Looking for a day trip filled with arts and culture? Join Zac Blaylock as he takes us on a trip to Port Angeles.
I grew up on the Olympic Peninsula after my mom moved back from Bellingham when I was just 3 years old. Aside from a couple years in Bellevue in my twenties and a close to 5-year hiatus in the Gulf of Mexico up until last year, Port Angeles, Washington was my home and stomping ground. I love being able to share with people the small-town evergreen magic of this area. The more I have traveled and lived elsewhere, the less I have taken its wonder for granted. So, when my editor Molly offered a story on a day in my hometown, I jumped at the opportunity at describing a day in Port Angeles exactly how I would enjoy it.
Exploring Port Angeles
To start the day off, I decided to hit my favorite coffee shop Bella Rosa for a small Americano to get me going. The staff here is always friendly and on point with their service and product preparation. I keep a swipe card preloaded with money that enables me to be entered in promotional drawings for free merchandise at the shop and acquire digital “stamps” toward free beverages with every purchase. Bella Rosa is also a great starting point for exploring Port Angeles, based in a centralized location right next to the historic old courthouse building housing actual early 20th century courtrooms open to the public eye.
Port Angeles Madrone Tree
I bounced out of Bella Rosa’s door with steaming cup in hand to take on a very short drive to one of the oldest trees in town: a huge Madrone. I’ve heard rumor this Madrone is the largest in WA state and it is definitely the biggest I have seen. It occupies its own lot which has recently been named an honorary park, wedged between a daycare center and church on East 8th Street in Port Angeles just east of Cherry Street. This landscaped lot and magnificent tree were the perfect morning environment to pause before my adventure on the town and finish my cup of hot espresso.
After finishing my coffee in the majestic view of this monstrous Madrone I headed downtown for a bite. My first stop was The Haven, which I do not have enough space here to thoroughly describe the quality of the breakfast they serve there: using local products and incorporating fresh seasonal produce, this place really shines when it comes to a tasty breakfast. Unfortunately, their quality really draws the crowds, and even on this weekday morning there was a line nearly out the door of the slender storefront diner. I would’ve gone to its counterpart Chestnut Cottage on the eastside of town with a bit more seating but I wanted to stay more centralized to the downtown area this morning, so I decide to try out a diner I hadn’t yet experienced (at least not under its current ownership/name): Empossible Eden Diner.
Empossible Eden was a cozy little building tucked along the main drag a block or so west of downtown. I easily snuck into a parking spot out behind and below the structure as I received a wave from a patron there. I entered the building for the first time in at least ten years to encounter a small but comfy seating area and friendly waiting staff and locals.
I ordered a custom omelet (I’m on a strict greens and protein diet prescribed by my health professional) and was presented with an appetizing presentation plate within minutes of ordering. I left the carbs on the plate for audience enjoyment in my picture. The food was hot and delicious, and the waitress was friendly and humorous. All in all, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I think you will too!
Olympic Stained Glass
After the perfect portion of a well-made fresh-to-order omelet at the friendly Empossible Eden, I had some fresh produce to pick up for dinner and was craving some Yerba Mate; a recent habit I had picked up with some encouragement from a friend. To fill the need I headed to Port Angeles’ very own naturalist food store, The Country Aire, smack dab in the center of downtown. I grabbed some organic broccoli (hopefully locally grown, I didn’t check) and a cup of Yerba to order and headed out to carouse some of my favorite downtown locations for a bit.
My first and closest stop was one of my favorite shops to browse merchandise in: Olympic Stained Glass. This shop offers a variety of wonderfully crafted original carvings and jewelry along with semi-precious stones, stain glass material and interesting and beautiful curios. I was on a quest to replace a chunk of blue tiger’s eye I had lost and easily found a piece for a cheap buck. I also found a beautifully carved raven’s head in the northwest native totem style I decide I couldn’t go without.
The cashier cheerily bagged my items and I popped across the alley to the local downtown art gallery: Harbor Art. This Location is filled with beautiful PNW photography, carvings, and sculpture of various medias. The owner was happy to fill me in on information regarding local shows and features they hosted. After a pleasant conversation and getting my eyeful I followed First Street past the fountain on my way to a regular stop of mine: Wild Spirit Herbals.
Wild Spirit Herbals
Wild Spirit Herbals has been my go-to shop for all my ailments since getting back to town in December. Opened by a close family friend, Shannon Smith is vastly knowledgeable in herb and mineral uses as well as local availability. She has assisted me with treating everything from anxiety and stress to muscle tightness and pain with wondrous success! I had also recently started receiving crystal reading sessions from her resident Reiki Master Rebecca. These were very engaging and helpful and always left me feeling re-energized. I decided today would be the perfect day for another and Rebecca was happy to oblige for me and the camera. As usual, this session gave me the recharge I needed, and Rebecca’s company was a great source of strength and comfort. She is one of those individuals that seem to have enough kind energy for all of those around her and is happy to share it.
After my session and a few small purchases at the apothecary I was building an appetite. One of my favorite flavors downtown happens to be a friends’ local restaurant Next Door Gastro Pub. unfortunately, like all the favorite downtown haunts on this hazy weekday, this restaurant still managed to be packed to the gills with a line for tables. I stopped in again at The Haven which had cleared out considerably since breakfast but was disappointed to see that their lunch menu was not going to comply with my meat and green veggie diet, and I was not ready for another omelet just yet. I knew the place I needed to go: Jasmine Bistro.
A Thai restaurant close to the waterfront, Jasmine Bistro is an ideal dining spot in downtown Port Angeles and has been an enjoyment every visit. Today I chose a seat outside but quickly changed to an indoor table at the waiter’s suggestion as they had just begun some masonry refinishing outside the building, and it was a bit loud. I love the curry duck here but today decide to try the ribeye on special. The vegetables were delicious on this plate, but the steak was grisly and bland. I will be returning to my default duck on my next visit and would suggest it for you too!
Port Angeles Fine Arts Center
After this I took a quick saunter down to the waterfront to get a fresh breath and snapped a picture to show you the beauty the Port Angeles Pier and beach front has to offer even on a somewhat gloomy day like this one. Alongside this pier is The Landing Mall; another hotspot for local crafts and art and some decent restaurants. I bypassed this today for my main event of the evening: A trip to the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
A visit inside the art center revealed an interesting current mixed media exhibit with small clusters of various creations dappled along the walls of the building interior. One of my favorites out of the collections were several relief carvings vividly displaying the irony of numerous different time periods in the US where oppression was openly carried out. The tragedy of these circumstances was communicated with a conciseness and stark quality in this medium that I really have not seen paralleled.
The art center has been a favorite spot of mine since my childhood. Memories of field trips to exhibits as an elementary student made way to time spent on the outdoor art exhibition trails surrounding the structure after-hours as a high-schooler. This place has always held a magical quality for me, and it did not fall short today. Although some of the outdoor exhibits had been visibly damaged by the severe windstorm earlier this year, much of it remained intact.
A trip around the grounds revealed some new mystical additions to the choice ones collected in my memory. Sadly, one of my favorites; a wrought iron gate opening into a seemingly overgrown path, had been torn from its hinges by either storm damage or some local vandal. I hope it receives the repairs it needs. Aside from this damage there is still much to enjoy here, and I hope this art center and the other places I was able to call on today bring joy and luster to your visit to beautiful Port Angeles!