Weekend Wanderings: Vashon Island

Photo courtesy The Lodges on Vashon

Vashon Island is admittedly a quirky place, yet there are several reasons we keep going back for more. First of all, it’s so conveniently close, meaning Vashon is the perfect destination for a partial day getaway or an easy overnight. Logistically, it feels more like a “staycation,” thanks to the less-than-20-minute ferry ride between Fauntleroy (in West Seattle) and Vashon. Another major reason we keep returning? The delicious, locally-sourced food.

Dining + Wining

Photo courtesy Gravy, Vashon Island

During this most recent visit, we discovered a new favorite: Gravy. Owned by down-to-earth husband and wife duo Chef Dre Neeley and Pepa Brower, this farm-to-table American restaurant features flavorful dishes (boasting Southern and French influences) plus an extraordinarily warm vibe. Our neighbors at the next table over, frequent fliers at this laidback neighborhood bistro, leaned over to make sure we knew all the best things to order. (Although they also admitted: “You truly can’t go wrong.”)

The venue serves dinner, brunch and a popular Sunday BBQ (during summer months); there’s also a garden patio out back, made for warm summer evenings. Vashon’s Aeggy’s Farm produces solely for Gravy, providing Dre a bounty of local produce to work with, and the hand-selected wine list reflects discoveries made by Dre and Pepa’s during their annual trips to France and Italy. Some culinary highlights from the scrumptious menu when we visited: Nonna’s meatballs, a simple salad with a standout housemade citrus vinaigrette dressing, sausage ragu and the pork schnitzel, served alongside warm potato salad. (Be sure to leave room for dessert, too.)

Photo courtesy Gravy, Vashon Island

During your visit, also set aside time to stop into welcoming Snapdragon Bakery & Cafe, a light-filled locals’ hub that’s lovely for morning breakfast sandwiches, afternoon pastries and evening meals/bevvies, perhaps accompanied by the treat of live music. And across the street, May Kitchen + Bar might just be some of the best Thai food you’ll find in the Pacific Northwest; definitely make a reservation in advance, though, as word is out on this spectacular gem.

Cozy up in May’s approachable-chic, dark-wood setting, and dive into outstanding dishes, from the yum phak boong (Siamese watercress flash-fried in rice flour, drizzled in coconut milk and served with a coconut lime chili-oil dipping sauce) to the perfect-10 green curry and pad Thai, a memorable twist on a traditional dish that’s garnished table-side.

Lodging Logistics

Photo courtesy The Lodges on Vashon

While some look into Airbnb options, others find The Lodges on Vashon to be a relaxing island retreat that’s within walking distance of the island’s best restaurants and bars.  These modern, minimalist lodges feature hip decor elements, large windows, keyless-entry technology, uber-comfy king-size beds, gas fireplaces and local products (from soaps to coffee), created by island makers.

Communal spaces, centered around  dreamy fire pits, make ideal gathering spots in warmer months; on a clear night, you can glimpse a million stars from this tranquil, wooded site. While kitchen amenities are minimal, there is a small fridge in which to store restaurant leftovers and a coffee maker with which to start the day off right. (Know that there is no on-site reception, and each unit has only has one sink.) This central haven is a charming launchpad for all your island adventures.

Other Draws

Vashon activities range from wine tasting and farm visiting (check out workshops at spots like Kurtwood Farms) to beachcombing and trail hiking. The Point Robinson Lighthouse is a popular (and photogenic) highlight, and Island Center Forest proves a great, easy option for strolling around the center of the island. The 440-acre forest and nature preserve offers 10 miles of trails, some of them used by horseback riders, too. We personally felt a pull toward the Valley of the Firs—an ethereal, verdant grove in which to feel miles away from routine, “real” life awaiting back in the big city.

Vashon Island photo by Corinne Whiting