Skip to Content

11 Perfect Things to do in Port Townsend, Washington

If ever there was a beautiful, must-visit American town, Port Townsend, Washington has to be it. Located at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula on the Puget Sound in Washington, Port Townsend experiences a temperate climate year-round and is best known for its Victorian architecture and natural beauty.

The town’s popularity is not all about its charming looks either – there are so many things to do in Port Townsend, especially if you love getting outside!

If you're looking for the best things to do in Port Townsend, head downtown on a beautiful summer day and explore the historic Victorian architecture.
Port Townsend is a Victorian Seaport town in Washington

Port Townsend is one of our favorite small towns to visit in all seasons, especially with kids or as a multi-generational vacation spot. It’s charming and laid-back with constant breezes blowing off the sea, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Our family first explored Port Townsend many years ago on a cross-country road trip, and it has been captivating us ever since. In fact, our firstborn has since flown the coop and makes his living building and repairing wooden boats on the waterfront in Port Townsend. This means that we get to spend lots of time in our favorite west coast town!

Because Port Townsend is so near and dear to us, we thought we’d share some of our favorite Port Townsend activities with you.

The Best Things to do in Port Townsend, Washington

Ready to fall in love with the cutest Victorian town on the planet? Pack a rain jacket, and embark with us on some of the best things to do in Port Townsend, Washington. You’re going to love this place!

Have a Relaxing Picnic at Chetzemoka Park

No matter where we go, we love to explore parks and trails, beaches, and campgrounds. Port Townsend has so many beautiful natural areas!

Two people sitting under a tree having a picnic in Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend, Washington.
Picnicking at Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend. Photo credit: Christina Pivarnik

Chetzemoka Park is a small waterfront park within walking distance from both uptown and downtown Port Townsend.

Pack a lunch and stroll through the expansive gardens of donated tropical flowers and the colorful rose promenade. There are botanical secrets At Chetzemoka Park that are just waiting to be discovered. You are also likely to spot deer browsing on the park’s lush grass.

Take the short trail that leads to a small rocky beach and watch the tide go in or out. You’ll likely run into dog walkers, bird watchers, and people scanning the sound for whales. There are a few bench swings to relax on, and plenty of picnic tables too. Call me old-fashioned, but an afternoon picnic overlooking the Puget Sound is also one of the most romantic things to do in Port Townsend, and it’s totally free!

If you need to get away from the bustle of downtown Port Townsend for a bit, stroll around Chetzemoka Park, find a shady spot to relax, and take in the amazing views of the Puget Sound. It’s a peaceful in-town park that is full of surprises!

The building housing the rest rooms in Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend, Washington.
A stone building surrounded by gardens at Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend

Plan a Full Day and Night Adventure at Fort Worden State Park

For Port Townsend camping and hiking that’s close to downtown, you really can’t beat Fort Worden State Park. Fort Worden is a great destination for hikers, swimmers, anglers, and nature lovers. You could visit every day for a week and not tread on the same trail twice!

Camping at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend

The view from the campground at Fort Worden State Park.
The view from the beach at Fort Worden State Park.

You can park your RV or pitch your tent very close to downtown Port Townsend. There are two distinct camping areas in Fort Worden State Park. The Beach Campground is the most popular (for obvious reasons), but the beach sites are quite exposed, offering little shade or privacy.

The Beach Campground is best for RVs where you will have protection from the elements and a bit of privacy. These beautiful campsites have awesome views of the water and they’re within close walking distance of the Point Wilson Lighthouse and the Marine Science Center.

If you are looking for a more sheltered campsite, consider the Upper Forest Campground, which provides both shade and privacy. It is located in the southwest corner of Fort Worden, near the Chinese Gardens Lake.

25 of the 30 sites provide full hookups for RVs. The other 5 are primitive sites suitable for hikers or bikers. When camping in Port Townsend, we almost always choose the Upper Forest Campground.

