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How Long Is The Ferry Ride From Port Defiance To Vashon Island?


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Raven Johnston



Welcome to the beautiful Washington state, where natural wonders abound and adventures await. If you’re planning a visit to the Pacific Northwest, one destination that should be on your radar is Vashon Island. Located just off the coast of Seattle, Vashon Island offers a peaceful and picturesque escape from the bustling city life. One of the popular ways to reach Vashon Island is by taking a ferry ride from Port Defiance.


In this article, we will delve into the details of the ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island. Whether you’re a local looking for a weekend getaway or a tourist exploring the wonders of Washington, this article will provide you with essential information to plan your journey.


From the scenic views of the Puget Sound to the rich history and charming communities, the journey to Vashon Island is an experience in itself. We’ll discuss the distance between Port Defiance and Vashon Island, factors that may influence the ferry ride duration, and alternative transportation options. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure!


Overview of Port Defiance

Nestled on the western tip of Tacoma, Washington, Port Defiance is a popular waterfront park and an entry point to the Puget Sound. With stunning views of the sound and access to a variety of outdoor activities, Port Defiance attracts locals and visitors alike.


One of the main attractions of Port Defiance is the Point Defiance Park, a sprawling 702-acre park that offers a wealth of recreational opportunities. Explore miles of trails, including the scenic Five Mile Drive, which winds through old-growth forests and offers panoramic vistas of the sound. The park is also home to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, a must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts, featuring a diverse range of animals and marine life.


If you’re looking to soak up some sun, head to Owen Beach, located within Point Defiance Park. This sandy beach is a perfect spot for picnicking, beachcombing, and even swimming during the warmer months. The nearby marina provides facilities for boating and fishing, allowing visitors to indulge in their favorite water-based activities.


In addition to its natural beauty, Port Defiance offers a rich history and cultural attractions. Visit the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum to step back in time and learn about the early European settlers in the region. The museum recreates the original Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, complete with costumed interpreters and interactive exhibits.


For those seeking culinary delights, the nearby Proctor District offers a variety of dining options, ranging from trendy cafes to ethnic eateries. You can also find unique shops and boutiques, perfect for browsing or picking up souvenirs.


With its blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions, Port Defiance is not just a gateway to Vashon Island but a destination in its own right. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a chance to connect with nature, Port Defiance has it all.


Overview of Vashon Island

Vashon Island, located in the heart of the Puget Sound, is a hidden gem just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. Known for its lush landscapes, rural charm, and vibrant arts community, Vashon Island offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.


Covering an area of approximately 37 square miles, Vashon Island is the largest island in the Puget Sound and is often referred to as the “Heart of the Sound.” The island is home to stunning beaches, dense forests, rolling farmlands, and breathtaking views of the surrounding waterways.


As you explore Vashon Island, you’ll encounter a close-knit community that embraces sustainable living and a slower pace of life. The island is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, with numerous art galleries, studios, and live performance spaces. Visitors can enjoy art walks, theater productions, live music, and other creative events throughout the year.


Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in the natural beauty of Vashon Island. The island is dotted with trails, perfect for hiking, biking, and birdwatching. Maury Island Marine Park, Dockton Park, and the Burton Peninsula Preserve are just a few of the many natural areas to explore.


Fishing and boating are also popular activities on Vashon Island. The island’s marinas and public docks provide ample opportunities to launch your boat or join a fishing charter. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice looking to cast your first line, the waters surrounding Vashon Island offer an abundance of salmon, halibut, cod, and more.


Vashon Island is also known for its thriving agricultural community. The island boasts numerous farms and farm stands, offering fresh produce, flowers, and artisanal products. Vashon Farmers Market is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts, showcasing local delicacies and handmade crafts.


With its scenic beauty, rich arts scene, and commitment to sustainable living, Vashon Island is an idyllic destination that captivates visitors year-round. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, artistic inspiration, or simply a serene escape, Vashon Island is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Distance between Port Defiance and Vashon Island

When planning your trip from Port Defiance to Vashon Island, it’s important to have an understanding of the distance between the two locations. Port Defiance is situated on the mainland, while Vashon Island is located in the Puget Sound. The distance between these two points is approximately 12 miles.


To reach Vashon Island from Port Defiance, you will need to take a ferry. The ferry route takes you across the Tacoma Narrows, offering stunning views of the surrounding waters and the iconic Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The duration of the ferry ride will depend on various factors, such as the type of ferry, traffic, and weather conditions.


It’s worth noting that the route from Port Defiance to Vashon Island is one of the most scenic ferry rides in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll have the opportunity to soak in the natural beauty of the Puget Sound, with its picturesque islands and lush green landscapes.


Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a local exploring more of the region, the ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island offers a unique and memorable experience. As you sail across the waters, you’ll feel a sense of anticipation and excitement, knowing that you’re about to embark on an adventure in a special place like Vashon Island.


While the distance between Port Defiance and Vashon Island may not be significant, the journey itself is part of the overall experience. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic ride as you make your way to the charming and enchanting Vashon Island.


Factors Affecting Ferry Ride Duration

When planning a ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island, it’s important to consider the various factors that can affect the duration of the journey. While the distance between the two points is relatively short, several elements can impact how long it takes to reach your destination.


1. Ferry Schedule: The ferry schedule plays a significant role in determining the duration of your ride. Ferry services have specific departure and arrival times, which can vary depending on the season, day of the week, and time of day. Be sure to check the schedule in advance to plan your trip accordingly.


2. Ferry Route and Vessel: The specific ferry route and the type of vessel being used can affect the duration of the ride. Different ferry routes may have different distances to cover or stops along the way, which can impact the overall travel time. Additionally, certain vessels may have different speeds, which can influence the duration of the journey.


