17 Unique things to do in Port Townsend

Port Townsend is a delightfully Victorian seaport on the Olympic Peninsula not far from Seattle. It has historic buildings, delicious food and plenty of outdoor adventure! It’s a popular day trip or weekend getaway for both locals and also has plenty of visitors from other parts of the country and around the world.

I’ve spent a lot of time visiting Port Townsend in one way or another as a born and raised Seattleite. My grandparents moved to the nearby Kitsap Peninsula when they retired so I spent a lot of time there growing up. As I got older I spent time near there on camping trips and as an adult I love visiting this area for it’s amazing food and farms as well as the interesting history. I’ve also visited here several times on a sailboat, which provides a whole new perspective. I’m excited to share with you some of the wonderful things to do while visiting Port Townsend, whether it’s a short day trip or a weekend or even longer.

Port Townsend and the Quimper Peninsula are the homeland of the S’Klallam and Chimacum People.

Related: Best Weekend Getaways from Seattle, Best Three Days in Olympic National Park

How to get to Port Townsend

You do need a car to get to Port Townsend. Getting there without a car is difficult, though not completely impossible. Driving is definitely the way to go. You do have a few options to get to Port Townsend from Seattle.

Driving to Port Townsend from Seattle or Tacoma without taking the ferry

If you don’t want to take the ferry, you can drive from Seattle to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and then from Gig Harbor up to Port Townsend. This is the fastest option for those who are in South Seattle, Tacoma or anywhere south of there.

This option takes about 2.5 hours from Seattle and an hour and 45 minutes from Tacoma (plus traffic).

Taking the ferry from Seattle or Edmonds and Driving

If you live in Seattle, Everett or in between, taking the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island or Edmonds to Kingston may be faster. Depending on the ferry schedule and how long the ferry wait is, it may not save you a lot of time, but it is definitely less driving time.

This option takes 2 hours and 15 minutes (or more based on the ferry schedule and ferry waits) with either ferry.

Related: 14 Fun things to do on Bainbridge Island

Taking the ferry from Whidbey Island

If you’re already on Whidbey Island, or you’re coming from north of Everett, taking the ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend may be your best option. This is the only ferry that goes directly to Port Townsend. Reservations for bringing a car on the Port Townsend ferry are highly recommended.

This option takes about 2 hours from Mt Vernon or 2.5 hours from Bellingham (or more based on the ferry schedule and ferry waits).

Related: 13 Fantastic things to do on Whidbey Island, Best Whidbey Island Hikes

Best time of year to go to Port Townsend

Any time of year is a great time to visit Port Townsend! Summer of course has the most beautiful weather, but it’s also the most busy and crowded and hardest time to find a place to stay.

I really enjoy visiting in Fall, winter and spring and taking advantage of a less crowded season even if it means a bit more rain.

Most of the things to do in Port Townsend can be done year round, except for whale watching and the passenger boat to San Juan Island.

Best things to do in Port Townsend

Take the self guided walking (or biking or driving) tour on the čičməhán Trail

A lighthouse in a field next to a beach in Port Townsend. The lighthouse is a white building with a red roof. It is a partly sunny and partly cloudy day.

Download the fabulous čičməhán Trail map and guide before you head to Port Townsend, and enjoy walking or biking (or even driving) to the various points of interest on the map. There are 3 mile, 6 mile and 12 mile loops.

This beautiful and helpful map will take you to the location of all the interpretive signs along the trail note important places to the S’Klallam people for thousands of years, including the present day. Many of the signs are also in important places for settlers, such as the Point Wilson Lighthouse in Fort Worden State Park, which is the site of an important clamming beach and camp for the S’Klallam People.

Wander around the charming historic Victorian downtown

Historic downtown Port Townsend. The buildings are from the Victorian age in the late 1800s. Some buildings are red brick, others are painted blue. There are cards and a few pedestrians on the street.

Port Townsend has some really beautiful historic buildings, leftover from a flurry of construction in the late 1800s when Port Townsend was trying to become a railroad boomtown. What’s left from that time is one of only three Victorian seaports in the United States (the others are Galveston, Texas and Cape May, New Jersey) recognized as National Historic Districts.

