Visit the waterfront Washington State town that resembles a 19th century New England village.
Port Gamble is 1.5 hours from Seattle, in a charming waterfront town east of the Olympic Peninsula. It has a picture-perfect main street full of historic buildings with white picket fences that look like something out of New England.
To get here from Seattle, take the Bainbridge Island Ferry then drive 30 minutes north to Port Gamble.
Port Gamble is a tiny town, but packs in a lot of activities. You can do a self guided walking tour of the historic buildings, or visit the local museum. The cafe and bar at the General Store is fun for a meal, there are two great restaurants, and the local gift shops have plenty of treasures.
Why does Port Gamble resemble a New England town?
Port Gamble sprung up around the Puget Mill Company, a saw mill founded in 1853 by wealthy industrialists William Talbot and Andrew Pope. Unlike some of the rough and tumble towns in frontier Washington State, Port Gamble was modeled on a charming New England style town back in Maine where both Talbot and Pope had grown up. This influence is evident in the white picket fences, steeply sloping roofs and wood siding exteriors of buildings in the town.
Port Gamble also has the unique characteristic of being a fully company owned town, and perhaps that's why the buildings are all in such good shape. Talbot and Pope encouraged family and friends from back East to become part of this community, and provided them with company housing. Over 150 years later, Port Gamble's buildings are still company owned, but available for lease.
10 best things to do in Port Gamble
1. Visit the café, bar and gift shop at the Port Gamble General Store.
The Port Gamble General Store opened in 1916, and is the hub of activity for locals and visitors. It's a great place to pick up gifts, snacks or ice-cream, gourmet wine and cheese.
The main street at Port Gamble is abuzz with activity, from bicyclists and tourists.
Enjoy a relaxing drink at the bar at the Port Gamble General Store.
There's plenty of cute gifts to browse on the main floor, and the second floor has an interesting museum with a collection of shells and sea-life.
2. Eat at two delicious Port Gamble restaurants.
Enjoy some yummy comfort food at Scratch Kitchen (check hours), next door to the Port Gamble Store, and dine on the fabulous patio with water views. Trendy Butcher & Baker Provisions is a few streets back, and is a restaurant, bakery and butcher, that offers small batch artisanal food (check hours).
3. Explore a handful of charming Port Gamble shops.
Although Port Gamble is very small, there are a handful of delightful shops to explore. These include gift shops, like the The Painted Lady with unique vintage home decor, Tango Zulu imports with handcrafted products from developing countries, and Wish in Port Gamble with books, cards puzzles, home decor, jewelry, soaps and lotions.
4. Stop by House 11 Taproom for beer and wine, chocolate boxes, gourmet jam, and swag.
5. Take a self-guided walking tour along historic Rainier Avenue.
Port Gamble's Rainier Street is full of quaint buildings once owned by company employees. Port Gamble is beautifully preserved, and somehow escaped the ravages of modern development. You can do a self guided walking tour, where signs clearly explain the history of each building.
The stunning water views of the Hood Canal are visible from Rainier Street. Port Gamble has an enviable, bluff-top setting, commanding incredible views.
This is the Clarence R and Lulu Cranmer House (1894). Lulu sadly died at the young age of 32 and is buried in the Port Gamble Cemetery.
The Community Hall & Post Office (1905) was where Port Gamble residents once socialized, with movie nights, dances and plays. Other services also operated out of here; like the doctor, dentist, barber and telephone operator.
The Walker Ames House (1888) is the grand dame of Port Gamble, owned by master mechanic, resident manager and then general manager of the mill, William Walker.
The Leo and Goldie Hammersmith House (1918-1919), was once owned by mill manager Leo Hammersmith, who retired in 1958.
The Daniel B Jackson House (1871) was owned by the third postmaster Port Gamble.
The Eugene and Ann DeFord House (1873) was owned by WWII veteran Eugene DeFord, who eventually rose to plant manager at the mill at Port Gamble, and retired in 1985.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Port Gamble is St Paul's Church (1878-79), popular for weddings. It's a replica of the First Congregational Church back in East Machias, Maine.
The David and Joyce Olson House (1870) was owned by an employee who worked at the mill at Port Gamble for nearly 40 years.
The James and Sarah Thompson House (1859) in Port Gamble, is the oldest continuously occupied dwelling in Washington State.
The New York House (1863) was occupied by resident physicians.
The Franklin Lodge (1871 to 1872) in Port Gamble, is the oldest Masonic Lodge in Washington State.
6. Visit the excellent Port Gamble Museum.
The Port Gamble Museum is in the basement of the General Store, and has been beautifully renovated. Highlights include the reconstruction of the Master Bedroom of Admiralty Hall (1887 - 1940), and the lobby of Hotel Puget (1903 -1963). A small cash entrance fee is required (no credit cards).
The Hotel Puget operated in the center of Port Gamble, from 1907 to 1963. This large Victorian building sat atop a bluff, with incredible Hood Canal Views, and had a saloon and billiards room. It was demolished in 1963, after damage sustained by the Columbus Day Storm.
In 1887, mill manager, Cyrus Walker, constructed the Admiralty Hall mansion at nearby Port Ludlow, for his new bride. This was a grand home, taking up a full city block. It was demolished during WWII for scrap, and the Port Ludlow Inn now stands in its place. What a shame that Washington State lost this beautiful, architectural treasure.
The museum has miniature models of some of the local buildings at Port Gamble, like St Paul's Church.
7. Book a kayaking tour at the Olympic Outdoor Center.
The Olympic Outdoor Center is along the main street of Port Gamble, renting kayaks, paddle-boards and bikes. Sign up for a super cool kayaking tour of the local waters, or get some advice on the best places to kayak to.
8. Hold your wedding or special event at Port Gamble.
Port Gamble offers two wedding venues that are often in high demand. The Hood Canal Vista Pavilion is situated on a bluff and has superb water views. St Pauls Church provides a New England style church setting for weddings, and an adjacent reception area.
Popular Port Gamble also hosts a range of special events, including the Medieval Fair, Civil War Re-enactments, and adventure sports expos.
9. Search for early pioneers in the Port Gamble cemetery.
10. Stay overnight at Port Gamble.
Stay at the Port Gamble Guest Houses and choose from two beautifully renovated 3-bedroom guest houses, or a suite. There is easy beach access from these guest houses.
Fun things to do near Port Gamble