Last Updated on February 4, 2024 by Kelly
Fort Worden Historical State Park is located near the picturesque city of Port Townsend. You’ll find this park on the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The park has lots of shoreline, a historic lighthouse, and an old military fort. There are tons of things to do at the park, which include exploring military bunkers, going for beach walks, and walking its many forested trails. I have been to Fort Worden Historical State Park several times, and it’s been one of my favorite parks in Washington State. During our last visit, it was a crisp, clear weekend. In this post, I’m sharing the best things to do at Fort Worden State Park.
About Fort Worden State Park
Fort Worden is a US military fort that was built between 1898 and 1920. Most of the structures at the fort were built prior to World War I. The fort was an active military base until 1953. Fortunately, the service members of Fort Worden never engaged in hostile fire.
Fort Worden, along with Fort Casey and Fort Flager, created the “Triangle of Fire” which protected the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The forts were created prior to the invention of airplanes, so the most significant military threat at that time was an invasion by sea. Thus, the three forts protected the ports at Bremerton and Seattle.
After closing in 1953, the State of Washington purchased the property for a short-lived juvenile detention center.
In 1973, it became a state park due to its prime, beach-front location. Now families can enjoy the facilities year-round!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.
Tips for Visiting Fort Worden State Park
Here’s our best tips for visiting the park:
- You’ll need a Discover Pass to park at the trailheads or to park on-site. You can purchase a Discover Day Pass or Annual Pass. There are also a handful of days per year in which there are “free days”.
- Fort Worden State Park can be very busy on weekends during the summer. If you can, try to visit on a weekday.
- If you have young children, supervise them closely around the fort and bunkers. There are drop-offs without railings in some locations. There are also some railings that have spaces that little kids could climb through.
- Bring a flashlight. The rooms in the fort can be dark (especially on a cloudy day).
- Follow Leave No Trace principles. Pack out what you bring in. Don’t litter. Keep the shoreline clean.
How to Get to Fort Worden State Park
The most direct route (if visiting from the Seattle area) is to take the Bainbridge Island ferry from Seattle. (Here’s our list of things to do on Bainbridge Island if you have some extra time for an excursion!) Fort Worden State Park is about a 2 hour, 10 minute journey from Seattle under ideal conditions (with no traffic and no long ferry lines.) However, during summer weekends, there can be quite a wait for the ferry. Be sure to take that into consideration as you plan your trip.
If there are long ferry lines, it may be quicker to drive south around the Puget Sound and then back up the peninsula. This route takes approximately 2 hours and 18 minutes under ideal conditions.
The closest city to Fort Worden State Park is the quaint town of Port Townsend. If you can, plan to spend time at both the park and Port Townsend.
Things to Do at Fort Worden State Park
There is a lot to see while visiting Fort Worden State Park. We’re confident that there is something to do for everyone! Here’s our list of favorites…
1. Go for a Beach Walk
Fort Worden State Park has an incredible shoreline. We spent the morning walking along the beach, sitting on logs, and taking photos of the beautiful blue water. There is more than two miles of saltwater shoreline to explore!
2. Go for a Bike Ride
The Fort Worden State Park trail map clearly marks paved and unpaved trails. The park is large (432 acres), so going for a bike ride is the perfect way to cover a lot of ground quickly. There’s 8.3 miles of biking trails at the park.
3. Go for a Hike
Fort Worden State Park has 11.2 miles of hiking trails, 2.6 of which are ADA hiking trails. There are family-friendly paths that are perfect for strollers too.
4. Go Kayaking
You can rent kayaks (or bring your own!) and spend some time out on the water. You can find information about renting kayaks as well.
5. Visit the Fort and Military Bunkers
One of the highlights of visiting Fort Worden is getting to explore the fort and bunkers! You can walk through the artillery base and stumble upon half-hidden bunkers. Fort Worden has six batteries which previously contained 41 guns. You can walk through dark hallways, climb up ladders, and peer through bunker windows.
