Victorian flair and red brick buildings downtown on the waterfront make Port Townsend a rare combination of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle and old-world style.
This port town on the eastern edge of the Olympic Peninsula once aspired to be a regional center on the level of Seattle or Vancouver and for good reason – in 1887, it was Puget Sound’s sole U.S. Customs port of entry. Those big city dreams never materialized – poorly timed recessions stopped the railroad from reaching Port Townsend, the town wilted in the early 1900s.
Today, Port Townsend’s renaissance is fully consummate, and its mention evokes wooden boats, historic buildings, music, art and proximity to nature.
A bluff on one side and Port Townsend Bay on the other hem in Port Townsend’s remarkable downtown district. Its architecture is a visual feast, with abundant 19th and early 20th century buildings that landed the entire downtown district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Two- and three-story Victorians with high-arched windows and elaborate trim play host to restaurants, independent bookstores, music venues and much more.
The downtown is fit for a day or weekend of exploring, with shops to see by day and music and entertainment by night. Downtown Port Townsend also hosts a busy schedule of summer festivals including Concerts on the Dock every Thursday, July 13-August. Another such can’t-miss event is The Northwest Maritime Center’s annual Wooden Boat Festival, held this year September 8–10.
This inspiring and educational festival will feature more than 300 boats – tall ships, modern wooden boats, racing schooners and more – as well as presentations, exhibitors, live music, as well as delicious food, beer and wine.
After dining on local shellfish, stroll through downtown and past the end of Water Street to the public pedestrian pier at the eastern end of town. Visitors will find pockets of natural beach and the Northwest Maritime Center, which is a hub for marine craftspeople in the area. Here, visitors can see kayaks being built, wooden boats under repair, and sail makers plying their trade. Don’t miss the trail along the beach, which starts at the end of Hudson Street and looks out toward Mt. Baker and the Cascades.
Some unfortunate tourists don’t make it to the area called “Uptown.” Venture north from Water Street a few blocks to the top of the hill and you’ll find another lively retail district with a bakery, pub and a few restaurants, as well as the Port Townsend Farmers Market. More information on the Port Townsend Farmers Market can be found on page 40.
Port Townsend is easily visited without a car by walking onto the Coupeville Ferry from Whidbey Island. However, a car allows easy access to nearby Fort Worden and Fort Townsend Historical State Parks. Both forts were constructed in the mid- to late 1800s.
In addition to exploring the historic buildings and lighthouse at Fort Worden, check out the Centrum Foundation, a cultural gathering place with art and music classes, workshops, performances and much more.
Port Townsend greets tourists with glimpses into a colorful history and small-town panache.
For more information, visit enjoypt.com
Enjoy Port Townsend
WSDOT Port Townsend Ferry Terminal
Fort Worden Historical State Park
Point Wilson Lighthouse
Olympic National Park
Jefferson County Fairgrounds
Port Townsend Main Street Program
Wooden Boat Festival
Northwest Maritime Center
Jefferson County Historical Society
Jefferson County Farmers Markets
Andy Porter Images
Ichikawa Sushi Bar
The Wine Seller
Port Townsend Food Coop
Fun: Port Townsend Marine Science Center
Water access: Pope Marine Park
Playground: JUMP (Jefferson Universal Movement Playground)