Port Townsend is arguably one of Washington’s most underrated towns. After all, it is only one of three remaining Victorian seaports in the entire country!
Whether you’re visiting for its history, cuisine, or nature, Port Townsend will pull you into its magic.
That said, there are so many wonderful things to do in Port Townsend. Creatives and outdoor enthusiasts will particularly find Port Townsend endearing, thanks to its active community of artists, musicians, boaters, farmers, kayakers, bibliophiles, brewers, and beyond.
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Not only does Port Townsend make you feel like you’ve been transported one hundred years back in time, but everything from its English-style pubs and high tea to its Victorian-era B&Bs and mansions will have you questioning whether or not you are still Stateside.
In this guide, I’m sharing the top things to do and see in Port Townsend, Washington on a weekend getaway from Seattle or on a road trip around the greater Olympic Peninsula.
Best Things to Do in Port Townsend
1. Catch an Indie Film at the Vintage Rose Theatre
- Location: 235 Taylor St, Port Townsend
- Admission: $11 (Rose Theatre and Rosebud Cinema), $12 (Starlight Room)
You won’t find another art house cinema quite like the Rose Theatre, at least not easily anyway.
Here, movies are personally introduced with a mic, popcorn is slathered with real butter, and the community atmosphere is visceral.
The Rose Theatre has seen many a film and theatre-goer in its lifetime, ever since it opened its doors as a vaudeville in 1907. For the next fifty years, it thrived as the town’s favorite cinema, but all that came to an end in 1958.
It wasn’t until July 11, 1992, that the Rose Theatre opened its doors, once again as an art house. You can read more about the history of the theatre in this interview with its owner and visionary, Rocky Friedman.
Today, the Rose Theatre has three unique screening rooms: the Rose Theatre, the Rosebud Cinema, and the Starlight Room.
The first two screening rooms are what you’d expect from a vintage theatre: ruby-red recliner seats, silk drapes, and round drink holders.
But the Starlight Room offers another cinema experience entirely.
In this room, you can unwind as if in a vintage observatory, with Victorian-era sofas and couches, and even footstools to plop your feet on. Chandeliers emit a dim glow from the high ceiling, personal wooden tables await your hand-poured beverage and gourmet popcorn, and the drapes, drenched in black, hang heavy over the windows.
It’s curated, it’s intimate, it’s old yet new. It’s going to quickly become your favorite thing to do in Port Townsend!
2. Stroll & Shop Down Historic Port Townsend
Port Townsend is one big open-air museum.
It has ornate buildings, quaint boutiques, and decades-old murals disappearing into brick walls. Most of downtown is a National Historic District, with numerous historic buildings and sites.
Some of the notable sites to see are:
- The Rothschild House
- The Rose Theatre
- Galatea Fountain
- Jefferson County Courthouse
- Port Townsend Post Office (Uptown)
- Fire Tower
Keep in mind that Port Townsend has the bayside National Historic District and the Uptown Victorian district, and both are easy to explore on foot.
I would recommend exploring downtown and then finding your way to the beloved Galatea Fountain, and taking the steps for a jaunt around Uptown to marvel (respectfully from a distance) at the beautiful Victorian homes.
The Jefferson Museum of Art and History also offers guided walking tours of both districts if you wish to get a true insider’s brief.
3. Spend a Day on Port Townsend’s Beaches
Being at the tip of the Quimper Peninsula and a gateway to Puget Sound, Port Townsend boasts its share of beaches.
- North Beach (inside Fort Warden State Park, a $10 day pass is required)
- Glass Beach — accessible by foot only
- Chetzemoka Park Beach — located between the town and FTSP
While we weren’t able to glimpse the Cascade Mountains—which can usually be seen from Port Townsend’s sandy shores—due to the smoke from the fires, a stroll along the beach in Fort Warden State Park was, as they say, “just what the doctor ordered.”
Tip: Beachcombers often journey to Port Townsend for its famous “glass beach.” However, over time, the beach has become increasingly stripped from exactly that which it draws its name. Please consider not filling your pockets full of these polished ceramics and sea glass.
4. Explore the Fort Worden Historical State Park
If you are a history buff or an outdoor lover, you’ll enjoy visiting the 432-acre multi-use state park of Fort Worden, located a couple of minutes drive outside of Downtown Port Townsend.
Over a hundred years ago, this military park once was home to thousands of troops in training to defend the Puget Sound. Today, however, it boasts hiking and recreational trails, cultural events, bunkers, and Officer homes converted into homely Bed and Breakfasts.
If you are a day visitor, you can hike the trails, walk the 2 miles of coastal shoreline, photograph the historic lighthouse, catch a play or festival, visit the marine museum, and go tent or RV camping.
🎟 A Discover Pass or single-day use pass is required to visit the beaches. You can easily purchase a day pass ($10) at one of the automated pay stations.
