The historic town of Port Townsend Washington lies 40 miles northwest of Seattle on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Listed as a National Historical Landmark of the United States and centrally located for many outdoor activities, Port Townsend is an enjoyable and enriching addition to any trip to Washington state.
In the early nineteenth century, Port Townsend was thought to become one of the largest port cities in the western United States. Booming seaport business led to strong and fast growth of the city, earning it the nickname “City of Dreams.” Beautiful Victorian homes and buildings filled the city and spoke of a bright future. However, when economic depression hit the country, railroad companies lost the funds to continue rail lines past Seattle and Tacoma to the Olympic Peninsula, essentially crippling Port Townsend's industry and economy. This sudden halt of growth of Port Townsend has made the city a time capsule of the Victorian era, which continues to fascinate travelers from all over the world.
Some of the best-preserved Victorian homes line the streets of Port Townsend Washington. Other historic buildings include the Carnegie Library, the Federal Building, Manresa Castle, the Rose Theatre and the Elk's Lodge, currently home to the Stillwater Cafe. Also popular is the Bell Tower, built in the late 1800s century to call volunteer firefighters and still standing proudly on a bluff overlooking downtown. Several Victorian buildings have been converted into Port Townsend hotels, as well.
Another major draw to Port Townsend is Fort Worden State Park. Originally built in 1897, Fort Worden was one of three forts strategically built to protect the Puget Sound and its naval shipyard from enemy attacks by sea. It has since been used as a military training campus and a juvenile detention facility, having never fired a single hostile shot. The state of Washington turned these historic grounds into a state park in 1973. Its 433 acres provide a wide variety of activities for guests. There are hiking trails throughout the abandoned artillery batteries and bunkers, tours of Victorian-era officer's quarters, 2.1 miles of beaches, abundant campsites, and a youth hostel. The park also hosts the Coastal Artillery Museum, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and the picturesque Point Wilson Lighthouse.
Port Townsend Washington is also popular for its many festivals and events. The most popular festival, the Wooden Boat Festival every September, is reminiscent of the town's early maritime past and establishes Port Townsend as a Mecca for independent wooden boat builders from all over the world. The city also hosts several annual music festivals, including Centrum Jazz Port Townsend, the largest jazz festival in Washington State. Films are the focus of the Port Townsend Film Festival, held annually in September. Visual arts are celebrated in the many art walks and galleries throughout the town.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be busy in Port Townsend Washington. Many local companies offer unique ways to experience their town, including boating, kayaking, bicycling and horseback riding. Sports fans can choose from golfing, swimming, tennis, baseball and gymnastics. Enjoy the water while whale watching or engaging a game of ultimate Frisbee on the beach. Animal lovers are encouraged to take advantage of abundant dog parks, birding locations and wildlife watching tours. The town's position on the corner of the Olympic Peninsula also makes it a good base for exploring Olympic National Park, including Hurricane Ridge and the Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Image: bcinfrance (flickr)