Vashon Island is a great local getaway for a couple of days or a day trip. Accessible only by ferry or other watercraft, Vashon Island in Washington State will provide plenty of activities and peace for those who love lighthouses, nature, beaches, wandering, discovering, sightseeing, and just being present in another one of the Pacific Northwest’s beautiful spots.
There are two ferry terminals you can take to catch a ferry to the island. I opted for the Point Defiance Ferry Terminal/Tahlequah in Tacoma, but one can also catch the Fauntleroy to Vashon ferry at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. *The Vashon Chamber of Commerce lists a third ferry option from Port Orchard. See the link below.* Check the ferry rates before you leave to be sure how much to budget, as needed. This ferry route only charges a fare for going to the island and does not charge one when leaving the island and heading back to either of the ferry terminals. Our round trip cost for two using the ferries was around $24.00 which was based on car length + driver rate plus one passenger. I highly recommend bringing a vehicle or some sort of other wheeled mode of transportation to the island in order to make the most of your day trip as points of interest are a ways from the ferry terminal, but there is bus service on the island. Bicycles are a great way to commute, too. I’ll consider that option should I get a bicycle in the future. You can bring the bike with you on the ferry and the buses have bike racks. What a beautiful way to explore the island. Be safe regardless of your choice of transportation.
Once we drove off the ferry and away from the terminal, we found ourselves exploring the island and ended up stopping at Jensen Point first where parking was easy and a very short walk from the shoreline. We were in search of low tide treasures to photograph and we were not disappointed. Although we missed the lowest tides of the season, we were still able to find great photo subjects and to just sit and drink it all in. At Jensen Point, you can rent kayaks as an option to see more of the island and shoreline. This would be a fun adventure for families and friends in addition to being a nice place for a picnic. The beach is rocky with barnacle covered rocks and set back from the shoreline the ground is covered in crushed shells. There is a grassy area and picnic tables available to enjoy.
Next we headed to Point Robinson Lighthouse where you navigate a short trail to the lighthouse from the upper parking area. We saw a sign stating that the lower parking area was closed but that may have been for those renting the Keepers’ Quarters nearby. (I look forward to staying at the Keepers’ Quarters in the near future and posting here about my stay.) The path down to the beach and lighthouse was lined with different types of fungi and plants. The grass near the lighthouse was high during our stay which provided for great photos and the wraparound beach was not crowded and provided views of all types of air and sea vessels.
The lighthouse has a donation jar to help with its upkeep so I recommend dropping a contribution sometime during your visit. The lighthouse was a star attraction for me with a very helpful guide willing and able to answer my questions. Exhibits are downstairs along with helpful maps and a great lighthouse poster. Up the narrow winding stairwell you may need to step aside for another group coming down as you are heading up. When you reach the top, it gets a bit more cozy near the lantern and then you can exit that room onto the walkway surrounding the top of the lighthouse for some great views. Chat with the guide, take a nice breath in, close your eyes, open your eyes again and enjoy that view. Spend as much time at Point Robinson Lighthouse. I have it filed under magical in my mental Rolodex.
I’m a fan of driftwood and there is plenty to view, sit on, and photograph. However, it was advised by the lighthouse guide not to remove any driftwood from the beach as it is a necessary barrier to erosion. I prefer to enjoy the driftwood where it lives and where it lives is usually pretty spectacular.
Quartermaster Harbor during summer low tide
If you’re looking for driftwood souvenirs, I was told any of the driftwood at Quartermaster Harbor was prime for collecting. On our way to the lighthouse, we saw driftwood collectors at the harbor and the tide was low and I made it a point to explore when heading back to the ferry terminal. At Quartermaster Harbor, the tide was very low and the harbor was spongy to walk on with my water sandals and it was pretty messy but incredibly fun. I watched where I walked as the tiny crabs and other creatures were staying in the shallow water until the tide came back in. There was so much to photograph and just watch. I saw a crane, a mysterious barnacle-covered bottle (I left it there instead of packing it with the garbage I collected because of the live barnacles.), mussels, clams, plants, and many other beauties of low tide. This spot is worth another visit during the height of low tide season in the summer. Again, there’s a lot of driftwood here for the collecting as I was told and as I saw since the driftwood does not act as a barrier to erosion at this spot of the island. The tides just bring them in and push them up against the side of the road. My photo above shows low tide but doesn’t capture the amount of driftwood near the road.
To do next time: Visit the bicycle in the tree, get a photograph of a great truck or tractor we saw on our way to & from the lighthouse, and a chance to eat lunch at one of the island’s restaurants. I’ll be back to visit again and I plan on staying more than a couple of hours in order to explore and enjoy Vashon thoroughly. A trip like this would fill a relaxing weekend or a mid-week getaway just fine with hikes, lunches on the beach, lunches in town, photography, and the perceived slower pace of island life.
Enjoy and thank you for reading!
*Bring some sort of wheeled mode of transportation or use the bus system to get around the island. Bicycles are welcomed per the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce. See link below.
*Be mindful that this is an island and the community is protective of their island. Be respectful in all areas as possible. I pick up trash at beaches I visit as a way to give back to the community and the environment. Keep a bag for trash with you but the parks usually have a trash bin available. Wherever your adventures lead you, please leave the space in peaceful conditions, i.e. leave it better than you found it.
*Do not remove driftwood from the beach at Point Robinson Lighthouse per the lighthouse guide. The driftwood prevents further erosion.
*Pacific Northwest (PNW) weather encourages us to be prepared for sun, rain, cold, and heat. Be prepared as we have all the seasons in the PNW and sometimes you’ll experience all four in one day. 🙂
*Unwind and have fun.
Washington State Ferries http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/
King County Metro Bus Service http://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/schedules-maps/118.aspx#weekday
Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce http://www.vashonchamber.com/pages/GettingHere
Point Robinson Lighthouse/Vashon Parks District https://vashonparks.org/point-robinson