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Vashon Island

  • Distance: 32 miles
  • Routes: Vashon Highway SW, Washington State Ferries
  • Estimated Driving Time: 1 hour

To get to the island from the east, passengers must head to West Seattle and the Fauntleroy terminal. Coming from the west, passengers can launch from Kitsap Peninsula and the Southworth ferry terminal.

George Vancouver named the island in 1792 for his friend, Captain James Vashon of the English Navy. Although it was surveyed in 1856, permanent settlement did not begin until 1877. In the next 25 years, it became one of the leading berry, fruit, and poultry-raising districts on Puget Sound; while commercial berry and poultry farms no longer operate on the island, historic agricultural landscapes characterize many of the island’s upland areas.


Key waypoints on this leg include: Vashon Ferry TerminalVashonTahlequah

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The trip from Seattle to Vashon Island (and beyond) requires a ferry. As the ferry traverses the Puget Sound, on either bow the gently rolling sea is enclosed by dark wooded shores and the occasional tawny face of a sheer bluff. This passage cuts across active shipping channels for container ships headed to ports deeper within Puget Sound and for local fishing and recreational craft moving along the sound. Prior...

Learn more about Vashon Ferry Terminal
Points of Interest
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Fauntleroy ferry terminal/East Passage

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Southworth ferry terminal/Colvos Passage

Prior to 1920, Japanese American farmers from Vashon Island used a variety of docks to transport their produce, via the swarm of steamships crossing Puget Sound popularly known as the “Mosquito Fleet.” With the rise of the north-end ferry service to Seattle, however, Vashon Heights became the most popular transit point for strawberry farmers like the Matsuda and Fujioka families. The Mukai family shipped its strawberries in barrels for freezing...

Learn more about Vashon Heights

From the ferry landing, Vashon Highway SW ascends on a winding grade to the crest of the island. Far below, Puget Sound glints in the sun. To the east are the tumbled Cascades, broken by peaks and punctuated by the white crowns of Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. On the west is the Olympic Range. Continuing south, the highway rolls past berry fields, orchards and poultry farms. Patches of woodland...

Learn more about Cowley

This is the “metropolis” of the island, and its brief main street, 99th Ave. SW/Vashon Highway SW, is lined on either side with modern store buildings. Vashon is in north central Vashon Island and was named for James Vashon of the Royal Navy, who later became an admiral. Vancouver had served under Vashon in the West Indies before his voyage of discovery in the 1790s.  

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Points of Interest
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Vashon Hardware Store

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Harrington-Beall Greenhouse Company Historic District

Sidetrip: Mukai

This short, 2-mile side trip takes you to the Mukai Farmstead and Garden, a historic berry farming operation established by Japanese Americans that also contains a formal Japanese garden.

Take the Mukai side trip

Sidetrip: Maury Island

This 22-mile, approximately 40-minute round trip takes you to Maury Island, actually a peninsula of Vashon Island connected by a narrow sand spit. The island was named by Cmdr. Charles Wilkes in 1841 for Lieut. William L. Maury, who was an astronomer and hydrographer on Wilkes’ ship Vincennes. Maury became one of the few naval officers to resign their commissions at the start of the Civil War to “go south.”...

Take the Maury Island side trip

The creek rises in central Vashon Island and flows southeast into Quartermaster Harbor. It was named for A. W. Judd, a farmer and retired Methodist minister who lived on Quartermaster Harbor north of the creek. Somewhere along the banks was said to be a cache of buried treasure. Lars Hanson, logging here in 1877, married an Indian girl to whom he gave his savings, $800 in gold, with instructions to...

Learn more about Judd Creek

This scattered community was established in 1892 as the site of Vashon College, a co-ed preparatory school that was destroyed by fire in 1912. The town was founded by Mrs. M. F. Hatch, either for her birthplace in England, Burton-In-Kendall, or after the town she formerly lived in in Illinois. Near the college, in a large park-like section, Baptists convened for an annual summer assembly of their Young People's Society....

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Burton Community Church

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Burton Masonic Hall

South of Burton, the highway follows the winding shore, ascending high sand bluffs with an ever-widening panorama of small bays. Here, the country becomes rougher in character, broken by huge thinly timbered ravines. Shawnee House embodies in its construction, design, ownership, and history an urban affluence which found its expression in the building of homes on the beaches of Puget Sound in the first quarter of the twentieth century. The...

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Once the location of a Coast Salish village, Tahlequah was initially called Clam Cove by 19th century settlers, before acquiring its current name in 1920, along with its identity as the site of the major ferry dock serving Vashon Island’s south end. In 1841, a glowing tribute to the beauty of a Tahlequah sunset was recorded by Lt. Georges Colvocoresses of Charles Wilkes’s U.S. Exploring Expedition, for whom the island’s...

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