Every other summer, my family gets together for a few days of nonstop togetherness. With my parents, four siblings (and their spouses) and the 17 grandkids all under one roof, the level of chaos is high but the fun is higher. The location changes with every reunion but it’s always a guarantee that we’ll have a good time. This summer, our reunion was in the historic location of Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington.
Fort Worden State Park is a former US army post that also served as a juvenile detention facility before shutting down in 1971. Two years later, it became part of the Washington State park system. With hiking trails, beaches, museums and more, Fort Worden State Park has something for everyone.
What to Do at Fort Worden State Park
Spend the day at the beach
Fort Worden State Park is located on the coast of the Washington Peninsula with sandy beaches bordering Puget Sound. For those looking for a relaxing afternoon at the beach, I recommend the beach on the east end of the park, near the Marine Science Center. The water is freezing, even during the summer, but those not brave enough to swim can be content just getting their feet wet. There is another sandy beach on the northwest side. However, more rocks, seaweed, and driftwood are present making it a less enjoyable place to swim.
Rent kayaks and/or paddleboards
The beach is right off Harbor Defense Way. Across the street is a stand where you can rent kayaks and/or paddle boards. Take a spin around the pier or go out even farther away from the shore. Rental periods are good for two hours.
Explore the old military bunkers
Because of its history as a former military installation, old bunkers are littered throughout the park. Take a hike up to Artillery Hill or explore the bunkers at Battery Kinzie, near the Point Wilson lighthouse. Walk around the top of the cement bunkers and see the enormous size of the gun emplacements (obviously the guns have been removed) or brave the dark of the underground spaces. I definitely recommend bringing a flashlight. Or, if your phone has a light, you can use that. But you’re going to want something because it is very dark and difficult to see in the middle. I may have let my imagination spook me into thinking bad guys were hiding down there waiting to jump out at me.
Take a hike
If hiking is your jam, there are multiple interconnecting trails to choose from. We started our hike on the trail leading up to Artillery Hill. The hike was short and easy but up a pretty steep hill so take that into consideration when planning your route. After exploring the bunkers, we decided to continue on a separate trail leading down the hill in the opposite direction of our house. Overall, we probably hiked for about two hours (including the time we spent at the bunkers) before making it back to our rental house.
Marine Science Center
Located on the pier off of Harbor Defense Way, is the Marine Science Center. This small institution focuses on marine conservation. Various programs are available that teach about the sea life of the area and how to protect it.
Walk down to the Point Wilson Lighthouse
The Point Wilson lighthouse is located on the northeast point of Fort Worden State Park. Because of its status as a fully operational lighthouse managed by the US Coast Guard, the lighthouse is not open to the public for tours. But you can still explore the grounds from outside the fence.
Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum
If you’re interested in military history, look no further than the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum. Here you can learn about Fort Worden through the ages.
Things to Know Before You Go
Entrance to the park is free, however, if you are not staying onsite, you will need to pay to park or purchase a pass to park in the lots. Additionally, many activities at Fort Worden are free of charge. Activities like the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum and the Marine Science Center, among others, charge admission fees so make sure to take that into consideration when planning your budget.
Whether you’re staying for a few days or just for an afternoon, you will have plenty to do to keep you busy at Fort Worden State Park.
How would you spend your day at Fort Worden State Park?
For more posts about our experiences at state parks around the US, visit these posts:
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