6. Visit the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum
The best way to learn about the history of Fort Worden is to visit the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum on-site. The museum is dedicated to coastal artillery history and is located in Building 201 (one of the original barracks). Admission to the museum is very affordable.
7. Check out the Port Townsend Marine Science Center
We also recommend that you visit the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Currently the aquarium, exhibits, and gift shop are open on Saturdays and Sundays. At the science center you can learn all about the Salish Sea and local marine wildlife. (There’s also an extension of the science center in the city of Port Townsend.)
8. Walk to Point Wilson Lighthouse
You can walk up to the Point Wilson Lighthouse, which protects the western entrance of Admiralty Inlet. The Chief’s House is available as a vacation rental unit if you want to stay at the lighthouse. It definitely makes for a unique lodging option!
Where to Stay at Fort Worden State Park
There are several lodging options at the park, including cottages from Officers Row, a small castle, renovated barracks, and even the option to stay in the Point Wilson lighthouse.
We had the opportunity of staying in one of the cottages from Officers Row, and it was a really cool experience to see inside the homes. The Officers Row cottages are perfect for larger families, because there are numerous bedrooms and lots of space to spread out.
Fort Worden State Park Campgrounds
There are two campgrounds at Fort Worden State Park: one at the beach and one in the forest. There are 80 campsites between the two campgrounds. Each campground has flush toilets and showers available. We highly recommend that you make reservations in advance.
Hotels Near Fort Worden
You can also stay in nearby Port Townsend, which is only 1.5 miles south of Fort Worden State Park. Some hotels to consider include:
- Ravenscroft Inn: This quaint bed and breakfast welcomes guests that are 12 years old and older. The inn is located within the Charleston Single House, which is a colonial-style home with sweeping front porches.
- Manresa Castle: This historic hotel was built in 1892. It’s not everyday you can say that you stayed in a castle!
- Tides Inn and Suites: This hotel is located right on the water. We stayed here during a recent trip to Port Townsend, and it was absolutely breathtaking! We especially loved that our unit had a jacuzzi tub with views of the Puget Sound.
We wrote a full post about the best hotels in Port Townsend, linked here. Be sure to read our in-depth review!
Nearby Activities: Visiting Port Townsend
Fort Worden is located adjacent to the quaint city of Port Townsend. You can drive into town, or you can walk down the beach from Fort Worden State Park (depending on the tide schedule)!
There are plenty of things to do while at Port Townsend:
- During the weekend, you can enjoy High Tea with scones, sandwiches, and jams
- You can enjoy a saltwater soak at Soak on the Sound. There are private saltwater soaking tubs and infrared saunas. We did this on a recent romantic getaway, and it was such an indulgent way to relax.
- You can visit Wilderbee Farm and drink some mead, pick local fruits and vegetables, and have a picnic. They have a tasting room that is currently open on the weekend.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fort Worden State Park
Why is it called Fort Worden?
Fort Worden was named after U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Lorimer Worden. He fought during the Civil War.
Do you need a Discover Pass to visit Fort Worden State Park?
You need a Discover Pass to park at Fort Worden State Park. You can purchase a Discover Pass in advance of your visit.
Are dogs allowed at Fort Worden State Park?
Dogs are allowed at Fort Worden State Park if they are leashed.
How long should you spend at Fort Worden State Park?
We would recommend spending at least several hours at Fort Worden State Park. You’ll want to see the fort, military bunkers, lighthouse, and beach. If you have more time, many visitors choose to spend a night or two at one of the fort’s many accommodations or at one of the campgrounds.
Summary of Our Visit to Fort Worden State Park
We first visited Fort Worden State Park as part of a work retreat. Despite living in Washington State for most of my life, I had never really spent time at this park. I’m so glad I was introduced to this state park, because it’s now one of my favorite parks in Washington State. Since that first visit, we have been back several times. We hope this information was helpful in planning your trip!
Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information.