Summer and early fall are the best times to visit areas that are bursting with berries, offer an abundance of sunshine, beaches filled with undiscovered treasures and cool spots to taste local wine. We could almost be describing the Key Peninsula…but today’s road trip takes us to a neighboring agrarian spot via a short ferry ride: Vashon Island.
Although the native populations of the Marpole, the Salish, the Tulalip and the S’Homamish had lived and visited Vashon for thousands of years, it took Capt. George Vancouver “discovering” the island in 1792 to give it its current name after his friend, James Vashon. It is the largest island in the Puget Sound south of Admiralty Inlet and is midway between Seattle and Tacoma.
Because it is only reached via waterways, Vashon has retained its quirky, small-town feeling and rural charm. From the KP, trips to Vashon start with a ferry ride from the Southworth terminal near Port Orchard or from Tacoma’s Point Defiance terminal. From either location, it’s merely a 15- to 20-minute jaunt and a fun way to begin your day trip adventure.
There’s much to discover, suggested stops are listed in random order below.
At the southern end is The Country Store & Farm (20211 Vashon Hwy SW), the island’s original general store. Vashon once produced thousands of pounds of strawberries but today this is the last place on the island to offer a commercial u-pick strawberry field. While the retail facility has an eclectic assortment of merchandise, don’t miss the farm and its u-pick blueberries, raspberries and Asian pears in season. The store also frequently offers classes on container gardening, country crafts and more.
The Palouse Winery, located on the north end (12431 Vashon Hwy SW), is a family-run establishment producing 1,400 cases of handcrafted wine annually. On most Saturday and Sunday afternoons, visitors to the tasting room can sample the wines of the day, ranging from a viognier to several award-winning reds. You can also stroll the gardens, take in the amazing views and, during the summer months, enjoy live music. Be aware that parking can be tricky since the winery is right on the highway.
The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie (19529 Vashon Hwy SW) is located in a century-old building constructed from now-extinct, old-growth island fir. It is more than just a casual place to get your java fix; it’s an homage to Jim Stewart, creator of Seattle’s Best Coffee and arguably the man who introduced specialty coffee to the Puget Sound. The Roasterie’s beans are roasted on-site in one of the original, vintage ovens. A wealth of coffee memorabilia is also scattered throughout the store.
If you’re ready for some exercise, you can rent a kayak, stand-up paddle board or an e-bike from Vashon Adventures (8900 SW Harbor Drive). There’s nothing quite like getting out on the water in the summer, and Admiralty Inlet has a protected harbor for trying out or honing your skills. You can take a class, join a scheduled guided tour or go solo. Vashon Adventures is located in the Jensen Point Boathouse and is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (except Tuesdays) during the summer.
No summer day trip is complete without a little beachcombing, and the best place to find ocean treasures is Point Robinson (3705 SW Pt. Robinson Road), a 10-acre shoreline park. Technically on neighboring Maury Island overlooking the East Passage, Point Robinson features a lovely lighthouse that has been in operation since 1885. Until mid-September, you can tour the lighthouse Sunday afternoons 1-4 p.m. The gift shop is open Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
So if you find yourself without plans on a fine summer or early-fall day, hop over to Vashon Island. You won’t be disappointed.
Rachel V. Berry lives in Port Orchard.