21 Best Things to Do in Port Townsend, Washington

Last Updated on August 13, 2022 by admin

The charming seaport town of Port Townsend is located on the Quimper Peninsula in Washington State. It’s one of the gateway cities to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. Port Townsend is known for its Victorian-style buildings and coastal views. It was even rated as one of the Top 10 Best Small Towns in America by Fodor’s (article linked here). Port Townsend is also one of only a few Victorian Seaports listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the town is known for its art scene, outdoor recreational opportunities, and charming architecture. We have visited Port Townsend several times, and it’s one of our favorite weekend escapes. In this post, we’ll share the top 21 best things to do in Port Townsend.

Things to Do in Port Townsend Washington

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Port Townsend Washington


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How to Get to Port Townsend

 

If you’re traveling from Seattle, you have two options to get to Port Angeles:

  1. You can take the Bainbridge Island ferry and then drive north. This route is about 56 miles long and takes a little over 2 hours under ideal traffic conditions. (Tip: Be sure to check the ferry wait time in advance. Weekends in the summer can have especially long ferry lines.)
  2. You can avoid taking the ferry by driving south around the Puget Sound and then up north to the peninsula. This route is about 111 miles long and also takes a little over 2 hours under ideal traffic conditions.

Because both routes are about the same duration under ideal traffic conditions, you’ll want to check WSDOT updates for current traffic conditions and ferry wait times. If there’s a long ferry line, it might be best to drive around the peninsula.

If there’s not a long ferry line, we prefer to take the ferry because it is such a unique way to view the Puget Sound. However, if the ferry line is excruciating long, we would probably skip it so that we can have more time at our destination.

 

best views of Seattle ferry from Bainbridge Island
Departing Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

 

If you want to spend some time on Bainbridge Island, be sure to see our full guide to Bainbridge Island!

 

What to Pack for a Trip to Port Townsend

  • Binoculars: You’ll want to be able to see all of the details as you explore the beaches and mountains of the Olympic Peninsula.
  • Power Bank: We like this cell phone charger because the cord is embedded. (One less thing to lose!) A power bank will let you charge your phone when you’re out exploring. You don’t want to run out of battery, because you’ll want to take lots of photos!
  • Water Bottle: Stay hydrated while you’re out exploring. We like this one because it’s an insulated bottle.
  • Hiking Boots: When out on the trails, you’ll want to make sure you have proper foot protection and ankle support. I’ve been using the Columbia brand for years and have really liked my boots!
  • First Aid Kit: Anytime you’re out in the wilderness, make sure that you travel with a first aid kit.
  • Day Pack: Store all of your extra layers and snacks in a comfortable day pack.

 

(Click on any of the images above to see current prices.)

Anytime you go hiking, be sure to pack the 10 Essentials.
 

Port Townsend


Brief History of Port Townsend

Port Townsend is located on S’Klallam land. The S’Klallam (which means “strong people”) named the land qatáy and have stewarded the land for hundreds of years. The čičməhán Trail in Port Townsend honors the contributions of this tribe and seeks to educate visitors about their history.

Port Townsend, Washington

The city of Port Townsend was established in 1851. (For reference, Washington didn’t even become a state until 1889.) The city was called the “City of Dreams” because it was hoped that it would become the largest port on the western side of the United States. However, economic activity ultimately shifted to the Seattle ports instead. For a more complete history of the area, check out this link.

Fort Worden State Park


Tips for Visiting Port Townsend

  • Check out the city’s visitor information website for current happenings. 
  • If you plan on visiting the nearby Olympic National Park (which we definitely recommend!), you’ll need to purchase an Olympic National Park Pass. We recommend that you purchase it online and print it out in advance. If you plan on visiting multiple national parks in the same year, you might want to look into purchasing an America the Beautiful annual parks pass.
  • While you’re visiting, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles. Pack out everything that you pack in. Do not litter. Stay on marked trails. Don’t feed the wildlife. If you’re at the beach, be careful not to step on living creatures. If you look under rocks, be sure to put them carefully back. Following these guidelines will help to keep this area pristine. 
  • If you plan on hiking, download the hike map in advance using the All Trails app. That way you’ll have access to a map even if you don’t have cell service. It’s also a good idea to download the National Park Services app if you plan on visiting Olympic National Park. You can learn a lot about the park right from your phone!

