The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Few places in the world can match the concentration of natural beauty or the wealth of architecture found in tiny Port Townsend (pop. 9,113). One of the oldest towns in Washington, Port Townsend was laid out in 1852 and reached a peak of activity in the 1880s. But after the railroads focused on Seattle and Puget Sound as their western terminus, the town sat quietly for most of the next century until the 1960s, when an influx of arts-oriented refugees took over the waterfront warehouses and cliff-top mansions, converting them to galleries, restaurants, and comfy B&Bs while preserving the town’s turn-of-the-20th-century character.
Port Townsend is neatly divided into two halves: Multi-story brick warehouses and commercial buildings line Water Street and the wharves along the bay, while lovely old Victorian houses cover the bluffs above. It’s basically a great place to wander, but there are a couple of sights worth seeing, particularly the landmark City Hall (250 Madison St.) along the east end of Water Street. Half of this eclectic gothic pile now houses a local historical museum with two floors of odds and ends tracing Port Townsend history, including the old city jail where Jack London spent a night on his way to the Klondike goldfields in 1897. On the north side of Port Townsend, Fort Worden is a retired military base that served as a location for the Richard Gere movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Now home to a wonderful natural history museum, the old fort also hosts an excellent series of annual music and arts festivals; contact local arts organization Centrum (360/385-3102) for schedules and more information.
Port Townsend Practicalities
Not surprisingly, considering the extensive tourist trade, Port Townsend has a number of good restaurants and bars. You’ll find many of the best places at the east end of town near the corner of Water and Quincy Streets. For breakfast, try Addie Mae’s Southern Kitchen (634 Water St., 360/385-1236) or the waterfront Point Hudson Cafe (130 Hudson St., 360/379-0592), at the far east end of downtown “PT.” For lunch or dinner, one of the best seafood places is the Silverwater Cafe (237 Taylor St., 360/385-6448), still going strong after 25 years near the Quincy Street dock.
The old waterfront neighborhood also holds a pair of hotels in restored 1880s buildings: the Waterstreet Hotel (635 Water St., 360/385-5467 or 800/735-9810, $60 and up) and the quieter The Palace Hotel (1004 Water St., 360/385-0773, $99 and up), where the room names play up the building’s past use as a brothel. The most comfortable accommodations in Port Townsend are the many 1880s-era B&Bs dotting the bluffs above the port area, including the ever-popular Old Consulate Inn (313 Walker St., 360/385-6753, $110 and up), where some of the plush rooms come with a view of the Olympic Mountains and all come with a hearty multi-course breakfast. Fort Worden State Park (360/344-4400), a mile north of downtown, also offers a wide variety of memorable accommodations in historic officers quarters and converted barracks.
City Hall (250 Madison St.)
Addie Mae’s Southern Kitchen (634 Water St., 360/385-1236)
Point Hudson Cafe (130 Hudson St.)
Silverwater Cafe(237 Taylor St.)
Waterstreet Hotel (635 Water St.)
The Palace Hotel (1004 Water St.)
Old Consulate Inn (313 Walker St.)
Fort Worden State Park