An Ideal Itinerary for Port Townsend

Washington hub helps make memories by the sea
By: Marty Wentzel
Forest Gems is one of many Port Townsend galleries with works by Northwest artists. // 2010 (c) <a href=""...
Forest Gems is one of many Port Townsend galleries with works by Northwest artists. // 2010 (c)

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T's Restaurant serves regional and Italian cuisine in a cozy setting. // (c) 2010
T's Restaurant serves regional and Italian cuisine in a cozy setting. // (c) 2010

Clients can savor hearty meals and live music at the Upstage. // (c) 2010

Clients can savor hearty meals and live music at the Upstage. // (c) 2010

The Glacier Spirit motor yacht takes clients on wildlife tours to Protection Island. // 2010 (c)

The Glacier Spirit motor yacht takes clients on wildlife tours to Protection Island. // 2010 (c)

Fort Worden State Park draws visitors with its picturesque waterfront setting. // 2010 (c)

Fort Worden State Park draws visitors with its picturesque waterfront setting. // 2010 (c) 

Locals love the coffee at Undertown. // (c) 2010
Locals love the coffee at Undertown. // (c) 2010

Silverwater Cafe specializes in Northwest cuisine. // (c) 2010

Silverwater Cafe specializes in Northwest cuisine. // (c) 2010

The Details

City of Port Townsend
888-365-6978 or 360-385-2722
Just a two-hour drive from Seattle, the picturesque city of Port Townsend, Wash., deserves at least a couple of days to explore and enjoy. Perched on the Olympic Peninsula and boasting jaw-dropping views of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca, it’s hard to beat when it comes to stellar Pacific Northwest scenery. Clients can take advantage of the area’s many outdoor activities that bring them face-to-face with the wonders of nature — on land and water — while also making time to browse the town’s historic buildings and unique galleries, boutiques and museums.

Throughout the year, the city hosts distinctive annual events, from the Rhododendron Festival in May to the whimsical Kinetic Sculpture Race and parade in October. Add top-notch dining and entertainment to the mix and, by the end of their stay, clients will already be planning their next Port Townsend getaway.

Day One

Northwest Maritime Center
Celebrating the people and traditions of Puget Sound, the Northwest Maritime Center is a fitting place to begin a visit to Port Townsend. Located in a handsome new building right next to the water, it provides maritime programs and classes for all ages as well as boatbuilding and woodworking demonstrations. Its well-stocked chandlery and gift shop present an extensive collection of books and artwork, and its large boathouse houses dozens of vessels from kayaks to shells. Check out the Pilothouse, a representation of a modern ship’s bridge with the latest navigation, communication and equipment. The center truly comes to life during the popular annual Wooden Boat Festival, which takes place the weekend after Labor Day.

Lunch at T’s Restaurant
Set in the city’s Port Hudson Marina, this restaurant looks unassuming from the outside. The interior, however, is a cozy and pretty environment in which to enjoy continental cuisine flavored with influences from Italy and the Pacific Northwest. Not to be missed: the local Manila clams and angel hair pasta. The bar menu includes such temptations as a Northwest cheese plate; crispy deep-friend French fries topped with house-made Bolognese sauce and shaved cheese; smoked salmon chowder; and fresh Alaskan cod fish and chips. During the warm months, diners can enjoy their meals outside on the restaurant’s new deck. T’s is open daily except Tuesdays, with lunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., a bar menu from 4 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m.

Boat Tour to Protection Island
The Port Hudson Marina is the starting point for a three-hour boat ride to the 364-acre Protection Island, a remote wildlife refuge where some 100 marine bird species breed and nest. The cruise is a fun and fascinating way to learn about the region’s abundant wildlife while viewing it in its natural habitat. Among the creatures often spotted are rhinoceros auklets, long-tailed ducks, puffins, hawks, eagles, cormorants, grebes and gulls, along with about 1,000 seals that use the island to give birth and rest. Naturalists provide commentary on the natural history of the island and help passengers spot the wildlife. The tour is sponsored by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, an organization devoted to helping people understand and protect the natural environment. Trips take place on the Glacier Spirit, a comfortable 65-foot motor yacht. Check the web site for 2011 cruise dates and rates.

