Port Townsend: City of Dreams

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Our overnight trip to Port Townsend was spurred on by a work assignment. I wanted to write a day-trip story for my paper about a small town with lots to offer. While there are many places in Washington that fit this billing, The City of Dreams is the only one so close to Tacoma.

There are lots of gorgeous Victorian homes around town that were built in the late 1800s and are remarkably preserved today.
There are lots of gorgeous Victorian homes around town that were built in the late 1800s and are remarkably preserved today. This is a boutique hotel that was for sale at the time.

We made the trek to Port Townsend on a Wednesday afternoon, which was nice because there was very little traffic. If you head to this part of the Olympic Peninsula from Seattle, you will need to take the Kingston ferry – which may add significant time and cost to your journey.

Upon arriving in Port Townsend, we quickly noticed a vile smell. Were we in Everett or Tacoma of the 1990s? No, that is Port Townsend’s paper mill! Ugh. Thankfully, the mill is on the outer edge of town and the smell dissipated by the time we reached downtown.

When looking for hotels we decided we wanted something on the water why else visit a port town afterall. We decided on the Waterstreet Hotel, which is in the N.D. Hill Building that was built in 1889. The pictures on the website do not do it justice. While the room isn’t like one you will find at your local Holiday Inn, it is filled with massive vaulted ceilings, special decor, and much more.

The historic N.D. Hill building was built in 1889. The Waterstreet Hotel takes up the top two floors and is a delightful place to stay.
The historic N.D. Hill building was built in 1889. The Waterstreet Hotel takes up the top two floors and is a delightful place to stay. There is also shopping in the ground level of the building.

We decided to spend the extra money for a suite (you can get rooms here as cheap as $80 in the offseason) since we had our 20-month old daughter, Catarina, with us. Our room was spectacular. It had a gas fireplace, full kitchen (no microwave, however), a separate room with a loft bed, a full deck complete with a bench swing and stunning views of the Puget Sound – including watching the Washington State ferries docking. This room was worth every penny. Parking is a bit limited, as you must park on the street, but it is free until 11 a.m. when the meter kicks in. The location is great, though, with plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, a beach, shopping and a marina within walking distance.

This is just a small part of the suite we stayed in. Notice the vaulted ceilings and beautiful furniture. You definitely aren't getting the perks of a modern hotel here, but that can be a good thing in my book.
This is just a small part of the suite we stayed in. Notice the vaulted ceilings and beautiful furniture. You definitely aren’t getting the perks of a modern hotel here, but that can be a good thing in my book.

After all the luggage was brought in and Cat was given a fresh diaper we set out on the town to find something to eat. This is where our hangriness got the better of us. We were so starved we ended up ducking into the first restaurant we came across – The Tin Brick. On the one hand, we were fortunate because the pizza was delicious. On the other hand, it was not the best decision since our dear daughter refused to eat anything we put in front of her. She’s not a fan of pizza. So if you have a picky child, maybe opt for a place with more options.

Catarina tries her hand at steering a wooden boat which was set up in an open area near the Port Townsend harbor.
Catarina tries her hand at steering a wooden boat which was set up in an open area near the Port Townsend harbor. You can tell that this is area is a focal point of downtown during the summer months.

Despite that I have to say the food was delicious. So good that Craig had seconds after Cat went to bed. I also want to point out that even though the food wasn’t kid friendly for our kid, there was still lots to love about this place. Especially when the waitress brought us a chalkboard and chalk for our daughter to play with.

After dinner we took a walk around downtown. Most of the businesses in the offseason are only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., so we weren’t able to do much more than window shop. We did walk down to the marina and check out the docks, watching a ferry come into port.

There were lots of colorful sailboats in the Port Townsend harbor.
There were lots of colorful sailboats in the Port Townsend harbor.
A Washington State ferry comes in to dock in Port Townsend with the Olympic Mountains in the background.
A Washington State ferry comes in to dock in Port Townsend with the Olympic Mountains in the background.
The real fun, though, came the next day when we visited Fort Worden.
On our way out we grabbed coffee and smoothies at Better Living Through Coffee on Water Street.

As you wind through the streets of Port Townsend, following the clearly marked signs pointing you in the direction of Fort Worden you eventually enter another world. You drive through a large gate and there before you lies a vast parade field with rows of officer’s houses lying on either side, looking much as they did when they were built in the early 1900s.

After visiting the guard station and buying our Discover Pass, we drove toward the beach and the real reason for our trip – a visit to the batteries that make Fort Worden such a unique state park.

Battery Kinzie was built in 1909 and is one of two beach gun emplacements. It is also the first one you see when you walk up the trail from the parking lot.
Battery Kinzie was built in 1909 and is one of two beach gun emplacements. It is also the first one you see when you walk up the trail from the parking lot.

