Port Townsend Top 10 Attractions for Cruisers
Winter moorage at Point Hudson Marina gave us six months to explore Port Townsend, Washington and its surroundings. Below you’ll find our favorite places to see and activities to do for Pacific Northwest cruisers.
We are a family of four who are spending the year aboard our new to us, 41 ft sailboat. We’re exploring the Puget Sound as my husband circumnavigates the 300+ named islands and rocks of the area.
View a moon rise, explore the shore during low tide, and star gaze
In the past, we’ve visited Port Townsend by land and sometimes by paddleboard via Seventy48 or Salish 100. Either way, we had never roamed the beaches after the sun had set.
Our time spent in this small, victorian seaport was at Point Hudson Marina onboard our 41ft. ketch. Thanks to the low topography of Whidbey Island we were able to enjoy amazing moon rises just from the deck of our boat.
While on a walk before dinner or coming back after an afternoon of shopping downtown we would see the moon rise over the island from the beach near the marina. At low tides our family ventured down to the shore and enjoyed the surroundings lit up by the moon.
Apart from the moon, we were surprised by how visible the stars were from the marina. The town lights are, for the most part, bright and unguarded. The sky was seemingly unaffected. The kids were able to point out constellations and found planets as the sun set.
Keep your eyes out for wildlife
A family of river otters lives under the Shanghai Chinese Restaurant and eagles are often spotted on poles around downtown.
Upon arriving at the marina the boys and I went for a walk around the neighboring RV park near the beach where a woman stopped us. She explained that the otters had just threatened her small dog. After looking at the boys up and down she pointed out that the children shouldn’t worry, “they will probably be okay.” From then on, if we got too close to the otters one would hiss at us. We often found one in our dinghy making a mess. They were still entertaining to watch.
Another funny instance happened when I was walking downtown by myself. A salty, older man asked if I wanted to see something. Nervously I said sure. He turned around and pointed to the top of one of the historic buildings. On top, perched on a pole was a large eagle, watching the water. It was beautiful. The sun was setting and it made the bird look very regal. After that we saw two to three eagles at a time perched on poles around town.
Explore the variety of vessels at the marinas and boat yards.
Before walking the Larry Scott trail from Boat Haven, take some time to see the sights of the boat yard. There are a number of beautiful boats that are being restored there.
From Point Hudson, we were excited to see a number of interesting ships come in and out of Sea Marine.
Walk around Uptown
My favorite walk was from Point Hudson Marina, up the stairs past the fountain to Aldrich’s Market in Uptown. The views were beautiful and a different victorian home seemed to always stand out to me. At low tide you can reach Uptown by walking the beach to Chetzemoka Park from Point Hudson.
Checkout the views from the Bell Tower, walk by the Starrett House, and enjoy the many businesses on Lawrence Street.
Take the Walking Tour
At the time, the walking tour was given once a month. Our guide was a member of the local theatre, with a victorian costume, and was very knowledgable. We enjoyed asking her about the more haunting rumors we’ve heard. After learning about a fire that brought down their emerging Chinatown we spent an hour or so browsing the Port Townsend Antique Mall where you can see artifacts found from a more recent excavation.
If you’re not here when they are hosting the tour, there is a self-guided tour with maps around town. Signs at important points explain the “hidden history” of the area.
Get things done surrounded by history
Port Townsend is the only incorporated town in Jefferson County. We were pleasantly surprised to find out we could have our passports taken care of just up the road from the marina. The day was an excellent homeschool experience. The boys of course got to see the passport process and view a government office. They also got to see the history of the area featuring a few small exhibits and photos.
The library is a must go for cruisers. They have a large selection of maritime focused books upstairs. You can apply for a library card if you are a resident of Washington state, with a library card from your local branch. The building is beautiful.
The post office is also in a historic building, with a small sign advertising a fallout shelter. The people there were very friendly and helpful. We setup a three month box at the local UPS for box deliveries. I had the best experience picking up my packages there.
About 45 minutes away is a Costco in Sequim for larger provisions. If you don’t have access to a car, rent one in town or have a collapsible cart to bring along your provisions while using Jefferson Transit. You don’t have to go through the trouble of heading to Sequim. A safe walk to Safeway from Boat Haven or Point Hudson Marina is available. There is also a local co-op for unique products and vitamins.
Shop the Shops
Like many of the port towns of the Puget Sound, Port Townsend’s ecclectic mix of shops and eateries will help you lose a few hours.
I loved going through the book stores in downtown. My favorite being Phoenix Rising. It is a new age, self-help centered book and crystal store in town. I had the best time lookin through the variety of obscure topics and authors. I had never seen cookbooks and ufology on the same bookshelf before!
While I did open a box to get packages from our online shopping (hello freshwater pump), we found that the shops in town were able to cover the majority of our needs while there. Between the West Marine, Artful Sailor, and Wooden Boat Chandlery we were able to prepare for the winter. I loved getting the galley in order with What’s Cookin. A few small Christmas decor items were procured at The Green Eyeshade and Conservatory Coastal Home. Wool socks were found at Quimper Mercantile Company. The boys were kept busy with art supplies from Olympic Art and Office. Gifts were purchased at Abracadabra. Too much candy was consumed courtesy of Elevated Ice Cream.
If you’re here for a few days, make an appointment at one of the many spas. Shane loved his sauna sessions at Soak on the Sound (just behind the marina!) and I had the most amazing facial at Face of Grace Skincare.
Explore Fort Worden
In previous visits I have thought that the light hits the beach at Fort Worden differently. After mooring there and visiting at various times of the day I believe this to be true.
Accessing the Fort from the water is relatively easy. Public transportation will get you there, the roads leading there have limited easement for pedestrians. Walk around the barracks and victorian officer’s homes. There are a number of incredible buildings to see and even places to dine in the park.
The Marine Science Center was a fun visit. The volunteers there are so kind and welcomed the many questions we had for them.
There are a few fun waking trails to the top of the cliff with gorgeous views. One trail will take you all the way to North Beach, which has even more amazing views.
Shane had fun reading the various signs that point out what the battery was used for. The kids loved running through the spooky concrete shells that at one point defended our coast from enemy attack. The kids and I visited each of the forts in the Triangle of Fire.
Explore the Water
While the land attractions are worthy of a pitstop, the surrounding water gave us plenty of sailing opportunities. We had a few amazing day sails just playing around and getting to know our boat in Port Townsend Bay.
The sun would be out (it would be freezing) and the wind was just perfect, especially on the couple of instances were it was blowing from the north. Plus, having the background of the Olympics wasn’t too shabby (and the cloud factory in the background, as my husband would joke with the kids).
There are so many events and opportunities to find community in the area! There are dozens of churches and a bustling farmer’s market that operated well into what our town would have had as their offseason.
Christmas had a few fun events for families, and the Halloween decorations on the victorian homes were fun. I drove by a shocking display in one home of a bride at an upstairs window looking over at the water. Creepy!
Tourism being a major contributor to the town, they have a few different resources for finding local events. Enjoy Port Townsend is one of them. I also enjoy following PT Main Street on Instagram.
Port Townsend also features the Northwest Maritime Center and nearby Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. If you enjoy boats there are plenty of events, classes, and socializing opportunities available.
We’ve moved on from our winter moorage in Port Townsend. We hope to be back in June for Seventy48. If we haven’t met yet please introduce yourself – I’m on Instagram at @jenniferdonogh. Happy cruising to you!