Perched on the edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend’s maritime history is evident in the Victorian homes and buildings overlooking the harbor. Still a working seaport, Port Townsend is also home to artists, wilderness lovers, and others who enjoy life on the Straits of Juan De Fuca.
Beachcombers come to Port Townsend for its famous Glass Beach. Accessible via a six-mile round-trip trail from Port Townsend’s main beach, North Beach, Glass Beach is a treasure trove of jewelry-quality sea glass. The glass is from McCurdy Point, a 100-foot high bluff from which the town dumped its trash onto the beach below. You can find sea glass all along the 90-minute walk (if you don’t stop to beachcomb!) from the parking lot at North Beach to McCurdy Point.
Just past McCurdy Point, the waves have tumbled the discarded glass and pottery until it is very smooth. The challenging hike to get to the point means it has not been overrun with beachcombers, so there is still plenty to be found. You can also find driftwood, agates, quartz, shells, and if you’re lucky you might even find a fishing float. There is scrap metal lying on the beach so step carefully. And, keep an eye out for sea otters, bald eagles, whales, and other wildlife.
While the trail is relatively easy to walk, the tides can come in quickly and force you to scramble up the sheer cliff to stay dry. Be sure to check the tides to head out with the outgoing tide, walk briskly, spend an hour or so at Glass Beach, and head back before the tide comes back in, so you don’t end up getting stranded on the beach.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2019 issue.
Photos by Russ Stamp