In the late 1800s, Port Townsend was slated to become the biggest harbor in America. Dreams were born, stately Victorians built. Alas, the railroad never came, and neither did prosperity. Lucky for us, the ghosts of the 1890s stayed—haunting this quixotic Olympic Peninsula town.
Play time traveler as you wander the 19th-century brick-clad downtown and check into your (probably) haunted hotel. Choose The Palace (from $89), a renovated 1889 mill building once home to a brothel (each tidy room is named for one of the long-ago working girls), and keep an eye out for the ghostly Lady in Blue. Or snuggle in at the lost-in-timey Old Consulate Inn (from $140), a 1907 Victorian with eight lavishly decorated rooms. (Yes, you can sleep in the turret.)
Your first stop: the Jefferson Museum of Art and History for a photo op in the old jail. Peruse rare tomes at William James Bookseller, then mosey to the far side of the marina for tasty, no-frills brunch at the Hudson Point Café. (The Boat Yard Hash is awesome.) Walk it off at Fort Worden State Park, a seven-minute drive north that yields panoramic views, blushing madrones, and the Point Wilson Lighthouse. Afterward, fuel up on gorgonzola-heaped burgers and peek at otters frolicking in the bay at waterfront pub Sirens, then hoof it uphill—wary of roving gangs of deer—past the Fire Bell Tower to survey rows of strange old Victorians.
Seeking wilder vistas? A pretty hour’s drive west on Highway 101 lands you at Dungeness Spit, a skeleton-skinny finger of beach that’s a draw for birders, seals, and lighthouse enthusiasts. Just inland sits the majestic Olympic National Park, nearly a million lush acres of hiking paths, waterfalls, and glacial mountain peaks. An hour inland from the spit, Hurricane Ridge yields stupid-amazing views of the park, the San Juans, and Port Angeles on a clear day.
Budget your time wisely to allow a return trip stop at Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, an hour south of Port Townsend along Highway 101. Slurp the region’s beloved bivalves an agate’s throw from their Hood Canal beds, and listen for the ghostly whistle of that late-arriving train....
Travel Time: 4-hour drive from Portland