Washington’s Victorian Seaport and arts community By Marguerite Cleveland
Take a step back in time with a visit to Port Townsend, Washington, one of only three Victorian Seaports on the National Register of Historic Places. The town’s two historic districts are filled with Victorian-era public buildings, businesses and homes. A stroll through the downtown Waterfront District and the residential area on the bluff will have you enthralled with the architectural details of this vibrant port city.
Beginning in the spring and lasting through the fall, you will find a variety of festivals and events that celebrate the town’s heritage. From a Victorian Heritage Festival to the annual Wooden Boat Festival, there is something for everyone. The flourishing arts community includes local artists, musicians and creators. You can enjoy the arts through festivals, shows and the many art galleries, or take a class at the Port Townsend School of the Arts at Fort Worden. Enjoy walking through downtown, taking in the many pieces of community art you will find tucked in around the town.
Port Townsend sits on the traditional lands of the S’Klallam people who called these lands home for thousands of years. The tribe is now known as the Jamestown Band of Clallam Indians.
A must-do is to visit the Northwest Maritime Center and take a boating or building class. There are such a variety of courses available. Kids will love the boat building class where in the morning they build a model sailboat and then launch it in the afternoon. Adults can make their own standup paddle board among the many options. You can also just enjoy the community space. Grab a coffee from Velocity and stroll out on the dock for views of Port Townsend or watch the kids play on the mini playground.
Walk through downtown beginning at the Jefferson Museum of Art and History to learn more about the area. Make sure to pick up the ĉiĉmәhán trail route map, which is a walking, cycling or driving route through Port Townsend that shares the history of 19th century European settlers and the S’Klallam leader they called Chetzemoka. As you walk through town, keep an eye out for the signature red signs. Also look for other historical signs. Each one has QR codes you can scan with your phone for more information.
Just outside of town is Fort Worden State Historical Park, which is jammed full of activities. There are multiple museums and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. There are miles of trails that meander through forests and past military bunkers. Connect to the arts with an onsite theater or just stroll the beaches. The fort is a much beloved historical treasure.
Northwest Maritime Center - NWMaritime.org
Jefferson Museum of Art and History - JCHSMuseum.org
Fort Worden State Historical Park - FortWorden.org
For a true authentic Victorian experience, book your stay at the Old Consulate Inn, which is a stunning National Historic Landmark. Innkeeper Cindy Madsen calls it an adult retreat. From the minute you walk through the gate into the colorful garden surrounding the inn, you will feel the tranquility it is known for and begin to relax. There are lots of nooks and crannies both indoors and outdoors to curl up with a good book. If you have ever wanted to stay in a Victorian tower that many of these older homes have, then book the “Top of the World” suite. It is a quirky room with lots of angles that has been featured in national magazines. The views through five curved-glass windows in the turret sitting room of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains are spectacular. Soak in a claw-footed tub and in the morning enjoy a three-course gourmet breakfast.
The Old Consulate Inn - OldConsulate.com
Port Townsend has so many great eateries, it is tough to decide where to dine. The Silverwater Café is in an historic building on Taylor Street. The owners David and Allison source their ingredients from local farmers, bakers, craft beverage makers, butchers, mushroom foragers, and those that gather the bounty from the sea. You can taste the love for the local community in their food. The fried fish with its signature dill and lemon batter gained them a loyal following from the days of their fish stand. It remains on the menu to this day. The Grand Marnier Prawns are chilled tempura shrimp drizzled with a Grand Marnier aioli and served over house-made coleslaw. The menu is extensive, and specials are offered each day.
For more suggestions, check out “Enjoy Port Townsend.” You’ll find recommended itineraries for foodies and lovers of wine, beer and cider. The full day Farm to Table itinerary will take you out to visit farms then return to Port Townsend to visit eateries specializing in farm-to-table and scratch-made meals.
Enjoy Port Townsend - EnjoyPT.com/eat-and-drink+
Silverwater Café - SilverwaterCafe.com