Seattle is well known for its spectacular views of the Space Needle in between flickering city buildings and the Link, Pike Place Market, the mysterious Gum Wall, bushels of hollyhocks and peonies, and its charming neighborhood seaside outskirts like Ballard, Fremont, and Pike/Pine. We encourage you to see all of those wonderful parts if you’re visiting Seattle – but we have another charming element you might be missing: Vashon Island.
This little town, a ferry ride away and on an island the size of Manhattan, will bring you an element a peace only “island time” knows. Filled with 10,000 joyful and charming locals, Vashon Island feels like the scene of a Hollywood movie, simple and pure – full of cliché country scenes. The locals are sophisticated but don’t show off their secret haven – and we love them that way. White fences and stables run across the border of streets, along with creeks and wild sweet peas. Coffee shops are full of locals that know everyone by their first name – running across the street to the drugstore for the coffee shop owner because she ran out of seltzer. It’s the type of place people go when they want to get away from the sirens and city, marvel at the crystal blue Puget Sound, and sip lavender lemonades in the shade.
We think you must go. Vashon Island is as crucial a part of Seattle culture as the Space Needle or the flying fish.
Here’s a quick tip – if you’re going to Vashon Island on a weekday, don’t take the ferry. Take the King County Water Taxi. You can pick this one up right at the port in Seattle (instead of driving to Fauntleroy). And, you’ll be hanging with commuting locals! It’s about 10 minutes faster and when it brings you back to Seattle, you get a beautiful view of the city (like the one below). If you’re in Seattle on the weekend, however, the King County Water Taxi only works on the weekdays, so you’ll have to take the ferry route. Either way, it’s an easy $5 or so one-way. And an easy 15-minute ride outside of the city.
Once you do arrive, a bus will pick you up right at the ferry station. It typically waits for ferries when they arrive. Download OneBusAway app to pay directly from your phone. The bus will take you up a large hill into the island and you’ll probably enjoy listening to a conversation about family and weekend plans with the bus driver and a local. Everyone knows everyone here, and friendly goes with everything.
There are a few spots you can get off to explore. We’ll highlight them below (even though we always suggest asking the bus driver). They have the best local tips and gems!
Once you arrive, you will certainly feel like you’ve transferred to another time period. The world is more peaceful and fresh fruit and veggie stands are plentiful throughout. If you’re breezing into the island around lunchtime, we suggest getting off the bus on the main drag (Vashon Highway). You won’t miss the town – it’s hustling and bustling with happy humans carrying bags of groceries and herbs. The Hardware Restaurant, Vashon’s main hub, is a great place to make reservations if you’re visiting for dinner on a weekend. However, we love Red Bicycle Bistro for great sushi and music (and an open atmosphere for a breezy lunch). If you’re up for drinks and sports, Sporty’s Restaurant and Bar across the street will come to your hoppy rescue.
If you stay on the bus until the last stop, there is the most charming coffee shop you will ever stumble across. The Burton Coffee Stand sits across the street from the drugstore and a flower stand, careful – you’ll miss it if you’re going too fast. We highly recommend ordering one of the pastries – specifically the feta and spinach. They warm it up for you!
The home of Heirloom® Coffee lives at The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie™ and we think you should try this spot, too. The charming old building, made from old growth island fir, is in the center of town. Its Northern European style will have you reveling in the pioneer-spirit of Vashon.
Lavender Hill Farm is a must-stop. If you want to go, get off the last bus stop, grab a tea at Burton Coffee Stand, and waltz to the top of the hill (there will be signs directing you). The spot will take your breath away and you can spend the relaxing afternoon cutting your own lavender bunches (one bunch for $10). They grow twenty different varieties of lavender, serve lavender lemonade on site, and you can even wrap your own lavender bunches with assortments of pastel ribbons. We took our bushels home on the plane the next day and they kept well.
The Vashon Island Bicycles prove to be a great way to get around the island if you want to explore more of the sights. You can rent cruisers for $20 a day. Or, the Vashon Park District rents out kayaks at Jensen Point (that’s right by the Burton Coffee Shop) for $75 a day. Right near Jensen Point, there’s a forest entrance to hike through for a quick stroll. Ask anyone you see passing by where that is; they’ll give you avid directions.
If you’re in a more relaxing mood, breeze through the independently owned Vashon Bookshop for its new and used poetry. They’re stock full with greeting cards, calendars, journals, and puzzles – perfect opportunities to bring a unique souvenir home.
Brittany is the content and communications Marketing Manager for Sun Country Airlines. Her favorite things about Sun Country are the close-knit family vibe and the passion behind the people, as if the employees and customers grew up loving the “airline next door.” Her favorite destination? The whimsical forests and rain of Seattle’s coast.