Fort Worden

view from a little sandwich shop of a very small cruise ship docked in Port Townsend

Located at Point Wilson near the town of Port Townsend on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, Fort Worden was originally built as part of the triangle of fire protecting the entrance to Puget Sound. Nearby Fort Casey on Whidbey Island and Fort Flagler on the north end of Marrowstone Island complete the triangle. Built from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, these forts were intended to protect the area from invasion by sea, though they were never needed for that purpose. Much of the original armament from Fort Worden was sent to Europe during the first world war. All three forts have long since been decommissioned and all are historic state parks now. Some of Fort Worden’s buildings are currently used as a school. Very small cruise ships from lines like Un-Cruise Adventures or American Cruise Lines sometimes make port stops in Port Townsend.

lighthouse at Point Wilson

Fort Worden State Park has a lighthouse, 2 campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, over 2 miles of beach, a boat dock, and launching ramps. Some areas of the park require a Discover Pass, which is required in Washington for access to state parks, DNR lands, and fish and wildlife areas. Day passes are available at the park as well as the standard year-long pass. Besides the campgrounds people can stay in some of the park’s buildings. Most of the officer’s houses are available, as are cottages and dormitories.

lighthouse at Point Wilson

The lighthouse on Point Wilson was built in 1879, before the neighboring fort. Point Wilson is at the western entrance to Puget Sound. The buildings surrounding the lighthouse currently have an abandoned deteriorating sort of look. The lighthouse itself is still in use for its original purpose of aiding marine traffic, but the light is fully automated and monitored from the coast guard station in Port Angeles. It’s sad that these buildings appear to have just been left to rot rather than being included in the rental pool. Being beachfront with awesome views if they were fixed up they’d likely be the most popular vacation homes in the park.

Alexander’s Castle and a bit of a battery in the background

Alexander’s Castle was the first building in the fort area, built in 1883 by Reverend John B. Alexander. The unique little brick building still stands and is currently available as a vacation home rented to park visitors.

map showing the locations of the 3 forts that made up the triangle of fire

The fort was built from 1898 to 1920 and designated as a national historic landmark in 1976. It was an active army base from 1902 to 1953. In 1957 it was purchased by the state of Washington for use as a juvenile detention facility. Ownership was transferred to the parks department in 1971 and Fort Worden State Park opened in 1973.

Fort Worden Science Museum – there’s an aquarium across the street at the end of a dock out in the water and the admission fee covers both. You can also buy a discount ticket for the park’s 3 museums.

During World War 1 the fort was used for training soldiers before sending them overseas to fight in Europe. As the role of aircraft and balloons became more important and the need for coastal artillery less, a balloon hanger was built at the fort in 1920.

homes in officer’s row are mostly vacation rentals, but one is a museum

During World War 2 the fort was headquarters for the harbor defense command and monitored all ship traffic entering or leaving Puget Sound using new sonar and sensing devices. Most of the gun batteries were modified to hold anti-aircraft guns as their original purpose for coastal artillery aimed at ships was long since outdated. After the war the guns were dismantled and the base remained as an administrative facility until its closure in 1953.

dining room in the officer’s house museum

Fort Worden has several museums. One is in a former officer’s house. It is furnished with period pieces of the sort that would have been used there, but the actual furniture and things belonging to the people living there came and left when they did. There is also an artillery museum as well as the sealife science center and aquarium. Other entertainment at the park includes kayak and rowboat rentals. There are several places to buy food and even a gift shop. The former fort also has facilities for conferences and weddings.

scene from An Officer and a Gentleman

Much of the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger was filmed at Fort Worden. Scenes were filmed in various places around the fort including some of the buildings, at battery Kinzie, and in the blimp hanger, which has since been turned into a performing arts center. Many of the off-base sites were filmed in Port Townsend. Both Paula and Lynette’s houses and the factory where they worked were actually in Port Townsend rather than across the sound as portrayed in the film. The Tides Inn from the movie is a real motel and is still in business.

bedroom in the officer’s house museum

I visited the park one day with my sister Linda. We spent a bit of time at the lighthouse, which now sits behind a fence and were sad to see how the buildings there appear to have been left to deteriorate in the effects of coastal weather. Even if they don’t want to fix them up for the rental pool, a lighthouse museum would be interesting and could include the keeper’s house as well, giving the park a good reason to preserve those historic buildings.

living room in the officer’s house museum

We also took a tour through the officer’s house museum, which is in the former quarters of the commanding officer at the end of officer’s row. The rest of the houses there are rentals for park visitors, suitable for large groups as they hold anywhere from 6-28 people depending on the house.

map of Fort Worden State Park

This fort turned park has enough of a variety of places to stay and things to see and do to make it a fun and interesting place for just about anyone.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020

About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
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4 Responses to Fort Worden

  1. Never visited there…Looks very interesting and historic.

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