Midway between Seattle and Tacoma in Puget Sound is Vashon Island. This small island measuring 13 miles long by 8 miles wide is home to 11,000 residents and all are dependent on ferry service to get to and from their homes. Most wouldn’t trade the commute for the rural beauty of the island and the laid back lifestyle that Vashon is known for.
The first step to visiting Vashon is looking up the ferry schedule and then heading to West Seattle. Drive over the West Seattle Bridge and follow the signs to Fauntleroy. Be sure to arrive early because the lines get long, particularly during commute hours and on weekends. The fare is $14.80 and covers a round trip ferry ride, which takes 20 minutes.
Once you arrive on Vashon you will be on Vashon Highway. Follow that south into town to your first stop which is breakfast at the Hardware Store Restaurant at the corner of Vashon Highway and Bank Road. This restaurant is in the oldest commercial building on Vashon, dating back 115 years. If you’re feeling up to it, start with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary and then order a classic like eggs Benedict or Joe’s special which features ground chuck, spinach, eggs, and parmesan cheese. Whatever your choice, it will be tasty.
You are in the official “downtown” of Vashon so take some time to wander and visit some of the shops. Pandora’s Box has a terrific assortment of pet food, toys, and essentials like cool leashes and climbing posts for your feline friends. Next door is Giraffe Global Gallery which sells fair trade items from around the world. They have items, as they like to say, from Ache to Zimbabwe including fabrics, clothing, cards, sculpture, and a great selection of items made from recycled materials.
If you’re a reader stop in to Books by the Way, which has been selling books on Vashon since 1973. Browse and look over the staff selections for your next read. Our how about something new to wear, like hand-dyed silks at Dova Silks? Not so practical, but definitely beautiful. If you want something vintage try Old and Funqui, which sells “deluxe junk”. They have clothes, glassware, furniture, and collectibles so take a look and see what you can find.
Vashon prides itself on being an art center so the next stop is a visit to a few galleries. Right in downtown is Gallery 070 which features contemporary art and The Heron’s Nest has arts and crafts from wearable art to major paintings.
Then hop in the car and head south to the Country Store and Gardens. Here you’ll find a great shop with items for the gardener like boots and gloves but also all manner of things you didn’t know you need like specialty foods and bath items. While here, tour the nursery, because you may very well find a plant that needs to go home with you.
Then back in the car and further south to Burton where you will find the old Masonic Temple that is now Silverwood Gallery. Owned by jeweler Eric Heffelfinger and his wife, painter Margaret Tylczak the gallery features their work as well as select guest artists. Eric’s jewelry is exquisite and Margaret’s dog paintings will have you laughing as you read the titles such as, “Maggie Knew That The Lack Of Opposable Thumbs Would Not Keep Her From Becoming Queen Of The Flying Trapeze”.
But you didn’t come to Vashon just to shop. What really makes Vashon special is the miles of coastline, the untamed forest-the natural beauty. Head back north to SW Quartermaster Drive and follow that around the harbor to SW Point Robinson Road. This will take you to Point Robinson Park and the Vashon lighthouse. This park has great beach access as well as an incredible view of Mt. Rainier, weather permitting. Stroll the beach, watch the boats, look for shells, and just enjoy a little of what islanders get to see every day. During the summer on Sundays, you can tour the lighthouse, if it’s fall or winter keep your eyes open for orcas that like to cruise around the island. Notice the two lighthouse keeper houses? They are now owned and operated by the city park’s department and are available for weekly rentals. Sounds like you may need to start planning a vacation, doesn’t it?
Getting hungry? Take your time driving back to the downtown area and stop in at the Green Ginger for some Chinese. A comprehensive menu in a nicely decorated restaurant, you can also order beer and wine. They have weekday lunch specials and if it’s the weekend plan on leftovers.
Head back north toward the ferry dock but make one more gallery stop at Barnworks. Take a left on Cove Road and visit the barn and coop which are an art gallery and gift shop for a number of local artists. The barn was built in 1900 and is worth the stop but when the walls are covered with art it makes it all the better.
Time to head home, so back to the ferry terminal and a short wait for a ride back to the mainland. You could spend far more than a day on Vashon and the island also hosts a number of special events, like their twice-yearly Art Studio Tour and the ever-popular Strawberry Festival, so check the city’s website for details. When you’re ready for a little peace and quiet, any day is a good day on Vashon Island.
What & Where:
Hardware Store Restaurant (Vashon Highway and Bank Rd; 206-463-1800)
Pandora’s Box (17321 Vashon Hwy; 206-463-3401)
Books by the Way (9928 SW Bank Rd; 206-463-2696)
Dova Silks (17600 Vashon Hwy; 206-463-4888)
Old & Funqui (17311 Vashon Hwy; 206-463-0895)
Gallery 070 (17633 Vashon Highway 206-463-9280)
The Heron’s Nest (17600 Vashon Hwy; 206-463-5252)
Country Store and Gardens (20211 Vashon Hwy; 206-463-3655)
Silverwood Gallery (24927 Vashon Hwy 206-463-1722)
Point Robinson Park (S.W. Point Robinson Rd)
Green Ginger (9851 SW Bank Rd; 206-463-7788)
Fauntleroy to Vashon ferry schedule (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/schedules/current/index.cfm?route=f-v)
For more information on Vashon Island contact the Chamber of Commerce http://www.vashonchamber.com/
Marion L. Head is an educator and freelance writer who lives in Seattle, WA. Marion has published fiction in various anthologies and nonfiction on various websites. Marion is author of South Dakota: An Explorer’s Guide for Countryman Press.