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Day-Away: Vashon Island with Kids

Ferry, coffee, beaches and King County's newest library

Sharon Chang

Published on: May 10, 2014

Every six months or so my husband and I feel like we’re about to implode from the relentless juggling act that is work, parenting and life in the city. Since we can't jet away for a weeklong tropical vacation, we do the next best thing: Hop on a 20-minute ferry ride to the place my husband grew up – Vashon Island. Here are our favorite ways to while away a day on the island.

1. Take a magical ferry ride

“Daddy, we’re taking the ferry boat today!” One of the best parts for our young son (and for the grown-ups, too) is the ferry ride from the Fauntleroy terminal in West Seattle (very near another lovely place, Lincoln Park). Driving a car onto a boat is almost magical, as is clambering upstairs to bolt around the spacious deck and peer out the windows at vast stretches of Puget Sound water. After 20 minutes, you arrive at a place totally different from where you came, “Daddy, we’re on a island!” (Find the Fauntleroy/Southworth/Vashon spring ferry schedule.)

You can also get to Vashon from Seattle by King County Water Taxi (only on weekdays, 22 minutes).

2. Visit King County’s newest library

First stop: After the ferry docks on the island, drive 10 minutes down Vashon Highway to the island's recently renovated King Country library (17210 Vashon Highway S.W.) at the edge of the island’s commercial district (what islanders call “uptown," as “overtown” is downtown Seattle). When we visited in April, it was the day after the library reopened. It’s beyond beautiful, with gorgeous woodwork patterns on the ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows that bathe visitors in natural light. The remodel was a $6 million dollar project made possible by a $172 million bond King County voters approved to build and modernize libraries around the county.

The Vashon Library was expanded from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet including opened-up, colorful children and teen corners that feature tantalizing views of Ober Park playground, lots of kid-friendly seating, kids’ computers and of course, plenty of books for all ages.

If the weather’s amenable, head out to the playground after your quiet time inside to get the wiggles out. 

3. Get caffeinated at the Roasterie

Next stop? Well coffee, of course, at our favorite place, The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie (19529 Vashon Highway S.W., 206-463-9800), an inviting café also in uptown (about a 5-minute drive south of the library), with wood interiors, antiques. In addition to roasting its own beans, the Roasterie also carries herbs, spices and tea. The baristas will put whip cream “on top of the top” (instead of inside) so kids can eat their cream first, before it dissolves. 

4. Play (and play and play) at the beach

After that, the beaches of Vashon are your oyster. My huband loves to take us exploring and adventuring on the part of the island where he lived and played as a child, Burton Peninsula. 

We like to wander a series of trails that traverse the interior between Burton Acres Park (8900 S.W. Harbor Drive), a 64-acre terrestrial conservancy park on the southeast shore of Vashon, and Jensen Point, a four-acre shoreline activity park located on the east shore of Burton Peninsula off Harbor Drive.

On our last visit, we get our wiggles out at Jensen Point shell hunting, throwing rocks in the Sound and climbing driftwood. My son ended up elated and exhausted with wet feet and I ended up with a pocketful of wet “treasures” to take home.

Find more beaches on Vashon.

5. Dinner at the Hardware Store

The perfect end to a beach day, of course, is dinner. Our favorite family-friendly restaurant on the island is The Hardware Store (17601 Vashon Highway S.W., 206-463-1800). Housed in the oldest commercial building on Vashon (121 years old), The Hardware Store’s mission is to create a “good place where people in our community can gather.”

The historic interior is wide and open with comfie booths; there are crayons and a coloring menu for kids; and the food selection is uncomplicated but tasty, including burgers, soups, salads and seafood. 

Make a weekend of it

Want to make your day-away a getaway? Here are more Vashon tips.


- Vashon has many lodging options, but our favorite way to stay is to book a small house via VRBO.

- Check out the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce, which lists bed & breakfasts, inns, cottages and cabins.


- SnapDragon Café has vegetarian/vegan options and excellent pastries.


- Head to the island for Vashon’s well-known Strawberry Festival, July 15-17, 2016

- Enjoy summer concerts and events held through Vashon Allied Arts.

- Do more beach time, either at KVI beach (aka Point Heyer). a great place to make sand castles as well as walk (there’s a long dock for trekking out over the water); or Lisabeula, a special, out-of-the-way quiet park on the water with a small beach.

- As for other ideas to add to your agenda, there’s a nice list of activities at Sustainable Tourism On Vashon. 

- And finally, if you’re the adventuresome open-ended/minded type, my husband always says one of his favorite things to do is just “pick a road and drive down it.”


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