Fort Worden campgrounds are open year-round, and if winter camping isn’t’ your thing, there is dedicated lodging inside the park as well. You can make your reservation online on the Washington State Parks website.  

Insider tip: In the summer, Port Townsend camping at Fort Worden State Park can be really busy. Reservations are a must in July, August, and September. You can probably get away with not making reservations during the rest of the year.

Explore the Abandoned Fort Worden Bunkers

The abandoned bunkers at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington. Exploring the bunkers is one of the best things to do in Port Townsend WA
One of the Fort Worden bunkers in Port Townsend, Washington

When our kids were younger, one of their favorite things to do in Port Townsend was to explore the turn-of-the-century bunkers in Fort Worden State Park. The bunkers are widespread throughout the park, but our favorites are nestled into the bluffs overlooking the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound.

Take heed because these abandoned bunkers are massive, unsupervised concrete structures without any of the safety precautions or oversight you might expect in a historical landmark. Obviously, that’s what makes them so much fun to explore!

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.

The Fort Worden bunkers are one of the best kid-friendly things to do in Port Townsend, provided your kids are older and aren’t afraid of heights and dark tunnels!

Visit the Point Wilson Lighthouse

The Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.
The Point Wilson Lighthouse in Fort Worden State Park

The Point Wilson Lighthouse is located right at the entrance to the Puget Sound at Admiralty Inlet at the tip of Fort Worden State Park. It is a vital navigational aid for ships coming and going in the area.  The original lighthouse was built in 1879 and sat atop the lightkeeper’s house. The current lighthouse and fog signal building were both constructed in 1913. It is one of 19 U.S. lighthouses still standing along the Puget Sound.

Point Wilson lighthouse is not an official part of Fort Worden State Park, but the park provides easy access to the lighthouse grounds. It can be reached by walking along Fort Worden Beach or the park’s north shore. Tours are offered on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. from May through September.

Visit the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Looking for more things to do in Port Townsend with Kids? The beloved science center in Fort Worden State Park makes a great stop on a rainy afternoon, or any time if you have kids who love the ocean.

The Marine Science Center opened in 1982 and provides hands-on explorations to teach kids and adults about the Salish Sea with touch tanks, aquariums, and even a hydrophone to listen to offshore whales.

The center is also home to one of only six fully articulated orca whale skeletons in the United States.  The Marine Science Center is open on the weekends during the winter months and every day but Tuesday during the summer.

Shop at the Port Townsend Farmers Market

Located in uptown Port Townsend, the Port Townsend Farmers Market happens every Saturday year-round, and it’s one of the best outdoor markets in Washington. Whether you want to stroll around with a fresh cup of coffee and listen to live music, or stock up on an abundance of produce, meats, cheese, and seafood, you don’t want to miss this market.

The Port Townsend Farmers Market is located on Tyler and Lawrence Streets uptown, and takes place between 9 am and 2 pm between April and December. Winter hours are between 10 am and 2 pm.

Explore Downtown Port Townsend

downtown port townsend
Port Townsend is a Victorian Seaport town in Washington

Located on the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend is a perfect combination of Victorian-era cottages, sprawling gardens, and a bustling downtown. You will find dozens of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants in the downtown area. There are so many cool stores to explore, and everything is just a stone’s throw from the waterfront.

I won’t go into detail about all the cool places downtown because the best way to explore those is to put on your walking shoes and start exploring for yourself!

Insider tip: If you book a room at a downtown hotel, you can do all of your exploring on foot. There are plenty of things to do in Port Townsend without having to get in your car.

Our Favorite Port Townsend Restaurants in the Downtown Area

We’ve done a lot of eating in Port Townsend, and our favorite restaurants change every time we visit. The following list includes some of our very first favorites, as well as new loves from recent visits. I know there are many, many restaurants that we haven’t had a chance to visit, so be sure to experiment and let us know what we’re missing.

