A Weekend in Port Townsend

I recently spent a week--my first visit, but assuredly not my last--in the picturesque harbor town of Port Townsend, located on the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Known for its elaborate architecture, this Victorian seaport is a hub for both art and music festivals, while its streets are lined with quaint boutiques, antique shops, and cafés nestled in historic brick buildings. Hovering at just over 10,000 residents, Port Townsend has not only plenty to see and do, but with its complicated maritime legacy, an extraordinary history as well!

History of Port Townsend

Founded as a seafaring village in 1851, a time when commerce and travel in this area was almost entirely waterborne, there was speculation due to the expectation of the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad, that Port Townsend would become the main port in the Pacific Northwest, linking it to the rest of the nation.


A housing boom ensued, but because of financial difficulties, the UPR abandoned the project, causing the city’s collapse and residents left in droves. It wasn’t until 1927 when the Crown Zellerbach Corporation built a paper mill, which remains the largest private employer in Jefferson County, that the city saw a revival of sorts. 

Welcome to Port Townsend Sign

History aside, Port Townsend is home to more than 30 miles of urban and rural trails, and the beginning of the 135 mile Olympic Discovery Trail, composed of multi-use paths and roads. It’s proximity to Olympic National Park, at just an hour away, is yet another reason to visit this spectacular area! 


During my visit, I wandered quite a bit through town, which I highly recommend, and below are some of my personal recommendations. Though a few attractions are closed during the Winter months, honestly, I found the lack of crowds to be an asset.

The Palace Hotel
Hotel Lounge and Shop


The Palace Hotel

Originally built for a sea captain over 130 years ago, this historic hotel has a colorful past and presumably hosts a few "permanent guests”. It sits conveniently in the heart of the historic district and boasts three floors, (no elevator) and 26 unique rooms. Should you desire more information, I found the article linked above, fascinating!


The Manresa Castle

Built in 1892, this hotel has 30 rooms and quite a history of its own. There are three distinctly different bars and restaurants in the Castle, with various events ranging from musicals to drag queen bingo, and plenty in between! The structure itself is worth at least a drive-by, or better yet, walk through town!


The Bishop Hotel & Block Bottle Shop

This adorable space is part of the Bishop Hotel, a boutique hotel just one block from the water. I stopped in for a glass of wine one afternoon, but they also have espresso, house baked pastries, small plates, cocktails and local beer and cider, or you can purchase bottles from the shelves. I opted for the comfy couch in the center, but there is a courtyard with fire pits in the garden area.

Outdoors & Recreation

Chetzemoka Park

This is a small waterfront park, walking distance from both uptown and downtown Port Townsend. There is a short trail that leads to a rocky beach with plenty of locals out and about, most with dogs in tow. The day I visited I watched a sea otter scurry past me and make it’s way back to the water to join another!


Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park

I didn’t make it here, but if birding is your thing, there are walking and cycling trails throughout the park.


Fort Worden State Park

This park is a sprawling 434 acres, perfect for hiking (there are 12 miles of forested trails) fishing, swimming and anyone who enjoys the outdoors! I loved walking up and down the stairs that lead you onto a two mile stretch of beach, where you are rewarded with amazing views of the Olympic and Cascade mountains! Within the grounds of Fort Worden, you will find the Marine Science Center, featuring a museum, gift shop and an aquarium, that is closed during the Winter months. The campground is open year round. A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access.


Glass Beach

Beginning at North Beach Park, this six mile round trip hike leads you to McCurdy Point, home to an old dump site which is lined with “sea glass”, hence the name. Be sure to check the tides before you head out.


Bell Tower Park

Fire bell tower is a 75 foot wooden structure, built in 1890 to hold a 1,500 pound brass bell and fire engine. It is the last remaining wooden bell tower in the United States.


Marhut Falls

Just an hour drive on Highway 101 South, is a gorgeous waterfall I had all to myself one morning! You’ll have to be willing to endure the six miles of rough road to reach the trailhead, but I’m so happy I did! Once you arrive, it’s an easy hike, less than a mile in and it’s truly magnificent!

Chetzemoka Park
Falls Hike in Port Townsend
Jefferson Museum of Art and History
Rust & Relic

Things to Do in Port Townsend

Soak on the Sound

Featuring private and community saltwater soaking tubs, a steam sauna and therapeutic massage, this is the perfect spot to treat yourself to some luxury while you’re in town!


Jefferson Museum of Art and History

I walked by this beautiful building several times, but they too are closed during the Winter months. I will be sure to visit next time I’m in town!


