Port Townsend, Washington

Best Places to Retire in Washington


Port Townsend (population 8,400) is an historic and picturesque seaport community located on Olympic Peninsula at the northeast tip of Quimper Peninsula. It enjoys panoramic views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. Port Townsend is home to a great many creative and talented artists, long-time residents, boaters and those who have sought out the peaceful yet very stimulating lifestyle here. It is also the county seat of Jefferson County.

Originally named Port Townshend by Captain George Vancouver (for his good friend, the Marquis of Townshend), it was recognized as a safe harbor. When it was settled in the early 1850s, it was envisioned as becoming the largest harbor on the West Coast. In the late 1800s it was a thriving seaport frequented by overseas vessels for shipping goods and timber. Its grand dreams were dashed when the Northern Pacific Railroad chose to connect to Seattle, and not to connect Port Townsend to the city of Tacoma. The boom turned to bust and a depression set in with abandoned buildings and bankrupt investors. There was no real economy in Port Townsend until the 1920s.

Port Townsend has, of course, been rediscovered, and today this Victorian-era seaport is thriving with boating, sailing, fishing, hiking, tourism, and the arts. The area has long been a home to artists, writers, musicians, and artisans and there is a great deal of energy supporting the arts in this community. It offers a wide variety of music and opportunities to be a part of it, as a vocalist or musician. There is live theater, dance, many talented painters, creative writers, poets, potters, quilters, sculptors, glass blowers, jewelers, and craftsmen. And the small number of very talented bow makers (for violins, cellos, violas) that live here make it “the manufacturing center for American bow making.”

There are many bed & breakfast places in the area for short-term visitors, and there are numerous galleries, and shops. Port Townsend is home to a number of festivals, the monthly Gallery Walks, special events, and excellent dining choices. You can chose world-class dining on the waterfront, or on the bluff overlooking Puget Sound, and there are taverns, bars, pubs, delis, and restaurants serving Asian, Mexican, and Italian cuisine.

It is a one-hour auto trip to catch the Kingston-to-Edmonds ferry, which is north of Seattle. The Bainbridge Island ferry, just west of the City, is a 90-minute drive. http://www.cityofpt.us/

Arts & Culture

Port Townsend Arts Commission – http://www.olympus.net/community/ptarts/

Port Townsend Public Library – http://www.cityofpt.us/library/

Port Townsend Community Orchestra is dedicated to providing free quality concerts. http://www.olympus.net/community/ptorchestra/

Port Townsend Ensemble – (360) 385-4040

Port Townsend Summer Band gives free band concerts in the gazebo at the park in Port Townsend during June, July, and August. (360) 344-3658

Professional musicians clad in blue jeans present the Olympic Music Festival inside a beautiful barn on a turn-of-the-century dairy farm. These performances, which are held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from late June through early September, date back more than 20 years. http://www.olympicmusicfestival.org/

Key City Players, performing since 1950, present an annual series plays at the quaint Key City Playhouse. http://www.keycityplayers.org/

Olympic Shakespeare Productions produces Speak the Speech programs, educational programs, Shakespeare in Your Living Room, and Mainstage Productions. http://www.olympus.net/community/olyshakespeare/index.htm

Bare Boards and Passion is a theatre group that presents unconventional and original material. http://www.waypoint.com/users/~bareboards/

Centrum, Washington State’s home for the arts and creative education, is located at historic Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend. It offers a wide range of workshops ranging from Artists Retreats, to Big Band Workshops, Print Workshops, Writer’s Conferences, and Jazz Workshops. Centrum also offers a broad array of concerts, festivals, lectures, and presentations. In addition, its Artist Residency Program is the largest such program in the Pacific Northwest. http://www.centrum.org/about.html

Gallery Walks are held on the first Saturday of every month, showcasing art works in the downtown waterfront district. http://www.ptguide.com/arts/gallerywalks.html

Mandala Center is an educational organization dedicated to community dialogue, social justice and personal transformation. http://www.mandalaforchange.com/

Wild Rose Chorale – http://www.ptguide.com/arts/music.html

RainShadow is a chamber choir devoted to classical choral music. http://www.olympus.net/community/rainshadow/

Victorian Chamber Singers – (360) 385-SING Peninsula Chamber Singers performs “the world’s greatest choral music.” http://www.peninsulasingers.org/PeninsulaSingers/Welcome.html

