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Ahoy! Dockton Park’s Nautical-Themed Playground Is Open

Take a day trip to Vashon Island for engaging play, by land or by sea

Sharon Mead headshot
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Published on: March 07, 2024

Dockton playground climbing structure
Photo:
Photo credit: Sharon Mead

We'll take any excuse to get outside and play, especially if a ferry ride is in order. After a year-long closure, the Dockton playground, nestled next to the Vashon-Maury shoreline on Quartermaster Harbor, is finally ready and welcoming for families to play.

My daughter and I took the ferry ride from Fauntleroy to Vashon on a sunny winter day. As we pulled up to the playground’s easy-to-access parking lot, we were both excited to see what Dockton Park had to offer.

Seattle playground, new Dockton playground opens on Vashon
This brand-new playground is finally open. Photo credit: Sharon Mead

I was struck by the beautiful view at this beachside playground; we lucked out with a clear winter day. Parents and caregivers will have the delight of watching their children expel lots of energy while taking in the stunning panorama of the water and tree-lined hills beyond the bay.

The large SS Dockton play structure is tucked into the hill behind the beachfront and is reminiscent of a pirate ship, complete with a Jolly Roger flag. The entire structure is placed on mud-free turf, with a short retaining wall surrounding most of the play area.

Climb aboard the SS Dockton

For children who like to climb, this is the playground for you! The entire structure is designed for climbing challenges, from multiple rope ladders that often extend overhead to a short climbing wall. Several slides and stairs allowed easy access either up to or down the ship’s connecting decks.

"The SS Dockton"
The SS Dockton play structure offers plenty of way to climb and unbeatable views. Photo credit: Sharon Mead

During the time my daughter and I played and explored, a group of preschoolers and parents arrived. I noticed that the smaller children required more parent oversight because of the challenges the climbing features offer. For independent play, I’d say this playground is best for children ages 5–12. But if you're playing alongside younger kids, it's definitely doable.

One activity that every kid can enjoy is the scavenger hunt. Posted on the equipment, a colorful sign encourages children to search the structure for images such as a carrot or a clock. I heard squeals of laughter as the preschool children set off on the hunt.

The playground itself is fairly compact, so the sight lines are ideal for parents. One challenge is the beach’s bulkhead, which is not fenced, requiring parents to keep an eye on little ones who like to bolt toward the water.

Beyond the SS Dockton

New swings are scheduled to be installed in April and will round out the playground, providing options beyond climbing for children. The medium-sized, merry-go-round spin cone with double-decker ropes that greets you as you enter is often the first thing that children chose to play with. Plus, the music-making toys such as a xylophone and chimes are ideal for kids of all ages.

"Scavenger hunt images for kids to find at Dockton play ground"
Can you find all the pictures hidden at the park? Photo credit: Sharon Mead

While the on-site bathroom facilities are currently closed, two port-o-potties are available next to the parking lot. Without the bathrooms, the best option for a diaper change is to have a blanket or portable changing pad handy. Since the park area is flat and located right next to the parking lot by a sidewalk, it is ADA-accessible for those with disabilities or that use mobility equipment.

For those warm summer nights or a hearty winter outing, Dockton Park has two large fire pits and a covered picnic table area (which can be reserved), making it an ideal place for a family picnic or birthday party.

By land or by sea

Have a boat? Come to Dockton by sea and you can dock at the small marina. If you live nearby, you can take a kayak or paddleboard from home to the park. Dockton Marina provides a public boat launch and moorage on Quartermaster Harbor.

New landscaping was established in December 2023, when 50 people planted ferns, huckleberry bushes and other native plants to provide a habitat for wildlife and improve the local ecosystem around the play area.

As for the sea, the narrow beach is quintessentially Northwest, with a little sand and a plethora of rocks and shells. The cement stairs lead to a small beach and, tide permitting, makes for a great beach walk. My daughter insisted we check it out, since it’s a must to put your boots in the water and pick up a shell or two. I recommend it.

"A girl walking on the shore in pink boots at Dockton playground"
Taking a break from the playground to explore. Photo credit: Sharon Mead

Across the road, Dockton Forest is made up of 86 acres of working forest land connected to Dockton Natural Area and Maury Island Natural Reserve. Here you’ll find access to 12 miles of soft-surface trails, not suitable for a stroller but designed for mountain biking. The Dockton Historic Trail highlights the culture and history of the area and is an easy walk that takes about 45 minutes to complete.

More island adventures 

After playing at Dockton Park, take the five-minute drive to Maury Island Marine Park, one of the largest undeveloped properties on Puget Sound with more than a mile of shoreline and 320 acres of reserve. It offers stunning views of the East Passage, Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains, and is a significant fish and wildlife habitat for great blue herons, bald eagles, kingfishers, Chinook salmon, orca and bull trout.

For a coffee break, or just to take in the vibe of an old-time country store, visit The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie.

Head to The Hardware Store for brunch or dinner — you can’t miss this local favorite (we hear the Key Lime pie is not to be missed!).

Need one more park experience before heading home? Stop by the Ober Park playground, adjacent to the Vashon Branch of the King County Library. The partially wooded site also offers outdoor tables for a picnic lunch.

And if you are making your summer plans now, be sure to mark down the Vashon Island Strawberry Festival, from July 19–21, for a weekend of family-friendly music, culture, parades and of course, local strawberries.

If you go…

Find it: Dockton Park and Marina is located at 9500 S.W. Dock Street, Vashon, on Maury Island. Roughly a 22-minute drive from the Vashon Ferry dock. Also accessible via the Southworth or Point Defiance ferries.

Open hours: Dawn to dusk.

Parking: Free parking is available in a dedicated lot.

Facilities: The existing bathrooms were closed, but two port-o-potties were accessible by the parking lot. No changing tables.

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