Paris of the Pacific Northwest

12 HOURS IN PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON

Port Townsend, established in 1851, is called the "City of Dreams" because it was once slated to be the largest city on the West CoAst.

Port Townsend, established in 1851, is called the "City of Dreams" because it was once slated to be the largest city on the West CoAst.

There are places in the world that are so good, that selfishly, we want to keep them a secret.

Port Townsend, a Victorian-era seaport located on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula is one of mine. The other is a tiny, dark wood bar in downtown Seattle that serves cocktails that Hemingway would approve of. That’s all I’m divulging on the latter, but I’ll be generous with Port Townsend - the cat is out of the bag.

The seafaring town made Sunset Magazine’s list of “The West’s Best Small Towns” in 2016. It’s been called the “Paris of the Pacific Northwest” and the New York Times Frugal Traveler wrote about his visit in November.

Seattlites that have lived in the area pre-Amazon will describe Port Townsend as “what Seattle used to be”, i.e. hippies, artists, eccentrics and boat people.

If you go, and you should, here's how to spend a day.

Coffee

In true Pacific Northwest fashion, the coffee shops are plentiful. Better Living Through Coffee nearly touches the Puget Sound, and with its large windows, it’s easy to feel you’re on a schooner going crabbing –  which we all do in our spare time.

BLTC is one of the first coffee shops I noticed using the pour over method for its drip coffee ($2.95 for a 12oz). The coffee is organic, fair traded and roasted locally. Typically, I go for a chocolate torte with my coffee, but for those with willpower, the salads are good too. 

Other coffee shops to check out: Velocity, Sunrise Coffee Company (also a roaster).

 

Eats

Port Townsend has a variety of locally owned cafes and restaurants to discover. However, I always find myself at Sirens for its view, unfussy pub food, and local beer ($5.00 for a pint). It’s the kind of place where you can post up at the bar and find yourself in conversation with a fisherman just returning from Alaska, a poet, and a Shaman.

Living in college towns for a generous portion of my adult life, I’ve become a devotee of hippy cafes that speak in organic tongues. The Owl Sprit Café fulfills the requirements with kombucha, sprouts on everything, homemade soups, brightly colored walls and a friendly, soft-spoken staff.

 

Books

Five bookstores occupy the downtown corridor of the town with a population of less than 10,000. For bibliophiles looking to get their fix, the old book smell is heady at William James Bookseller (829 Water Street). The bookstore has an impressive collection of vintage and collectibles, histories of the Pacific Northwest, and coffee table art books.

Outside Insatiables Books, one of Five Bookstores Downtown Port Townsend.

Outside Insatiables Books, one of Five Bookstores Downtown Port Townsend.

Beach & Park

Fort Worden State Park, two miles from downtown, originally was a military base designed to protect the Puget Sound (the park is a backdrop in the 1982 movie An Officer & a Gentleman). It now offers visitors sweeping views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, hiking paths and a shoreline that varies from rocky cliffs to beach chair sand.