Community Chorus of Port Townsend & East Jefferson County – (360) 385-2233

Port Townsend Children’s Theater and School for Young Actors – (360) 379-1068

Jefferson County Historical Society – http://www.jchsmuseum.org/


Fort Worden State Park Conference Center is a 443-acre park with over 11,000 feet of saltwater shoreline, wooded hills with trails, and the remains of gun emplacements and parade grounds. The park is perched on a high bluff overlooking Puget Sound. There are many historic buildings on this 19th century military installation. http://www.parks.wa.gov/parkpage.asp?selectedpark=

Anderson Lake State Park is a remote marine park with a 70-acre lake surrounded by wetlands and pine and alder forests. It offers hiking and biking trails, non-motorized boating, and birding. http://www.parks.wa.gov/parkpage.asp?selectedpark=

Fort Flagler is a 784-acre marine camping park with 19,000+ feet of saltwater shoreline. It offers panoramic views of the mountains and the opportunity to explore the remains of this 19th century military installation. http://www.parks.wa.gov/parkpage.asp?selectedpark=

Old Fort Townsend is a 367-acre marine camping park with 3,900+ acres of saltwater shoreline on Townsend Bay. The park itself is heavily wooded and offers nature and history interpretive events. There are 6.5 miles of hiking trails, boating, fishing and crabbing. http://www.parks.wa.gov/parkpage.asp?selectedpark=

Olympic National Park is comprised of over 900,000 acres, which includes glacier-capped mountains, Pacific Coastline and a magnificent stand of old-growth forests. It includes nature trails and campgrounds, although much of it remains inaccessible. You can drive from its high country in the east to the Hoh Rain Forest, where 12 feet of rain a year creates a world of huge trees and profuse greenery. You can also drive to view the Pacific Coast and the wilderness beaches. http://www.nps.gov/olym/

Mount Townsend, located northeast of Quilcene, (about 25 miles from Port Townsend) offers a day hike for the whole family. The well-marked trail gains 2,307 feet of altitude to a final elevation of 6,279 feet. It offers spectacular views of Puget Sound to the east, the Olympic Mountains to the west, and on very clear days, Mount Rainier appears above the clouds. http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Mt_Townsend_0000.asp

There are outstanding recreational opportunities, including hiking, horseback riding, cycling, swimming, fishing, clamming, boating, sailing, whale watching, and more. http://www.ptguide.com/recreation/index.htm


Peninsula College’s extension site at Port Townsend offers courses for an Associate’s Degree. The main campus is located in Port Angeles. http://www.pc.ctc.edu/about/where/extension.asp

University of Washington offers distance learning options on the campus of Peninsula College in Port Townsend. http://www.washington.edu/

Washington State University (WSU Extension of Jefferson County) works in partnership with Peninsula College to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies, Human Services and Education. http://jefferson.wsu.edu/

Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding – http://www.nwboatschool.org/

Olympic Park Institute provides educational adventures in nature, including seminars and Elderhostels. http://www.yni.org/opi/

Senior Programs

Clallam-Jefferson County RSVP program is a part of the Senior Corps, a Retired Senior Volunteer Program. (360) 379-3951 http://www.rsvp-wa.org/

Resource list of Senior Information and Assistance in Jefferson County – http://www.aasa.dshs.wa.gov/resources/Jefferson/Default.htm


Jefferson General Hospital is a 42-bed full-service hospital. http://www.jgh.org/

Airports & Ferry Service

Jefferson County Airport at Port Townsend has a 3,000-foot asphalt runway. It offers taxi service, but no scheduled commercial flights. http://www.fltplan.com/AirportInformation/K0S9.htm

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac Airport) – http://www.portseattle.org/seatac/

Bainbridge Island Ferry (Bainbridge-to-Seattle) – http://bainbridgeisland.org/ferry/index.htm


Average temperatures for January are a high of 44 degrees and low of 35 degrees. The averages for July are 71 degrees and 51 degrees. There are 12 to 16 inches of rainfall per year. http://www.wunderground.com/US/WA/Port_Townsend.html


Peninsula Daily News – http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/

Property Taxes

Jefferson County Tax Assessor – http://www.co.jefferson.wa.us/assessors/Default.asp

State Taxes


Chamber of Commerce


State Aging Agency



Port Hadlock – 9 miles
Chimacum – 10 miles
Port Ludlow – 19.5 miles
Kingston – 35 miles (to reach the Seattle to Edmonds ferry)
Bainbridge Island – 46 miles (to reach the Seattle ferry)
Port Angeles – 46 miles
Tacoma – 79 miles

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