5. Grab a Craft Beer at the Port Townsend Breweries
Port Townsend has two main breweries offering completely different brews and vibes. They are both located in the shipyard area of the Port of Port Townsend (not the marina) — why not visit both?
The Port Townsend Brewing Company will be your classic go-to brewery for IPAs, Stouts, Porters, and Lagers.
It receives an older crowd, but no less active! We had such a fun time listening to a local live band and dancing with newfound friends in their backyard beer garden.
If you’re looking for more of an earthy, offbeat brewery that serves truly unique and inspiring sours, then head across the lot to Propolis Brewing.
This brewery feels magical, even a bit witchy, and serves up delicious “season botanical farmhouse ales.” We loved the plant-filled atmosphere, laid-back vibes, and music on vinyl!
6. Walk or Bike the čičməhán Trail
One of the best things to do in Port Townsend is walking or biking the čičməhán Trail (Cheech-ma-han) which highlights and serves to educate the public about the S’Kallam Tribe that has lived in today’s Port Townsend for centuries.
As described by the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe:
“The intent of the čičməhán Trail is to educate the public on the relationship between the S’Klallam people who had lived for hundreds of years at this place, that they called “qatáy” and the European settlers who arrived in Port Townsend in the mid-19th century, intent on making it a key port of trade in the Northwest. Each sign on the trail tells a small part of the story of historic and modern-day S’Klallam people.”Jamestown S’kallam tribe
You can complete the trail in either 3-mile or 6-mile sections, or do the entire 12-mile loop.
Click here to download the free PDF version of the trail map.
7. Enjoy High Tea at Café Tenby & Cornish Pasty at TommyKnocker’s
Cornish pasty and high tea in Port Townsend?
That’s right! Enjoy an afternoon of English high tea complete with scones and clotted cream at Café Tenby and then head across the street after hours to Tommyknocker’s, a UK-inspired pub with delicious grub and local and imported beer.
Tip: Make sure to reserve your high tea date weeks in advance, as they book out quickly! Also, if you want first dibs on the Cornish Pasty flavors, don’t drag your feet to Tommyknocker’s, as they sell out of their fan-favorite food fast!
8. Take in the Views Around the Harbor
Port Townsend’s Historic District sits on the edge of the water. Start at the Point Hudson Marina & RV Park and take in the views of the boats in the bay as you make your way through town. (Note: There will be construction taking place around the marine from September 15, 2022, to March 1, 2023.)
Make sure to grab a specialty coffee at Velocity inside the Northwest Marine Center as you set out on your walk.
As you head downtown, you’ll pass by the beachfront Pope Marine Park with its wooden piers and the Old Ferry Dock. There’s also the quaint Adams Street Park with flowers and benches. Stop and marvel at the historic Victorian buildings and vintage murals down Water Street.
If you keep walking on this street, you’ll reach the Port Townsend Ferry Terminal, which services ferries to/from Whidbey Island. Stop by the Quimper Mercantile Company located inside the shopping plaza to shop for odds and ends in this “everything and more” store.
9. Step Inside the Jefferson Museum of Art & History
Visiting the Jefferson Museum of Art & History to learn about the history of the area is an unmissable thing to do in Port Townsend. The 19th-century historic building houses several exhibits about Port Townsend’s maritime history, early settlers, and native peoples.
It also houses the original 1892 City Jail, permanent exhibitions, and a museum shop. Stop by and visit Thursdays–Sundays, 11 AM to 4 PM. Admission costs $8/adult.
10. Sip a Craft Cocktail at the Cellar Door Speakeasy
If you’re looking for a fun or romantic thing to do in Port Townsend, look no further than the Cellar Door. Enjoy live music, craft cocktails, and food in this speakeasy which can be easily found underground in the heart of downtown.
The atmosphere inside Cellar Door is rustic, cozy, and intimate with red velvet drapes, leather couches, and industrial-style dim lighting. While they do serve food, the kitchen is only open from 5–10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Plan your visit to coincide with a soirée full of live music!
11. Catch Live Theatre at the Chetzemoka Park
For beach access, views of the Cascade Mountains, or greenspace to walk the dog, head to Chetzemoka Park!
Located between Fort Worden and Port Townsend, this park is perfect for getting outside on a beautiful day.
Best of all, Chetzemoka Park often hosts live theatre by the award-winning Key City Public Theatre. Throughout the summer and fall, you can catch a live theatre show in the park or inside their building. Hamlet, anyone?
12. Visit Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival
Have you ever heard of Port Townsend’s Wooden Boat Festival? We never had heard of it before, despite it being the largest wooden boat festival in North America!
But we were lucky to be in Port Townsend to witness its 45th annual celebration in September 2022—and it didn’t disappoint!
