Things To Do In Vashon Island – Attraction Of The Green State
Vashon Island is one of many islands that are easily accessible from Seattle and is worth a visit. The island appears distant even though it is close to west Seattle. As soon as you step foot on the island, it feels as though you have left the city behind. You will surely enjoy spending some time alone on Vashon Island, whether you visit during a period of thick fog blowing across the lake or on a beautiful day.
Visiting Vashon Island
Vashon, the biggest island in Puget Sound, is actually two islands joined by a man-made land bridge. Previously, Maury Island was located to the southeast, across from Vashon, in a narrow waterway. Townspeople made the decision to create one island in 1916 by filling in a small opening in the muddy strait. On most maps and in some local conversations, both islands are still referred to individually; however, the general names of Vashon, which I’ll be using, or Vashon-Maury are also used.
Due to their advantageous access to trade routes and fishing areas all around the Salish Sea, both islands have been home to several cultures for thousands of years. On his maiden tour of the inland Pacific Northwest, Captain George Vancouver surveyed and mapped the region in 1792. Admiral James Vashon, the former captain of the famed HMS Dreadnought, is the person Vancouver honoured by giving the island his name. In 1841, Captain Charles Wilkes gave the adjoining island the name Maury Island in honour of William Lewis Maury, a retired naval veteran who served as Wilkes’ buddy and travelling companion.
The same blue-gray waters Wilkes reported in his writings must still be navigated in order to reach Vashon island today. The island may maintain its rural and somewhat enigmatic appeal by keeping access to it limited to the water or the air.
How to get to Vashon Island
Vashon Island is accessible by two quick ferry rides because to its central location in the Puget Sound, situated between Tacoma to the south and Seattle to the northeast. The Pt. Defiance to Tahlequah route travels between Tacoma and the south end of the island, while the Fauntleroy to Southworth crossing stops at the north end. The Vashon Highway, the primary route for exploring the island, is directly accessible from both ports. The Vashon Highway, which runs north and south across the island, has branches that will take you there.
If you are exploring by boat, there are still a few public docks available. The Quartermaster’s Marina provides daily moorage and gasoline. The Marina, which is tucked inside Quartermaster’s Harbor, offers tranquil waters and dockside access to Burton, a historic community.
A bridge doesn’t appear possible any time soon given the significant shipping channels offshore, poor access, and locals’ general lack of interest. The majority of locals I’ve encountered say they don’t mind at all.
Vashon’s constrained car traffic makes getting about the island quite nice and peaceful.
The ferry this morning was barely half full, so it rapidly emptied, and our convoy of automobiles and UPS delivery trucks continued north on the highway, diverging as we went.
Just before Burton, the roadway climbs up and over the island before descending once more to the lake. The Burton Coffee Stand alone makes it worthwhile to visit the old coastal town at the curved end of Quartermaster’s Harbor. With your coffee in hand, cross the street to Burton Acres Park or Quartermaster’s Harbor to observe the marine life. Having already investigated this area, I decided to move on without stopping today.
Activities for a Day Trip on Vashon Island:
After passing the bay and turning again to the north, the road continues inland in the direction of Vashon. The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie may be found a few blocks before the town on the left, just next to the Vashon Center of the Arts.
Over a century ago, old growth fir that was harvested on the island was used to build the old roasterie building. I locate a dark roast and a seat on the porch made of thick timber, which offers little shelter from the swirling mist. However, it provides a decent perspective of the monotonous daily life on the island. Before braving the elements, trade workers, locals of all ages, and tourists mingle while enjoying their morning coffee and scones.
Point Robinson Lighthouse
No matter the weather, it’s difficult to avoid visiting the Point Robinson Lighthouse. The lighthouse has been in use since 1885 and is located not far from the Maury Island Marine Park on the easternmost point of the island. The US Lighthouse Survey Dept. designated the site to help with the significant maritime traffic as the territory of Washington campaigned for statehood and the populations of Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia swelled.
The US Coast Guard continues to oversee the lighthouse’s operating side, but the Vashon Park District is in charge of looking after the park and some of the nearby buildings.
I was able to conduct some beach combing during a brief break in the rain as stocky tugs pushing barges down the shipping lanes curled large waves into the shore. Driftwood and other interesting floating artefacts are drawn to the park because of how it protrudes into the rapid river.
A big round log about 50 feet in length is lying on the sand over the bulkhead’s tangled pile of bent wood. Fortunately, before they hit my shin, I notice forged iron nails and latches jutting out of one side that are the size of my lower arm. I hop over to take a look. It may be from an old pier or dock, but based on the appearance of the wood and metalworking, I’d think it has been drifting in the sound for a while.
From the lighthouse, looking north toward Seattle, Three Tree Point protrudes from the mainland on the channel’s east side, while Vashon’s northeast shoreline stretches up the west, framing the view up through Admiralty Inlet. Beyond it is Browns Point and Commencement Bay to the south. The vista, however, on a clear day is of Mount Rainier dominating the southeasterly skyline and the Cascades rising like the teeth of a saw above the horizon. As long as the clouds are around, it won’t be that day, but I’ll still throw a few pebbles anyway.
Even more elusive than the other vistas at the site are the whales. The Whale Trail, which runs the length of the west coast from British Columbia to California, includes more than 100 locations, including Point Robinson.
The 2008-founded nonprofit Whale Trail Organization, situated in Seattle, uses prime whale viewing locations to track and research the wellbeing of the sea and its people. Along the coast of Vashon island, Orcas, Humpbacks, and Gray Whales can be seen swimming in the strong currents. The Pacific Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, and the occasional porpoise are more frequently sighted wildlife.