Things to Do in Port Townsend

 

Check out our post about the nearby town of Port Angeles for more itinerary ideas!

 

21 Best Things to Do in Port Townsend

We created a map that shows where to find most of the places we mention below:

 

Trip map created with Wanderlog, the best travel planner app on iOS and Android

1. Walk the The čičməhán Trail

cicmaehan trail for things to do in Port Townsend

The čičməhán Trail has 18 formal stops in Port Townsend that are marked with signage. You can choose to walk either the 3-mile, 6-mile, or 12-mile loops. There are 16 historic sites along the trail. For a map of the trail, see this link.

2. Chetzemoka Park

1000 Jackson St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Chetzemoka Park is a large grassy park within walking distance of downtown Port Townsend. The park is located directly on the water. The park has views of Admiralty Inlet and beach access. There’s a gazebo and bandstand, picnic areas, and a playground. It’s a great place to picnic or go for a beach walk. The park was named after Chetzemoka, who was a S’Klallam leader.

3. Rothschild House Museum

418 Taylor St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Rothschild House, Port Townsend (1863)“Rothschild House, Port Townsend (1863)” by A.Davey is licensed under CC BY 2.0No changes made to photo.

The Rothschild House Museum is currently closed to the public but set to re-open in May 2022. (See updated information here.) When you visit this house, you’ll get a true sense of what it was like to live in the mid-1800s. D.C.H. Rothschild built the house in 1868 and it was kept in the family until the house was donated in 1962. During that time, the house was barely changed at all, so it’s an excellent example of decor from that era. As a result, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

4. Port Townsend Aero Museum

105 Airport Rd, Port Townsend, WA 98368

The Port Townsend Aero Museum currently has dozens of historic aircraft on display. At the time of this writing, an adult admission ticket costs $10 (with discounted prices for seniors, active military, and children). Aircraft currently on display include a 1946 Cessna 140 and a 1929 Corben “Baby Ace.”

5. Jefferson Museum of Art & History

540 Water St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Jefferson Museum of Art and History, things to do in Port Townsend

The Jefferson Museum of Art & History is located in Port Townsend’s historic city hall. Downstairs, you can visit the 1892 city jail. Some of the previous exhibitions at the museum have included topics on climate change and women in the outdoors. At the time of this writing, an adult admission ticket costs $8. We visited the museum during our last trip to Port Townsend and spent about 30 minutes looking at the exhibitions.

6. Port Townsend Marine Science Center

532 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has two locations. The main location is in Fort Worden State Park. There are a variety of exhibits, an aquarium, and a gift shop. At the science center you can learn all about the Salish Sea and local marine wildlife. You can visit on Saturdays and Sundays. There’s also a visitor center store located in downtown Port Townsend that’s open Friday through Sunday.

7. Fort Worden State Park

200 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Fort Worden State Park Point Wilson Lighthouse
Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden State Park

 

Slightly north of downtown Port Townsend is Fort Worden State Park. You can actually walk to the state park along the beach if you’d like a bit of a walk. (It’s a little under 2 miles depending on where you are departing from the city. Be sure to check the tide schedules to make sure that you can walk the full way.) Fort Worden State Park has lots of shoreline, a historic lighthouse, and an abandoned military fort. As you walk its numerous trails, you’ll likely run into old military bunkers. You’ll need a Discover Pass if you’d like to park your vehicle at the state park.

We wrote a full post about Fort Worden State Park (linked here) to help you plan your visit!
 

8. Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park

San Juan Ave, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park is extremely popular among bird watchers. There have been over 150 different bird species seen at this park. The park has trails, benches, and picnic tables.

9. Victorian-Style Buildings

Port Townsend

Throughout the entire city you will see numerous Victorian-style buildings and architectural elements. The picture posted above is a commercial building that was built during the city’s earlier prosperous years. Many of the homes in the city are obviously private residences, so be respectful as you walk by and admire the architecture. 

10. Port Townsend Antique Mall

802 Washington St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Things to do in Port Townsend: antique mall

The Port Townsend Antique Mall is a treasure trove of collectibles from decades past! You’re sure to find something interesting as your browse through the many items. The store is much larger than it looks from the outside. We spent a lot of time looking through all of the antiques!

11. Glass Beach

If you’re up for a bit of a walk, the trail to Glass Beach is approximately 5.4 miles roundtrip. The trail ends at a beach known for having – you guessed it – lots of beach glass! You’ll want to time your visit around low tide for greater ease in reaching the beach.