Waterfront Pizza. Located on Water Street in the center of town, this is not your ordinary pizza joint. Unique flavor combinations and fresh ingredients come together to create otherworldly pies that we can’t get enough of.  The lines are long but believe me, the pizza is well worth the wait. We recommend ordering at the takeout window and eating outside near the water.

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.

We discovered another Thai restaurant during our last visit – Banana Leaf Thai Bistro, which is pretty awesome. Our suggestion. If you are looking for an elegant Thai meal, go with Khu Larb. For more casual fare or outdoor seating, check out Banana Leaf.

Hillbottom Pie. How is it possible that Port Townsend can sustain two amazing pizza shops? Every single thing we’ve ordered from Hillbottom Pie has been amazing – soup, pizza, dessert. Everything! Get the marionberry pie if they have it!

Hillbottom Pie in Port Townsend, Washington.
Hillbottom Pie in Port Townsend

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!

 Hanazona Asian Noodle Shop. Although Hanazona has been open since 2005, we visited for the first time last year. This is a small place that is perfect for a quick lunch. It features affordable, delicious, organic food, much of which is sourced from local sources. My son, who works in Port Townsend says that Hanazona is habit-forming. We definitely agree!

Better Living Through Coffee – The best small-town coffee shop I’ve ever been to, and a strong contender for my favorite coffee shop of all time. Better Living Through Coffee has a lot going for it. The location is in the heart of downtown Port Townsend and right on the waterfront so you can drink your coffee and watch the boats go by.

Pourhouse – Got a hankering for a cold brew with a waterfront view? Head to Pourhouse on the beach. They’ve got 12 beers on tap and more than 200 varieties in cans/bottles.

The coffee is fresh, hot, and strong. They use the pour-over method for all of their coffee, and it doesn’t sit around for even one second. If you are looking for a special coffee drink, do yourself a favor and order the Caffe Arancia (coffee with cocoa powder, orange peel, and vanilla), or the Caffe Chetzemocha (coffee, cocoa, chile peppers, and spices.

better living through coffee
Better Living Through Coffee!

Enjoy the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

In 2019, we timed our visit to coincide with the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. The festival happens each year in early September and features three days of activities, workshops, boat tours, music, and more. There are more than 300 wooden boats packed into the Port Townsend Marina, and the town is overrun with boat enthusiasts, sailors, and woodworkers.

The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington
A day on the water at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

We had been hearing about the festival for years and were thrilled to be there to experience it in person. If you are planning a visit to Port Townsend and are interested in boats and maritime history, you owe it to yourself to check out this fabulous festival. My only word of caution would be to make your reservations early because lodging fills up very quickly for this world-famous event.

Stroll Uptown Port Townsend and Check out the Historic Victorian Houses

A Victorian home in uptown Port Townsend, Washington.
One of the many beautiful homes in uptown. Photo credit

The Victorian homes of Port Townsend were built uptown starting in the 1880s when the town was a contender for hosting the main railroad terminus for the Pacific Northwest. While Seattle was eventually chosen as the railroad hub, Port Townsend was left with dozens of fabulous homes that survive to this day.

The Victorian homes are primarily located uptown, and while most are private residences, you can stroll the streets and view the homes from the outside. For lovely photos and an overview of many of the Victorian homes in Port Townsend, check out Dave’s Victorian House site. It’s a great resource.

When meandering around Uptown Port Townsend, be on the lookout for the friendly deer that wander the streets and eat the gardens of the locals. Love ’em or hate ’em, the Port Townsend deer are part of the fabric of uptown life, and they’re really cute!

The other thing you’ll notice about Uptown is the Little Free Libraries! They’re everywhere, and we never ran out of awesome reading material thanks to the well-stocked libraries on every street corner.

While strolling Uptown, be sure to stop into Pane d’Amore for delightful baked goods, and Aldrich’s Market if you need gourmet groceries. This unique market is Washington’s oldest grocery store (1895).

