is a family-owned cidery that produces award-winning ciders using traditional English methods; which sounds like a match made in heaven for this Devon girl.

They have a tasting room where you can sample a variety of ciders made from their own locally grown apples and pears.

13. Farmers Market

 We love a market and if you’re the same make sure you visit on market day (Saturday). 

The Vashon Farmers Market is held every Saturday and features a wide array of locally grown produce, crafts, and artisanal foods. It’s a very popular market and you’ll possibly be rubbing shoulders with locals, local farmers, artisans.  It’s also popular with tourists and visitors and if you’re lucky you can buy some snacks and enjoy the live music.

14. Film Society

The island has everything so of course it has The Vashon Island Film Society

They host the annual Vashon Island Film Festival, which showcases independent films from around the world. If you’re a cinema fan, check out the dates for the festival on the island’s website. 

15. Giraffe   

We read about Giraffe before our visit.  It’s a unique store in the centre of Vashon offering all kinds of home decor, furniture, and gifts from around the world. They search out sustainable and ethically sourced products, and you could happily lose an hour wandering around. 

Make sure you stop off next door at the Nepalese café Anu Rana’s Kitchen.  We stopped because the sign said gluten free cookies but the coffee was also excellent. 

16. Heritage Museum

The Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the islands.   Before you visit, lower your expectations as this really is a small museum.  But it’s charming and you could spend an hour learning a great deal about the island.

Staff are friendly and enthusiastic and well worth a visit. 

17. Hiking Trails

Vashon is hiking heaven and I would have loved to have stayed all summer long and explored on foot.  I use Alltrails to find local hikes in new destinations and some notable trails include :

  • Shinglemill Creek Preserve Trail: A lush forest trail along a picturesque creek.
  • Maury Island Marine Park Trail: Stunning coastal views and wildlife spotting.
  • Outer Island Forest Center Loop: The longest trail on the island at 6.5 miles.
  • Gravel Pit Peak Trail: Panoramic views of the island and Puget Sound.
  • Indian Point Trail: A moderate hike with lovely forested sections.
take a hike along the coast on Vashon Island and end in a little cove like this little beach

18. Horseback Riding

 I did not know this was an option when we visited; I wish I had!  Westside Stables offers horseback riding experiences on Vashon Island, catering to riders of all skill levels.

You can explore scenic trails on guided rides through the forests and along the coastline. Amazing!

19. Lavender Hill Farm

We live in France and adore seeing fields of lavender. Sadly the flowers had gone when we visited but it’s still worth dropping by. Lavender Hill Farm is a picturesque little farm where you can wander through fields of blooming lavender, pick their own bouquets, and purchase lavender-based products in the shop.  

Visit the website to find out more, you can even stay overnight if you’re looking for accommodation.  They aren’t open year-round so do check in advance.

20. Maury Island Marine Park

 Maury Island Marine Park is a stunning natural area offering hiking trails, beach access, and wildlife viewing opportunities. This protected park’s offers diverse habitats include forests, meadows, and shoreline, making it a great spot for nature lovers. 

21. Mukai Garden

Mukai Farm & Garden is a historic site (on the National Register of Historic Places) and celebrates the Japanese-American heritage of Vashon Island. The beautifully restored garden includes traditional Japanese elements and is a very peaceful place to explore but they also host a range of events through the year.

This is a beautiful place with a fascinating history and well worth visiting.

22. Nashi Orchards

Another wonderful artisan brewer on Vashon, Nashi Orchards produces artisanal perry and cider from Asian pears and traditional apples.

Visitors can tour the orchard, learn about the cider-making process, and sample their delicious beverages.   It’s open to visits year-round but not every day so do check in advance. 

23. Palouse Winery

We live in the heart of the wine region of France.  It would be wrong of us to visit Vashon and not enjoy some local wine!

Palouse Winery is a family-owned winery known for its award-winning wines. can enjoy tastings in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and learn about their winemaking process. The winery’s beautiful location also offers stunning views of the island.

There is an option to book a tasting on the Palouse Winery website or you can call ahead to reserve. 

24. Point Robinson Park and Lighthouse

We loved Point Robinson Park.  The lighthouse has been a beacon in the fog since 1885 and the park includes an extensive sandy beach that wraps around the point.  There are walking trails, a few picnic tables and the beach was the perfect place for our picnic.

We ate looking out across the Sound’s East Passage, Tacoma, and the incredible views of Mount Rainier behind.  We enjoyed the beach, and we walked as far as we could in both directions, around the historic lighthouse. 

