Margaret and I recently took a weekend trip out to Port Townsend, WA, to celebrate her birthday. We’ve been wanting to do a weekend getaway for a while now, and her birthday happened to fall on a Friday, so we took advantage of a long weekend.
Port Townsend is located on northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula a little over two hours northwest of Seattle. Most Seattleites need to take a 30-minute ferry ride across Elliott Bay to Bainbridge Island before actually driving up to Port Townsend (which we did). It’s an incredibly relaxing and scenic cruise across the water.
Where the Locals Go
One of our favorite hangouts in Port Townsend is Pourhouse, an awesome little taproom and bottleshop located next to the water in Port Townsend Bay. They have a great outdoor patio that gets very crowded on sunny days. Locals stop in after work for drinks. Union workers from the boat docks come in during their breaks. They even have live music on the weekends.
Aside from the great atmosphere and drinks, we really love seeing all of the dogs running around the patio. Local patrons bring their dogs and let them play off-leash. It’s like a mini dog park, and we couldn’t love it more.
Port Townsend is known for its historic Victorian architecture. One of the most famous buildings in town is Manresa Castle. The castle was built in 1892 by Charles and Kate Eisenbeis and served as their residence until 1902. It was empty until 1925 when it was used by the Jesuits as a training college for nuns and priests. It was then converted into a hotel in 1968 and has remained open since.
They don’t mention it on their website, but Manresa Castle is known to be haunted. There are reports of two ghosts that wander the halls and cause activity in rooms on the third floor. Ghost Adventures shot an episode at the castle and had several encounters in the attic and the breakfast room (we watched that episode).
When we stayed there over the weekend, we only experienced a few instances of unexplained activity. Margaret felt heaviness and resistance when she walked up the stairs to our room. She felt someone sit on the bed when I left the room to get some coffee. We also found several large, old vintage hairpins on the floor near our bags just moments after we had cleared the area. It was a strange experience, but we didn’t feel creeped out at all.
Even with the unexplained activity, our stay at Manresa Castle was very relaxed and pleasant. The room was clean and comfortable. The hotel staff was friendly. The free coffee was really good.
We also had a great eastern view of the bay from our room. Sunrises were particularly gorgeous over the weekend as the morning light flooded into our room.
Since we were already out on the peninsula, we wanted to spend some time on the coast. There are many great sightseeing locations along the Washington coast including Ocean Shores and Ruby Beach. Our choice this time was La Push.
La Push is a small town about two hours west of Port Townsend and is on the Quileute Indian Reservation. The beaches in La Push feature amazing rock formations, some of the largest driftwood I have ever seen, and regular wildlife viewings. We saw several sea lions hunting for food while we wandered on the beach.
La Push used to be a fairly quiet area known only to locals, but since it was featured in the Twilight books and movies, tourism has picked up. For the record, we did not see any werewolves or vampires — that we know of…
During our visit, we ate at three restaurants rated very highly and frequented by the locals. The first was Ichikawa Sushi Bar and Steak House located across from the ferry terminal in the historic waterfront district. We sat at the bar and watched Chef Peter expertly craft our omakase (chef’s choice), which was amazing.
The second restaurant was 123 Thai just one block away from Pourhouse. There was nothing fancy about it — straightforward, cheap, and tasty Thai food in a tiny joint. Locals regularly grab take-out from 123 Thai and take the food over to Pourhouse.
The final spot was Blue Moose Cafe. There is usually a line out the door on the weekends, but the wait is worth it. Fun interior decorations. Very friendly wait staff. All the coffee you can drink while you wait for a table. Tasty food with huge portions. If there was a Blue Moose near us, I know we’d frequent it regularly.
Our final stop before heading out of town was Fort Worden. Originally a military base, Fort Worden has evolved into a state park that offers camping grounds, meeting spaces, accommodations in the old quarters, and tons of shoreline for beach activities and wildlife viewing.
In the short time that we were there, we saw sea lions playing along the shoreline, a pod of orcas swimming past the lighthouse, otters lounging on the boat docks, and a pair of bald eagles hunting for prey near us. We were mostly wanting to walk around the beaches and enjoy the weather, but the wildlife was a pleasant surprise.
As we drove back to Seattle, we took a slight detour to visit Port Gamble, a charming little town a couple of miles from the Hood Canal Bridge. Port Gamble is a National Historic Landmark that features New England style architecture, lots of cute shops, and elm trees along the streets. Walking around Port Gamble feels like you’re stepping back in time to the early 1900s. It’s very peaceful and picturesque.
One of my favorite parts of taking the ferry is sailing back into Seattle. Living in the city, we often forget how beautiful the Seattle skyline is and just how much Seattle has grown even in the past couple of years.
As I walked around the sun deck of the M/V Tacoma, I could see Seattle and the Cascade mountain range in front of me, the Duwamish industrial area and West Seattle to my right, the rest of Elliott Bay and northwest Seattle on my left, and Bainbridge Island and the Olympic mountains behind me. It was breathtaking. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a region surrounded by so much natural beauty.