Seattle to Port Townsend

The very first summer that Jason and I lived in the Pacific Northwest we cycled from his childhood home in West Seattle to my front door in San Francisco. The first day of our Pacific Coast tour was so remarkable, that we’ve done the route many times over the years.

Puget Sound

The ride from downtown Seattle to Port Townsend is nothing shy of stunning. In just over fifty miles one winds along the island waterways of the Puget Sound and skirts the peninsula with the Olympic Mountain Range, topped with annual glaciers and deep evergreen forests. A summer and early fall highlight is to time one’s arrival in Port Townsend with their amazing Saturday farmers market. There you’ll find an incredible cornucopia of breads, local cheeses, oysters, fresh fish, and greens, all produced and harvested in the regions through which you’ll have pedaled.

Beginning an overnight excursion with a ferry ride never ceases to delight me. One leaves downtown Seattle on the Washington State Ferry bound for Bainbridge Island. You'll then travel Highway 305 north over Agate Pass Bridge and through the town of Poulsbo (12.5 miles). Directly off WA-305, in town, head to the Central Market and load up on an amazing selection of snacks and bulk foods, or some coffee for the way. A mile out of town, turn right on to WA-3 continuing northbound. Many of the roads between Bainbridge Island and the Hood Canal Bridge are named after the first European settlers to homestead the region, long before Seattle was established as a city development and port.

After crossing the Hood Canal Bridge, rest your legs at Shine Tidelands State Park. This stop is a wonderful place to observe Northwest birds because a wetland marsh rests right beside the banks of the Puget Sound. You’ll catch the unmistakable call of Red Winged Blackbirds, and wonder at the diversity of shore birds along the cove.

When you come to WA-19 or Beaver Valley Road follow the way into Port Ludlow. Oak Bay road follows the water and rejoins Rhody Dr (formerly Beaver Valley Rd), to lead you right into Port Townsend.

Port Townsend

Camping directly in town at Fort Warden State Park is wonderful. There is a Hike and Bike camp area for a reduced fee, and it’s a quick ride into the old port town. Enjoy a beer at the Port Townsend Brewing Company, right in the marina and weave through the town’s neighborhoods to admire the Victorian homes and picturesque view of the Olympic Range in the distance, or just make camp and enjoy the park.

Olympic Range

Over the years we’ve discovered that the route from Seattle to Port Townsend serves as a gateway to countless multi-day trips. If you would like a three or four day island-hopping loop, you can take the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island and head back to Seattle through Mukulteo, or challenge yourself with the twelve mile climb up to Hurricane Ridge on the Peninsula.

Photos courtesy of Martina Brimmer

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6 responses so far ↓

David - May 3, 2011 at 8:08 AM

Thanks for the lovely post. Would you mind providing a link to a google maps of the route? Is this the same route that Adventure Cycling suggests?

My girlfriend and I will be cycling from Vancouver to Seattle this summer and would love some further insight to the route, sights and terrain!

Flashy pics! :)


Evelyn Johnson - May 5, 2011 at 9:57 PM

Thanks for sharing your expertise and local recomendations on this dream of a ride for the rest of us! Can't wait to tackle this one soon.

Dan McGuire - May 25, 2011 at 4:58 PM

Thanks for your suggestions. I live in Kirkland and will be riding from Anacortes down Whidbey I. in May/June to P. Townsend and then back to Kingston Ferry home. I had not thought about riding the Oak Bay route via P. Ludlow, intending to ride Wa 19 all the way. Thanks. Dan

Kristin - May 25, 2011 at 10:18 PM

We have done a similar ride at least once a year for a while. Our variations - we live in north Seattle so ride to the Edmonds to take the ferry to Kingston. Then we head to the Hood Canal bridge. At Shine Tidelands State Park, we head north on Paradise Road (you must like hills) which connects to Oak Bay road. Then we have the option further north of going to Port Townsend or veering east and visiting Fort Flagler State Park about 55 miles riding distance from our house near Green Lake in Seattle.

Both are fantastic rides!

Bike Hermit - Jul 20, 2011 at 8:45 PM

If one decides to go back to Bellevue via Mukilteo is there a decent route?

Gary - Oct 1, 2011 at 9:07 AM

My teenage daughter and I have ridden this trip on a tandem a few times, usually taking the first right after the Hood Canal bridge (Paradise Road) and taking backroads toward Port Townsend. You ride right by the causeway to Marrowstone Island, which makes a great sidetrip. Old Fort Townsend State Park campground almost always has a site. There is a bike path the last couple of miles from near Old Fort Townsend around the paper mill and along the water into Port Townsend.

If we have a few more days, we ride up Whidbey Island to Deception Pass and sometimes on to Anacortes via Rosario Road and ferry over to Lopez Island.

Have fun riding together.

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