A former military bunker is one of many places to explore at Fort Worden.
Cidery tour: Fort Worden's past, present equally alluring
Road Journals Blog—Pointing my kayak away from the sand crescent, I stroked deeply, poling through the dappled bay and aiming toward the distant snow cone of glaciated Mount Baker on the northeastern horizon.
I imagined I was on a grand adventure, heading for distant shores. In reality, I was still in the calm bay fronting the Olympic Peninsula’s Fort Worden State Park.
The sensation of being off the beaten path is a natural one at this historic fort, situated in one of the most sublimely scenic locales in the state, only two miles northwest of the charming Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, and not far from Finnriver Farm & Cidery (which I visited as part of a story I wrote about cideries for VIA).
Thirty feet to starboard, a shiny gray head emerged from the wavelets, and soulful eyes sized me up for a long moment. Determining that I posed no danger, the harbor seal blithely went on its way in search of a school of herring. I did a long sweep to my right, twisting my hips left, as I turned to follow the shoreline north toward Point Wilson lighthouse.
With two miles of shoreline along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, high bluffs holding a 19th century military fort with a tidy row of officers’ houses, a broad parade ground, and a tangle of trails leading to some of the most gorgeous waterscape views in the state, Fort Worden is a favorite recreational getaway.
A sense of history as thick as dust in an attic imbues every experience here. The fort was considered to be a first line of defense for the country in the late 1890s, guarding Seattle and nearby naval facilities from attack by a hostile fleet. Today you can stay in a spacious officer’s house (costs range from $215 per night for a 3-bedroom apartment within one of the houses to $491 for a 6-bedroom duplex), explore the dank crannies of bunkers, and learn about naval strategy in the Coast Artillery Museum.
The centerpiece of the park is the gorgeous sweeping crescent of sandy beach that serves as a summer playground for picnicking families that come for a day visit or a stay at the beachside campground (complete with cantina.
Kids and adults can learn about the nearby sea life at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, situated on a pier jutting into the bay. The center regularly schedules fun activities such as “fish painting,” which yields T-shirts decorated with aquatic themes.
There’s creativity for adults, too, at Centrum, home to a series of events ranging from the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes to Jazz Port Townsend, from a poetry symposium to a children’s choral extravaganza.
The best way to visit the park is to stay for a while; accommodations range from the Olympic Hostel—where hot pancakes are served every morning to a broad mix of international travelers—to the aforementioned officers’ row houses.
However you choose to experience Fort Worden, you’re bound to leave feeling refreshed and energized from this scenic seaside getaway.
Q: Staying in officers’ quarters is an unusual and wonderful way to see a particular location up close. Do you have suggestions for other unusual, non-hotel-type lodging?
Leslie Forsberg wrote about cideries for the March/April 2011 Oregon editionof VIA.
Photography by elisfanclub/Flickr (bunker); courtesy of Port Townsend Visitors Bureau (lighthouse, concert)
This blog post was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.