Destination Guide

Port Townsend: Where to Eat, What to Do, and Where to Stay

The Olympic Peninsula's prettiest town is here for a good time.

By Allison Williams

Historic downtown Port Townsend sits right on the waterfront.

Situated at the very northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend is a strange little burg. Once frequented by shipwrights and sailors, today the Victorian downtown mostly welcomes tourists enjoying its scenic history. So close to Seattle it picks up the same radio stations, the town nevertheless makes for a worthy weekend escape (and the eats aren't bad either).

What to Eat / What to Do / Where to Stay

What to Eat

Waterfront Pizza

Still run by the daughter of its founder 43 years after it opened, Port Townsend's legendary pizzeria cites its 150-year-old Italian sourdough starter for its memorably soft crust. Though the upstairs eat-in restaurant fell victim to the pandemic, the street window remains, dishing slices and to-go pies, like a Greek version layered with feta and artichokes.

Elevated Ice Cream and Candy Shop

The name doesn’t just promise a higher plane of cool treats; the shop was born in a Victorian antique elevator plopped in a downtown courtyard in 1977 before moving into a permanent parlor. All flavors—a minimum of 30 at any given time—are crafted in house with local ingredients when possible, and a patio out back looks out on a, yes, elevated pier, ideal for alfresco ice cream consumption.

Every vacation town needs a classic ice cream parlor like Elevated Ice Cream.

Hudson Point Cafe

No website, no fuss, no problem. Situated next to a marina on the far side of downtown, the diner’s weathered wood siding show its decades of facing down salty air and sea squalls. Breakfast highlights include homemade corned beef hash and a pair of waffle flavors—crispy bacon cheddar or blackberry with lemon curd, all more memorable than the straightforward lunch offerings. Windows open to the boatyard just outside, and the clientele splits neatly between locals and tourists.


The town’s lone fine-dining destination is impressive enough to have made our list of the best restaurants in the state. Seafood starters make way for homemade pastas and sauces, also sold at the provisions shop next door. Outdoor dining in the street-side patio on wrought-iron tables manages to maintain the feeling of a garden in summer, even late into the colder months.

Finistère co-owner Scott Ross founded the restaurant with chef Deborah Taylor.

Fountain Cafe

In a town devoted to all things vintage and antique, the bistro just off downtown’s main drag can definitively say it has more years under its belt than seats in the dining room. Meals have a familiarity that fits the cozy, well-worn space—stroganoff, piccata, a molten chocolate cake—but the wine list nicely straddles Northwest standouts with bottles from Europe and South America. Don’t miss the public art piece it’s named for, a fountain featuring the Greek sea nymph Galatea, located just a half-block up the street.


“A pub of distinction,” the sign says, but also a little hard to find, given its second-story location in a stone building on Water Street. Follow the sound of joviality upstairs (and take note of tiny sister bar The In Between, a much fancier cocktail outpost) to a multiroom hangout space with a sizable patio. Expect a little bit of everything, from a pool table and singers at an open mic to crowded bookshelves and eclectic art, nothing quite matching anything else. Food is hearty and prepares drinkers for a long night of pints and strong pours.


On the more industrial end of downtown, the relatively new craft beer shop brings the twenty-first century and its beer obsession to an otherwise retro town. Most seating space is outdoors, in big picnic tables and Adirondack chairs facing the waterfront. The dozen beers on tap largely include breweries familiar to most Seattleites, but the bottle list is long enough for any picky drinker. Salty snacks do little more than prep the palate for more booze. 

What to Do

Fort Worden Historical State Park

Military bunkers, campgrounds, a marine science museum, a bar—Port Townsend’s decommissioned fort is now basically the Disneyland of the state park system, its historic buildings full of dated exhibits and vibrant arts organizations. There's even an old balloon hangar, now an auditorium. Long stretches of beach form two sides of the 500 acres, with wooded trails on the other two, and the concrete batteries that once held pre-World War soldiers have become year-round haunted house fodder.

