Sure, Sucia is nice, so is Friday Harbor, but occasionally, a bird needs to spread its wings and fly, boaters need to hoist their sails and … you get the picture. If you haven’t docked at Port Townsend, you’re in for a treat! Below I mention a few features of this eastern peninsula port that just might get you to untie those lines and head over.
Port Townsend is also famous for its many historic buildings and streets, rich culture of the people, thriving arts community, and a healthy maritime industry. One curiosity; while Port Townsend is the county seat of Jefferson County, it is also the only incorporated city in that county!
The town was initially referred to as Port Townshend by George Vancouver for the Marquis of Townshend. That was in 1792 When Vancouver was plying the northwest seas, naming mountains (Mt Baker) and cities left and right. The town rose to become one of the most famous seaports in the 19th century. Its population increased, leading to the establishment of permanent homes and building such as the town’s unique police headquarters.
You’ll notice that the downtown area is rich with Victorian late-nineteenth century buildings. That’s in part due to the fact the boom of the late 1890’s was quickly followed by a bust and it took the town nearly a hundred years to recover. Nothing was torn down, nothing was built over. That’s lucky for us because most of those building are now on the national historic register, making a voyage to Port Townsend worthwhile for that aspect alone.
By 1890 it was a large port and would receive regular visits by ships from other parts of the world. However, the economic depression in the early century saw a massive population decrease of Port Townsend. It wasn’t until 1970 that it began to regain some of its lost glory.
Port Townsend is clearly one of the ‘coolest’ small towns in the United States.
Port Townsend has been hosting the Wooden Boat Festival since 1977 (it’s coming up in September so get some tickets). It features over three-hundred wooden boats, wooden boat experts, and enthusiasts. The idea is to preserve the skill and craftsmanship that comes with building fine boats.
Then there’s the Kinetic Sculpture Race, the Centrum’s Fiddle Tunes Festival, the Port Townsend Writer Conference, the International Film Festival, the Port Townsend Jazz Festival and a whole bunch more! You can get details on most of these activities from Centrum.org
There are dozens of unique restaurants and pubs sprinkled through the downtown area. On my last visit to Port Townsend (accidentally in the midst of the annual Steam Punk convention), I enjoyed some terrific, fresh fish & chips at the Silverwater Cafe; large portions with just a hint of dill in the batter. There’s plenty of culinary concoctions to explore!
If you decide to brave the crossing from Semiahmoo to Port Townsend, you’ll be pleased to know that the Port hosts two marinas, Boat Haven, which offers transient moorage on a first come – first served basis, and Point Hudson Marina and RV Park. For hours of operation and other details, you can visit the port’s website here. Of course, you can always take the ferry. Bon voyage! — Gary Bryant