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The Short Version: Eyeing larger cities across the country is not uncommon for anyone looking to travel domestically. But if you and your partner are hoping for a more relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, somewhere like Port Townsend, Washington, may be the perfect alternative. With its historic charm, abundance of outdoor activities, and friendly atmosphere, let this hidden gem of the PNW be your romantic reprieve.
When most people think of the Pacific Northwest, a few things might come to mind; cloudy, rainy days contrasted with gorgeous landscapes are probably among the first. The PNW is an excellent place for travels involving nature, good food, art culture, and fun activities in a larger city.
Millennials, like myself, are likely familiar with the PNW from niche pop culture references like the “Twilight” series. The backdrop of Forks, Washington, in the books and subsequent films set the moody and dark tone in each scene, and made the melodramatic vampire romance story even more seductive for imaginative teenagers.
Forks isn’t the only town in the region that offers an air of brooding romance, either. There are a number of locations that are suitable for a lover’s vacation or quick getaway. While larger cities like Seattle or Portland typically come to mind when folks are planning their trips out West, places like Port Townsend are must-see destinations for a memorable jaunt with your partner.
Looking for a quiet retreat to enjoy a peaceful weekend together? Are you interested in a balance of culture, history, nature, and great dining options? If so, a trip to Port Townsend could be just the ticket.
Port Townsend has a population of around 10,300 people, and presents the opportunity to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities in addition to its charming environment. If you and your significant other are interested in exploring all that the PNW has to offer — without crowded streets and a fast-paced, bustling vibe — the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce’s administrative coordinator, Victoria Kellogg, had plenty of insight to share about everything that makes Port Townsend a hidden gem.
Having grown up in the Southeastern United States, I can say that I am guilty of assuming that the majority of the PNW is rainy, cold, and overcast essentially year round. As impressive as I thought the lush forests and mountains were in the “Twilight” films — not to mention the vampire-specific ability to hop along the treetops — I must admit the perpetual Florida sunshine I grew up in may have influenced my opinion.
Port Townsend has a lot of attractive qualities that make it a prime destination for any manner of recreational travel, according to Victoria. She shared that the town is the largest of those along the path to the Olympic National Park in Port Angeles. If you and your S.O. happen to be making the trip to the park, you can’t miss out on a pit stop in Port Townsend.
“There’s an abundance of beautiful trail systems and beaches. A lot of people do come for long weekend getaways and to relax on the beach, go for some kind of sailing opportunity, or whale watching out on the water,” she said.
One particular trail she mentioned is the Cicmehan Trail, which spans across the entire town. This attraction includes stoneheads along its entirety with information about the Indigenous settlers who have lived on the land for generations and the history of Port Townsend’s development.
There is also Fort Worden State Park, which Victoria called out as a feature with significant history behind it. She noted that many of the original military structures, like barracks and bunkers, are still there for visitors to explore.
The beaches surrounding the Port tend to be a major draw for visitors, as well. Victoria shared that the climate tends to be milder throughout the year, with the summers reaching warmer but not considerable temperatures, so July and August are her recommendations for the best time to take advantage of the great outdoors.
Everyone can appreciate being “wined and dined” for a romantic date night, especially while on vacation. If you and your boo are heading out to the PNW together, Port Townsend has some awesome options for whatever cuisine you might be craving.
Does a plate of pasta and a delectable pour of Italian wine sound divine? Victoria mentioned that the restaurant Finistère is a popular date night spot in Port Townsend. For a more casual setting, she also named Doc’s Marina Grill as an option that presents a gorgeous view of not only the marina, but also of Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in the Olympic National Park when the weather is clear. Not to mention, Doc’s apparently has fantastic fresh seafood.
After your dinner, you might consider catching a film at The Rose Theatre — an independent cinema that Victoria says has done a great job of preserving the original architecture and features from the early 1900s. Cuddling up with some popcorn and a unique, indie movie would make for a well-rounded date night if you and your partner are film buffs.
For even more of a stimulating evening, Port Townsend shows off its local talent at the Key City Public Theatre, where you can take in a variety of plays, musicals, and other performances while supporting the local performing arts community.
One unique and more intimate choice for ending your romantic outing would be Soak on the Sound, a modern bathhouse featuring salt-water soaking tubs and private saunas. The bathhouse offers guests an incredibly refreshing experience, including body care products and even optional indulgences like adult beverages or chocolate truffles for a post-soak treat.
When you’re planning any kind of vacation, it’s wise to consider the culture of the place you’re traveling to. Are there certain traditions or alternative lifestyles you’ll encounter? Do you prefer a place that has a thriving artistic vibe, or somewhere more industrial and modern?
Within the PNW, Port Townsend is a sort of hidden gem full of not only outdoor offerings, but also an array of artists and creatives. Victoria said that the downtown area has plenty of galleries you and your S.O. can browse if you’re fans of visual art, and even art classes if you’re both ready to get your hands dirty with the locals.
Live music options are available to enjoy while you’re dining at local favorites like Doc’s Marina Grill. In the summer months, many spots feature local musicians playing in a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere — something Victoria mentioned as one of her favorite characteristics of the town.
As for the locals, she explained that Port Townsend is home to a warm and welcoming community of people. Aside from their support of the local art and music culture, she noted that the residents of the Port are also very passionate about preserving their environment and respecting the Indigenous culture on the land, which further points to the charming draw the town has for tourists and new residents alike.
“Overall, Port Townsend is very warm and friendly — People are very welcoming,” she said. No need to run into any sparkly vampires a la “Twilight” around town.