Port Townsend Washington BEST Things to Do

Catching up with posts about the Pacific Northwest region of America I’m sharing one of my favorite places and what I think is one of the prettiest towns in the United States. Port Townsend Washington is located in the Puget Sound which is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.

With a population of around 10,000 people, amazing waterfront views on 3 sides of town, and proximity to Olympic National Park, this is an ideal small town for outdoor enthusiasts.

In this post you’ll find some of the best things to do in Port Townsend along with where to stay and where to eat to have the best experience in this idyllic coastal town, commonly referred to as PT by the locals.

 

Beautiful Victorian era house in Port Townsend

Beautiful Victorian era house in Port Townsend

 

Whenever I get a chance to stay in a small coastal town in America, I feel blessed by my good fortune. Port Townsend Washington is a beautiful town in the Olympic Peninsula with an abundance of Victorian era architecture, making it a picturesque town and perfect for enjoying outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and water sports.

 

Kayaking is a popular activity in Port Townsend and Puget Sound

Kayaking is a popular activity in Port Townsend and Puget Sound

 

Getting to Port Townsend

Seattle to Port Townsend – If you are flying into Seattle and renting a car the drive will take around 2 hours, including the ferry ride to Bainbridge, which offers stunning views of the city of Seattle! I also recommend staying at least one day in Seattle too.

I stayed for a month in Port Townsend and took a weekend trip to Seattle as well as La Push, two very different travel experiences, but I recommend both trips if you have the time.

Washington Ferries schedules and pricing info here – You can make reservations online.

 

Port Townsend Ferry Terminal

Port Townsend Ferry Terminal

 

BEST Things About Port Townsend

 

View of Fort Worden from the North Beach in Port Townsend WA

View of Fort Worden from the North Beach in Port Townsend WA

 

Rain Shadow Effect in Pacific Northwest

You may think the Pacific Northwest is all rain and gloomy skies all the time. Think again! Port Townsend weather is not like Seattle weather.

The Olympic Mountains cause a rain shadow effect in a portion of Washington State and this includes Port Townsend.

What is a rain shadow effect?

In the Pacific Northwest the rain shadow is an area that receives far less precipitation. As I understand it, this is due to the air lifting over the mountains and releasing bunches of precipitation. Then when the air descends on the other side of the mountain range it warms and this allows the air to hold more moisture.

 

Port Townsend City Pier

Port Townsend City Pier

 

Seattle receives an average of around 37.5 inches of rainfall per year. Whereas Port Townsend only receives around 23 inches of rain per year and averages about 2 inches on snow annually.

I visited Port Townsend in April and there were only a few rainy days. The rainiest months in PT are November, December, and January.

 

Boats in the harbor of Pt Townsend Washington

Boats in the harbor of Pt Townsend Washington

 

Port Townsend Uptown Farmer’s Market

If you are in Port Townsend on a Saturday be sure to visit the Farmer’s Market, you can enjoy great coffee from Better Living Through Coffee, have breakfast or lunch, do your food shopping, buy gorgeous fresh flowers and plants, arts and crafts, and enjoy live music. It’s a fun event whether you are traveling solo or with the whole family.

Where: At Tyler and Laurence Streets

When: From 9 am to 2 pm on Saturdays (April through December)

There are 2 other locations for the Wednesday and Sunday farmers markets – check the website for location and hours.

You can easily walk to the Saturday Uptown Farmer’s Market from downtown Port Townsend.

 

Port Townsend Farmer's Market is a great place for backed goods

Port Townsend Farmer’s Market is a great place for backed goods

 

Colorful tulips for sale at Pt Townsend Farmer's Market

Colorful tulips for sale at Pt Townsend Farmer’s Market

 

Victorian Era Architecture in Port Townsend

Why are there so many Victorian style buildings?

The house I stayed in was built in 1910 and many buildings in Port Townsend were completed between 1890 to 1910. I was curious as to why there are so many well preserved Victorian style buildings in Port Townsend, so I did a little research.

 

Historic info about City Hall building Port Townsend

Historic info about City Hall building Port Townsend

 

During the late 1800’s there was speculation that Port Townsend would become the main port on the west coast and a building boom ensued. An economic depression in the United States in 1893 halted the plans for building a railroad to Port Townsend. Many people left the area, and the building boom ceased.