12. Larry Scott Memorial Trail

The Larry Scott Memorial Trail begins in Port Townsend and is part of the Olympic Discovery Trail and Pacific Northwest Trail. If you like to run, walk, or bike, this is a great way to get some exercise.

13. Visit a Brewery

Enjoy a craft beer at some of the local breweries. Port Townsend Brewing Company or and Propolis Brewing are great places to check out. 

14. Rose Theatre

235 Taylor St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Rose Theatre in Port Townsend

The Rose Theatre was established in 1907 and it retains much of its historic charm. The Starlight Room is an especially cozy place to watch a movie. 

15. Bell Tower Park

319 Tyler St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Bell Tower Park: Things to Do in Port Townsend

At the Bell Tower Park, you can see Port Townsend’s historic fire bell tower. The tower is 75 feet tall and it was built in 1890. The giant bell weighed 1,500 pounds and was made of brass. It’s the last wooden fire bell tower in existence in the United States.

You can reach the tower from downtown by climbing up a steep set of stairs. (There are 4 levels of staircases to reach the top of the hill.) You can also drive to the top of the hill to see the bell tower.

16. Explore Local Shops

World's End (Things to Do in Port Townsend)

During the weekend, you can enjoy High Tea with scones, sandwiches, and jams at Cafe Tenby. You can also 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. One of our favorite shops was World’s End, which sells pirate-themed and steampunk items. We also really liked Abracadabra because they had lots of puzzles, board games, journals, and toys. Port Townsend is also home to several bookstores, and we really enjoyed walking through William James Bookseller.

17. Soak on the Sound

242 Monroe St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Soak on the Sound (Things to Do in Port Townsend)

During our last visit to Port Townsend, we booked a reservation at Soak on the Sound. We had a private room with a saltwater soaking tub. It was so relaxing! We had booked the Soak & Sauna Suite, which included a large private tub, a Finnish steam sauna, and a salt wall lounge nook. We spent 90 minutes rotating between the soaking tub and the sauna, and it was the perfect place to unwind.

18. Visit an Art Gallery

715 Water St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

things to do in Port Townsend: visit an art gallery

Port Townsend is filled with lots of art galleries! As you walk through town, stop into one of the galleries and enjoy the local art. 

19. Wine Tasting

725 Water St, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Wine Tasting at Port Townsend (Things to Do in Port Townsend)

While you’re walking around town, stop by Vintage by Port Townsend Vineyards. They have waterfront views with indoor and outdoor seating. You can order a bottle of wine, a tasting flight, or wine by the glass. When we visited, we ordered a wine tasting flight and a glass of rosé wine mixed with a scoop of mango sorbet. It was divine! We sat outside, played a game of cribbage, and enjoyed the view!

20. Look at the Street Murals

Street Murals in Port Townsend

Port Townsend is filled with murals and old advertisements. As you walk around town, look at all the buildings and see what you can find! Many of the buildings feature old advertisements for cigars and tobacco, the names of previous proprietors, and depictions of coastal living.

21. Adams Street Park

Adams Street Park in Port Townsend

Adams Street Park is a small park located in the heart of downtown Port Townsend. Purchased by the city in 1993, it’s a quiet place for visitors to sit down and enjoy the water views.


 

Where to Stay in Port Townsend

Booking.com  

The Palace Hotel in Port Townsend
The Palace Hotel is located in the heart of downtown Port Townsend

 

Here are a few places to consider for your trip to Port Townsend:

Tides Inn and Suites in Port Townsend
The Tides Inn and Suites is located right on the water

 

During our last trip to Port Townsend, we stayed at the Tides Inn and Suites. We had a large room facing the water with a private balcony. We also had a large jetted soaking tub in our suite. We were able to completely relax while gazing at the water. We woke up to the sounds of seagulls and a fresh ocean breeze. The hotel was within easy walking distance of downtown, and we thought it was the perfect place to stay!

Looking for a place to stay in Port Townsend? Click on this link to see a full list of over 20 places to stay in Port Townsend.


