Adventure, Destinations, exploring towns and cities, Pacific Northwest United States, road trips, United States, Western United States

Exploring Port Townsend, Washington

Fort Worden

The beach at Fort Worden / photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

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.

Downtown Port Townsend

Downtown Port Townsend /photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

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.

Port Townsend James House

The historic James House is a private home in Port Townsend / photo credit: Jason Squire

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.

A man playing a piano in downtown Port Townsend, Washington

Music in downtown Port Townsend / photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

 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.

schooner at the wooden boat festival in Port Townsend

A schooner during the sail at the wooden boat festival / photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

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.

Explore the gardens in Chetzemoka Park / photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

Chetzemoka Park, Port Townsend

Chetzemoka Park is a great spot to relax / photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

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.

Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend

Overlooking Admiralty Inlet at Fort Worden State Park

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!

Marrowstone Island is the the perfect 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.

Olympic National Park: The Sol Duc Valley

Camping and Hiking in North Cascades National Park

A Walk Through the Quinault Rainforest

And if you’re on Pinterest, I’d love it if you would share this post:

Port Townsend is one of our favorite Pacific Northwest destinations. It's got it all - including the best pizza west of the Mississippi.


  1. Brian McLoughlin

    Marrowstone is not “off the coast of America.” It is well inside it in Puget Sound, as is all of Port Townsend and its neighbours.

    • I won’t argue with you there, Brian. The photo of the sign was taken on Marrowstone (at the general store). I’m sure it was meant to be humorous.

  2. Coming right up: Port Townsend Film Festival, Sept. 15-17, in Port Townsend’s walkable National Historic District, 89 new documentary and narrative films in 8 theatres; a free outdoor movie under the stars each night on Taylor Street. Festival Bar on the Dock, Barbecue, Kebobs and Grilled Cheese next to Pope Marine Park. See More info, and buy your passes at

    • Thanks for sharing this, Janice. I think this is something our readers would love. I plan on being there next year for sure!

  3. Looks like a great place! I love all the sailboats and Marrowstone sounds like fun!

  4. I’ve heard such great things about the PNW area – that part of the country is just so beautiful! The boat festival sounds fun too 🙂

  5. That wooden boat festival looks so cute! Great tips (especially food tips)!
    Laura @ Grassroots Nomad recently posted…Visas for Russia and China: Booking the Trans-SiberianMy Profile

  6. The boat festival looks awesome. I’m hoping one day I can learn to sail and make it a part of most of my vacations. I really need to get to the Northwest and do some exploring though! Seems like I am really missing out.

  7. Tara you had me at summer gardens and Victorian-era cottages! Then I read William James Booksellers. I love nothing more than browsing through a bookstore 🙂 I’m moving to Vancouver in August so will definitely make a trip down at some stage 🙂

  8. Port Townsend sounds like a lovely place!! I’m looking forward to exploring more of Washington State this year, Waterfront Pizza sounds like a delicious stop along the way.

  9. Sounds like a fun day. I’d like to visit the bookstore and ice cream shop. 😉 I crossed the Puget Sound via ferry on a day tour of Seattle but cannot remember if we went here or not.
    melody pittman recently posted…Disney Spring’s Portobello Country Italian TrattoriaMy Profile

  10. Port Townsend is so cute!! Even though I only live in Seattle, I really need to get out there more. They actually just taped a Ghost Adventures in one of the old hotels there too!

    • Cool, Angie. Funny – they just taped one here in Vermont last month. How far is Port Townsend from Seattle?

  11. This sounds like a great itinerary! I love to travel and you’ve made a great case for visiting Washington! (I think you had me at Thai food…)

  12. Simple living and back to nature…this is my kind of road trip! 🙂
    Vet Leow recently posted…Bejeweled Review: An Organic Foot Spa Treatment & Gel Manicure [+CNY Promo]My Profile

  13. Another blogger recommended this town. Wish I would have visited while I lived in Oregon.

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