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!



2018 Camping Reservation Time!

We’ve lived in Seattle for over 4 years now and have been admittedly really terrible at taking advantage of the rich camping resources in the Pacific Northwest. I love being organized, but most of my organizational skills (read: energy) go into planning our one major international vacation per year, which has historically left little advance planning time for camping. Combine that with the fact that campgrounds in our area usually book up 6 months in advance and we usually end up sticking around town or taking day trips rather than staying overnight. I also found it overwhelming to think about camping with a baby when Julia was little (all the extra stuff, the distance from a large store to acquire anything we’d missed, etc). We finally made it out with her late summer/early fall last year and she had so much fun. I resolved to do better this year – making myself a list in October/November, setting a calendar reminder, and then booking a few extra spots as they opened. All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.

All of the campgrounds for this year are new to us, but I’ll include the ones we enjoyed last year, too.

2018 Camping List

Moran State Park

We’ve only been to the San Juans once while we’ve lived here. I kept reading about how beautiful the campgrounds are, but it seemed like a waste to just do 1 night after all the effort to get there, so I booked a 3 day weekend and set yet another calendar reminder to pre-book our ferry reservations. We’re tentatively planning to bring our kayak on this trip, since our last San Juan visit included a beautiful short kayak trip.

Fort Worden State Park

Peter’s family had a reunion here several years ago and everyone raved about staying near Port Townsend. We have loved our day trips to the area and I’m looking forward to staying near the beach (we’re in the Upper Forest Campground, though, because I desperately need shade when possible), checking out the fort and the lighthouse, and probably skipping the camp stove in favor of eating out with the money we’ll be saving by camping instead of staying in a hotel. Maybe we’ll check out the Marine Science Center, too.

Sequim Bay State Park

A couple of summers ago, we were lucky enough to have friends who rented a house a block from the beach in Sequim and invited us to join them for a night. We loved the area and I’m really looking forward to going back for a camping trip. This will be another opportunity to strap the kayak to the Subaru since there’s supposed to be a great calm bay. I would also love to check out the lavender fields nearby.

Salt Creek Recreation Area

I read about the tidepools at this spot on the Peninsula and got so excited about taking Julia, especially since she’ll be big enough to actually pet the anenomes gently (I’m thinking of the Finding Dory scene with the touch pool with the crazy kids hands grabbing the poor animals, so we’ll be practicing our gentle touching). I accidentally booked us at Saltwater State Park instead, so I ended up cancelling and rebooking, but was a little late in the game and there weren’t many spots left. I looked up AirBnBs in the area, but even though our relatively last minute (because 4 months out is last minute here) campsite will basically be a square of grass next to a bunch of RVs, it will still be less significantly less expensive than staying indoors and we’ll be close to the tidepools. For one night, I think I’ll be able to live without the giant outdoors that I love about camping.

Beaver Bay Campground

A friend on Facebook posted about these amazing looking Ape Caves in the Mt. St. Helens area and when I kept looking in the vicinity, there’s also a swinging bridge and a boardwalk on the Trail of Two Forests nearby (Julia loves running down a good boardwalk). That sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I found a campground about a 15 minute drive away and booked two nights. We’ve never been to Mt. St. Helens because a 3 hour drive each way seems like too much for a day trip, so it will be great to finally get to explore a bit.

Cougar Rock Campground

We did a (long) day trip down to Mt. Rainier National park last year with my parents to hike the Bench and Snow Lake trail and it was so beautiful with all the wildflowers and mix of open and shady trail areas. I can’t wait to go back in late August to try some new trails and be able to stay overnight so we can get in some extra hiking through the meadows.

2017 Camping List

Penrose Point State Park

We stayed here in late August last year with family (we were in site 75) and had a great time. We brought our kayak and went out in the very calm water where we could actually reach down and touch the sand dollars from the boat. The campsite was a good size and flat so Julia and the cousins could chase each other while the adults enjoyed a beer. We also loved stopping in Gig Harbor on our way home to kayak, where we saw starfish and several harbor seals.

Dosewallips State Park

We came in mid-October and were lucky enough to be here on one of the few sunny weekends that month (we also stopped in Port Gamble on our way over for lunch and loved exploring the town). We stayed in a cabin and were very grateful for the heat and the fact that we didn’t have to bring and pitch a tent, particularly because this area is very popular with the local elk who love to leave their droppings everywhere (no joke, I had to bring a flashlight everywhere at night to avoid stepping in them). It was a really magical weekend – we saw the end of the salmon life cycle in the Dosewallips River and walked out to the shoreline at the end of the afternoon to play in the dirt and on the cool lookout tower. While Julia fell asleep, Peter and I checked out the stars in the meadow, which were particularly bright that night. Julia was up early the next morning, so we walked back to the shore while Peter slept in. We were fortunate to see a herd of elk grazing and paused to take each other in before continuing on and enjoying the cold, crisp morning. It was just one of those moments where you hug your baby close and are so grateful for time with them, especially if it’s outdoors. Our cabin, C6, was a reasonably short walk to the bathroom and was pretty close to the trail towards the shore, so it was a good spot for us.

Wallace Falls State Park

We stayed in a cabin here in 2015 when I was pregnant with Julia and loved the area. It’s pretty residential, so it feels like you’re escaping the city without abandoning all the city comforts (there are power lines over the first part of the trail to the Falls, which was a little surprising when we first visited). The cabins are really nice and have a private little “yard-like” area around them, as well as a really clean restroom and showers. We stayed in cabin C1 on our first trip, and in C2 recently. On our return trip last fall, it was nice to have a space where Julia could run around while we made dinner without worrying that she was going to dart into the road. There was a also a group next to us that seemed to be a fun girls’ trip. In our experience, the groups are really polite and keep the noise to a minimum, so it wasn’t a problem to have them next door with Julia sleeping. Our most favorite part of the whole stay is always eating at Wallace Falls Cafe. The Mi Quang Pho is literally the best comfort food ever – the broth is so flavorful and the pork rib just melts in your mouth. On our last visit, they were unexpectedly closed at night, so we went to the La Hacienda, the Mexican restaurant up the street (also delicious, but just not the same as steaming pho). When we drove by in the morning just to check, they were open and even let us order pho for breakfast since we’d missed out the night before. Julia devoured the broth and the noodles and I might have to order her a bowl of her own next time.

More Resources

Here are some of the websites I consulted when doing my research last year:

Parent Map – Last Minute Camping
Red Tricycle – 7 Tent-Worthy Campsites
Cascadia Kids – Campgrounds with Playgrounds

Are you planning camping trips with your kids this year? Where are your favorite spots to take them?