Trails in Vashon Park
I navigated around the point while balancing on bits of driftwood and watching a park staff sweep the shore, cleaning up a few pieces of rubbish that the tide had brought in. He urged me to check out the trails that climbed the hill from the beach after we exchanged pleasantries.
He advised me to hike up the muddy trail near the tree line, so I did. However, as I did, I stumbled into a Bald Eagle that was so close to me that the limb shaking beneath his takeoff dumped debris at my feet. Even though neither of us expected to see the other and he left before I could even grab my camera, it was nonetheless exciting to see him. The entrance road is flanked by a small network of paths that wind through the forest. With some open sound vistas and picnic tables, I thought the high banks on the north side were a little more lovely.
Quarters for the Keeper
The Keeper’s Quarters in the park has rooms for overnight guests. After being renovated, two early 1900s buildings that originally served as homes to several lighthouse keepers and their families now provide a distinctive place to spend the night or a weekend. The houses are adjacent and provide unimpeded views east over the river toward Mount Rainier. A quiet dawn over the Cascade Mountains and a cup of coffee in the morning come to mind. I will be adding this to my list of things to accomplish after perhaps throwing in a couple of breaching humpbacks for good measure.
The Cascade Marine Trails System includes the park as well. The trail system of seaside campsites offers a distinctive way to view the Salish Sea, which stretches from Olympia to Canada and is only intended for human or wind-powered sea transport. Paddlers and sailors can enjoy remote camping with world-class vistas because to limited inland access. The other Cascade Marine Trail location on Vashon is located at Lisabeula Park near Colvos Passage on the west side of the island.
I wander the park aimlessly for the first half of the day until my stomach signals that it is time for lunch.
The Vashon Town
The hub of activity is the town of Vashon, which is located on a high point in the northern portion of the island. Within a few walking town blocks, you can find restaurants, neighbourhood stores, museums, coffee shops, and farmers markets.
I quickly located a parking spot and started my search for lunch. A antiquated former hardware shop turned acclaimed restaurant, The Hardware Store is a Vashon institution. The crowds will attest that the tale and the meal are both excellent, but as I across the street, I discovered Camp Colvos Brewing, a brewpub.
I entered for food and drink because I never leave a local brewery unsupervised and ended up having a terrific night.
There was a lot of seating at the bar and tables inside with excellent natural lighting. I placed an order for lager and a braised beef meat pie, and shortly thereafter, I was chatting with Matt, the company’s creator, as he poured beers and kept the ship afloat. We discussed Kölsch, the beer vs. cider issue, island living, and the history of Vashon with Matt, who was a terrific man.
Charm of a Small Town
I questioned him about how long the island would be able to withstand the pressure of overcrowding. He referred to the prized island resource of freshwater wells as “water rights.” The island will remain tiny due to water rights and lack of bridge access. For the time being, I’m persuaded, and I want him to be correct.
Business appears to be booming at camp these days, with their one-year anniversary this month and a brand-new taproom in Tacoma’s Historic Brewery District planned for the summer of 2020.
I had another stop after lunch that I needed to cross off my list. The Vashon Bookshop, a small independent bookstore with a fantastic selection devoted to authors from Vashon Island and the larger Pacific Northwest, is usually my must-stop location when in town. I browse the shelves and depart with a book written by Spokane native Jack Nisbet.
The Town of Dockton
Getting back in the car, I follow Matt’s advice and drive back to the Maury Island side of the island. He advised me to visit Dockton’s town park and nearby town.
The settlement of Dockton, which is literally a dock town, was built around a dry dock maintenance facility that was situated well inside the protected waters of Quartermaster’s Harbor. In order to maintain the fleet’s efficiency as the 20th century drew near, the Puget Sound’s busy trade ships looked to the immigrant shipbuilders of Dockton. Workers from the United Kingdom, the Baltic, and Scandinavia settled in Dockton with their families and began their lives there.
The waterside park’s sculpture offers a brief glimpse into the life of some of those families. A towering, gleaming obelisk with fragments of plates and porcelain left by Dockton’s early families that were discovered buried in the sand and soil close to the old docks over a century ago stands where the dock once met the coast.
When leaving the park and entering the historic hamlet, follow the interpretative signs for the Dockton Historic Trail. The one-mile walk explores the historical sites and occasions of the seaside community and its shipbuilders.
Dockton Forest, an 86-acre section of mature forest connected to the Maury Island Natural Vicinity and some other nearby natural habitat land in the area, is located across the street from the waterfront park. Over 10 miles of hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking paths extend from the shores of Quartermaster’s Harbor to the Puget Sound on the island’s southeast side, totaling an astonishing 470 acres of protected area in all. The trailhead has maps and signs that keep things straightforward.
Because my gloomy day is getting darker and I have a boat to catch, I must presume that the sun is setting somewhere behind the clouds. To beat the twilight, I head for the car. Although there isn’t always rush hour traffic on Vashon, there can be long ferry lines, so I head back to the Tahlequah pier and my boat home.
I reflect on my day while I wait alongside everyone else on the side of the road for our boat. I spent more time than usual at fewer sites and delighted in disorienting myself with time as I became engrossed in the profundity of a select few locations and the beauty of a select few vistas. The waves mesmerised me, and I screamed like a little girl when I believed a Bald Eagle was about to land on my head. We also enjoyed a calm talk while sipping cold beer and eating hot food. The best days might occasionally result from going with the flow of the moment and not having expectations for your journey. living on an island.