Visit the Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend in Washington State.
Port Townsend is a beautiful Victoria seaport under 2 hours from Seattle. Take the Bainbridge Island Ferry (35 minutes) to the Olympic Peninsula then drive north-west for 1-hour.
Magnificent buildings grace Port Townsend's commercial hub along Water Street, with a grand stairway leading to an uptown district lined with Victorian mansions. Port Townsend is only one of three Victorian seaports in America. A walk along these authentic streets is like taking a step back in time to the 1880s.
Explore shops and restaurants, two museums, a beautiful park, walking tours of historic Water Street and the blufftop mansions, and filming locations for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982).
10 best things to do in Port Townsend
1. Visit shops and restaurants along Water Street.
There's plenty to see along Water Street, like quaint bookshops, art galleries, gift shops and restaurants. However the main attraction is the well restored 1880s buildings. These grand buildings were constructed on the belief that Port Townsend would become the next major city in the U.S.
Hastings Building in Port Townsend.
The blue romanesque-style Hastings Building (1889) is one of Port Townsend's most famous buildings, still owned by original descendants of the Hastings Estate Company.
Cast your mind back to the 1880s when Port Townsend was a rough and tumble port, full of merchants, sea captains, sailors, and lumber barons. Wealthy investors poured money into ornate buildings along Water Street, and elaborate mansions on the hilltop. With its deep harbor and easy access to Asian ports, they were betting that Port Townsend would become the biggest port on the West Coast. They only thing they needed was a railway.
However, despite the best efforts of the town's wealthiest men, the railroad never came to fruition. The financial crisis of 1893 sounded the final death knell on Port Townsend, leading to a period of long economic decline. Port Townsend has since re-invented itself as a major tourist town.
2. Do a fascinating walking tour of the 1880s buildings along Water Street, once home to brothels, saloons, and secret tunnels!
Pick up a map at the Jefferson Museum (504 Water Street), or sign up for a guided walking tour.
James and Hastings Building in Port Townsend.
The Italianate James & Hastings Building (1888-1889) was built at the site of the first log cabin in Port Townsend, constructed in 1851. Its first tenant was a merchant selling apparel, footwear, and dry goods. Today it's home to a kitchen supply store, boutiques and an art store.
The Palace Hotel in Port Townsend.
The Palace Hotel (1889) in Port Townsend first housed a rowdy billiard parlor and three saloons, with apartments for rent on the upper floors. During the 1920's to the mid-1930's the upper floors operated as a brothel to cater to all the sailors and merchants, until they were abruptly shut down!
The N.D. Hill Building in Port Townsend.
Do you recognize this building from the fight scene in the movie An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)? Most of this movie was filmed around Port Townsend and nearby Fort Worden.
The N.D Hill Building (1889) was originally constructed to house a pharmacy, by pharmacist Nathaniel Davis Hill. It subsequently became the Deville Hotel in 1928, then long term apartments with a tavern on the ground floor from 1929 to 2001.
The McCurdy Building in Port Townsend.
The McCurdy Building (1887) was built for the widow of Port Townsend's first doctor.
Mount Baker Block building in Port Townsend.
The Mount Baker Block (1890) was built by the first Port Townsend mayor, intended to hold retail and offices. This building is full of mystery, with tunnels that connect to the waterfront.
Underground Port Townsend.
These are the stairs down to the subterranean rooms, that led to the tunnels.
This subterranean area is now used for retail space.
Pioneer Building in Port Townsend.
The Pioneer Building/ F.W Pettygrove Building (1889) housed the Bank of Washington for one year until the bank collapsed in 1890.
Bishop Building in Port Townsend.
The Bishop Building (1891) first operated as an insurance and law firm, and the upper floors were rented out as apartments.
The Swan Hotel in Port Townsend.
These four cottages were transported to Port Townsend to house railroad workers, just prior to the economy collapsing in the 1890s. You can now stay overnight in these cute cottages.
3. Enjoy coffee on the waterfront at the rustic Northwest Maritime Center.
The Port Townsend maritime district is at the end of Water Street, with incredible vistas over Port Townsend Bay.
There's no better place for a morning coffee than the rustic cafe inside the Northwest Maritime Building (431 Water Street). It also runs sailing, navigation, and boat building classes specializing in wooden boats, and has a gift shop and event space.
Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.
The Northwest Maritime Building has enviable views across Port Townsend Bay.
Port Townsend Bay
Port Townsend historic waterfront.
Walk out along the pier for a panoramic viewpoint across the historic waterfront at Port Townsend. Not much has changed in 100 years!
The Hawaiian Chieftain is a sailing vessel based in Grey's Harbor in Washington State.
4. Walk out to the stunning spit at Point Hudson.
Point Hudson is near the marina, at the northeastern tip of Port Townsend, and is easily accessible by continuing on from Water Street.
Marina at Port Townsend.
