Beachcombing Destination: Port Townsend

By Kirsti Scott

port townsend washington waterfront

Port Townsend’s Glass Beach is on the bucket list of many beachcombers. The town is just a couple of hours north of Seattle, Washington, and it’s a great place to spend a long weekend if you’re headed out for beachcombing. It was a must-stop point on our summer trip to the Pacific Northwest.

town of port townsend washington

We managed to snag one of the last cottages at the Swan Hotel, a cute boutique hotel steps from the heart of the historic district and a short walk from the waterfront. We took a quick walk to Doc’s Marina Grill, passing the cute shops lining the marina and whale-watching passengers coming back from their boat trip to see gray, humpback, and minke whales and the local orcas that call this area home. We grabbed lunch and enjoyed the view across the sound to the mountains off in the distance, watching as ferry boats came and went from the terminal in town.

views of downtown port townsend

Port Townsend waterfront (Gareth Janzen/Shutterstock). Downtown building (Kirsti Scott).

That evening, we walked along Water Street, which parallels the waterfront and is lined with shops, cafés, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms, housed in a mix of historic and sleek, modern buildings. Giant baskets of petunias hung from buildings and posts around town, overflowing with colorful blooms by the end of summer. Dinner was at The Old Whiskey Mill, which is housed in Kuhn’s White Block built in 1890 by J.H. Kuhn as a hotel that claimed to be “the biggest and best…more modern in its style than any yet in this city.”

view of canada from port townsend washington state

Sunset gave us endless views of water, reeling birds, and mountains in the distance.

Glass Beach trail Port Townsend Washington

Early the next morning we set out for Glass Beach, parking at North Beach and heading west toward McCurdy Point. Up until 1962, the city used the bluff as a dumping spot, with all kinds of trash being thrown over the side of the cliff and onto the beach below. After years of tumbling in the waves, smooth glass nuggets and some rusting machinery are all that remain. We checked our tide charts and made sure we had plenty of time to walk out and back to Glass Beach.

how to get to glass beach in washington

The walk is very easy for most of the way, and only near the end when you’re getting close to Glass Beach do you encounter fallen tree limbs you have to climb over and under and large boulders you have to navigate through. When you pass through these, turn the corner, and start to see rusting metal pieces, you have arrived!

sea glass beachcombers in port townsend washington

Lorie and Cynthia were arriving at Glass Beach just as we got there, so I walked in the footsteps (literally)of these experts to make it safely through the rocks and trees. The beach that day was covered with small pebbles, interspersed with frosty nuggets of sea glass. No one was there besides the four of us and a curious bald eagle watching from the cliff above, so we had plenty of time to search through the rocks for treasures and get to know each other.

sea glass found on glass beach in washington state

We brought home a bunch of beautiful, smooth pieces of beach glass that day, plus were lucky enough to meet friendly beachcombers ready to share their day with us. Just another one of the many ways that beachcombing enriches our lives and connects us with some pretty wonderful people.

Read about Lorie and Cynthia's helicopter rescue from Glass Beach when the beach was unexpectedly inundated by high tides.

best beaches for beachcombers

Learn more about the best beaches and destinations for sea and beach glass, seashells, fossils, rocks, and more beach finds around the world. Articles ›

All photos by Kirsti and Matt Scott except as marked.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2023 issue.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published