3. Traffic and Demand: The level of traffic and demand can also impact the ferry ride duration. During peak travel times, such as weekends or holidays, there may be more vehicles and passengers vying for limited spots on the ferry. This could potentially result in longer wait times and delays in departure.


4. Weather Conditions: Weather conditions, particularly in the Puget Sound region, can affect ferry operations. In cases of inclement weather, such as heavy rain, fog, or strong winds, ferry sailings may be delayed or canceled for safety reasons. It’s important to check for any weather-related alerts or updates before embarking on your journey.


5. Time of Day: The time of day can also impact the duration of the ferry ride. During busy commuting hours, there may be more passengers and vehicles, resulting in longer wait times and potentially extending the overall travel time. Traveling during off-peak hours may offer a quicker and smoother journey.


It’s essential to keep these factors in mind when planning your ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island. Checking the ferry schedule, considering the route and vessel, being aware of potential traffic and demand, staying informed about weather conditions, and choosing the right time of day can all contribute to a more enjoyable and efficient journey.


Typical Ferry Ride Duration from Port Defiance to Vashon Island

While the duration of a ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island can vary depending on various factors, there is a typical estimated time for the journey. On average, it takes approximately 20 to 25 minutes to travel from Port Defiance to Vashon Island by ferry.


Keep in mind that this estimated duration includes the time it takes for the ferry to sail between the two points, as well as any time spent waiting in line before boarding the ferry. The actual time spent on the water during the crossing itself is typically around 15 to 20 minutes.


It’s important to note that the ferry schedule and demand can significantly impact the overall travel time. During peak travel seasons or busy commute hours, there may be more vehicles and passengers vying for limited spots on the ferry, which can result in longer wait times and potential delays.


However, it’s also worth mentioning that the ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island is relatively short compared to other ferry journeys in the area. The close proximity of the two locations, coupled with the picturesque scenery along the route, makes for a pleasant and enjoyable ride.


As you embark on the ferry, you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the stunning views of the Puget Sound and the surrounding islands. Whether you choose to stay inside the comfortable cabins or venture out to the deck for a breath of fresh air, you’ll be treated to a unique perspective of the natural beauty that Washington state has to offer.


It’s important to plan your journey accordingly and consider factors such as the ferry schedule, potential wait times, and any weather-related updates. By being prepared and allowing for a reasonable amount of time for the ferry ride, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience as you travel from Port Defiance to Vashon Island.


Alternative Transportation Options to Vashon Island

While taking a ferry from Port Defiance to Vashon Island is the most common and convenient transportation option, there are a few alternative ways to reach the island. These alternatives can provide flexibility and offer a different experience for travelers.


1. Water Taxi: Another water-based option is the water taxi service. Operated by King County Metro, the water taxi offers a direct route from Downtown Seattle to Vashon Island. This service provides a quicker journey compared to the ferry as it bypasses the need to travel to Port Defiance. Keep in mind that the water taxi schedule may differ from the traditional ferry schedule.


2. Private Boat: If you have access to a private boat or have the means to charter one, you can venture to Vashon Island on your terms. This option allows for more flexibility in terms of departure and arrival times and can be a great choice for those who enjoy boating or want to explore the surrounding waters at their own pace.


3. Aircraft: For those seeking a truly unique and breathtaking experience, consider taking a seaplane or helicopter to Vashon Island. Several charter companies offer scenic flights from various locations, allowing you to enjoy stunning aerial views of the Puget Sound and Vashon Island before landing at a designated dock or private airfield.


4. Inter-Island Ferry: If you’re already on one of the nearby islands, such as Bainbridge Island or the Kitsap Peninsula, you can take an inter-island ferry to reach Vashon Island. This alternative allows for island hopping and exploring multiple destinations in the area, providing a more adventurous and diverse experience.


It’s important to note that each alternative transportation option has its own schedules, fares, and availability that may differ from the traditional ferry service. It’s advisable to check the specific details with the respective operators or transportation authorities to plan your journey accordingly.


Regardless of the transportation option you choose, reaching Vashon Island is an exciting adventure. Each mode of transport offers its own unique experience, allowing you to tailor your journey to match your preferences and travel style.


Whether you decide to take the traditional ferry, opt for the water taxi, embark on a private boat, or explore the skies with an aircraft, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience as you discover the beauty and charm of Vashon Island.



As we conclude our exploration of the ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island, it’s clear that this journey offers more than just transportation. It’s an opportunity to embark on an adventure, leaving the mainland behind and immersing oneself in the beauty and serenity of Vashon Island.


The ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island provides a scenic and enjoyable experience, allowing passengers to appreciate the stunning views of the Puget Sound and its surrounding islands. While the typical duration of the ferry ride is approximately 20 to 25 minutes, it’s important to consider factors such as the ferry schedule, traffic, and weather conditions when planning your trip.


Port Defiance itself offers a plethora of attractions, from the sprawling Point Defiance Park to the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, providing a compelling reason to explore the area before setting off on your Vashon Island adventure.


Vashon Island, with its rural charm, vibrant arts community, and picturesque landscapes, is a destination that captures the hearts of visitors. From enjoying the local arts scene to immersing in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and boating, there’s something for everyone on the island.


While the ferry is the most common way to reach Vashon Island, alternative transportation options, such as the water taxi, private boats, or even seaplanes, offer unique experiences and flexibility for travelers to choose from.


In conclusion, whether you’re a local seeking a weekend escape or a tourist exploring the wonders of Washington, the ferry ride from Port Defiance to Vashon Island is a gateway to new adventures. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty, embrace the island’s artistic spirit, and savor the slower pace of life that Vashon Island offers. So, pack your bags, check the ferry schedule, and get ready to embark on a journey that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.