Port Townsend is a seaport town punctuated with beautiful Victorian Era mansions and amazing views of the Puget Sound. It sits in the Northeastern tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula's amazing coastline. I often pass by the town on my way to Olympic National Park with only a gleaming thought to explore it but never got around to (until now). On what was to be an overcast, rainy day, my wife and I (accompanied by our pup Lucky), decided it was a good day to check it out.
We're currently headquartered in Bellevue, Washington and the drive to the remote town is about 2 hours. You can reach it either way by taking the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry or driving south through Tacoma and then taking Highway 16 and three north. No matter which route you choose to take, the course is similar in the time spent getting there. However, you may prefer the little scenic ferry ride through the Puget Sound; which I recommend if you haven't done so already.
Victorian Seaport and Arts Community
Right before the entrance on the outskirts of town, we were greeted by a sign that says Port Townsend is a Victorian Seaport and Arts Community. Following the route on East Sims Way road, eventually turned to Water Street as it meandered through the historic downtown.
Directly on the left stands a cliff with old Victorian Era architecture built on top. We can see the historic Bell Tower as we passed through blocks of colorful mom and pops cafes; eventually making left on Jefferson Street towards our final parking spot near the Bell Tower.
The Bell Tower offers some decent vistas of the town. We were there in winter, and the leaves that would have obstructed the views were not present. We then took the Haller Fountain Stairs nearby towards the city below. Here will be your first impressions of the impressive artistic feel to the town.
At first glimpse, one can see why this small Seaport town of 10,000 people can claim to be an Arts Community. There are over 300 Victorian-style homes with window-shops offering a variety of different colorful crafts with vintage cafes and restaurants on every corner.From what we can see, Port Townsend is a dog-friendly town. Visitors were strolling with their dogs on the main street, port side, and some underground in the under town shops.
A Short History of Port Townsend
The downtown area is not huge by any measure. Back in the mid-1800s, the town was called the City of Dreams because planners speculated that Port Townsend would become the biggest harbor of the United States' west coast. Many of the ornate Victorian buildings were built with the hopes that town would become a significant international booming shipping port and a big city. The planners developed the town as big as they can until the railroad came around and all rush came to Seattle instead but not without leaving behind imposing Victorian and Romanesque Revival buildings and architecture.
Climate and Weather
Just about everyone knows that Seattle is one of the wettest cities in the nation, and although, Port Townsend is just literally across the pond, it receives only half as much rainfall. This is due to its unique geography; it lies in the rainshadow of the Olympic. This means warm, dry summers and cold, damp winters. If you're a bit muddled with the weather in Seattle, do the drive or hop on a ferry across to the other side of the pond!