Where to Eat in Port Townsend

Here are some suggestions for places to eat during your visit:

  • Alchemy Bistro & Wine Bar: If you’re looking for oysters and a raw bar menu, visit Alchemy Bistro & Wine Bar. 
  • The Old Whiskey Mill: This restaurant has pub fare as well as several different types of poutine. (A Canadian favorite!) We ordered the Frenchman Poutine, and it was one of our favorite dishes of our travels in 2022.
  • Doc’s Marina Grill: This restaurant is located right on the water. Their menu has numerous options for seafood, burgers, and sandwiches. (There’s also a Doc’s Marina Grill on Bainbridge Island!) I ordered a poke bowl and my husband ordered a french dip sandwich. Both were really good!
  • Sirens Pub: This pub has direct views of the water. We ordered oyster shooters with pepper vodka, clam chowder, and shepherd’s pie. 
  • Cafe Tenby: This bakery and cafe has all sorts of pastries, as well as an excellent tea menu. You can even have high tea at this cafe.
  • Elevated Ice Cream Co: This ice cream parlor makes all of their ice cream on-site.
  • Blue Moose Cafe: Breakfast is served all day long! We got there early and ordered take-out to bring back to our suite. We ordered a breakfast burrito (called a scooter) and an order of hot cakes.
  • Bayview Restaurant: A great place for breakfast with views of the water. We recommend ordering the pecan pancakes with real maple syrup.
Poutine at the Old Whiskey Mill in Port Townsend
The Frenchman Poutine at the Old Whiskey Mill

Things to See in the Olympic Peninsula

Port Townsend is ideally located near many amazing sites in the Olympic Peninsula. Most of the sites listed below are within a few hours drive of Port Townsend:

  • Hoh Rain Forest: Head into the rainforest and check out the Hall of Mosses loop trail. You’ll be in the heart of the rainforest, and everything you see will be draped in green mosses and lichens.
  • Third Beach: The trail to Third Beach is 3.6 miles roundtrip. You’ll see plenty of sea stacks from this beach hike.
  • Kalaloch Beach: This beach is large and sandy. The beach is near the Kalaloch Lodge and Kalaloch Campground and is easily accessible. We recommend watching the sunset here!
  • Tree of Life: Located at Kalaloch Beach, the Tree of Life is a tree with its roots nearly full exposed due to erosion. If you’re at Kalaloch, you don’t want to leave without seeing it!
  • Big Cedar Tree: A very short .1 mile trail will take you a massive Cedar tree believed to be over 1,000 years old. After storms in 2014, it was split nearly in two.
  • Lake Crescent: This beautiful lake is located in the Olympic Mountains.
  • Sol Duc Falls: To reach the falls, you’ll complete a beautiful 1.6 mile roundtrip hike. 
  • World’s Largest Spruce Tree: The tree has a circumference of 58 feet, 11 inches.
  • Forks, Washington: This is the town where the Twilight book series takes place. Fans of the books will enjoy seeing many of the places mentioned in the books.
  • Port Angeles: This city is located on the northern coast of the peninsula. 

Tree of Life Kalaloch


Frequently Asked Questions About Port Townsend

What is Port Townsend known for?

Port Townsend is a historic seaport town filled with many Victorian-style buildings. It’s been voted as one of the best small towns in the United States, has a thriving arts community, and is a gateway city to the Olympic Peninsula. The city is located right on the water and has miles of beaches. It’s also located next to Fort Worden State Park. Finally, the city hosts the annual Wooden Boats Festival each year.

Port Townsend Totem Pole

Is Port Townsend worth visiting?

Absolutely! This charming town is a beautiful place to stay while you explore the local beaches and parks. The city is filled with Victorian architecture, quaint shops, and lots of delicious restaurants.

Port Townsend

How long is the ferry from Seattle to Port Townsend?

The ferry ride is 35 minutes long. You’ll depart Seattle and land on Bainbridge Island. Once on Bainbridge Island, you’ll need to drive another 47 miles north to reach the city of Port Townsend.

Port Townsend Washington Lighthouse

How long should you stay in Port Townsend?

The city is a popular weekend destination for many Seattleites. We’d suggest staying for at least two nights when visiting Port Townsend. If you’d like to explore the wider area, such as Olympic National Park, we’d recommend expanding your trip. 

Port Townsend Washington
Going for a beach walk in Port Townsend.

Summary

Port Townsend is a charming getaway close to Seattle, Washington. The town is filled with historic buildings in Victorian architecture, and the city is right next to Fort Worden State Park. We hope that this post provided you with some inspiration to visit this beautiful city!

Pinterest pin for Port Townsend
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Port Townsend Church

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