Go Whale Watching from the Port Townsend Marina

A resident orca whale in Port Townsend, Washington.
This is Mike (J26), a Southern Resident Orca that we saw on our trip.

Whale watching for orcas has been on my bucket list for a long time, so I was so excited to embark on a whale-watching tour in the Puget Sound last September. We set sail one early morning with the Puget Sound Express, which has been offering nature tours and whale watching excursions in the Salish Sea for more than 40 years. 

We spent the whole day on the water, with a short stop in Friday Harbor for lunch. We saw lots of wildlife on our trip, including many Southern Resident orcas, a tufted puffin, and lots of seals and sea lions. I will never forget it! This full-day excursion was a splurge for us, but whale sightings are guaranteed, and it was an amazing experience.


Read Next: Go Whale Watching on the Puget Sound in Washington


How to Get to Port Townsend, Washington

Port Townsend Washington at sunrise
Sunrise in Port Townsend

Port Townsend is located on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, just two hours or so from Seattle. After flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), you can either rent a car or embark on a hodgepodge of different types of transportation to get to your destination.

You don’t need a car to get around Port Townsend, especially if you’re staying at a downtown Port Townsend hotel. The area is very walkable, with all the major sites and attractions within the downtown area. If you are planning on road-tripping to Olympic National Park, then a car rental car will be very helpful.

If you don’t want to rent a car, you can take the Light Rail from Sea-Tac to the Pioneer Square Station, walk two blocks to the ferry terminal and hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island.

From Bainbridge Island, catch the Kitsap Transit bus to Poulsbo, and then transfer to the Jefferson Transit bus to the Port Townsend park-and-ride. From there, it’s a mile to downtown Port Townsend. You can hoof it, or hop on the Jefferson Transit downtown shuttle.

See? You’ve just taken a plane, train, ferry, and bus to get from Seattle to Port Townsend. Now you’re ready for a long siesta!

Where to Stay in Port Townsend, WA

There are a lot of options for your Port Townsend lodging, based on how much you want to spend (of course), and where you want to be. The downtown area has some lovely downtown hotels that are within walking distance of everything. Uptown Port Townsend is more residential and quiet, with a few nice vacation rentals that would be perfect for families.

Click on the map below to check prices and availability for Port Townsend hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals.

Here are a few of the places we’ve stayed at in Port Townsend that we can recommend:

Blue Gull Inn Bed & Breakfast – Uptown Port Townsend 

Built in 1868, the Blue Gull Inn is a historic Bed & Breakfast located in a residential neighborhood in the Uptown District. You can still walk downtown from here, but you have the benefit of retreating to a quiet neighborhood when the day is done.

There are places to sit and relax in the yard, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot deer as they roam through the neighborhood eating up everyone’s flower gardens. Your stay includes a hearty breakfast, and the hosts are charming and very friendly.

The Palace Hotel – Downtown Port Townsend

The best way to enjoy all the amazing things to do in Port Townsend is to stay right downtown, you really can’t beat the locally-owned Palace Hotel. It’s very unique and features antiques in all the rooms, and the views of the water from several of the rooms are incomparable! Many of the rooms are dog-friendly and some even have full kitchens.

We love that the Palace Hotel is within walking distance of the downtown shops, restaurants, and coffee shops, and parking is free. We can’t wait to spend more time here this year!

There are 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.


What are your favorite things to do in Port Townsend WA? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!


Want to learn more about this beautiful part of the world? Here are a few more of our favorite PNW posts:


Pin for Later?

A collage of photos featuring downtown Port Townsend, Washington. Text overlay: Explore the Olympic Peninsula - Port Townsend, Washington
Tara Schatz sits with her two dogs, Gatsby and Flynn.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.