Point Hudson at Port Townsend.
The sandy spit at Point Hudson in Port Townsend is covered in sand flats with eelgrass, that house crabs, shrimp and fish, and is an amazing area for bird watching.
Beach at Port Townsend.
Fort Worden is visible directly north of Point Hudson, including the Point Wilson Lighthouse on the far right.
Captain George Vancouver discovered Point Hudson in 1851, and was impressed with what he found. He identified it as a safe harbor with good access to freshwater.
Commanders Beach House at Port Townsend.
The Colonial-Revival style Commander's Beach House is a vacation rental at Point Hudson, with water views from every room. It was constructed in 1934 for the Commanding Medical Officer of the U.S. Quarantine Station. What a fabulous place to stay!
5. Relax beside the exquisite Haller Fountain in Port Townsend.
Sit beside the beautiful Haller Fountain at the bottom of the Taylor Stairs in Port Townsend, and admire the bronze sculpture depicting Venus the goddess of love, with cherubs at her feet. The statue has been here since 1906, donated by resident Theodore Haller, and cast by J.L. Mott Foundry in New York.
Haller Fountain at Port Townsend.
6. Climb Taylor Stairs to do a walking tour of gorgeous mansions in uptown Port Townsend.
Take the Taylor Stairs to see the gorgeous homes and buildings that grace Port Townsend's Uptown District. Back in the day the more affluent citizens lived in the Uptown District, away from the rough elements of downtown Port Townsend.
You can pick up a self guided walking tour map at the Jefferson Museum (504 Water Street).
Taylor Stairs at Port Townsend.
St Paul's Episcopal Church at Port Townsend.
The gothic revival St Paul's Episcopal Church was built in 1865. It's on the corner of Jefferson and Tyler streets in Port Townsend.
Frank Bartlett House at Port Townsend.
The Frank Bartlett House (1883) is at the top of the Taylor Stairs, with magnificent bluff views and a french-style mansard roof. This 14-room mansion was built by young entrepreneur, Frank Bartlett.
House on Fillmore Street in Port Townsend.
This Fillmore Street house was built in 1862.
Frank Wilcox James House at Port Townsend.
The Frank Wilcox James House (1891) was built by an English immigrant, who was head inspector for the Customs House, and later amassed a fortune as a merchant. The Queen Anne-style residence has three distinctive chimneys, bay windows, and a shingled facade on the upper floor.
US Post Office and Customs House at Port Townsend.
The prominent US Post Office and Customs House (1893) on Washington Street in Port Townsend was constructed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. It took eight years to build, designed by two Chicago architects. Construction started during a period of great prosperity for Port Townsend, before the economy collapsed.
Harry Barthrop House at Port Townsend.
The Harry Barthrop House (1880) has the appearance of a Swiss chalet, complete with flower boxes. Harry Barthrop was killed in a hunting accident, but his wife Bertie lived in the house until 1947.
Landes House at Port Townsend.
The grand Landes House on Franklin Street, was built in 1871 by Colonel Henry Landes, who expanded the house in 1888. Landes was a prominent citizen, and launched the First National Bank of Port Townsend, also serving as a State Senator.
Trinity United Methodist Church at Port Townsend.
The Trinity United Methodist Church was established in 1854, and constructed in 1871. It's the oldest church in Port Townsend.
Starrett House at Port Townsend.
The Starrett House (1889) is one of Port Townsend's grandest residences, constructed in the Gothic and Stick style. It was occupied by Henry and Ann Starrett. Henry was a contractor from Maine, hoping to take advantage of Port Townsend's booming economy in the late 1880s. The mansion has an incredible, spiral staircase, capped with a 70-foot dome, with a mural of a solar calendar.
Captain DeLion House at Port Townsend.
The Italianate-style Captain DeLion House (1883) was built by Captain DeLion, who invested in a shipping business. He took his own life after suffering divorce and a bankruptcy.
Horace Tucker House at Port Townsend.
The Italianate-style Horace Tucker House (1867) on Franklin Street was built by Horace Tucker, who was both mayor of Port Townsend and a prominent home builder.
Old Parish Hall at Port Townsend.
The Old Parish Hall on Jefferson Street, was built in 1865.
Jefferson County Courthouse at Port Townsend.
The Jefferson County Courthouse (1892) was designed in the romanesque-revival style, and is one of the most striking buildings in Port Townsend, with an 143 foot clock tower, and jail in the basement. No expense was spared on this government building, when it seemed certain Port Townsend would become the next major city.
Old German Consulate at Port Townsend.
The Old German Consulate (1889) sits atop a bluff with incredible views. Home builder Frank Hastings constructed the home in 1889, but it wasn't completed until 1907 when the Olsen family moved in. They took in boarders to make ends meet. One of their boarders, August Dudenhausen was an acting German vice-consul.
