Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Falling in Love with Port Townsend, Washington

Love, love, love, love, Port Townsend.  There are a few towns that we fall in love with the minute we drive in.  There are even fewer towns that live up to our expectations as we spend more time there.  Port Townsend won that elusive award that we have bestowed on just a few of the many towns we have visited (like New Bern, North Carolina; Seaside, Florida; Boothbay Harbor, Maine; and Breckenridge, Colorado to name some on the top of the list). 

Port Townsend sits on the far north east corner of the Olympic Peninsula just a shipping channel south of Vancouver Island.  The location is ideal but getting here can be a little tricky and time consuming.  The most direct route for us was to take a ferry from Coupeville (on Whidbey Island) which was just about a dozen miles instead of driving around Puget Sound and burning a couple hundred miles of diesel.  We were excited about taking the ferry and watching the rig glide gently over the calm channel.  The moho had never been on a ferry before and we quickly realized that if you want to get around in the Puget Sound area of Washington, you’d better get used to water crossings. The ferry cost us approximately $65 (one-way) for both the car and moho (unhitched) which is much cheaper than driving around Puget Sound, but more importantly, fighting the menacing Seattle traffic.

Dogs are not allowed up on the passenger decks
so we left Spirit to guard the moho while we
checked out the ship.
The moho is in there somewhere.

It was much like any other large passenger ferry with booths, a cafe, tourist information
and great viewing decks.
The ferry terminal in Port Townsend lies right next to the bustling downtown waterfront district and the first thing we noticed were the gorgeous Victorian-era buildings that grace the waterfront.  The town’s appeal is along the waterfront but continues as it climbs up to a high bluff set back a city block to an area called “uptown.”  Uptown is adorned with magnificent Victorian homes remembering years gone by when sea captains were kings and widows were made.    

"Uptown" houses have the best view.
The Haller Fountain and Terrace Steps Park
dates back to 1906. In the early days of
Port Townsend the saying "sin flourishes
at sea level" was true.  Along the docks were
bars and brothels popular with sailors.  The
"proper" ladies and gentlemen took the stairs
to their "uptown" homes and away from the
debauchery. We checked out both.
Jefferson County Courthouse built in 1891

So what appeals to your sense of wander lust and draws you to a new town?  Is it the arts, music, history, shopping, seaport, boats, hiking, lighthouses, fine dining, or wineries?  They are all here.  We loved just walking around downtown and watching the boats come and go and the fog roll in and out.  Downtown is a myriad of the historic seaport mixed with artistic soul.  It is where you pass a nappy-haired hippy strumming his guitar on the street and watch a father and son build a wooden boat in the marine center.  We loved the funky vibes generated by this city and its people that give it soul.

Of all the things we did and saw (including lighthouses, museums, historic buildings, the waterfront, shopping, eating, etc), we did manage to find one really cool obscure museum that is worth a mention.  Just a few miles from downtown is a lighting and antique store that houses the Kelly Art Deco Lighting Museum.  The museum has over 400 chandeliers, wall sconces, and table lamps dating from 1928-1938.  It is safe to say that this was one of the most obscure museums we have ever visited.
The lights adorned the homes of the upper class and cost as much as $25 which was a lot in the era when an apple cost 1 penny.  
Some of the lamps are so rare they have never been documented in catalogs or books.
In hindsight it is not surprising that we fell in love with this bustling historic seaport interspersed with urban chic.  It just so happens Port Townsend was named "One of the Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America" - an accolade we concur with.

So how about some more pictures....

Jefferson Museum of Art and History located in the historic City Hall.  The museum preserves and promotes the county's heritage while out front the white billboards were promoting free speech.  

What can I say...it is free speech.
Inside the history museum are a variety of displays including Native American and Victorian history, maritime memorabilia, and military history.
There was also an art exhibit
Fort Worden light and keeper house. The fort was commissioned in 1902 to protect the northern entrance to Puget Sound.  It has great views, beach access, lodging, trails, and historic buildings.  We camped nearby in the Fort Worden
campground.  Spirit loved it too because she could swim.
The Commanding Officer's Quarters at Fort Worden is an elegant home filled with period furniture built in 1904.
Officer's Row at Fort Worden.
What would a blog post be without a picture of food.  Betsy proclaimed this as the best clam chowder EVER!  The town was also dubbed "Paris of the Pacific Northwest" by Sunset Magazine due to all the great meals coming from the creative bistros and cafes.

Goodbye Port Townsend, we will be back!


  1. We spent three months last winter volunteering at Port Townsend. Although we didn't find it as attractive as you did, we agree that it's an interesting town. We laughed at the "buy local" emphasis by the residents as they drove their made-in-Japan Prius cars, and their environmental focus while the local mill spewed out toxic fumes. But that's part of what makes it an interesting town - glad you enjoyed!

    1. It is funny how your impression changes the longer you are in an area. We did find the pulp mill rather unpleasant but at least the wind always blew the other way

  2. We too love, love, love Port Townsend--we also stayed at Fort Worden, we were with native Washington friends and just had a ball, it was our favorite town on our Washington State Park tour we did several years ago.

    1. We loved the fort and it was a great place to walk and smell the salt air.

  3. Well I see I made a major mistake when I turned down an assignment to Port Townsend when I was in the Coast Guard. What was I thinking? :c(

  4. What a lovely old town. Port Townsend now goes on my Washing State Pinterest board.

  5. We also loved Pt. Townsend. We stayed right at the Point Hudson RV park. Not much of a park, but within a short walking distance into town and all the restaurants and farmer's markets.


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