Point Robinson lighthouse and beach on Vashon Island

25. Sheepdog Classic

I really want to visit to see the Vashon Sheepdog Classic!  It sounds amazing!  This annual event apparently draws participants and spectators from far and near.  And showcases the skills of working sheepdogs and their handlers.

Sadly, it’s only possible to see this once a year so if like me you want to watch this unique and entertaining experience then check out the website for dates.

26. Spa Ecdysis & Apothecary

 I’ll hold my hand up and say that spa days aren’t my thing.  My sister however can’t visit a place unless she can enjoy a massage or facial treatment.  She’d be happy in Vashon.  Spa Ecdysis offers a range of unique wellness treatments focusing on holistic healing, uses natural, organic products.   

Maybe not the ideal place to visit for a day trip but if you plan on spending longer in Vashon you may wish to consider this as a ladies-only treat.

27. Strawberry Festival

The Vashon Strawberry Festival is a beloved annual event celebrating the island’s agricultural heritage; including strawberries.  This is a very popular event and features parades, live music, arts and crafts, and of course, plenty of strawberry-themed treats.

It’s a fun, family-friendly event that brings the community together and if you’re in the area then it is a must!

old poster for the 2023 Vashon Island Strawberry Festival

28. Swift Water Gallery

We live in rural France and I miss galleries; Vashon is awash with them and we loved it. Swift Water Gallery showcases contemporary art from local artists. The gallery features a rotating selection of paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works.

It’s a great place to discover new art and support local talent, check out their website to learn more. 

29. Swimming Pool

There is a public swimming pool on the island.  If you’re staying for longer than a day you might wish to visit for a cool down. The Vashon Pool offers a range of aquatic activities including lap swimming, water aerobics, and swim lessons.  

30. VALISE Gallery

Another great artist-run cooperative gallery that features innovative and thought-provoking contemporary art. Valise gallery hosts monthly exhibitions and provides a platform for emerging and established artists to showcase their work.

31. Vashon Adventures at Jenson Point

If you want to spend some time on the water then you should head to Vashon Adventures and Jenson Point. 

They offer a range of outdoor activities including kayaking, paddleboarding, and bike rentals.   And they also offer Primitive Camping at three sites on the island; perfect for a longer stay.

32. Vashon Gardens

Visiting gardens is a favourite pastime and once a year on Vashon Island you get the chance to visit some of the islands best.

The Vashon Island Garden Tour is an annual event which allows visitors to explore some of the island’s most beautiful private gardens.   The tour highlights diverse gardening styles and showcases the creativity and dedication of local gardeners.  Check out the website for dates.

33. Vashon Parks

I’ve listed Vashon Parks as one thing to do, but the truth is that there are so many parks and green spaces that you can visit on Vashon.  You’ll find hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and beach and sports facilities.  The parks provide spaces for residents and visitors alike and you can find out more on the Island’s Parks Website 

34. Vashon Theatre

Of course there’s a theatre on Vashon and an historic one too.  The Vashon Theatre is a beloved local cinema showing a mix of current films, classics, and independent movies. The theatre also hosts special events such as film festivals and community gatherings. It’s a charming venue with a very nostalgic feel.

35. Whale Trail

Last in my list but by no means least is the Vashon Island Whale Trail.  This isn’t so much a local activity but it’s part of a network of viewing sites along the Pacific Coast where visitors can spot whales and other marine life.

Point Robinson Park is a very popular spot for whale watching, especially during the migration seasons of orcas and gray whales. 

memorial plaque on a bench overlooking the Whale Trail on Vashon Island

Great Places to Eat and Drink on Vashon

We didn’t spend long on Vashon but we were spoilt for choice for great places to eat.  There are some really great restaurants and bars and cafes to suit pretty much everyone.

We already mentioned The Vashon Island Bakery and Vashon Island Coffee Roastarie as great places for quick bites and coffee breaks.  But there are so many more options.

  • The Hardware Store Restaurant is maybe one of the most popular spots in town with a varied menu and a pretty historic setting too.  Go for brunch, lunch or dinner but check the website for times as they vary. They didn’t have a full dinner menu but they offered a gluten free brunch and the food was excellent
  • May Kitchen + Bar offers really delicious Thai cuisine and they’ll cater for gluten free.  This is the perfect choice for a special dinner
  • Snapdragon Bakery & Café can tempt you in with coffee and live music but the food is also great and there are some gluten free choices.
  • Gravy is another popular choice.  We never made it here but were advised to try it out.  They do gluten free options and focus on local ingredients
  • And another mention for Anu Rana’s Kitchen and their gluten free cookies; definitely worth a visit.
colourful and well stocked artisan cafe in Vashon

Amazing Places To Stay On Vashon Island

I strongly recommend staying for at least one night on Vashon if you have the time.  The island is of course a perfect day trip destination but there’s so much to see that a few days is better.

