Perched on the northeastern tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend offers visitors an attractive combination of spectacular natural beauty and Victorian charm. A shipbuilding boomtown in the late 1800s, Port Townsend is home to grand historic buildings and residences, many which house the B&Bs and shops that make the city a popular tourist destination. Surrounded by water, its location and proximity to Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest make it a haven for artists, nature lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Fun Things to Do in Port Townsend
Visitors will find many fun things to do in Port Townsend. Here are some highlights.
- Fort Worden State Park: The Washington State Park department now operates the wide range of facilities at Fort Worden, a turn-of-the-century military base located within the city limits of Port Townsend. Visitors can take advantage of the park's vacation housing and meeting facilities, campsites, and picnic grounds. The park's Balloon Hangar pavilion hosts concerts, theater events, and festivals throughout the year. The charming and historic Point Wilson Lighthouse is located at the northeast tip of the park. Other fun things to do include a walking tour of the old military facilities, exploring the rhododendron garden, riding a bike along the 12 miles of trail, or beach combing.
- Historic Homes: There are dozens of well-preserved historic homes in Port Townsend. Their beautiful exteriors can be viewed on a walking tour, while driving through town, or on the annual "Historic Homes Tour". Many of the town's businesses occupy attractive historic buildings as well.
- Jefferson County Historical Museum: Explore the heritage of the region, from Native American culture and early European exploration to Port Townsend's Victorian splendor and military history.
- Port Townsend Marine Science Center: The Marine Science Center offers wildlife viewing cruises to Protection Island, summer camp programs for kids age 9 - 13, teacher training programs, and other education programs in its public marine exhibit and education facility. The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is located within Fort Worden State Park.
- The Wooden Boat Foundation: The Wooden Boat Foundation sponsors the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival and provides the opportunity to learn more about traditional maritime practices.
- Art Galleries: Surrounded by so much natural inspiration, Port Townsend's artist community thrives. The town's many art galleries feature Native American handicrafts, watercolors, pottery, and jewelry.
- Hiking & Biking
- Water Recreation
- Whales, Birds, and Wildlife Watching
Hiking and Biking
Natural wonders surround Port Townsend. With the Strait of Juan de Fuca on one side and the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest on the other, opportunities for water sports, wildlife viewing, and nature treks are plentiful.
Enjoy the beauty of Port Townsend by riding a bicycle in city parks, along the shore, or in the parks and forests.
- P.T. Cyclery Bike Rentals: Rentals are available by the hour, the day, or the week, and bike locks and helmets are provided.
- Hurricane Ridge Ride: A challenging 17-mile ride with spectacular Olympic Mountains views.
Enjoy a relaxed stroll or a vigorous climb in the parks, on the beaches, or in the forests and mountains.
The shorelines of the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands provide premium opportunities for wildlife watching and nature viewing from a sea kayak.
Fisherman will find a variety of fishing options out of Port Townsend, from fly fishing on the area's many rivers to shellfishing.
- Washington Fishing Regulations Pamphlet: Information including a downloadable PDF version of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife's
- Sea-Sport Charters
Boating and Sailing
Whether you bring your own boat, hire a rental or charter, or take a scheduled sightseeing tour, you will enjoy the opportunity to spend time on the waters off Port Townsend.
Whales, Birds, and Wildlife Watching
Whale watching and birding are popular activities in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you take a scheduled boat tour or venture out on your own, you'll have the opportunity to observe and enjoy a wide variety of wildlife from Port Townsend. Here are a few ideas:
- Marine Science Center Cruises: Several times throughout the year the Marine Science Center offers cruises to Protection Island, a National Bird Refuge.
- Puget Sound Express: Keep an eye out for orcas, eagles, and sea lions on these daily boat tours around the San Juan Islands (in season).
- Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society: Detailed description of where to find birds on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Hotels and Lodging
Manresa Castle: Inspired by German castles, this stately edifice was once the private residence of one of Port Townsend's leading citizens. Enjoy your stay in this 100-year-old "castle" featuring an elegant restaurant, a lounge, and a variety of rooms and suites.
The Swan Hotel & Conference Center: Exquisite views and gracious meeting facilities make The Swan Hotel an excellent choice when traveling for business or pleasure. Guests can choose from the cozy garden cottages, view suites, or the grand penthouse.
The Tides Inn: This cozy beachfront motel offers comfortable modern rooms, many with views of Port Townsend Bay. The Tides Inn is near the Washington State Ferry Terminal and within easy access to historic downtown Port Townsend.
How to Get There
The primary ways to reach Port Townsend are by car or by ferry. Whichever way you choose, Port Townsend is roughly 1.5-2 hours from Seattle.
From Olympia: From Interstate 5, take Highway 101/12 toward Aberdeen/Shelton. Proceed north on Highway 101 toward Shelton. Stay on 101 and continue north to State Route (SR) 20. Head north on SR20, which will take you right into Port Townsend (approximately 14 miles).
From Tacoma: Head west on State Route (SR) 16, crossing The Tacoma Narrows Bridge and proceeding towards Bremerton. Take SR3 north and follow the signs to the Hood Canal Bridge. After crossing that bridge, stay on SR3. When you reach SR19 (Valley Rd.), proceed north towards Port Townsend. When you reach SR20, turn onto it and continue north; SR20 will take you right into Port Townsend (approximately 9 miles).