Fort Worden, in Port Townsend, along with Fort Flagler and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, once guarded the nautical entrance to Puget Sound. Established in the late 1890s, these posts became the first line of defense designed to prevent a hostile fleet from reaching targets like Bremerton and Seattle. As an aside, I remember my dad talking about Fort Worden where he was stationed for awhile during WWII.
But these forts were never challenged and Fort Worden closed down in 1953. Eventually all three became state parks. The dedication for Fort Worden State Park took place in 1973.
Fort Worden, a 434-acre state park has 80 campsites, 60 picnic sites and holds a place on the list of State and National Register of Historic Places. The old barracks now serve as dorms and the hospital offers meeting space.
Besides offering public recreation, conference facilities, performing arts venues, vacation housing and historic and educational interpretive programs, it’s a darn cool place to visit.
The old Guardhouse has become a Gift Shop and Information Center filled with mementos like shirts, caps, coffee mugs, key chains, magnets, tasteful lighthouse gifts and of course, friendly volunteers. All proceeds from the gift shop go to improve the Park.
If you’re coming to the Fort for a conference or taking a class through Centrum, opt for the meals at Fort Worden Commons. Besides being a bargain at $34 for three meals, you’ll have numerous choices and from the sampling I tasted, the food is off the charts. You can thank Bon Appétit and Chef Jay Payne for the quality and freshness of the food.
Visitors can begin at the Guardhouse Gift Shop and navigate a walking trail with interpretive signs through the Fort’s history, which includes bunkers, tunnels and gun emplacements. Kids love to take flashlights inside the bunkers and tunnels and play.
On the beach, you won’t want to miss the Port Townsend Marine Science Center with its large touch tanks and creative geologic history and coastal wildlife displays. You can get up close and personal with a live octopus and an endangered pinto abalone. Hydrophones allow you to hear the sounds Orca Whales emit underwater. The Marine Science Center offers bird migration cruises, summer science camps for kids, nature walks, public programs and lectures. To check for days and times for events, visit www.ptmsc.org.
You can rent the Officer Row homes for your vacation or even as a place to have Thanksgiving dinner if your family is large. Two of the units have been designated pet-friendly. www.fortworden.org
Enjoy your visit.