I am recently back from a week long camping trip to Washington State. One of my favourite places that we went to along the way was the very Victorian Port Townsend.
Port Townsend is at the north eastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula. From Victoria, the easiest way to get there is taking the Coho ferry to Port Angeles and then driving for about an hour to the east. Port Townsend is actually quite close direct by water from Victoria, only about 60km away, which is much closer than Tsawwassen is.
Going to Port Townsend is almost like visiting the old town part of Victoria if pretty much no other part of our city existed. The town is split between a downtown along the water and an uptown part which is literally up a hill and looking over top of the downtown. The port was first mapped by settlers in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver, who named the port after his friend, the Marquis of Townshend. At some point the 'h' was taken out of the name. The town itself, was founded in 1851. Soon after there was a push by the new settlers to draw the terminus of one of the continental railways to Port Townsend. At the same time ships from around the world began to be drawn to the port to pick up wood and other supplies. Over the next few decades a frenzy of building took place as those that lived there believed that the town would become the 'New York of the West'. As the century drew to a close, a depression crossed the continent and the railway terminus was solidified in Seattle. Port Townsend was left with an amazing collection of Victorian buildings and for our benefit most have been well preserved.
We stayed a few minutes outside of town at Fort Townsend State Park, a nice forested campground about five kilometres to the south. Nearer to the town and much more popular is Fort Worden State Park. Fort Worden was the setting for the Richard Gere movie, An Officer and a Gentleman. If you have time, Fort Worden has a lot to explore with gun placements similar to Fort Rodd Hill but also a fully restored military base, a lighthouse, beautiful beaches, stores and a pub. The camping sites are not quite as nice and quiet as Fort Townsend, but it is a beautiful spot with lots to do.
Wherever you stay, once you are in town you will need to get out of your car and explore. The downtown part of town is where the bulk of the commercial area is and it is really beautiful. You feel a little bit like you are on a movie set, that is how well the buildings have been kept up and how out of place they feel. There are quite a few restaurants, bars and cafes, but the really interesting places seemed to be the antique stores. There is also a complete and functioning movie theatre. I peeked in the windows of the Rose Theatre (it wasn't open) and the concession stand alone made me want to go in and see a show.
At the north end of Taylor Street is a staircase to Uptown Port Townsend. Once at the top, you can walk about four blocks and get to the other little commercial district. If you do get to this part of town, I recommend, Lanza's Ristorante. It had really good family Italian food that I was lucky enough to have for my birthday.
If you are looking for a place that is not that far away but that will give you a feeling of being somewhere, I would highly recommend Port Townsend.