Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center
Port Townsend, Washington
Hours: Both camping and conference facilities are open year-round. During the winter season the lower campground is available, but the upper campground is closed from December 1st to February 13th.
Location: Port Townsend, Washington.
Activities: 12 miles of hiking and bicycling trails; a variety of water activities: fishing, diving, personal watercraft, swimming, water skiing, crabbing and boating, 2 boat ramps, 235 feet of dock, 235 feet of moorage; baseball field, basketball court, tennis courts, fire circles, softball field, volleyball fields, and nearby golf courses; visitors are also welcome to fly kites, watch birds and enjoy photography in this picturesque setting.
Contact: Fort Worden State Park, 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA, 98368, (360) 344-4400.
Web site: Two websites – one for the conference center and one for the state park.
Fort Worden is approximately two hours north of Seattle, located at the extreme northeastern end of the Olympic Peninsula, on the north edge of the state and nestled in Port Townsend. The fort itself sits right on the waterway between the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Washington State ferry system links Port Townsend with Whidbey Island, an island in eastern Puget Sound and one that is visible from the beach. Many pictures of Puget Sound have been taken atop the bluffs and from the beaches of Fort Worden as the views are some of the most stunning the region has to offer.
The conference center at Fort Worden is full-service with meetings, retreats and camps taking place year-round. An arts organization called Centrum is based at the park and also organizes workshops that take place throughout the year. Centrum workshops include a famous writer’s workshop, jazz festival, country blues music, youth leadership as well as a variety of other events. The park is also home to Copper River Press, which is a well-known poetry publishing house.
The buildings at Fort Worden have retained their original architecture, except for the dining facility, which is one of the newest buildings in the park. When visiting as a conference member you will find historic 100-year Victorian parlors, former barracks that now function as dorms and old officers quarters that can be rented for a house-full of people. The hook-up campsites also function as a great space for large or small parties. The beach campground has 50 full service hookup sites tucked between the bluffs and the beach.
The military buildings give a sense of Fort Worden’s history. This fort, along with others in the area – Fort Flagler and Fort Casey – beginning in the late 1890s guarded the nautical entrance to the Puget Sound. The forts were designed to prevent a hostile fleet from reaching such targets as the Bremerton Naval Yard and the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. In 1955 the State of Washington purchased it and transformed it into a state park.
When visiting, you’ll still see many big boats on the water, including navy boats, bright orange freight boats as well as bright colored kayaks and canoes that tend to travel closer to shore. The Pt. Wilson lighthouse is popular destination for walkers. At the lighthouse you can see the choppier water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as Mount Baker and Vancouver Island. The lighthouse offers the best view as the sun sets. And while the setting feels as if you’re perched at the edge of the world, downtown Port Townsend is no more than a short bus or car ride from Fort Worden. The heart of Port Townsend exists downtown with an array of funky shops, restaurants, and coffee houses. Port Townsend’s waterfront also has stunning views of Puget Sound.
Other attractions at the park include: the Coast Artillery Museum, Marine Science Center, and Rothschild House. The buildings in the park may best be known as the place where the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, was filmed.