7. Take the kids to the playground at Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend.
The stunning Chetzemoka Park (1000 Jackson Street) is on a bluff with magnificent water views over Admiralty Inlet. This is a great place for adults and kids alike, with a swinging bench and gazebo for adults, and swing set and play area for kids. Don't forget to take the stairs down to the small strip of secluded beach below.
This 6.53 acre park was established in 1904 by local residents, and dedicated to Indian Chief Chetzemoka who was held in high esteem by townsfolk.
Chetzemoka Park at Port Townsend. Chetzemoka Park picnic table and gazebo. Chetzemoka Park stone building.
8. Visit the home Rothschild House Museum.
History buffs can tour Rothschild House (418 Taylor Street), located on a hill on the corner of Franklin and Taylor streets in Port Townend. It's a few blocks from Water Street and is open in warmer months. This beautifully preserved home is very much in the condition it was when first constructed in 1868. It was built by Port Townsend merchant D.C.H Rothschild, and kept in the family until his daughter died in 1954. It was then donated in 1962 to Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Rothschild House Museum in Port Townsend.
Rothschild House Museum living room.
Rothschild House Museum dining room.
Rothschild House Museum bedroom.
9. Stop by the Jefferson Museum of Art and History.
See the creepy, old jail in the basement of the Jefferson Museum of Art and History in Port Townsend (540 Water Street). Learn all about Port Townsend's pioneering history, including the early days of it's seedy waterfront, when getting shanghaied was a very real possibility. There's an old courtroom, horse drawn hearse, and lots of photos and memorabilia. Check hours & admission.
Jefferson Museum of Art and History
10. See a movie at the historic Rose Theater.
Catch an independent movie at the historic Rose Theater in Port Townsend (235 Taylor Street). This charming neighborhood theater, originally opened in 1908. It has an exclusive viewing room on the third floor, known as the Starlight Room, complete with soaring views and a plush interior. Order some small plates and wine, and cosy up in a comfy chair to watch a movie.
Rose Theater at Port Townsend.
10. Enjoy a delicious meal at the Fountain Cafe.
Savor a delicious gourmet meal at the Fountain Cafe (920 Water Street).
Port Townsend restaurants.
The Fountain Cafe is in the mint green clapboard building on the right.
12. Stop by the Imprint Bookstore.
Hang out at the esteemed Imprint Bookstore (820 Water Street). This is a vibrant arts hub for Port Townsend with book readings, book signings, and a writers' workshops. Port Townsend is full of bookstores and this is one of the best.
13. Explore museums, beaches, a lighthouse and army bunkers at Fort Worden.
Fort Worden was a 19th century military defense fortress that guarded Puget Sound. It's just a short drive from downtown Port Townsend and has sandy beaches, a lighthouse, and miles of forested trails with gorgeous water views. Kids will love exploring the tunnels and chambers inside the concrete military batteries, or visiting the aquarium on the pier. There's also a Coast Artillery Museum, and a Commanding Officers' home that you can tour.
Finish off the day with a meal at the fun Taps at the Guardhouse pub, which was formerly a military jail.
14. Book a sailing or kayaking tour.
Port Townsend has such a breathtaking waterfront setting at the convergence of Admiralty Inlet with the Strait of Juan de Fuca, best explored by booking a kayaking tour or sailing adventure. Whale watching tours are also popular.
Port Townsend whale watching tours.
15. Identify film locations from an An Officer and a Gentleman.
Many film buffs come to Port Townsend to identify filming locations from the hit movie An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger. The film was done on a shoestring budget, but achieved tremendous commercial success.
Scenes were filmed at The Tides Inn & Suites (1807 Water Street) and N.D. Hill Building (639 Water Street) in Port Townsend. Diehard fans should also visit nearby Fort Worden, for other filming locations.
Officer and a Gentleman room at Tides Inn.
Stay in the exact same hotel room at the The Tides Inn & Suites, that Richard Gere and Debra Winger filmed in.
16. Take the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island.
Port Townsend to Whidbey Island ferry.
What's near Port Townsend?
Port Townsend is surrounded by things to do. Some of the best attractions include historic Port Gamble, the 5-mile Dungeness Spit at Sequim, spectacular Hurricane Ridge with soaring views across the Olympic Mountains, breathtaking Lake Crescent, and the unique Olympic Game Farm, where elk, bison and zebras roam freely in a safari-like setting.
- Fort Worden with Marine Center - 1 mile north
- Fort Flagler - 16 miles SE
- Port Gamble - 28 miles south. Continue past Port Gamble to Point No Point Lighthouse.
- Dungeness Spit - 38 miles west
- Olympic Game Farm - 38 miles west
- Hurricane Ridge - 65 miles southwest
- Lake Crescent - 68 miles west
Where can I eat?
The Fountain Cafe has delicious cuisine. Water Street Brewing offers a great pub meal. Nifty Fifties has a jukebox and fun atmosphere for kids.