As you dip your paddle gently into the sparkling water under the sandy bluffs that line Discovery Bay, you might just catch a glimpse of the red feet of a pigeon guillemot as it takes flight, wings beating furiously against the flat water. The pigeon guillemot, related to the puffin, is just one of the many shorebirds that live in the sandy bluffs and craggy trees along the inland waterways of East Jefferson County. Protected from the pouring rains so common in the Pacific Northwest by the Olympic Mountains, visitors and locals enjoy the mild, relatively dry climate of the North Olympic Peninsula.
Fish on the deep water bays, explore the salt water inlets, launch a sailing trip to the San Juan Islands, take a hiking trip into the Olympic Mountains, play a round of golf, explore sandy beaches and rocky shorelines and take in the sunny skies, sweeping views and abundant bird life.
Olympic National Park takes up most of the interior of the peninsula and offers skiing in winter, hiking trails year round, rock climbing, mountain biking, freshwater lakes for fishing and paddling, and camping spots on subalpine slopes and lush valleys. Don’t miss the profusion of wildflowers that paint the hills from late spring through summer.
For a peek at history, head to one of the 19th Century military forts built to protect the entrance to Puget Sound from an invasion by sea. Fort Worden in Port Townsend and Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island, along with Fort Casey on Whidbey Island in Island County, were called the Ring of Fire. You can take a hike up to the bluffs to see the old bunkers or enjoy the beaches and views. Fort Worden and Fort Flagler both offer guest accommodations in the renovated military barracks and officers' housing.
Whether you want to test your skills against the mountain, take in the countryside or tour the salty shorelines, East Jefferson County is a cyclist's destination. Head out with a map of the biking trails put together by the Port Townsend Bicycle Association and pick up another 26 miles of trails in Port Ludlow. For walking, running and cycling, the Larry Scott Trail, a six-mile section of the Olympic Discovery Trail, offers flat waterfront and gently sloped woodland trails. Pick up the trail in Port Townsend at the Port of Port Townsend. For a day in the mountains, take the trail to Anderson Lake or Gibbs Lake, or hike up to Mount Townsend and take in the view from 7,000 feet.
Fishing, clamming, crabbing and oyster harvesting is prime in the cold salt-water bays and inlets around East Jefferson County. Check openings, permit requirements and fishing opportunities at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
Boating and kayaking are staples for our peninsula. Charter a boat through Admiralty Inlet with the Northwest Maritime Center or paddle our quiet beautiful bays with Pleasant Harbor Paddle or The Resort at Port Ludlow.
Art and Culture
Whether you are an avid theater enthusiast, a connoisseur of the fine arts, a lover of all things literary, or have a passion for live music, East Jefferson County is a rich cultural destination. The first Saturday of the month year-round in Port Townsend is Gallery Walk where people meet and mingle over wine and art at downtown and uptown galleries.
For a night steeped in the art of drama, head to Key City Public Theater in Port Townsend, or the Paradise Theater School in Chimacum. Centrum, a non-profit organization in Fort Worden State Park dedicated to art and culture, offers weeklong workshops that attract visitors from around the world. Immerse yourself in a week of fiddle tunes, an intensive jazz workshop or a study of the blues. For the writer in all of us, Centrum has an intensive weeklong writers' workshop where students learn the art of poetry, non-fiction and fiction from accomplished writers and professors.
Film enthusiasts get a full dose of talent from around the world at the annual Port Townsend Film Festival, held each September at uptown and downtown theaters. Gather a picnic and head to the turn of the century dairy farm for the Olympic Music Festival. From June to September, world-renowned musicians gather for a weekend of classical music held in the rustic dairy barn.
From saltwater bays to wooded forests and fertile farming valleys, East Jefferson County offers scenic respite. Take a self-guided tour of the wineries, farms and cideries by car or by bike and sample homemade cider, artisan cheeses and homegrown fruits and veggies. Each September, the farms around East Jefferson County open their gates for the annual Farms Tour and welcome visitors with music, festivities and demonstrations from cheese making to pickling.
For culinary enthusiasts, the Kitchen Tour held each April is a chance to peek into restored historic and modern kitchens where chefs and food lovers create and play. See history preserved and enjoyed. The Victorian Homes Tour in Port Townsend includes homes that have been preserved over time as museums, working bed and breakfasts, and restored residences. Don’t miss the annual Studio Tour where artists throughout the county open their studio doors to visitors.