If ever there was a beautiful, must-visit American town, Port Townsend, Washington has to be it. Our family explored Port Townsend a few years ago, and it has been captivating us ever since. In fact, our first born will be heading back to the area in a few weeks to attend the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in nearby Port Hadlock. That means we’ll be exploring lots more of Port Townsend, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Located in the heart of the Puget Sound, Port Townsend is a perfect combination of Victorian-era cottages, sprawling gardens, and a bustling downtown. Parks, beaches, and natural areas are plentiful here, and hundreds of boats and fisherpeople continue to make their livelihood in these beautiful coastal waters. It’s an awesome destination for anyone passionate about boats, marine life, or fresh, salty air. If you’re headed to the West Coast of the USA, here are some reasons why you should include Port Townsend in your travel plans.
Crossing the Puget Sound by ferry. With a stout wind in your face, this journey will set the stage for your visit. The Washington State Ferry System is the largest system of ferries in the whole country. They make hopping around from peninsula, to island, and back to the mainland a breathtaking and invigorating adventure. You’re likely to spot several porpoises, waterbirds, and other seafaring creatures on the ride over — maybe even a pod of elusive orcas (if you’re lucky).
Downtown Port Townsend
Waterfront Pizza. Located on Water Street in the center of town, this is arguably the best pizza you will ever taste outside of Manhattan— get your enormous slices to go and eat them on the little beach right next to the counter. The lines are long, but believe me, the pizza is well worth the wait.
William James Booksellers. Rainy day on your hands? This is the place to waste an hour or even a whole day. With an amazingly diverse collection of floor-to-ceiling books for prices cheap enough to make you wish you brought another suitcase, it’s a bibliophile’s secret paradise. Check it out, and be prepared to fill a bag or two.
Khu Larb Thai. Superb, authentic Thai food can be yours without leaving the shores of the US. The Olympic Peninsula’s first Thai Restaurant has been wowing foodies for more than 25 years. No matter what you order, you’ll be delighted with the food, the service, and the ambiance.
Elevated Ice Cream. Swiss Orange Chocolate, Blind Love, and Marionberry –these were our favorite flavors, but there are dozens and dozens to choose from. They’re all original, all homemade, and all delicious. No matter how full your belly is from all that Thai food and pizza, do not skip the ice cream!
The Wooden Boat Festival. The biggest and most inspiring wooden boat festival in the whole world — if you’re headed this way in September (8-10 in 2017), you have to put this on your bucket list. You’ll be inundated with music, demonstrations, pirate plays, and sailing regattas. The incredible and historical craftsmanship of the wooden boat takes center stage during this popular weekend event.
Natural Areas in and Around Port Townsend
Chetzemoka Park. This little waterfront park is a treat to visit on a sunny afternoon. Bring a picnic and stroll through the expansive gardens of donated tropical flowers and the colorful rose promenade. There are botanical secrets here that are just waiting to be discovered.
Fort Worden State Park. First off, you’ve got two hip and friendly campgrounds near sandy beaches that are really close to town. Next, you’ve got our kids’ favorite part of the whole Port Townsend experience — the turn-of-the-century bunkers nestled in the bluffs overlooking the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound. Take heed that these bunkers are massive, unsupervised concrete structures without any of the safety precautions or oversight you might expect in a historical landmark. Filled with unlit tunnels and chambers, rail-less stairways, vertical ladders, and the sense that once entered, these “catacombs” (as our kids coined them) could become labyrinths without escape. The bunkers are a treat for adventurous or imaginative souls, and would make a great setting for the next big horror flick.
Marrowstone Island. Not actually in Port Townsend, but close enough to make it worth the trip, Marrowstone Island is a hidden pastoral retreat with a population of just under 1,000 people. Biking, hiking, and boating opportunities abound, but you’ll also find a thriving little community of fishermen, sailors, and farmers. This is the perfect little getaway from your getaway!
There’s plenty of reasons to head to this beautiful corner of the Pacific Northwest. Whether you’re hitting up some urban culture in Seattle, or making a pilgrimage to Olympic National Park, your road trip will be so much more colorful with an extended stop in this unique and hip seafaring town.
A special thank you to Christina Pivarnik and Enjoy Port Townsend for providing the photos for this post. They are a great Port Townsend Resource – providing lots of information on dining, shopping, lodging, and special events.
Want to learn more about this beautiful part of the world? Here are a few more of our favorite PNW posts.
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