Port Townsend, Washington, a Victorian Maritime Town

This quaint harbor town is located at the northernmost end of the Olympic Peninsula. Go whale watching, visit a historic park and eat fresh seafood.
Docked boats in Port Townsend, Washington.

Docked boats in Port Townsend, Washington.

This quaint harbor town with a population of less than 10,000 is located at the northernmost end of the Olympic Peninsula. With a short drive to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, Port Townsend makes a romantic basecamp for a park vacation.

Things to Do in Port Townsend

Port Townsend’s rich history can be relived in a visit to Fort Worden State Park. Built around World War II to protect the straits of Juan de Fuca and the entrance to the Puget Sound, this park not only has incredible history but also has beautiful landscape and photographable features. If you have an interest in ecology or marine life, consider visiting the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for only $5. Here you can learn about and touch the organisms that live in the waters off the Olympic Peninsula. Travelers from TripAdvisor have rated the marine center very highly because of its unbeatable price and friendly staff.

Make a reservation to go whale and dolphin watching with Puget Sound Express. This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The trips run from April-October and June-September and are meant to see minke whales, humpback whales, orcas, sea lions and seals.

Puget Sound Express whale-watching boat in the strait north of Port Townsend, Wash. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Puget Sound Express whale-watching boat in the strait north of Port Townsend, Wash. 

Where to Eat in Port Townsend

Port Townsend is best known for its homestyle bistros and cafes. Its location on the water allows for wonderful restaurant views and fun atmospheres.

After a walk on the water, dine at Doc’s Marina Grill or Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar. Doc’s salmon dishes, including the Coho stuffed salmon and the blackened salmon sandwich, are great. Alchemy Bistro is also well known for its seafood, with people favoring the mussels and scallops. However, if you are not a fish fan, try the tenderloin and the cassoulet. For breakfast or lunch, visit Sweet Laurette Cafe and Bistro, a French cafe-style restaurant best known for its lemon ricotta pancakes and rich cappuccinos.

Or choose to eat with the locals at Sea-J's. It's an authentic hole-in-the-wall greasy-spoon of a restaurant that is loved by the locals. Wash down your fried-oyster sandwich and crab cakes with your favorite flavor of milkshake. There are 30 flavors listed on the menu, plus a few off-the-menu flavors scribbled on the white board such as huckleberry, peanut butter and chai tea. You can eat at Sea-J's collection of rummage-sale tables and chairs, at the two picnic tables outside, or take the food to go.

If you are vacationing with your family, have a picnic at a harbor-side beach area. Traveling with adults over 21? One block down from Sea-J's is the Pourhouse. Inside are glass-doored refrigerators stocked with probably a hundred types of bottled beer and ciders. On tap are another 10 beers. The Pourhouse has few tables inside but the treat is their backyard. It's right on the water with dozens of umbrella-shaded picnic tables and chairs, a ping pong table, and a dance patio. Check its schedule for live music nights.

Live music and dancing on the back  patio of the Pourhouse in Port Townsend, Wash. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Live music and dancing on the back patio of the Pourhouse in Port Townsend, Wash. 

Where to Stay in Port Townsend

There are about a dozen hotels in Port Townsend. The swankiest include the Bishop Victorian Hotel, the Swan Hotel and the Palace Hotel at Port Townsend. All of these lodging options accommodate pets and offer free parking. For the most cost-friendly stay, consider the Manresa Castle. While this hotel is less expensive than others, the history makes the experience memorable, as some of the 19th century rooms are said to be haunted by spirits of the past.

Related story: Unusual Places to Stay on the Olympic Peninsula

City of Dreams

Captain George Vancouver established the town in 1792 when he discovered its safe location on the northern peninsula. Port Townsend was originally called the “City of Dreams” by early settlers, as they speculated that the town would be the most successful port on the West Coast. The Victorian homes and architecture signify the wealth that once flooded into the port as goods and timber in the early 1900s. Port Townsend's harbor town charm makes it a popular place for visitors and a historic living area for locals.

The drive from Port Townsend to Olympic National Park takes just under 1 hour 15 minutes and covers 53 miles. Take US-101 East until you begin seeing signs for the destination point. Head north on Hurricane Ridge Road towards Mount Angeles Road.

For more information:
Port Townsend Visitor Information Center
(360) 385-2722
2409 Jefferson St. Suite B, Port Townsend, WA 98368


General locations of ferries to Olympic National Park

Where is Olympic National Park?

This park is in the northwest corner of the United States in Washington state on the Olympic Peninsula. It contains Pacific Ocean beaches and mountains.