Whether you’re staying in a historic inn, shopping for local gifts or enjoying some local food, you’ll find plenty of historic and photogenic buildings walking around downtown.

Fort Worden State Park and Point Wilson Lighthouse

Fort Worden State Park is one of my favorite state parks in Washington. It has a gorgeous lighthouse, interesting old military bunkers to climb around, hiking trails and a large beach. It also has a big old parade ground with lots of room to run around. Kayak rentals are available in the summer.

The ruins of a concrete military building. It is two stories and doesn't have doors. There is grass and trees surrounding it.
Creepy leftover military buildings are fun to explore at Fort Worden

There is great camping here as well as accommodations available in the historic military buildings in the park.

The Point Wilson Lighthouse guards the somewhat wild point here that posed significant danger to passing ships. The lighthouse was first built in 1879 though it has been modified several times since. You can even rent the lighthouse as a vacation rental!

The Point Wilson Lighthouse complex. There is the lighthouse, a quarters for people to live, a garage and a modern building. All the buildings are white with red roofs. There is grass and a fence in the foreground.
Point Wilson Lighthouse

Port Townsend Marine Science Center

A small aquarium at Fort Worden, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center has touch tanks, exhibits with the animals of the Salish Sea and an impressive Orca skeleton suspended from the ceiling.

Have a picnic in Chetzemoka Park

Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend. There is a green lawn with a few trees, a gazebo and wooden structures for plants to grow on in the summer. There is a view between the trees of the water below.

Chetzemoka Park is a beautiful neighborhood park with benches, picnic tables, trees and a wonderful view out over the water to the Cascade Mountains. The park does not have a beach or an extensive trail system, the lovely landscaping and gorgeous view are what makes this a perfect picnic area. There are also several play areas. The main entrance to the park is lined with rhodedendrons, making this a particularly beautiful stop in the spring.

Wine and Beer tasting

If you’re a wine lover, make sure to head to Port Townsend Vineyards. They have a location downtown and as well as their tasting room a few minutes outside of town. They make wines with grapes grown on the Quimper Peninsula which is really fun and a bit unusual since most of Washington’s grapes are grown in central and eastern Washington.

A stone plaza with tables and umbrellas folded up on a winter day. The building next to the plaza has a sign that reads Port Townsend Vineyards wine Plaza.
Port Townsend Vineyards has a lovely and large patio on the waterfront as well as a tasting room just outside of town.

Beer lovers will find plenty to love here, I am partial to Propolis Brewing, with it’s gigantic outdoor seating area and fun beers in beautiful glasses. Port Townsend Brewing is nearby so you can do a mini taproom crawl!

Two goblets filled with light beer on a concrete table. Each goblet has a chrysalis painted on it in black.
Propolis Brewing

Port Townsend farmer’s market

Surrounded by a bounty of local food, this is one of the best farmers markets in Washington State! Find the market on Saturdays from April through December downtown (the part of downtown above the bluff/waterfront). In addition to farms and food, you’ll find local artisan products to enjoy and purchase to take home.

Jefferson Museum of Art and History

Located in a historic jail, learn more about the settlement of Port Townsend and the role it plays in the maritime world of the Pacific Northwest. It’s located along the historic waterfront downtown area.

Wander around the Harbor

A marina at sunset with lots of sailboats and trees and buildings in the background
The Boat Haven Marina is one of Port Townend’s busy harbors

Port Townsend has two harbors and they are bustling with a variety of working and pleasure boats. If you enjoy walking around boat harbors in port towns like I do, you’ll love wandering around the harbors here.

Whalewatching

Whalewatching is available in Port Townsend on the Puget Sound Express, which offers half day whale watching trips from Port Townsend as well as Edmonds.

In addition to Orca whales, you can expect to see other marine mammals such as seals and sea lions. If you’re visiting in March and April, this is a particularly good time for whale watching as you may get to see the Gray Whales as they migrate past the Pacific Northwest on their long journey from Baja in Mexico to Northwestern Alaska for the summer.

