Camping at Fort Worden State Park

For our second camping trip of the year, we headed to Fort Worden State Park, which is about 5-10 minutes outside of Port Townsend. I first heard of the park years ago when Peter’s family had a family reunion there and rented one of the large houses. It was while I was living in France and he was living in San Francisco without a car, so neither of us went, but we still hear about all the fun everyone had. It’s a really popular spot, so I was grateful to have made reservations back in December.

We tent camped (which you reserve through the Washington State Parks system, linked above), but there are also a variety of cottages, former officers’ quarters and dormitories (reserved on a separate website), so if you have some family members that need more comfort/facilities, this would be a great place to get everyone together. The houses are considerably more expensive, however, so consider putting more people together if you’re trying to cost optimize (a 2BR/1BA is around $200/night).

Our first stop, before even setting up camp, was Glass Beach (info about the hike on another blog, here). You hike about 5 miles round trip along the beach (it took us a little over an hour each way), which isn’t particularly difficult until you get to the end where there are some basketball-sized rock to walk over. The key to success is to time your trip with low tide, both because the tide pools are more fun and because the beach can get dangerously narrow at high tide. Julia rode in our LilléBaby toddler carrier and slept for a good portion of the outbound hike.



The hike was lovely and peaceful with some other families making the same trek. Along the way, we saw two bald eagles fishing and a deer that somehow scampered down a steep cliff to the beach, maybe to lick some salt water? Julia woke up just in time to see the tail end (pun intended) of the deer as we passed.


Of course, once we got there, Julia was mostly interested in the tide pools full of anemones and crabs and had little to no desire to hunt for the smooth bits of polished glass.


We took turns making sure she didn’t sprain an ankle/eat any crab while poking around in the sand. She was more interested once she saw little bits of blue glass, which was more uncommon than the typical white/brown/green. I think she could have stayed all day alternating between tide pools and sand – such a beach baby. We took a short break for lunch before heading back to the trail head.


We found our campsite easily – there was no one on duty at the actual campground, so I was glad I had printed out our confirmation, which had a little form you could detach to self check-in, saving us a trip to a building across the fort. Julia loved our campsite (#79) and while all the sites were a little close together, ours had a reasonable amount of space for her to run around. Because it was a site with RV hook-ups, there was also a tap with running water and an electrical outlet. She loves helping to set up camp, and even thought it takes longer, it’s so cute that we usually let her help with tent poles or unpacking her camping chair or sleeping bag.


My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had come over for a day trip with my niece and nephew, so we met them at Taps at the Guardhouse for oysters, chips and dip, and drinks. I’m all for a campsite where you’re roughing it (although not so much with a toddler), but once of the things that made camping at Fort Worden so painless was the option to add some “glamping” touches. We could walk to this cute bar for cocktails from our camping spot, as well as Reveille for coffee the next morning. After cocktails, we headed to the beach (also walking distance, albeit a little longer) to fish off the pier and play in the sand.


The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is also on the the pier and seems like it would be a great activity for a rainy day or a longer stay. We didn’t pop in because the weather felt too perfect to spend unnecessary time indoors.

We made fajitas at the campsite for dinner in a cast iron pan (so good!) and hung out reading while Julia tried to fall asleep. Her sleeping while camping is hit or miss – some trips it’s really easy to get her to go to sleep, others she needs a lot of coaxing or we have to lay down with her and hold her hand. Chances are good that your kid will cry at least a little bit because it’s a relatively unfamiliar environment and they might know you’ll be extra sensitive to the sound to avoid bothering other people. Luckily, our neighbors were a cute grandparent-y couple who didn’t mind the extra bedtime noise (and it was still before 8 p.m.). We did appreciate that the campground pretty much quieted down around 9/9:30 and there weren’t any loud noises/bright lights overnight to wake Julia up. This isn’t always the case and is definitely something I pay attention to when I think about whether I want to come back to a campground.


Our go-to breakfast when we’re camping is instant oatmeal with fruit (usually blueberries), maple syrup and nuts, sometimes with some mascarpone cheese stirred in. After this lovely breakfast, we took our kayak out for a little morning paddle. Turns out that this isn’t a super friendly area for a little family in a kayak – there was a really strong current right around the Point Wilson lighthouse that pulled us along with it and tried to sweep us out to sea. It’s one of the only times I’ve ever seen Peter stressed in a boat (swear words were uttered). We quickly worked out a couple of plans, one of which would have been pulling out on the rocky tide pool area and carrying the kayak the long way back to our car. We ended up being able to pull ourselves in and go through the shallows extremely close to shore, and then paddle as fast and hard as we could to get through the last bit of fast moving current. Julia was a champ and when we explained that she needed to sit quietly while Mommy and Daddy paddled, she seemed to understand the urgency and behaved well. We were exhausted after only 30 minutes and went in to the beach for more play time, but did get to see a cute little harbor seal on our way in. After the beach, we stopped at Finistere in Port Townsend for brunch. They have a beautiful patio and some good savory options, so even though there was really slow service that day, it was still pleasant to sit outside and play with Julia.

Despite some challenges, it was a beautiful weekend (which also happened to be Father’s Day) and I can’t wait to come back next year!