Day Tripper is an occasional series focused on accessible, low-cost out-and-back trips throughout the region.
The best day trips begin with the journey, making Port Townsend on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula an outing worth the nearly two hours of travel time from Seattle.
Stately bed-and-breakfasts in Victorian mansions built by wealthy businessmen in the 1800s beckon overnight travelers, but by rising early on a Saturday to beat the crowds, you’ll get a taste of why this historical seafaring town draws so many repeat visitors.
Once poised to become a major Northwest shipping port before Seattle and Tacoma took its place, Port Townsend has evolved into a destination known for its food, art, music and picturesque waterside setting.
Start the day with a ferry ride across the Puget Sound and a stop at a Parisian-style bakery. Finish with a glass of wine at an outdoor tasting room, or line dancing and wood-fired pizza at a rural cidery.
Here’s the plan:
Ferry and coffee
Catch an early ferry to either Winslow on Bainbridge Island or Kingston (your choice depending on where in the Seattle area you live). Crossing time is 30 minutes.
Coffee is available on the ferries, but I recommend waiting until you get to the other side.
As you exit the ferry terminal in Kingston, look for Aviator Coffee (aviatorcoffeesandteas.com) in a wooden shed called The Hangar. The Bainbridge Island roaster keeps minidoughnuts sizzling in a pan near a walk-up window.
Driving off the ferry in Winslow, take a detour at the second stop light onto Winslow Way East, where you’ll find the pocket-size Coquette Bake Shop (coquettebakeshop.com). Filling a glass case in a walk-up kiosk are Parisian-style pastries and breakfast sandwiches baked upstairs in the Winslow Mall. My current favorite is the Zest for Life, a buttery morning bun spiked with orange zest and cardamom, best eaten at one of the outdoor tables along with a cup of Stumptown coffee.
Port Townsend’s Uptown (hillside) and downtown (waterside) historical districts are compact and walkable. A high bluff separates the two neighborhoods, and although they’re close together, only a set of steps and two streets connect them.
Most visitors head directly downtown to Water Street, where you’ll find most shops, art galleries and cafes, with views of the boat and ferry traffic on Port Townsend Bay. Parking is limited to two hours in most locations, but it’s easy to find all-day spots in Uptown — just one reason to make it your first stop.
Jefferson County is a rich agricultural area. More than 70 vendors, many of them young farmers and craftspeople, show up at the Saturday Farmers Market (jcfmarkets.org/saturday) at Lawrence and Tyler streets. Bring a cooler to take home small-batch cheeses or homemade kimchi. Samples teas infused with mushroom extracts or snack on vegan ice cream while listening to music supplied by local musicians like a slide guitarist and fiddle band formed by a group of home-schooled girls.
Leave the car and check out a few of the vintage shops in Uptown, good sources for costume jewelry and Hawaiian shirts, then continue on foot downtown via the Fountain Steps at Taylor and Jefferson to the Haller Fountain and Washington Street.
Here you’ll find Bergstrom’s Antique & Classic Autos (809 Washington St.) inside a 1917 garage. For sale on the “showroom” floor are is a 1955 blue Volkswagen Beetle and a 1929 bright yellow Ford Model A coupe. For something more affordable, check out dozens of plastic model kits and vintage car and driver magazines.
Wander Water Street
Art and architecture define Water Street, downtown’s main drag. It’s lined with historical buildings housing cafes, restaurants, antique shops and galleries.
Stop for tea at Pippa’s Real Tea (pippasrealtea.com) inside an 1886 home where the Australian owner stocks more than 100 teas and offers light lunches by a cozy fireplace or in a dog-friendly courtyard garden.
For some historical perspective, visit the Jefferson Museum of Art & History (jchsmuseum.org) inside the 1892 former City Hall. The former medical examiner’s room houses a display dedicated to some of the town’s former madams and brothels.
The Northwind Arts Center (northwindarts.org) at 701 Water St. features a monthly rotating exhibit by a local artist in the front gallery, and the juried works of a selection of other artists in the back.
Walk the Chetzemoka Trail
A newly-installed 26-foot Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe totem pole in front of the Northwest Maritime Center (431 Water St.) marks the start of the Chetzemoka Trail, an interpretive route winding through Port Townsend that commemorates the life of Chief Chetzemoka, the tribal leader who befriended early European settlers.
Pick up a brochure, and follow either a 3-, 6- or 12-mile loop, passing through downtown historical sites, the Kah Tai Lagoon, a nature park and birding area; and Fort Worden, (fortworden.org) a former U.S. Army installation on Admiralty Inlet, now a historical state park.
Rural back roads on the way out of town lead to family-owned cideries, wineries and breweries.
Water views are best from the new Port Townsend Vineyards Vintage Wine Bar & Plaza (porttownsendvineyards.com) on Water Street, but just a few miles out of town, the winery itself is worth a stop. Cornhole games and bocce ball courts along with tables and chairs scattered around a rustic tasting room invite lingering.
Popular with cyclists is Discovery Bay Brewing (discoverybaybrewing.com), tucked into a business park a few miles from downtown. Board games and a shady outdoor garden make this a family-friendly taproom, with local beers brewed on-site; kombucha; cider; and live music in the late afternoons. (Bike in on Sundays for $1 off your pint.)
A final detour worth a stop on the way back to Seattle is Chimacum, where you’ll find a well-stocked farm store and the Finnriver Farm & Cidery (124 Center Road, finnriver.com), open year-round for tastings of European-style ciders made from organic cider apples grown on a former dairy farm up the road.
Families flock to the outdoor cider garden for wood-fired pizzas, local Hama Hama oysters and Brittany-style crêpes. The young owners keep on thinking of new ways to keep visitors coming back with yoga classes, lectures on climate change, live music and, depending on the day, even the chance to learn line dancing or the Lindy Hop.
If you go
Port Townsend sits on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula at the entrance to Puget Sound. From the Seattle area, take a ferry from the Seattle waterfront to Winslow on Bainbridge Island or to Kingston from Edmonds. Cross the Hood Canal Bridge, and follow Highway 19 north. Travel time is around two hours. See wsdot.wa.gov/ferries for schedules and fares. For tourist information, see enjoypt.com or stop at the visitor information center (2409 Jefferson St.).
An earlier version of this post misidentified one of the cross streets where Port Townsend’s Saturday farmers market is located. It is Tyler Street, not Taylor Street.