There isn’t a lot of accommodation on the Island so plan well ahead and book before you arrive.  In summer the island is hugely popular with visitors and there aren’t enough beds to go around. We would have stayed longer but everywhere was full.

  • Vashon Inn is perfect for a short stay and offers so much space!  It’s impeccably clean and well stocked with everything you’ll need.  There’s a full kitchen if you want to cook but you’re also within walking distance of the cafes, restaurants and shops of Vashon

Reviews say that the grounds around the property are beautiful. And you can sit in the morning with your coffee and watch deer, birds, squirrels and horses.  There’s a peaceful wood to walk and a small private beach too.

  • If you’re looking for more of a traditional Bed and Breakfast then you must choose Betty Macdonald Farm.  This small family run accommodation has guests raving but book early as there was no room at the Inn when we visited.

Reviews tell of a serene, tranquil, stunning setting and the best welcome you could expect.  This is where we’d stay if we had the chance to go back to Vashon. You need to contact direct to book your room.

lost animal posters with one humorous poster for a lost dinosaur

A Potted History of Vashon Island

Vashon and Maury Islands were inhabited solely by Native American tribes until the late 1700s. Evidence of human activity on Vashon Island dates back 10,000 to 12,000 years. Historical data from the early settlement period is limited, but several distinct cultures have been identified:

  • Marpole Culture (circa 7,000 years ago): One of the earliest known groups to inhabit the island.
  • Salish People (circa 1,000 years ago): Later inhabitants who established a strong presence in the region.
  • Sqababsh (S’Homamish in Chinook Wawa, circa 500 years ago): This group established five major village sites on the island.
  • Tulalip Indians also populated the shores of both Vashon and Maury Islands.

European-American Settlement

The first non-Native American to explore Vashon Island was Captain George Vancouver during his 1792 Puget Sound survey. He named the island after his friend James Vashon and the first settler groups began arriving in 1824.

In 1890, Japanese Americans began growing strawberries on the island. Denichiro Mukai, arrived in 1910, and was renowned for his method of barreling fresh strawberries for long-distance shipping.

Today, Vashon Island maintains a rural, small-town atmosphere with a strong sense of community. The population includes a mix of longtime residents and newcomers attracted to the island’s natural beauty and tranquillity.  

Is It Worth Visiting Vashon Island For A Day?

Yes, Vashon Island is totally worth visiting and makes for a delightful day trip. With its close proximity to Seattle and Tacoma, it offers a quick escape to its lovely arty community and wonderful nature.

The main appeal of Vashon Island is about embracing a slower pace.  With its rural setting, lack of traffic lights, and focus on nature, it’s an ideal destination to unwind.

view from Robson Point of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier.

Plan A Visit Because There Are So Many Things To Do On Vashon Island

Many folks visit Vashon Island for the day.  I’m quite envious of the folks that can hop on a Washington State Ferry and transport themselves across to the island.  If I lived here I’d not get bored; there are just so many things to do.

  • Vashon Island has a thriving artistic community and the island is all about community.  They even had a bumper sticker made that said “Keep Vashon Weird” because they love and nurture the unique and creative spirit of the island.
  • You can’t go to Vashon and not be wowed by the stunning scenery opportunities for kayaking, hiking, and biking and the views!  Oh they views are just incredible.  We couldn’t stop looking (or taking photos of Mount Rainier).
  • Locals take their food and drinks seriously.  The Farmers market is hugely popular and local eateries reflect the drive for fresh local produce.  And let’s not forget the amazing wine and cider made on the island.
  • Finally for a tiny island there are a lot of annual festivals and events; the Strawberry Festival and the Vashon Island Sheepdog Classic are not to be missed but we’d also love the Garden Tour.

Vashon Island feels like it’s from another time.  For a couple of Brits if felt like we’d stepped into an episode of the Gilmore Girls or some other wholesome truly American town. It speaks to those seeking a retreat and a relaxing escape filled with art, nature, farm-to-table restaurants and a slower pace of life. 

We loved Vashon.  There’s a ton of things to do on Vashon.  I could easily live here. 

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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