A Knitter's Weekend
A Knitter’s Weekend: The Olympic Peninsula
There’s no bad time of year to visit the Olympic Peninsula of Washington in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, with a rain-prone climate, it can be drizzly and foggy. You might not see the majestic snow-capped mountains just over there, there, and there.
It won’t matter, I promise, if you’re here for a Knitter’s Weekend.
On day one, from Seattle’s urban waterfront we took a ferry heading toward the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula in the Salish Sea. Two hours later we arrived at historic Port Townsend—a seacoast town with period architecture and striking mountain views (if the weather is clear). Local style is a handknit wool hat on every head.
There are so many things to do beginning here in the National Historic Landmark downtown. Port Townsend boomed in the 1800s when it was a rowdy shipping port hoping to be the final stop for the transcontinental railroad. The tracks ended short but not before speculators built ornate storefront buildings and homes.
Now Port Townsend is a sea-loving town with a population that clearly appreciates the arts, craft, natural materials, and the environment. Start the weekend strolling Water Street and intersecting blocks. One end is anchored by the marina and the Northwest Maritime Center. If the season is right, sign up for a whale watching boat, or a boat tour of the harbor.
Bazaar Girls Yarn Shop is well stocked and welcomingly spacious, in a house. Diva Yarn & Trim is snugged up to the jewel box bead store. Who resists mono color displays of yarn, trim, and textiles? (And if you buy fun trim, what do you do with it? Tell me in the comments, please!)
There are plenty of places to eat, drink and hang out. At Better Living Through Coffee (best name around) we loved the waterfront view, and the cups dripped just for us in a clever in-counter filter set up. One misty morning there we spotted a woman knitting, a chess game, two artists sharing their sketchbooks, and a small drawing group—it’s easy to fit in.
The Palace Hotel, on Water Street is a Victorian treat, with big rooms, lots of gathering spaces, and all the bling and texture of optimistic west coast boom.
The natural world, just down the road
Tiny stone architecture at the Eaglemount Rockery
Leaving Port Townsend on day two, I couldn’t resist a roadside attraction with a killer view at the Eaglemount Rockery.
The Olympic Peninsula is dominated by Olympic National Park. Roads around the north edge and south from Port Angeles provide access to rainforest, scenic views, trails and old growth forest.
Every shade of green in the rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula
For a Northeasterner like me, used to deciduous trees, the phenomenon of nurse logs and the riot of green on green on green is psychedelic.
My stops are many, including Lake Crescent and the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, featuring one of the world’s longest natural sand spits out into the ocean. The trail down to the beach offers viewing platforms with benches, making for a great spot to sit and knit—and if you’re lucky, to spy the occasional orca whale and harbor seal.
Wherever you wander, include a visit to Fort Worden Historical State Park, on the edge of Port Townsend. This army base, circa 1900, overlooking the sea never saw military action. Now it’s a gem for the public with officers’ housing and barracks repurposed for hospitality and the arts. Check links for creative workshops, yoga classes and concerts. Culture aside, we liked climbing around the cement artillery bunkers covered in anti-graffiti paint with open stairways to climb, and tunnels and lookouts to explore. The park offers hiking trails and beachfront as well.
Circling back toward Seattle
We got day three off to a good start with homemade cinnamon buns while eavesdropping on the locals at the mom-and-pop Courtyard Café.
Detail of hand-carved columns at the Suquamish Museum
Our first stop is the Suquamish Museum in Suquamish, the winter home to Chief Seattle. Suquamish means “the people of the clear salt water.” The collections make tribal history come alive. Handcrafted exhibits feature spinning, weaving, and carving. And the gift shop is delightful—full of gifts and striking jewelry by indigenous designers and artists from the region.
Continuing south we crossed the Agate Passage to the town of Bainbridge Island. There is an upscale suburban feel here, no surprise, as the 25-minute ferry ride to Seattle makes it an appealing island commuter ’burb.
There are two local yarn shops to explore within blocks of the ferry: La Mercerie and The Lamb & Kid. Having fallen hard for The Lamb & Kid Dimond Laine yarns at a festival last year, I was happy to find myself at the welcoming mothership. It’s an unusual yarn shop—large, with all dark spruce/charcoal walls and good lighting so the brilliantly dyed skeins pop. Displays of multiple heads with hat samples nod at the local accessory of choice.
My souvenir Shiftalong Hat by Andrea Mowry in Spincycle Dyed in the Wool and the Lamb & Kid Elmer Tweed
And one final tip: The ferry ride to Seattle is especially lovely if you can time it to dusk, as the skyline and Space Needle glow against the sky—and if you’re very lucky, the mist clears for mountain views.
- NorthwindArts School
- Port Townsend School of Woodworking
- Madrona Mind Body
- Creative Alliance at Fort Worden
Special thanks to my dear friends Dorothy Orzel and Paul Ray, an artist and a native, who knew exactly where to take me.