When Craig was in junior high and high school, he made three or four trips to Fort Worden with a group of friends from his church. It was a fun-filled time of exploring the barracks, batteries, and tunnels dispersed throughout the 433-acre park.

So driving toward the main parking area for one of the beach batteries – Battery Kinzie – was certainly a trip down memory lane. Fort Worden was an active army base from 1902 to 1953, with construction beginning in 1897. The base featured 12 gun emplacements, including Battery Kinzie.

Fort Worden is showing its age in many places, with concrete broken and falling apart. Considering it is more than 100 years old, though, it is in remarkable shape.
Fort Worden is showing its age in many places, with concrete broken and falling apart. Considering it is more than 100 years old, though, it is in remarkable shape.

None of the gun batteries are really kid friendly, well, at least for kids under 6 or so. There are lots of steep stairs, ladders, edges with no railings, and very, very, very dark rooms and passageways. We made sure that one of us constantly held Catarina’s hand or carried her the entire time we were in the old buildings. It would be easy to have an accident at this state park and visitors should keep that under consideration, though the payoff of getting to view the history is worth it in my opinion.

After checking out Battery Kinzie and heading down to the beach to get some photos of the Point Wilson lighthouse in the distance, we headed back to the car to gear up for our hike up the bluff to visit battery row.

The Point Wilson lighthouse is just one of many awesome things to see at Fort Worden State Park.
The Point Wilson lighthouse is just one of many awesome things to see at Fort Worden State Park.

We loaded Catarina into our backpack carrier and began the short hike up the bluff. It is short, but extremely steep. Craig about stroked out halfway up and had to stop and hand Catarina off. The trail is well maintained and there is a bench about halfway up where you can take a break and enjoy views of the lighthouse and the Puget Sound in the distance through the trees.

The trail up Artillery Hill is not for the feint-hearted. It is a steep, though short, climb. It is even harder when you are carrying your child on your back.
The trail up Artillery Hill is not for the feint-hearted. It is a steep, though short, climb. It is even harder when you are carrying your child on your back.

When you reach the top of the bluff there is an area just to your left called Memory’s Vault, where sculptor Richard Turner created an interpretation of the old coastal defense bunkers. There are also poems by Sam Hamill on plaques, as well as benches and place for reflection.

A line of batteries at Fort Worden State Park on Artillery Hill. Nature is slowly taking back what it once owned. Most of these structures were built in the early 1900s.
A line of batteries at Fort Worden State Park on Artillery Hill. Nature is slowly taking back what it once owned. Most of these structures were built in the early 1900s.

We didn’t stop there, instead we were drawn to the stunning Battery Row to our right. A line of gun batteries on the right, with some sort of towers to the left and a jeep track running down the middle. You can just imagine the area bustling with soldiers, climbing ladders, shouting instructions, getting choked out by jeep exhaust, running ammunition and firing the huge guns at imaginary targets out in the ocean.

The batteries on Artillery Hill are tucked into the trees on top of the bluff overlooking the Puget Sound. They must've been an imposing sight when they were built and had giant guns on them.
The batteries on Artillery Hill are tucked into the trees on top of the bluff overlooking the Puget Sound. They must’ve been an imposing sight when they were built and had giant guns on them.

Instead, we enjoyed it with nearly no one else but our imaginations. We climbed up and around on some of the buildings, getting a few good views of the water but the trees and grass have grown up so much that there aren’t a lot of great views. This is a good time to remind yourself that you should’ve brought a couple flashlights, headlamps and battery operated lanterns – because the buildings in this part of the park go deep underground and are great for exploring – unless like us all you have is your cellphone and a terrified 20-month-old. So, we’ll have to do that next time we visit.

There are a lot of old, rusty mechanisms still in the buildings. Trying to guess what they were used for is half the fun of walking around. Maybe pulling up supplies from down below?
There are a lot of old, rusty mechanisms still in the buildings. Trying to guess what they were used for is half the fun of walking around. Maybe pulling up supplies from down below?

There is a lot to see in this part of the park, but we were tired and still had to drive back to Tacoma, so we turned around and walked back down the steep bluff trail. While the trail is a bit difficult – though maybe it wouldn’t be if you didn’t have a child strapped to your back – it needs to be conquered because the old buildings on top of the bluff are easily the best part.

Battery Henry Benson was in a little better shape as someone had recently painted it. I'm not sure why, though movies have been filmed at the Fort, so maybe it was related to something like that.
Battery Henry Benson was in a little better shape as someone had recently painted it. I’m not sure why, though movies have been filmed at the Fort, so maybe it was related to something like that.

At that point we called it a day and enjoyed a leisurely drive back to Tacoma.

 

Where: Port Townsend, Washington
When: March 25-26, 2015.
Distance from Tacoma: 160 miles roundtrip.
Where did we stay: The Waterstreet Hotel ($155.40)
Where did we eat: The Tin Brick ($41.97), Better Living Through Coffee, and we packed lunch and breakfast.

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