In a state brimming with charming coastal communities, Port Townsend stands out as a unique destination. From its Victorian structures to its vital and quirky artistic culture, the town is a perfect stop for a weekend exploration or a base camp for staging your forays into the Olympic Peninsula. Situated in the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend enjoys easy access to sound and strait, so coastal exploration couldn't be easier. Warm and dry summers are the norm because the town is located in the Olympic rain shadow; likewise, while winters can get chilly, the dreary rain that settles in around many other Pacific Northwest towns is less omnipresent here. Come in the off season to appreciate a slower pace and catch some solo time on the beaches, and hit Port Townsend in the summer or fall to enjoy the vibrant festivals and absolutely perfect weather. Here are a few great reasons to visit one of Washington's most interesting coastal towns:
- Quaint Waterfront: Take this quintessential stroll to acquaint yourself with Port Townsend's maritime culture. Walk west from the Port Hudson Marina for a visit to the Northwest Maritime Center and the Pope Marine Park and Jackson Tidal Park, and enjoy the broad views toward the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
- Beach and Coast Access: Once you've checked out the downtown parks and shops, head for the sand and a walk by the waves. Fort Worden Beach is a long, east facing beach with big views across Puget Sound and an ideal goal at the end of the peninsula, the Point Wilson Lighthouse. Alternately, head just west of Fort Worden State Park for a walk along North Beach and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
- Great Camping and Lodging: The Fort Worden State Park Campground features two areas to choose from: A Beach Campground works well for those who can brave the elements to camp near the spectacular views into the sound, and an Upper Forest Campground offers more privacy and shelter from the weather. But if you are visiting Port Townsend for a few nights, be sure to check out the unique lodging opportunities in the Fort's historic buildings, as well.
- Military History: The waters east of Port Townsend are known as the Admirality Inlet, and they are a narrow gateway into the southern Puget Sound and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The Army began constructing forts to protect this passageway in the 1890s, and the effort resulted in a "Triangle of Fire" consisting of Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, and Fort Casey. Many of the original structures still stand in these old forts, and each is managed by Washington State Parks.
- Festivals: Port Townsend has had to adapt to changing times and economic realities over the years, and festivals have done a lot to help build this town's lively character. The Wooden Boat Festival is one of the largest of its kind and happens annually in September; the Kinetic Sculpture Race showcases some truly unique and whimsical human-powered vessels in October; the Port Townsend Rhody Festival includes a parade and a 7.46-mile Rhody Run each May; there are music festivals for fans of blues, jazz, fiddles and even ukuleles; and a writers' conference hosts workshops aplenty each summer at Fort Worden.