Fortunately, many of the buildings remain. Port Townsend is one of the most picturesque small towns in America.

Today the Port Townsend Historic District, including much of downtown Port Townsend and the waterfront, is a National Historic Landmark District due to its historic significance.

 

Hastings Building completed in 1890 in downtown Pt Townsend, a fine example of Victorian style architecture

Hastings Building completed in 1890 in downtown Pt Townsend, a fine example of Victorian style architecture

 

Port Townsend architecture features many Victorian era hous

Port Townsend architecture features many Victorian era houses

 

1893 Customs House building now home to the Post Office

1893 Customs House building now home to the Post Office

 

Port Townsend Beaches

The Glass Beach in Port Townsend lived up to its name, I found some lovely beach glass that I added to my collection from Carpinteria California and gave it all to my sister.

Glass Beach is located at McCurdy Point. Check the tide tables for Port Townsend before doing the hike out to Glass Beach, there is not much beach at low tide so you don’t want to be out there when the tide comes rolling in.

Get details about hiking to Glass Beach here.

 

Beach glass from Port Townsend beaches

Beach glass from Port Townsend beaches

 

To access North Beach there is a parking lot at the North Beach County Park located at 5787 Kuhn Street. From North Beach you can see Fort Worden State Park and the Wilson Lighthouse across the bay.

 

Driftwood along the beach at Fort Worden State Historical State Park

Driftwood along the beach at Fort Worden State Historical State Park

 

Kayaking from the beach in Port Townsend WA

Kayaking from the beach in Port Townsend WA

 

Fort Worden State Park

Fort Worden is worth a visit and you can also plan accommodation at the Fort. Check the website for details on staying at Ft Worden.

At the park there are a couple of miles of shoreline, 100 historic structures, meeting spaces, and Centrum – an intimate event venue. I attended a concert with Alasdair Fraser on violin & Natalie Haas on cello at Centrum.

 

Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden State Park

Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden State Park

 

There are several workshops throughout the year at Centrum. Check their website for upcoming events at this venue.

I paid $30 for the Washington State Parks annual pass (day pass also available for $10) and you can get yours here.

Address: 200 Battery Way

If you are into camping you can stay at Fort Worden Beach Campground.

 

Canoeing at Port Townsend Washington

Canoeing at Port Townsend Washington

 

Chetzemoka Park

Chetzemoka Park is a wonderful city park to enjoy a picnic or get together for an impromptu drum circle event. If you are traveling with kids be sure to bring them to the park for some fun. There are picnic areas, a playground, beach access, and wonderful views of the water.

Address: 1000 Jackson St

 

Chetzemoka Park in Pt Townsend is named in honor of Chief Chetzemoka

Chetzemoka Park in Pt Townsend is named in honor of Chief Chetzemoka

 

Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park

This is a beautiful park to go for a walk and do some bird watching. I walked to the lagoon often on my way to The Food Coop on Kearney St.

 

Fire Bell Tower

The last remaining wooden fire bell tower in the United States is in Port Townsend.

Built in 1890 – 75 ft wooden structure – 1,500 pound brass bell – and a fire engine.

Address: 319 Tyler St

 

Northwest Maritime Center

This non-profit organization has an excellent sailing program – get more info here. You can tour around the Maritime Center – very cool place to visit. And if you want to learn about boat building this is the place for you.

Address: 431 Water St

 

Northwest Maritime Center offers numerous classes for boating enthusiasts

Northwest Maritime Center offers numerous classes for boating enthusiasts

 

Port Townsend Marine Science Center

The Marine Science Center features an aquarium and museum as well as the Orca Project – started after the body of a female Orca Killer Whale was found to have very high levels of toxic chemicals in her body. Learn more here.

Address: 532 Battery Way

 

Bear Root Apothecary and Wellness Center

I walked into Bear Root store after visiting the Farmer’s Market and I fell into conversation with Velda Thomas, I booked a massage with her and after that I was on her weekly schedule. You can reach Velda here

Best. Massage. Ever.