Vicki Abrahamson

Sunday 10th of April 2022

May is a nice time to visit PT also it hosts the Rhododendron Festival which is 3 days of parades & carnival games, rides & wonderful foods. When I grew up there we had a Kiddies parade on Thursday, Pet parade Friday & a 2 hour long Saturday parade which hosted school bands from all over Washington, the normal parade entrants, Seafair Pirates, & anyone who wanted to participate could enter. I Believe it started down in Fort Warden past the Golf Course to Uptown Lawrence street & ended at the Memorial field downtown.

Loved your review of my hometown, it is still a quiet, quaint town to raise a family & retire to.

Tara Schatz

Sunday 10th of April 2022

Thanks for the tip about visiting in May. I hope we get to the Rhododendron Festival one of these years!

Cheri Kopp

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Great article. Written like a local.

Some ideas for your future trips: our finest dining is at Finistere in uptown. Great food at this family run business (she’s the chef, he runs the front of the house. Lawrence Street Provisions is their store next door, established when the flower shop closed early in the pandemic.

Across the street is the relatively new Seal Dog Coffee Bar. Owners Clay and Jeanette are an awesome local couple - he’s the coffee genius with a barista background and she’s a professional baker. All of her pastries are devine but the biscotti is my obsession.

Another spot to explore on foot is the Maritime Center and Point Hudson Marina. We love Point Hudson Cafe for breakfast/brunch and the other restaurants there are popular with locals. (As locals we also like to hang at Boat Haven but are hesitant to send visitors there since it’s a working marina, as you probably know).

Minor correction, the farmers market closes in December for a winter break and reopens in the spring. I don’t know exact dates but you can find them on the Jefferson County Farmers Markets website.

Lastly, if you’re interested in some ideas for art and history places to visit, LMK.

susan

Friday 29th of April 2022

@Cheri Kopp,

hi - I am interested in art spots if you are able to reply :). thanks

Tara Schatz

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Hey Cheri - Thanks for all the tips. We are already making plans for our next trip and will check these places out. I'm especially excited about the new coffee bar!

Rhonda Stetson

Saturday 19th of June 2021

Yes, the Manressa castle and the Palace Inn downtown. Both are known for being haunted! My youngest daughter lives in Germany and when she comes home we always make a trip to Port Townsend. As far as the Manressa, I recommend staying in the turret room 302 and for the Palace Inn downtown, the Madam's room on the corner of the building. Both have beautiful views!

Brandi

Friday 6th of November 2020

I can’t believe you didn’t mention the Manresa Castle. We stayed there for a few days for our Anniversary on Halloween. Their restaurant and lounge were wonderful. The food was phenomenal, and the pork sliders were the best I’ve ever had!

Tara Schatz

Monday 9th of November 2020

Hi Brandi, I don't know Manresa Castle, but I'm checking it out now. Thanks for the tip!

Susie

Friday 22nd of November 2019

I enjoyed reading your article. We have a condo in PT. We fly in to Seattle and can take the Rocket Transportation ($126 round trip for two). Pick us up at Sea-Tac (Seattle Air Terminal) and drop us off at our front door. (Return to airport -- just reverse -- the Rocket picks us up at our condo and takes us to Sea-Tac.

I agree with all of your comments. We started going to PT about 7 years ago -- we loved it so much we bought the condo there and travel there about 7 times a year. It's such a treasure to go there. In July there is a very large music festival that we've attended several times; there are parades and loads of local things to do.

Our favorite places to stay (before we bought the condo) are the Commander's Cottage located right on the water downtown; the Sea Loft on Lincoln Street, and Katie's Cottage (across from Fort Worden). Each place is different and worth looking into for your next trip. All of these hosts are lovely people with whom we have now become friends.

We will retire in Port Townsend and look forward to many years of happiness there.

Tara

Friday 22nd of November 2019

Port Townsend seems like a fabulous place to retire. I am going to check out the places you mention for our next trip, which will hopefully be in the spring. Thanks for sharing!