Thursday, November 26, 2009

What to do in Port Townsend

Gabi Campanario, the "Seattle Sketcher" and illustrator for the Seattle Times, and founder of Urban Sketchers, drew and wrote up his day trip to Port Townsend with his family. He even credited me ... and I was a little slow making sure I had a fresh post in case somebody came by to visit. But, better late than never, here's the advice I gave him!

I wish we could show you around, but you will have no trouble finding wonderful places to sketch. Victorian buildings, boats, water, mountains (if it’s clear), and farmers market complete with musicians. Can’t wait to see what you see in my town!

As you come in to town on Highway 20, you might want to visit the boat building yard at Boat Haven (turn right at the traffic light at the bottom of the hill you will descend as you enter town; landmark is a Safeway Store and a MacDonalds on your left). If your kids need to run after being in the car, a waterfront path -- the Larry Scott Trail -- begins at Boat Haven and runs back down the bay toward the paper mill (the mill usually sends up a very visible plume of steam). Drive through the boatbuilding yard straight toward the water; the path begins there and runs to your right along the waterfront and there’s also some beach to explore. You’ll see a giant “heavy haulout” boat lift that looks like it should be a Transformer toy.

If you continue driving on Hwy 20 into town you will pass the dock for the that ferry goes to Whidbey Island. Beyond, Hwy 20 becomes Water Street with several blocks of 3-4 story Victorian buildings on each side; this is the main downtown area, right along the waterfront. Find a place to park, and you can stroll down Water Street windowshopping. I highly recommend William James Booksellers used book store if your kids will let you have time to look around!

On the left side of Water Street, away from the water, at the first of the Victorian buildings you will come to, you’ll see Sport Townsend outdoor gear shop (owned by my friend Mari, a terrific rower!). Also on that corner, if you can take a few minutes, visit Belltower Arts, which has, alas, just started its going-out-of-business sale -- everything is 20% off right now, including Moleskines. Marc, the owner, is a lovely guy and I will miss the store; it started out at another location just a block from my house which was way too tempting!

There are many eating options along Water Street. Next to Belltower Arts and Sport Townsend is the Publick House; the menu has lots of choices and it is in a pleasant high-ceilinged room with old cedar racing shells hanging from the ceiling! Down that side street (Polk Street) is the Spot Café which features soups. Continue further on Water Street, 2 or 3 blocks, and you’ll see Nifty Fiftys on your right, a 1950s style hamburger shop. Windows at the back look toward the water. I haven’t actually eaten there but it looks like fun for kids.  Elevated Ice Cream (link to Google Street View) is further down on the right (water side of Water Street) and has delicious ice cream and a candy store. Just beyond it is a small park with playground for kids on the waterfront, and a dock out into the water. There are several places along Water Street where you can overlook the waves, or even find a tiny beach for playing.

If you continue all the way past the Pope Marine Park to the end of Water Street, you will see some road construction, and just past it is the beautiful brand-new Northwest Maritime Center (two big new buildings just dedicated in September, with a beautiful INDOOR place to store rowing shells!). They give a wonderful view from the upper deck and the plaza on the water side of the building, overlooking Point Hudson Marina just beyond. You can see across the water to Whidbey Island and, on a clear day, the Cascade Mountains from Mount Baker to Mt. Rainier; good luck with weather! Between here and Whidbey is all the Puget Sound shipping traffic: freighters, cruise ships, fishing boats, sailboats, and of course rowers on a calm day. We have even seen Trident submarines, just a bit showing above the waves, with a Coast Guard escort.

In the Marina are all kinds of boats. You can walk around the marina to Hudson Point; there is a casual Chinese restaurant on the point called Shang Hai, a fancy restaurant called “T’s” and, at the very end of the point, Hudson Point Café which features all kinds of breakfast until about 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., so if your kids like scrambled eggs, waffles, etc. it is VERY good (perhaps an oyster scramble for the grownups?!). I had a great breakfast/lunch there with my visiting English mother-in-law the other day. Great view; it is right next to the boats in the marina.

You should certainly find your way “uptown” to the Farmers Market! There are signs to point you there. It is on TYLER STREET at Lawrence Street (I live a block away from it! I’m lucky.) It is on every Saturday until mid-December. There is always live music; there’s food; lots of beautiful fruits and vegetables, crafts, doggie treats, art, interesting people wearing interesting clothes and doing interesting things. It runs from 9:30 to 1:30. You can drive up the hill, or walk up via the steps that lead up from downtown; follow TAYLOR street (it crosses Water Street and has the only traffic light in the middle of the Victorian district), walk away from the water one block (admiring the beautiful Rose Theater!) and you will see a neat little park with steps going uphill behind it. At the top of the steps you will see signs pointing you one block left, one more block away from the water to reach the Farmers Market, which usually has dozens of booths even this time of year. Find the bakery booth in front on Pane D’Amore; EXCELLENT bread and treats. If you haven’t had lunch, you could go in to Aldrich’s Market on the corner of Lawrence and Tyler; the deli at the back has a big variety of fresh sandwiches, soups, sushi, and other good things, which you can take upstairs to the tables on the mezzanine which has a view to the water and could be a good place for casual lunch with kids.

A mile or so from downtown Port Townsend is Fort Worden State Park! Great views, great beach and woods for walks and runs with kids, beautiful lighthouse out on the point. You could also visit the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, started by my husband Tim plus master craftsman John Marckworth and woodworking book author Jim Tolpin.

You are going to have to make it over here more than once! Have a great day!

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