Best things to do near Port Townsend

Port Townsend is located on the Quimper Peninsula, which is part of the greater Olympic Peninsula! In addition to the many wonderful things to do in Port Townsend, it makes a great base camp for further explorations nearby including:

Artisan farm and food on the Quimper Peninsula

The Quimper Peninsula, on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula is home to many farms as well as a winery and cidery. It’s part of the Olympic Culinary Loop, which is a wonderful way to see the north Olympic Peninsula in my opinion!

Make sure to go to the Finn River Farm and Cidery, one of my favorite places. They have amazing cider that is made from their orchard as well as other items grown on the farm.

Fort Flagler

Fort Flagler, along with Fort Worden and Fort Casey across the water on Whidbey Island, formed a network of protection for the towns of Puget Sound starting in the late 1800s. Fort Flagler is not as busy as the other two, and has beach and hiking trails to enjoy with amazing views of the surrounding water, mountains and islands.

Fort Townsend State Historical Park

A view from a bluff down to the water and islands in the distance. It's a partly cloudy day and there are bushes and trees in the foreground framing the water view
Views from the bluff at Fort Townsend State Park

Fort Townsend State Historical Park is located a few miles south of Port Townsend (to the right as you approach town, it’s well signed). Like Fort Worden, Fort Townsend is also the site of a former military site, though the buildings here are long gone.

Stretch your legs on the former parade ground, or explore the beach. There are more than 6 miles of hiking trails in the park, going through forests, around the locations of military buildings and along the bluff above the beach.

Near the parking area, you’ll see the oldest Douglas Fir trees known to be intentional planted in Washington, by soldiers in the 1850s.

Camping is available in the park, though it fills quickly especially on summer weekends.

San Juan Island

Puget Sound Express offers a passenger only ferry across to Friday Harbor, and they will even bring your kayak or bike along for a small additional fee. This is a great way to get out on the water and spend a little time in the islands.

Whidbey Island

There are plenty of wonderful things to do just a 30 minute ferry ride away on Whidbey Island. Whidbey is a particularly wonderful island for hiking, as well as wine tasting, visiting farms, taking in views and visiting super popular Deception Pass State Park.

Olympic Discovery Trail

The Olympic Discovery Trail is a treasure on the Olympic Penninsula and a must do for any cyclists visiting Port Townsend!

The trail is 135 miles long and stretches from Port Townsend to La Push on the Olympic Coast. Some of the trail is along the road but more than half is on dedicated non motorized trail.

Most people choose to bike on this trail, but you can walk along it as well. If you’re not up for the entire 135 mile route there are plenty of places to start and stop in and near Port Townsend and across the northern Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic National Park

Port Townsend is not often thought of as a base camp for visiting Olympic National Park but it should be! It’s a bit further way from the park that Port Angeles or Forks, but it also has historic charm and great food, so I recommend this as a stop while visiting the park or using it as your base camp for exploring Hurricane Ridge or Deer Park.

Best food in Port Townsend

A person's hand holding an ice cream cone on a city street
DO NOT MISS ELEVATED ICE CREAM!

There is some fantastic food in Port Townsend!

If you love a snug breakfast in a port town like I do, do not miss the Blue Moose Cafe. It’s tiny and absolutely delicious.

You won’t go wrong with seafood anywhere in Port Townsend. Looking for old school amazing fish and chips? Try the super hole in the wall Sea J’s Cafe. Try Finistère for just a bit fancy (in a really good way) comfort food. The Stillwater Cafe and Fountain Cafe are good options for classic and delicious Pacific Northwest fare, including, but not limited to, seafood.

Like all towns in Western Washington, expect tasty thai food and try Banana Leaf Thai! You can find pizza at Waterfront Pizza or Hillbottom Pies (which also has actual, delicious dessert pies too). Head to Key City Tacos to go for a quick taco on the run. If you’re a fan of poutine, make sure to stop at the Old Whiskey Mill! They have several house varieties of poutine.

Finally, make sure not to miss Elevated for really amazing made-in-house ice cream and candy.

Electric Vehicle Charging in Port Townsend

There is not fast charging in Port Townsend, though there are plenty of Level 2 chargers. The closest fast charging is in Port Angeles (48 miles away), Silverdale (43 miles away), Edmonds or Seattle.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!