Most people think of the drive down from Seattle to Tacoma as a commuter’s trek, but passing right through the heart of Seattle Southside there's an alternate path that offers far more breathtaking views. Instead of just going from point A to point B, you can go from point A to Dash Point to point B along scenic Washington State Route 509. While we've written before about Route 509, we wanted to really expand on some of the highlights of this beautiful drive.

The path that the modern-day Route 509 takes between Des Moines and Seattle roughly follows a wagon road that was constructed in the late 1890’s, meaning that when you’re driving along this road, you’re driving along a historic path that’s been in use for more than a century. It more closely follows the curve of the Puget Sound than Highway 5 does, so along the whole drive you’re offered far more pleasing views of the Puget Sound, Vashon Island and Maury Island, plus Mount Rainier on a clear day. Starting off from Seattle Southside gives you a great home base to return to for other day trips around the region.

two young sisters playing near Big Catch Plaza Statue in Des Moines Washington of Giant Fish and Man Kissing
The Big Catch statue in Des Moines

From Seattle Southside, you can take Route 509 south through Des Moines and enjoy the great public art like the Big Catch Statue, views of the marina from the Quarterdeck, and far more. We’ve gone into greater detail on the region in our article Cruisin’ to Redondo Beach, so check out that article if you’re planning to spend some time in Des Moines and Redondo Beach along your drive.

Redondo Boardwalk
Redondo Beach Boardwalk

Further along 509, down the coast of Poverty Bay, lies Dash Point State Park, which offers tons of outdoors activities for the whole family. Hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming are all common activities at this lovely beachfront park, but there’s also a unique activity to try during low tide: skimboarding! You ride a board that looks a bit like a thin Boogie Board on the tide like you would a skateboard or surfboard. More advanced skimboarders even use ramps and rails like a skateboarder would! There are regular camps, competitions, and other skimboarding events at this hot spot for the sport.

Dash Point Skim Boards
A skimboarder grinds a set of rails at Dash Point State Park

Just beyond Dash Point Park is Browns Point Lighthouse, a unique, boxy, art deco-inspired bit of architecture. Built in 1933, this lighthouse is an interesting departure from the stereotypical lighthouse. A recently completed restoration in 2021 of both the lighthouse and the lightkeeper’s cottage have restored both to their original historic glory. Plus, the views from Browns Point are absolutely breathtaking and perfectly Instagrammable!

Brown's Point Lighthouse near Tacoma
Brown's Point Lighthouse near Tacoma

Cruising down 509 past Browns Point you’ll see the busy Port of Tacoma, with its many vessels sailing in and out every day. Then you’ll drive on the East 21st Street Bridge, a suspension bridge which serves as an icon for the city of Tacoma. After you cross the bridge into Tacoma, you’ve officially reached the end of Route 509 in the museum district of Tacoma, with the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, and Children’s Museum of Tacoma all within a few blocks of each other.

Port of Tacoma
Port of Tacoma with Mt. Rainier in background

If you want to extend your drive a bit further, you can take 705 N to Schuster Parkway/Ruston Way and drive along the coast of Commencement Bay. Stop at Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park for history, views of the Bay, and a beautiful pagoda. Continue up the road to Point Defiance Park, which features a scenic loop of roadway through the beautiful park called Five-Mile Drive which is, you guessed it, five miles long.

Commencement Bay in Tacoma
Commencement Bay and Tacoma High School

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Tacoma Narrows Bridge

There’s also the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and great views of the Narrows Bridge which you can enjoy from this park.