By Meredith Munk Special to The Herald
The 15-minute ferry ride from Fauntleroy in West Seattle across slate-blue Puget Sound to the ferry terminal on the northern end of Vashon Island transports you from a harried city pace to island time.
Imagine a complete escape from traffic, crowded stores and buildings as far as the eye can see, to two-lane country roads with few cars, no long lines for your latte, and forest and water views around every corner.
The transition is subtle; you start to notice it as you wait in the ferry line to board. You can see the Sound views while still on the West Seattle side, but you can also see your tree-covered destination.
Cross the stretch of water and land at Vashon, you are still part of a long line of cars, but now you might find yourself wondering if the locals hate ferry arrival time. The line of cars continues but, surprisingly, the ferry “traffic” disperses quickly as you follow Vashon Highway.
The highway traverses Vashon Island, ending at the ferry terminal to the south, where the Tahlequah ferry will take you to Tacoma. You could choose to see the sights on the islands and end your adventure in Tacoma, driving home from there, or backtrack to the ferry to Fauntleroy.
The first town you come to is Vashon: a few blocks of shopping, local services and places to eat. You could stop for breakfast or lunch at the Hardware Store on Vashon Highway, the oldest commercial building on the island.
You can easily imagine the 125-year-old former hardware store, with its well-worn original wood floor and big windows across the front, being important to early residents.
Now, you can sit at the bar and have a drink or order a meal in the dining area.
You might walk the downtown area, where you can peruse boutiques, gift shops — check out the Vashon Pharmacy — and shops of a few local artists.
As you drive away from the main shopping area, you are surrounded by a mix of old and new houses, lush fields and lots of greenery. Where the trees part, you can glimpse the Sound.
Continue through Vashon to another 100-year-old building, which houses the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. This is also home to the coffee roasting pioneer who launched Seattle’s Best Coffee, roasted on the same equipment used there today. It’s filled with antique coffee equipment including grinders of all kinds.
On roasting days you can look over a railing and down on the vintage roaster to see the action and inhale the rich scent. You can pick up a pound of coffee, whole beans or ground, with names like Wolf Blend, Orca Blend and Rainier Rising.
There are boxes of local produce for sale next to the coffee beans, organic granola bars and homemade muffins. Buy a hot coffee and sit at one of the tables to enjoy the antiques and read the labels on the dozens of glass jars of bulk tea that line the walls.
Back on the road, you are only a few minutes from the famous oddity, the Vashon bike in the tree.
There are no signs, no markers, nothing to announce this local curiosity; but just past Vashon High School, about 30 feet from the highway, across a small footbridge and a few steps into a forested area, there it is (grab a map or ask a local for directions).
About 10 feet up in the air sits a small bicycle with its frame hidden by tree growth and its front and rear tires protruding from the bark.
There are different stories of its origin, but a longtime island family has claimed that it belonged to a then-8-year-old member of the family who left the bike in the woods in 1954.
Farther down the road, stop at the Country Store and shop like a local, or maybe a tourist. Walk among the children’s toys; outdoor wear like rag wool gloves, Carhartt jackets and plaid shirts; handmade soaps; smoked salmon; specialty jellies; maybe a jaunty hat your husband must have.
Oh, and pick up a few pieces of taffy, like, oh, two cinnamon and two licorice.
Continuing south, you can choose to venture to the connected Maury Island where Point Robinson Park and lighthouse is.
The lighthouse is more than 100 years old and has a lens brought over to Vashon from Paris in 1915.Tours are available Sundays from May to September, but the rock- and driftwood-strewn beach is long and sandy, and a destination of its own.
Also on Maury Island, you will find Dockton Park, which has a boat launch, a pier, a grassy area and a playground. This is a perfect picnic lunch spot: The kids can play and you can watch the moored boats bob in the water.
From here, you can start walking the Dockton Forest Trail, one of many Vashon-Maury Island walking trails that wind through forests and parks. There are several to choose from; be adventurous and find one that you like. It’s an island; you can’t get lost.
Venturing back to Vashon Island, follow the road to Burton, a small, picturesque community with a marina and a yacht club. Situated on a long bay called Quartermaster Harbor, its center is the Mercantile and the Burton Coffee Stand. Grab a coffee and head back to the ferry terminal for your return to city living.
This small island is home to artists, two wineries (Vashon and Palouse), vacation rentals, outdoor activities and the quiet pace of island life. The best part is that it encompasses the beauty of a Northwest setting and is easily enjoyed in one day.
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