Ferry On: 7 Reasons to Visit Vashon Island This Summer

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It’s true, families don’t need an island to have an adventure. But it sure adds to the thrill! So board a ferry and make your way over to Vashon Island for your own Swiss Family experience (less shipwreck, more festivals, we promise!). From record-breaking raft ups to bio blitz bashes, we’ve got the scoop on the coolest, quirkiest summer events this little island has to offer.

Low Tide girls in pink jackets

Island Festivals

Low Tide Celebration
Join the party at the 9th annual Low Tide Celebration, a beach party like no other, where families celebrate the living beaches of our (totally awesome) Puget Sound. The free event, hosted at Point Robinson Park, promises a galosh-stomping good time for families, including lighthouse tours, canoe rides, and a beach walk with Odin Lonning, a traditional Tlingit carver (and Vashon resident)! All that, plus serious face-time with mysterious sea creatures? Sounds like a magical northwest day if ever there was one. And be sure to take advantage of the free shuttle bus that runs along Point Robinson Beach Rd. and Luana Beach Rd., so that the kiddos will still have energy left to explore this low tide dreamscape. Just imagine what they’ll find!

Point Robinson Lighthouse
S.W. Point Robinson Rd.
Vashon Island, Wa 98070
Online:  business.vashonchamber.com/events/details/low-tide-celebration-51939

Date: June 14, 2014
Time: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Free

BioBlitz 2014
Budding biologists and curious kiddos won’t want to miss the 3rd Annual Vashon Island BioBlitz. This 24-hour event, sponsored by the Vashon Nature Center, brings together scientists, naturalists and volunteers to descend upon Christensen Creek Preserve, where they’ll catalogue the ecosystem of the area. Families will have a chance to shadow an expert or make finds of their own, all the while observing, recording and learning as they go! Science much? So dress for the weather and plan to get dirty turning over rocks, digging through mud and exploring the shoreline at this ecologically diverse area. And from what we’ve heard, it’s also a known birder hot spot so bring some binocs if you’ve got them. Families can register by emailing: info@vashonnaturecenter.org. This lets the Nature Center staff plan and space volunteers, and dish the insider deets, too. Explore on!

Bio Blitz on Vashonby Kelly Keenan

Christensen Creek Preserve Network
West side of Wax Orchard Rd. S.W.
Vashon Island, Wa
Online: vashonnaturecenter.org/bioblitz

Dates & Time: July 12-13, 2014 from 3 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free

Strawberry Festival
The Vashon Island Strawberry Festival is the island’s summer bash to end all bashes. And this year is no exception. Now in its 106th year (nope, not a typo), it attracts upwards of 40,000 (still not a typo) people each year. Expect the family fun to be piled high with carnival rides, face painting, music and more. As for not-to-miss events, the Grand Parade at 11 a.m. on Saturday, the classic car parade at noon on Sunday, and the youth stage where the kiddos are in charge make our list. And don’t forget the strawberries. Many restaurants and food booths will be serving up strawberry-themed goodies to keep the kiddos running throughout the day. Party on!

Chicken and egg Strawberry fest Vashon

Good to know: Act like a local for this event and leave the car at home, if possible (or bring a bike!). With so many people coming in from off-island there will be shuttles and buses running from the ferry docks into town. But plan to wait and pack an extra dose of patience in your pocket for the day.

Downtown Vashon
Online: vashonchamber.com/pages/StrawberryFestival

Dates: July 18-20, 2014
Cost: Free

Raft Up
This record-seeking event with a heart (it benefits the Vashon Youth and Family Services) is “quintessentially Vashon,” from its focus on the beauty of the island, to its “bring the kids” welcoming vibe. And it promises to be a boat floating bounty for all. Participants will raft up (line up kayaks and canoes side by side) in the hopes of blasting the 2,099 boat current world record out of the water. Register to be one of the (hopefully) 2,500 boats lining up for this benefit or just come to watch this awesome event. The boats will make their attempt at 1:30 p.m. on the second day. It’s one world record breaker you won’t want to miss!

Blue Heron canoe ride Vashon

Quartermaster Harbor
Between Neil Point & Piner Point on the south end of the island
Vashon, Wa
Online: vyfs.org/raftup

Dates: August 16-17, 2014
Cost: $25/registered boat

Vashon Sheepdog Classic
If you heart dogs, this one’s got your name written all over it. The Vashon Sheepdog Classic is a three-day, family-friendly festival dedicated to those hardworking dogs that help keep everyone together. Well, every sheep together at least. It’s a throwback–to-yesteryear type event that includes a kid’s activity center and the Skacel Fiber arts tent, where they’ll be spinning yarns and gearing up for a yarn storming (who knew fences needed sweaters?). But at its heart, this is an opportunity to watch working dogs in action, showing off their skills in serious competition. So pack a picnic (or grab food there) and watch someone else do the herding for a change. You’ll be awed!

Vashon Sheep Dog Classic from website

Misty Isle Farms
Old Mill Rd. & S.W. 220th
Vashon, Wa
Online: vashonsheepdogclassic.com

Dates: August 22-25, 2014
Times: Dusk to dawn each day
Cost: $8/person; free for children under 10

Island Eats

While you’re on island, there are lots of great places to bring your appetite. Even the local Thriftway has tempting prepared sandwiches that are the perfect grab-and-go for a family picnic on the beach (or at one of these events). But, if you’re looking for sit down restaurants (chairs and all!) we have a few that are worth the ferry ride. The Snapdragon Bakery and Café takes the cake when it comes to oversized baked goods that taste as good as they look. Recently they’ve expanded and now serve up tantalizing meals throughout the day. Fair warning though, serving sizes are ginormous and can easily be shared, although you may want to keep this foodie goodness all to yourself.

Snapdragon Cafe

The Hardware Store Restaurant is another can’t-miss on our list of island eateries. Categorized as upscale casual, the menu’s pleasing to carnivores, vegetarians and those that have gone gluten-free. Plus, they serve up a decadent weekend brunch, so there’s that. And if fast is your thing, as it often is with toddlers in tow, the Saucy Sisters Brick Oven Pizzeria can have a piping’ hot pie ready to go in about 5 minutes. Coincidentally, that’s just about the time it takes to stave off a hungry toddler meltdown. Order up!

Eclectic Island Fun

Vashon wears its eclectic, quirky title with pride, and it’s got the sights to prove it. Be sure to make a post-fest detour to check out these local legends before heading back to the big city. You won’t regret tracking down the bicycle in the tree, a nationally recognized oddity, live and in person off the Vashon Island Highway. Or head over to Vashon’s outdoor gym for a workout with a view. The exercise bikes at the intersection of Dockton Rd. S.W. and Portage Bay S.W. are another local attraction that’ll cause you to stop and wonder. And don’t forget the UFO over at the Vashon Municipal Airport. Real or just really cool, it’s got bedtime story written all over it. Experiencing even one of these is a great way to top off a family adventure on Vashon!

Portage bay bikes Vashon

Do you plan to take a trip to Vashon Island this summer? Let us know in a comment below. 

–Allison Sutcliffe

Photos thanks to: Kelly Keenan, Jay Holtz, The Vashon Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Raume Carr, Vashon Sheepdog Classic’s website