Antique Shopping

There is no shortage of antique stores in Port Townsend and I managed to fall upon several, which kept me busy for hours! You can easily spend an afternoon shopping and are sure to find something you can’t live without!


Rose Theater

The Rose Theater opened as a Vaudeville House in 1907, and now operates as an independent theatre which hosts movies, plays and operas. Up three flights of stairs, and part of The Rose, is the Starlight Room. I bought a ticket to a show, under the impression I could enjoy an adult beverage with my movie and popcorn. They are now under new ownership, and at the moment, this is no longer an option. Nevertheless, the vintage chairs and velvet loveseats scattered throughout the room, (with a maximum capacity of 40) chandeliers above my head, and fresh popcorn served in a large ceramic bowl with dozens of optional toppings, made the evening a winner and I was willing to forgive!

Food and Drinks

The In Between

With 45 minutes to kill, having shown up early to the movie, I crossed the street and found my way into this dimly lit bar and happened upon a friendly bartender and a great cocktail!


Hanazono Asian Noodle

Next door to the theater is this small eatery, that was filled to capacity at 7 PM on a Sunday! I ordered some sushi to go and was not disappointed, though according to locals I spoke with, their noodle dishes are the main attraction, which the name would suggest.


123 Thai

There are several Thai places in town, but I found myself hungry midday and this was open and nearby. I was very pleased with not only the food, but the friendly service. The red curry I ordered was good, and the dumplings were fantastic!

Batch Brothers

If I lived in Port Townsend, this would be on my weekly rotation. I do a fair amount (ok, A LOT) of research prior to visiting somewhere new, and this popped up on my radar immediately. They are apparently known for their hot sauce empire and their burgers, but I chose to go with the pork belly sliders on brioche buns and I would eat them over and over again! Run, don’t walk.


Finnriver Farm and Cidery

Located on an organic farm and orchard about 20 minutes outside of town, this local favorite is worth the short trek! I opted for a flight of their craft ciders but beer is available, as well as food from their kitchen and some outside vendors. I visited on a day they had live music and paid just a five dollar cover charge. This is a popular spot, but there is plenty of seating inside the barn, with smaller tables in the center and long buffet tables with benches to accommodate larger groups and families.


Pane d'Amore

This bakery has two locations in town, one on the waterfront, the other uptown. They have the usual suspects—pastries, bread, pies and a few other select sweet and savory options, as well as a small case with cheese and various picnic supplies.


Better Living Through Coffee

This appears to be the go-to tea/coffee shop in town! The young staff is very friendly, and it’s prime location on the waterfront in the middle of town, doesn’t hurt. I sat inside and watched people come and go, but I imagine it’s lovely in the warmer months when you can enjoy the patio or take your order to go and walk along the small beach area just outside their doors. They are plenty of food options available, including bagels, pastries, quiche and a few other savory items.



Because I was in town a full week, I gathered some supplies and will always choose a small independent market over a large grocer. Aldrich’s is filled with everything from sushi to custom roast coffee, organic produce, deli items, baked goods, and a nice selection of beer, wine and spirits! There are vegan and gluten free options as well, along with gifts and cards! I had fun meandering up and down the aisles! Even if you’re only in town a day or two, this is worth a visit!


The Food Co-op

If you need more provisions, the co-op in another good choice.



My favorite spot and the darling of Port Townsend’s dining scene is Finistère. I’m a big fan of Happy Hour (as a solo traveler, I prefer the bar to a seated table) and this one is not to be missed! I strolled in about mid-way though their 3-5 PM time slot and was warmly greeted and happy to secure my seat.


I started with a half dozen oysters and a glass of bubbles, then moved on to the croquettes. This bought me enough time to wait for the dinner menu, available after 5 PM, and I quickly zeroed in on the hamachi crudo. Everything is fresh but simple and very tasty! Make sure to fit this into your plans, but make a reservation if you want to ensure you will have a table. Pro tip—if you snag a barstool as opposed to a table in the bar, it’s yours as long as you like!

Pane d'Amore bakery
Finistere Port Townsend Restaurant

I sincerely hope you make time to visit this stunning area and all it has to offer! I will definitely make my way back, perhaps in a different season to experience some things I missed this time around!

jana shepherd headshot

Jana Shepherd

Jana Shepherd has recently transplanted to White Salmon, Washington, having moved from her longtime home in the Northern California foothills. Deciding to end her nearly 40 year career in dentistry, she plans to pursue her hobbies, which include writing, travel, food and wine, photography and the myriad of outdoor activities the Pacific Northwest has to offer!

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