Dinner and Live Music at the Upstage
With two levels of seating surrounding a stage and dance floor, this cozy gathering place provides a casual venue for great live entertainment, from blues, jazz and boogie woogie to salsa, tango and swing. It has hosted such national and international names as Johnny Winter, Maria Muldaur, Commander Cody and John Hammond, but the Upstage also a perfect showcase for local and regional talents as well. Clients looking for dinner before the show should reserve a table ahead of time, since this place fills up quickly. However, no matter where they sit, they’ll get up-close views of the performers. The menu features a range of quality food, including pizzas, pasta, steak, seafood, pot roast and salads. The stage is dark on Tuesday nights.

Day Two

Breakfast at Salal Cafe
Clients can’t go wrong when they start their day at this award-winning homespun restaurant. The menu is vast and portions are huge, whether they order omelets and other egg dishes, crepes, sautees, biscuits and gravy, stir-fries or homemade blueberry oat muffins. Laid-back and family-friendly, Salal Cafe features a front dining room as well as a glass-covered dining solarium with year-round garden views. In the summer, the doors are flung open to allow for extra seating on a deck surrounded by the gardens. Better yet, Salal serves breakfast seven days a week throughout its business hours, which are 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

Fort Worden State Park
A turn-of-the-century military base commissioned in 1902, this impressive 434-acre multi-use park is perched on a high bluff. It features panoramic mountain and ocean views, miles of trails, historic buildings, old military bunkers, open fields, wooded hills, beautiful wetlands and two miles of shoreline. During warmer months, clients can join kayak and bike tours that begin and end at the park. As the home of more than one dozen educational-oriented organizations, Fort Worden also treats visitors to a variety of cultural and historical learning opportunities. Inspired by the beauty of the surroundings, Centrum Foundation — a non-profit center for the arts — has chosen Fort Worden as its headquarters, where it offers live performances throughout the year.

Lunch and Coffee at Undertown
In the middle of the historic part of town, a green pergola covers a stairway, which descends below the sidewalk and leads clients down a short tunnel. The destination is a one-of-a-kind cafe featuring eclectic furnishings, local art works and 100-year-old brick and stone masonry archways. Undertown serves fresh pastries in the morning, delicious subs at lunch and appetizers and small plates in the evening, along with a variety of beer and wines. Many locals head here for its coffee, arguably the best in Port Townsend. The truly hardcore sippers gather for coffee talks each Wednesday at 2 p.m.  On weekend nights it turns into a club with live music and DJ dance parties.

Gallery Explorations
The galleries of Port Townsend are filled with surprises and delights at every turn. Ancestral Spirits Gallery specializes in native art, while Earthenworks was voted one of the Top 100 Retailers of American Craft. Forest Gems Gallery showcases beautiful Northwest woods handcrafted by area artists, while Artisans on Taylor exhibits contemporary works. For wearable art, try Vagabond Arts and Wynwoods Gallery. Other shops that shine a spotlight on regional talents include Pacific Traditions and Gallery 9. On the first Saturday of every month, galleries open their doors for a special Art Walk.

Silverwater Cafe

Well-loved for its Northwest cuisine, Silverwater Cafe dates back to 1989 when it started as a little bistro. Thanks to a growing fan base, it has blossomed into a bonafide restaurant with a casually upscale environment and warm and friendly ambience. Chef Alison Hero, who has been cooking professionally since she was 12 years old, oversees the kitchen, while her husband David serves as the lead baker. Seafood takes center stage here, from hearty Northwest cioppino made with lingcod, snapper, salmon, prawns and clams; to the salmon fillet braised in white wine. Silverwater is equally notable for its pastas, and it makes a darn good burger. Dinner is served nightly starting at 5 p.m.

Movie at Rose Theatre

Right next door to Silverwater Cafe, this classic movie house dates back to 1908, and it once showcased such stars of the silver screen as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Beautifully restored in 1992, it is now one of the most treasured features of Port Townsend’s National Historic District. Specializing in contemporary American and foreign films, it’s also known for its fresh popcorn with real butter, a superb sound system and cozy balcony. Adding a unique and personal touch, each show is introduced by a theater host.
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