Some of the old houses are available as vacation rentals, but every accommodation, even the RV spots, fills fast in summer. Fort Flagler, a 20-minute drive away on Marrowstone Island, boasts a similar feel with a fraction of the crowds. Pro tip: Both forts have broad, grassy parade grounds ideal for kite flying.

Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden Historical State Park.

Coupeville Ferry

As part of the Washington State Ferry system, the boat that bounces between Port Townsend and Coupeville on Whidbey Island looks familiar to any Seattle resident. But as one of the smaller vessels in the fleet, it takes reservations for the crossing. Fort Casey, a sister to Forts Worden and Flagler, sits on the far side, and Whidbey’s art studios and famed Penn Cove mussels make for a worthy side trip from the Victorian Port Townsend.

Whidbey Island sits across the water from Port Townsend, connected by a Washington State Ferry.


As a town full of retirees, artists, and tourists, Port Townsend naturally breaks out into special events and cheerful fairs around the calendar. The Wooden Boat Festival in early September can claim to be the town's premier shindig, celebrating the region’s signature craft with maritime workshops and boat tours. Several festivals have an artsy, offbeat theme, like fall’s Great Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Sculpture Race comprised of funky homemade vehicles, or new music and arts event Thing at Fort Worden. Strange Brewfest livens January with beer pours and live music and, almost conventionally, the town hosts a film festival in fall.


Downtown Port Townsend bears little resemblance to a modern city, instead collecting gift emporiums and art galleries in a kind of dreamy urban center found in Hallmark Christmas movies. The Green Eyeshade specializes in cookware and bath products, and Earthenworks Gallery has curated Northwest-y art pieces since the 1980s. Imprint Bookstore made our list of the best bookish destinations in the state, while World’s End has a slightly more niche specialty: pirates and other nautical folk.

World's End and other shops in donwtown Port Townsend.

Finnriver Farm and Cidery

Located just outside Port Townsend in the hamlet of Chimacum, this hard cider maker is more of a family activity than a boozy drinking spot. The series of farm-style buildings hold a tasting room (with non-alcoholic options, too) and live music often wafts through the rural acres, sometimes even accompanied by line or swing dancing. Kids are always welcome, as are picnics on days the kitchen is closed and no outside food vendors are on the premises.

Glass Beach

Just west of Fort Worden and its crowded stretches of sand, the county-owned North Beach Park maintains a chiller vibe. More welcoming to rowdy dogs, the beach sits between tall bluffs and the water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The western end, a few miles from the county park access point, is known for its sea glass—pieces of discarded glass that have been worn smooth by the waves. Watch for people whose eyes are trained on their feet, looking for the white and green treasures.

Where to Stay

Swan Hotel

Though very much a building, not a ship, the Swan might as well be a seagoing vessel for all its sturdy woodwork and marina-side location—in fact it's partnered with the educational Northwest Maritime Center across the street. Compact rooms and even tinier cottages crowd the inn's small footprint, but the location can't be beat, walkable to almost everything in town. Some furnishings are dated, but mostly in the charming, vintage way.

Manresa Castle Hotel

From its lofty perch on a hill above Port Townsend, Manresa brings a touch of the French countryside to the landscape, an oddity erected by the town's first mayor. A turret stands near the front door, pointy top and all, and the lobby features flowery antiques. The hotel rooms themselves may feel like too much of a throwback for modern travelers (think wingback chairs and wrought-iron beds) but it decidedly delivers a unique overnight, at least here in the New World.

A castle, in this neck of the woods? Manresa stands tall on a hill in Port Townsend.

Tides Inn and Suites

Anyone who saw the 1982 Richard Gere classic An Officer and a Gentleman may remember the Tides, a pivotal set piece in the Port Townsend–filmed romantic drama, as a dumpy motel. But in the many decades since, the hotel has been updated to a modern building with a Cape Cod vibe and water views. The modern decor is about as slick at it gets in town.

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