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Fort Worden, a historical gathering place

WWII history on the peninsula

View from the Steward’s Cottage at Fort Worden. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Endless opportunities for adventure, recreation, relaxation and enrichment through the arts abound at historic Fort Worden in Port Townsend. You can easily fill a weekend, a month or even a lifetime with things to do there.

The Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA) and Washington State Parks entered into a co-management agreement, which transformed this location into a financially self-sustaining lifelong learning center. Fort Worden State Park manages the 434 acres surrounding the campus while the PDA manages the 90-acre campus, which contains more than 70 historic buildings. In an ongoing process, the PDA works to renovate and fill these buildings. The vision is becoming a reality as partners and programming expand to create a vibrant public space enhanced by its natural beauty and rich history.

Fort Worden offers a variety of accommodations including small cottages, large historic vacation rentals, and retreat housing for large groups. We stayed at the Steward's Cottage, which is part of the Cottage Collection. From the porch of the cottage we enjoyed expansive views of the fort, the waterfront and the fenced yard, where two deer were happily munching on grass. The cottage restoration ensured modern conveniences while maintaining the historic charm.

There are a variety of ways to fill a weekend at Fort Worden. For history buffs, begin your tour at the Friends of Fort Worden Gift Shop and get a copy of the self-guided walking tour. Stop at the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum to learn about coastal fortifications on the Puget Sound. The museum offers walking tours on Saturdays. The Commanding Officer's House Museum is currently closed for renovations, but when it reopens, visitors will get a glimpse of what life was like for the military families living there. The fort is quieter today, but during World War I and World War II it was teeming with soldiers and was a bustle of activity.

Fort Worden is a lifelong learning center and home to 13 organizations that host more than 1,500 programs each year. Offerings include the arts, culture, history, sciences, handcrafts, literature, marine sciences, and historic preservation to name a few. Plan a visit around activities that seem interesting to you. Visit for more information.

For fitness buffs, there are numerous hiking opportunities within the state park and along the beach. Climbing up and down the bluffs exploring the artillery batteries is sure to work up a sweat. In addition, the Madrona MindBody Institute offers daily yoga classes as well as retreats and workshops.

Children will enjoy the Port Townsend Marine Center with its interactive natural history museum.  Located along the more than two miles of shoreline with its glacial bluffs, there are many opportunities to learn about the Salish Sea. The museum also has one of only six complete orca skeletons in the United States. The Marine Exhibit opens March 31. The center also offers guided, low-tide beach walks.

The movie An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed at Fort Worden.  As you stroll through the campus, you can recognize many of the outdoor sites, which haven't changed since the movie was filmed. You can almost hear Paula and Lynette flirting with officer candidates as they do pushups by the barracks.

One of the latest additions to the Fort Worden campus is Taps at the Guardhouse, a pub.

"Taps is a laid back and friendly place where locals and lifelong learners can relax, reminisce and enjoy a beer and a small plate after hours," said Kristan McCary, director of Food and Beverage.

Other options for food include the Café at the Commons, open daily for breakfast and lunch and The Cablehouse Beach Canteen, open seasonally during the summer months.

Whether traveling as a couple, as a family or alone to recharge your batteries, Fort Worden has something to offer everyone. To ensure the best visit, review the website as many location hours vary by season, and some are only open on weekends during the winter. Discounts are available for active military for food and lodging with appropriate identification. Washington State Park Discover Passes are not required for the campus area but are mandatory for other areas of the park.

Fort Worden State Historical Park and PDA, open year-round, 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend, 360.344.4400,

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