Dreaming of Summer Sun on Vashon Island


It’s a dreary Seattle day. Hang with me as I do a little sun, sand and surf dreaming and reminisce about a day trip we took last summer to a tranquil little island just west of Seattle.

When you live in the Pacific Northwest a day at the beach doesn’t exactly come to mind. Sure we have lots of water but have you stuck your toe in one of our many lakes or even the Pacific Ocean lately? It’s really cold. We don’t get the nice water warm up those on the east coast experience. Just like the outside temperatures, the water temps stay nice and cool year round. It may look like summer out here, but we are far from the balmy summer days I remember down at the Jersey shore.

My east coast living aunt loves to escape the heat of Philadelphia and visit us each summer. To her, our weather is heavenly by July. Meanwhile I’m still waiting to break a sweat. My aunt has been visiting her friends in the Seattle area long before we ever moved here. She has been to more spots in Washington than we have. As you can imagine it’s really nice when we find something that none of us has explored. This past July she announced she had never been to Vashon Island. Neither had we. It seemed like the perfect excuse to hop on a ferry. Oh yeah, it was also the 4th of July (for my non-US resident readers that’s our independence day over here).

We made our way to West Seattle (a neighborhood worthy of it’s own excursion) and hopped on the ferry at Fauntleroy. Admittedly we had no idea what we would do when we got to Vashon, but with our little map and my Best of Seattle guidebook in the car I was sure we would figure it out. The ferry line wasn’t too long and we were on the island in no time.

Our first stop was lunch. My aunt is my favorite foodie relative. I make sure we try as many restaurants as possible when she is in town. We stopped into what I assume is downtown Vashon and found The Hardware Store was hopping. This converted, you guessed it, hardware store served up the usual cuisine; burgers, fish, big breakfasts and fries littered the menus. We definitely had no room for dessert when we were done. While eating we perused our map and decided we should head towards the Point Robinson lighthouse on the east side of the island. A nice drive through farmland, parks and forest brought us to the park the lighthouse was housed in. Dek was lathered in sunscreen, strapped into our backpack carrier and we headed down a short hill to the beach.

The view that greeted us nearly knocked me over. Mt. Rainier was out in all her glory. The Cascades looked minuscule in comparison. The sun glistened off the water as boats sailed by. A wedding was happening in one of the buildings on the beach, pouring some old swing music our way. Families were picnicking in the sand; flying kites and watching their little ones soak up as much water and sun as possible on this brilliant holiday afternoon. We were in the middle of the best of Pacific Northwest weather.

Being the amazing mom that I am I came completely unprepared for a day at the beach. Of course my water-loving boy made a beeline for the tide pools and small rippling waves on the shoreline, shoes and all. Why wouldn’t he? He was soaked in no time. I had no swimsuit, no towel, nothing. I was lucky I had sunscreen and I only had that because I keep a bottle in the car at all times. The damage was already done and really, the kid was having so much fun. I yanked off his socks, shoes and pants, handed them to Mike to deal with, tugged up my own pants and trotted into the water with Dek. I kept Dek’s diaper on mainly to shield his bum from the sunrays. It sure wasn’t doing much else.

We splashed, posed for pictures, and stared at starfish bigger than my face. Once my feet resembled shriveled prunes I called a halt to the fun. Mike was able to get Dek’s pants pretty dry by the time we had to put them back on. I was ready to just let Dek dry out in the sun for a few minutes when another mom came to my rescue with a towel. She explained that she had been stranded with no extra diaper once and a mom helped her out. She was paying it forward now by coming to my rescue. God bless prepared moms being around when we need them.

My aunt suggested a little walk on the beach before we packed it up and headed home. The beach curved around exposing the Olympic Mountains, driftwood piles, more families grilling in the dunes and a few lone souls just basking in the peace and tranquility.

Fireworks were promised later that night on the beach. I was tempted to stay but the sun doesn’t set until almost 10pm in July out here. Dek, who had already skipped his nap, would not be able to hang on that long. We were bound for home and our own little firework display the neighbors always grace us with well into the wee hours.

This summer we will be headed back to Vashon Island to check out the Strawberry Festival. The historic event will host a pancake breakfast, arts and crafts, music and carnival rides. My aunt will be back in town. I’m sure she can be convinced to make a return visit.

Know Before You Go

  • Vashon Island
    • Getting there: Take the Fauntleroy car ferry from West Seattle. Pay the ferry fare and set sail. Check the website for sailing times. Schedules are subject to change based on holidays and sailing conditions.
    • You can walk onto the ferry at a lower rate but I highly recommend driving or at least bringing your bike so you can see more of the island. Buses do run on the island, but you will be more limited in your wanderings.
  • Strawberry Festival: The 103rd Strawberry Festival will run July 20-22, 2012. Parades are held on Saturday and Sunday.
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  • James Vignali

    I enjoyed your post. Having drilled on Vashon Island I have stayed at a great get away just south of the north ferry dock. It was once owned by an author, McDonald I think. I think she was the author orf “The Egg and I”. I don’t remember the name of the place but I think it was run by a wonderful woman named Anne.

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