Seattle is a city for water lovers. It sits on Elliot Bay – and the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands are just a short boat ride away. Our weather is notoriously drizzly and cloudy for months at a time, but when summer comes, everything changes. It can get hot here, with temps in the upper 80’s for weeks at a time in July and August. But there are many ways to escape the heat of the city, and one of my favorites is taking a ferry ride to a nearby island.
Vashon Island is a peaceful, rural oasis just 20 minutes from Seattle. Ferries run several times daily from the Fauntleroy terminal at West Seattle’s Lincoln Park, making it an ideal getaway for anyone visiting Seattle for a few days. The ferries get busy during the summer months though, so to avoid waiting in line for up to an hour I recommend going on a weekday, rather than the weekend – if you can. And try to time your trip between the morning and evening rush of workers who commute back and forth between Vashon and “the mainland”. Fares for walk-on and bicycle passengers are only $6.20 each, versus $22.50 for a car with one occupant. Add $5.20 for each passenger over the age of 19, and the costs to drive there can add up fast. So, I prefer to ditch the car and walk or bike onto the ferry, thereby skipping the lines and saving some cash for lunch. Once you arrive on the island, you can take the King County Metro shuttle that runs every 40 minutes or so during the summer, and has a rack on the front for bicycles. If you’d like a challenge, ride your bike the five miles uphill into town.
Less populated and more rural than the closer-in Bainbridge Island, Vashon has a laid-back Bohemian vibe, and is home to many artist’s studios. If you happen to be here in May or December, be sure to check out the artists tour of the island, when local studios are open to the public. From April through December the Vashon Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays from 10am – 2pm. The market is a fun place to shop for local crafts and fresh produce, and features regular live acoustic performances by local musicians. Nearby is my favorite “sleeper” grocery store, the Vashon Thriftway. This market has a great deli and cheese section, excellent fresh seafood, and a wine department that rivals that of any supermarket in Seattle – in selection and price. If you’d like to eat on the island, dining options include The Hardware Store (great brunch), as well as several choices for Mexican, Thai and simple burgers and fries, all within walking distance of the center of town.