Bear Root Apothecary

Address: 1002 Lawrence St

 

Soak on the Sound

I’m surprised that I never got around to visiting Soak on the Sound, perhaps if it were colder during my visit to PT I would have made it there. Soak on the Sound features private and community saltwater soaking tubs, a steam sauna, and therapeutic massage. Their motto is Undress – De-stress – Refresh – You can get more into here.

Address: 242 Monroe St

 

Port Townsend Restaurants

I didn’t realize how much I went out to eat and drink in Port Townsend until I started reviewing all my restaurant and bar purchases for this post! The thing about small towns and restaurants is this – if the food and service is no good, they will fail. Port Townsend food and drink needs to keep the tourists and the locals happy in order to succeed. For this reason, there is an abundance of top notch food joints in PT.

 

Pane d’Amore Bakery

My favorite place for pastries – visit the website for baking schedule, etc

Address: 617 Tyler St

 

Pastries from Pane d'Amore Artisan Bakery on Tyler St in Pt Townsend

Pastries from Pane d’Amore Artisan Bakery on Tyler St in Pt Townsend

 

Silverwater Café

Serving up great food and wine since 1989 in Port Townsend – visit the website for more info

Address: 237 Taylor St

 

Banana Leaf Thai Bistro

Wonderful family owned and operated Thai food restaurant with excellent service, one of my favorites.

Address: 609 Washington St

 

Hillbottom Pie

A local favorite, I enjoyed their tiramisu, try it with a beer, really!

Address: 215 Tyler St

 

Alchemy Wine Bar

My favorite happy hour place in Port Townsend – have a look at the menu on their website.

Address: 842 Washington St

 

Making a meal of small plates at Alchemy Wine Bar - check the Small Bites menu

Making a meal of small plates at Alchemy Wine Bar – check the Small Bites menu

 

Ajax Café – Port Hadlock

The BEST seafood stew! Ajax restaurant is not in Port Townsend but it is so worth the short drive to Port Hadlock – more about Ajax Cafe here.

Address: 21 S Water St Port Hadlock
10 miles (about 20 minute drive) from Port Townsend

 

Sirens Pub

Sirens Pub has a wonderful deck for enjoying lunch, dinner, or happy hour. They often host music events as well – menus and more on the website here.

Address: 823 Water St

 

Old Whiskey Mill

Features a Bourbon Breakfast the first Sunday of each month from 9 am to 1 pm. – click her for more info

Address: 1038 Water St

 

Khu Larb Thai

Another excellent Thai food restaurant in Port Townsend – check out their website

Address: 225 Adams St

 

The Food Coop

For homemade soups, salmon burgers, salads, cookies, etc. And groceries of course, and wine and beer. This is the go-to place for great food and to find out about the local happenings – more info here.

Address: 414 Kearney St

 

Pink and yellow spring flowers in Port Townsend Washington

Spring flowers in Port Townsend Washington

 

One thing I LOVED right from my first night in Port Townsend is the sense of community in this beautiful Pacific Northwest town. After walking a few blocks from my Airbnb to The Food Coop I purchased a few essentials. When I explained to the cashier that I would be in town for a month she told me I could get a one-month membership to the Coop. Sweet!

 

 

Deer are common around Port Townsend Washington

Deer are common around Port Townsend Washington

 

As I walked towards the exit, I noticed a bunch of posters and info about the upcoming events in Port Townsend. From this community bulletin board, I found out about concerts, a lecture Cool Plants and Their Fungal Friends by Andy MacKinnon hosted by the Olympic Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society at the Port Townsend Community Center. Also, the Poetic Justice Theater Ensemble presentation: Our Indigenous Legacy: Struggle – Survival – Moving Forward at the Northwind Arts Center. And Arts to Elders concert by the Port Townsend Community Orchestra at Seaport Landing, a nursing home.

Port Townsend turned out to be one of my favorite solo travel experiences. I enjoy the more relaxed pace in small towns.

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Best Things to do in Port Townsend Washington State

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

2 Replies

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Such a beautiful area. So much to see and do. Would love the Farmers Market and all that gorgeous water. The architecture of the Victoria era was never to be beat

    • Port Townsend is one of my favorite places so far on my road tripping journey. Totally agree on the Victorian architecture, superb design and attractive buildings, classic. Farmer’s markets are the best, especially in the western USA where the growing season is so long. Thanks for stopping by the blog Jo. Happy travels to you!

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