Experience the Best of Maritime Port Townsend

Experience the Best of Maritime Port Townsend

Experience the Best of Maritime Port Townsend Both on and off the Water

Port Townsend has a long legacy of hosting sailors and vessels from all over the world. It continues to be a destination for people seeking saltwater spray and dining on a fresh catch, both on and off the water. It’s not surprising that Port Townsend is also a hub for the recently designated Maritime Washington National Heritage Area. So whether you already love boats and want to experience the best of maritime Port Townsend, or you simply want to get out on the water around the edges of shopping and dining, this maritime city will not disappoint.

Working Waterfront

To experience the authenticity of the working waterfront, visit two of Port Townsend’s marinas, Boat Haven and Point Hudson. Occupying each end of this small city (only 1.5 miles between the two), both marinas are full of restaurants. You’ll also find boats of every size and shape, shipwrights working, and plenty of opportunities to get on the water.

Photo of the boat named the Western Flyer out of Tacoma, WA being lifted by a travel lift.
Port of Port Townsend’s travel lift | Photo courtesy of Jim Pivarnik

Boat Haven

Fueling up is important for any maritime adventure, both for your boat and for you. As you enter Boat Haven, you’re greeted by the giant yellow dog at Sunrise Coffee. This was designed after local artist Max Grover’s artwork, which adorns all their coffee bags. A short walk away is the Blue Moose Café. It’s known for its famous brunch and the best cardamom coffee cake, but it sells out fast! For access to the freshest catch, check out neighboring Key City Fish Co. Try their seasonal fish taco shop. Pick up freshly caught black cod or a whole salmon for dinner – they’ll fillet it for you. Key City also has a great selection of wine and snacks for kids and adults alike. Stock up here if you’re headed out on a charter or sailing lesson with Sail Port Townsend. They dock their Thunderbirds at Boat Haven Marina and start sailing in May and June.

Eating and drinking while surrounded by boats is fun, but you may want to walk through the yard for a closer look. If you decide to explore, note that this is a busy, working yard. Keep kids close and be sure to respect the workspace of the businesses. Never walk into a boat shop or between boats without permission.

Photo of Haven Boatworks crew working on the tug Henrietta Foss
Haven Boatworks crew working on the tug Henrietta Foss | Photo courtesy of Jeremy Johnson

Boat Haven is the definition of working waterfront, with vessels packed in like sardines. Numerous businesses handle various aspects of boat repair, from steambending wood, to scraping the bottom of boats, to fashioning custom interiors. With such a busy place, parking at Boat Haven can be tricky. More parking is available at the Jefferson Transit Park and Ride a short walk away. There you can also catch the red trolley bus into downtown.

Photo of Olivia Nivison working on the fishing vessel named Vansee which is a 100 year old commercial fishing boat.
Olivia Nivison poses for a photo while working on a 100-year-old commercial fishing boat | Photo courtesy of Jeremy Johnson

Point Hudson

If you are staying at the Swan Hotel, Point Hudson is at your doorstep. This former military campus of low-lying white structures built in the 1930s, now houses everything from a quaint B&B (the Commander’s Beach House) to several good restaurants serving fresh, local seafood and farm-to-table fare.

photo of two children posing for a picture in front of Point Hudson Marina while they experience the best of maritime Port Townsend
Point Hudson Marina | Photo courtesy of Shelly Leavens

As you head to Point Hudson, be sure to check out the totem pole at the end of Water Street, depicting the Supernatural Carver at the top. An homage to the tradition of wooden boat building, the S’Klallam People carved canoes from cedar logs that served travelers, traders, fishermen, whalers, and warriors since time immemorial. To honor all the craftspeople of Port Townsend, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe gifted the totem pole to the Northwest Maritime Center. The čičməhán (Cheech-ma-han) Trail kiosk across the street serves as a guide to the story of the S’Klallam people throughout Port Townsend. A large interpretive sign nearby describes Coast Salish canoe culture.

Photo of people celebrating the installation of the new totem pole at the NW Maritime Center while they experience the best of maritime Port Townsend, WA.
Celebration of the installation of the new totem pole in front of the Northwest Maritime Center

Northwest Maritime Center

This corner of the city is the campus of the Northwest Maritime Center (home of Race to Alaska, among other claims to fame). The Maritime Center’s plaza has many places to sit and sip a latte from Velocity Coffee, while you watch boats coming and going, including the Washington State Ferry. You can observe a working boat shop from the doorway. Kids will love the miniature scale pirate ship for climbing to the crow’s nest.

When you are ready to get on the water, you have options. With the Northwest Maritime Center, there are seasonal excursions on the Admiral Jack. You’ll find sailing lessons for all ages and a hands-on ship simulator tour where you can see what it’s like to pilot a ship. For an intimate sailing experience, Left Coast Charters offers catboat sailing starting in May. For larger groups, check out the schedule for the Schooner Martha, a restored 1907 racing yacht offering excursions and learn-to-sail opportunities for people of all abilities. Both boats call Point Hudson Marina home.

Experience the best of maritime Port Townsend by watching the sailboats at sunset off Point Hudson.
Sailboats at sunset off Point Hudson

Other highlights at Point Hudson include the many restaurants and RV camping. There’s a quiet beach with views to the Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden Historical State Park. If you want to stretch your legs after a long sailing excursion, check the tide tables and walk the distance to the lighthouse. It’s approximately three miles round trip, only accessible at low tide.

If you can’t swing a trip to Port Townsend this spring, September is another great time to visit. Get your maritime fix at the three-day Wooden Boat Festival extravaganza, but be ready for crowds as this popular festival draws over 10,000 people a day. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the best of maritime Port Townsend!

Wooden Boat Festival

By Guest Blogger Shelly Leavens, City of Port Townsend

Cover photo courtesy of Jim Pivarnik

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