Quirky Victorian Seaport Town ~ Port Townsend, Washington

It was time to step away from our nature immersion and soak in a bit of culture and what better place to do that than Port Townsend, cultural hub of the North Olympic Peninsula. This Washington seaport town, with its strong emphasis on locally grown, is an eclectic artistic community.  The architecture of the Victorian era is peppered throughout the town in its beautifully restored homes and businesses.

Camping at Point Hudson Marina and RV Park, where the Admiralty Inlet connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, we found a sweet spot to watch the ferries, various seafaring vessels, kayakers and paddle boarders glide by.  It is essentially a gravel parking lot but the views and the ability to walk and bike everywhere in town made it the perfect spot to experience Port Townsend.

Each morning found me walking the tree-lined downtown streets, before much of the town awoke, starting my day with a local brew.  Many carefree afternoons were spent browsing galleries and boutique shops in both uptown and downtown Port Townsend.

Looking back on our time in Port Townsend, here are our top 5 experiences:

1) Northwest Maritime Center

Docents George and Joan offer tours of this fascinating center that celebrates both its maritime past and future.  A boat livery, exhibition space, stunning resource library, wood shop, learning lab and classrooms occupy the inside space, while the outdoor common area has a beach boardwalk, boat staging platform, and a deepwater pier.

The Maritime Education Building offers programs featuring sail making, small-craft boat and kayak building, and maintenance.  The Wooden Boat Foundation provides students a hands-on learning laboratory with a wide array of courses related to nautical science and maritime history.  This is one fascinating complex.

Earlier this summer the Maritime Center sponsored the first annual “Race to Alaska”, a non-motorized race (sail, row, or paddle).  Beginning at the Port Townsend pier, the qualification stage spanned the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria on Vancouver Island, where a stand-up paddle boarder was among the qualifiers.

2) Rose Theatre

Opening as a vaudeville house in 1907, this venue has experienced many transitions to arrive at the one-of-a-kind movie house it is today. Choose the film playing in the upstairs Starlight Room and you can watch from your own comfy chair, with an adult beverage and meal in hand.  We saw “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, a wonderful indie flick.

3) Farmers’ Market

This is a super cool market featuring more than 70 local vendors. With a variety of organic produce, meats, artisan breads and pastries, cheeses, cider, and coffee, it is a definite palette-pleaser.

But the best part of the farmers’ market may be Cape Cleare Salmon, a food cart creating the most amazing grilled salmon panini, a mouth-watering mix of salmon, pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and baby greens, with a fried egg on top!   I don’t often indulge in bread but we loved this one so much we came back again on our way through town for another taste.  It was just as yummy the second time around!

4) Better Living Through Coffee

This one makes the list, not only for the ambiance and great coffee, but also the relaxing early morning stroll along the downtown streets to get there.  Peering into darkened shops hiding their little treasures, with only my thoughts to occupy me, was something I looked forward to every morning.

5) Fort Worden State Park

This decommissioned 19th-century military fort now offers barracks converted to vacation homes, camp sites, sandy beaches, hiking/biking trails, Marine Science Center, and pretty little Point Wilson Lighthouse that must be admired from afar, as no access has been allowed since this station was automated in 1976.

Port Townsend has two breweries for craft brew lovers, the Pourhouse and Port Townsend Brewing Company.   We reconnected with friends Bill and Lisa at the Pourhouse, where we enjoyed some brews and a meal while catching up on our life adventures these past couple of years.  No photos, just good food and drink, and great conversation.

And if retail therapy is your passion, the shopping choices are plentiful.  I was able to stock up on infused oils and vinegars at Lively Olive Tasting Bar and found some wonderful spice blends at The Spice & Tea Exchange.  Pippa’s Real Tea is an excellent place to pick up some unusual teas and have a cup in their tea room, enjoyed with a proper scone served with homemade jam and clotted cream…yum!

Besides biking the downtown streets, the Larry Scott Memorial Bike Trail is easily accessible at the Boat Haven. It’s an extension of the Olympic Discovery Trail, a trail that will eventually traverse 130 miles of the North Olympic Peninsula.

We weren’t ready to leave the laid-back vibe of Port Townsend after five days, but the scent of lavender was in the air, calling to us.

Next Up: Sequim