“Welcome to the largest wooden boat festival in North America, the place where kids and adults alike experience the magic of getting on the water, the beauty of wooden boats, and the richness of our maritime culture. Learn from the experts, swap stories with fellow wooden boat aficionados, and bring your family for a weekend they’ll never forget. With so many different ways to adventure out on the water, there’s no better opportunity to experience our Victorian seaport from the deck of a stunning wooden schooner or at the oars of a historic replica longboat. Come on down to Point Hudson and experience it all yourself: the boats, the craft, the community, the celebration.”wooden boat festival
Probably the coolest part of the WBF, for us, was boarding the replica of the Lady Washington, which has graced the Big Screen in films like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
13. Dine at Port Townsend’s Local Hole-in-the-Wall Eateries
While you’ll find upscale restaurants and cafes in the Historic District, there are two hole-in-the-wall eateries you can’t miss out on.
First, for breakfast, head to the Blue Moose Cafe located in the Port of Port Townsend.
BMC is a staple in the breakfast scene in Port Townsend, serving up cozy and classic breakfast diner food. The service is great, the atmosphere is funky (the servers wear pirate-themed costumes), and the food is copious!
Then, for dinner, return back to the Port for an evening of fresh fish & chips at Sea J’s Cafe.
When I asked our server how long they’ve been in town, he replied, “My grandmother has owned this cafe, which was Sea J’s before, for thirty years.”
I overheard another customer telling the grandson how appreciative he is that the service or quality of Sea J’s has never changed. (PS — order the cod!).
14. Hike & Camp at Fort Townsend Historical State Park
Yep, Port Townsend isn’t home to one Washington state park — but two! The Fort Townsend Historical State Park boasts around 400 acres of marine camping park. It was built in 1856 by the U.S. Army to protect the settlers.
There are 6.5 miles of hiking trails, plus ample camping sites and water activities to enjoy. Birding and nature tours are hosted every first Friday of the month. You can learn more about what to do and see at Fort Townsend State Park here.
15. Enjoy Classic Grub at a 1950s-Themed American Diner
As you waltz down Water Street, you may notice a pink and blue restaurant with black and white checkered flooring.
If so, you’ve stumbled upon Port Townsend’s vintage 1950s-era diner, the Soda Fountain & Diner. Of course, we had to stop by to sit at the iconic bar and share a vanilla milkshake!
🍨 For an “elevated” ice cream experience, head next door to Elevated Ice Cream Shoppe for old-fashioned, homemade ice cream, plus candy! 🍭
16. Go Cold Water Diving in the PNW
I wish I had more time in Port Townsend to go cold water diving as I never have before (I’m more of a Caribbean diver, lol), but nonetheless, I was delighted to discover that you could actually go diving in Port Townsend with Octopus Gardens.
As a full-service dive shop, Octopus Gardens offer advanced training, guided dives, gear, certifications, and more! Call or check their website to inquire about pricing for guided dives for up to two people.
17. Shop Local at the Port Townsend Farmers Market
Sustainable, local, and organic are the leading philosophies behind many farmer’s markets across the world, and Port Townsend’s is no different.
Stock up on some of the freshest produce in the area while supporting local farmers and friends!
The PTFM takes place every Saturday from April–Oct and Nov–Dec from 9/10 AM to 2 PM.
19. Complete the “Drink the Dragon” Libation Tour
If you zoom out on the Quimper Peninsula, you’ll see that it takes the shape of a dragon. And you can Drink the Dragon on a self-guided libations tour that highlights artisan producers of the Olympic Peninsula.
You can pick up a physical tour map and passport at any participating location to “get stamped” and track your progress!
Here are the 8 artisan libation producers — can you visit them all? 🍻
- Finnriver Farm & Cidery (Chimacum)
- Alpenfire Cider
- Eaglemount Wine & Cider
- Propolis Brewing
- Port Townsend Brewery
- Port Townsend Vineyards
- Marrowstone Vineyards (Whidbey Island)
- Admiralty Distillers
Pssst. If you visit all eight libation artisans, you’ll be entered to win a seasonal prize…!
More Things to Do in Port Townsend
As you’ve seen above, there’s a lot more to do in and around Port Townsend than you may have originally thought.
If you’re spending a few days exploring PT and the Quimper Peninsula, you might also want to check out:
- 🛁 Soak on the Sound — Day spa and salt-water bathhouse, the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest!
- 📚 Phoenix Rising Bookstore — One of the largest metaphysical bookstores in the PNW, offering crystals, jewelry, witchy books, prayer flags, incense, and physic readings.
- 🐝 Wilderbee Farm — This organic, family-run farm offers mead tastings and u-pick lavender, blueberries, pumpkins, and cut flowers.
- 🐕 Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park — This hidden community park nearby Safeway features walking trails and wetlands, ideal for walking your dog or bird watching.
- 🛥 Whidbey Island — For even more artsy activities, beaches, and things to do, take the ferry from Port Townsend to spend the day exploring Whidbey Island! Another great day trip would be to the Viking town of Poulsbo, on the Kitsap Peninsula just an hour’s drive away.
I hope you enjoy your time visiting Port Townsend! This charming Victorian seaport has quickly become a treasured stop along our Olympic Peninsula road trip.
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