A weekend in Port Angeles

  • By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
  • Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:04am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

It’s the place where Edward and Bella had their first date in “Twilight.”

The port where tourists go to catch the ferry to Victoria, B.C. The pleasant pause before heading up to Hurricane Ridge to hike or ski.

Charming.

That’s the word that keeps popping up about Port Angeles, the picturesque community between the Olympic Mountains and the sea that stretches so far it blends in with the sky.

For many people, the remote north Olympic Peninsula town is a pit stop along the way, but Port Angeles is a destination in itself.

Park the car. Spend the day. Or stay the night, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his motorcade did in 1937 on the legendary visit that created Olympic National Park.

Stroll by the water or through downtown. There are sculptures, cafes, boutiques and cool stores, but this isn’t a tourist trap. It’s home to about 20,000 people, with a fine-arts center, two CrossFit gyms, a year-round farmers market and a symphony orchestra that started in 1932.

Streets are wide and traffic is polite with drivers who don’t try to run you over, even if you linger too long. (Out-of-town drivers will, though. So don’t linger too long.)

The waterfront is a happening place for street fairs, summer concerts and October’s Dungeness Crab &Seafood Festival. City Pier has colorful murals depicting local lore, art galleries, a marine center and a boardwalk perfect for watching big ships and sunsets.

Explore the logging town’s colorful past on a two-hour Heritage Tour led by the city historian through brothels and the underground. In the early 1900s, the downtown area was raised by one story, creating a network of tunnels and store fronts. Rumor has it that it’s haunted.

Those with energy to burn on foot or bike can hop on the Olympic Discovery Trail that traverses the peninsula east to the town of Port Townsend or west to the Pacific Ocean.

There’s more to Port Angeles than art, outdoor recreation, vampires and a still-talked-about visit by FDR.

There’s Swain’s General Store, open since 1957.

It’s about as general as it gets, with everything from socks and flyswatters to jewelry and bullets.

On the walls are giant antlered animal heads, some possibly felled by the wide selection of ammunition offered at the store.

Glass-front coolers hold drinks and fresh bait. Hot popcorn is a quarter.

The back-to-school flier has rifle scopes, watches, cookbooks and lip gloss on the same page.

Something for everybody.

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com.

If you go

Port Angeles is about 60 miles from Kingston where the Edmonds ferry drops you.

The Dungeness Crab &Seafood Festival is Oct. 11 to 13: Events include Grab-a-Crab derby, food, crafts, fun run, sand volleyball tournament and U.S. Coast Guard air-sea rescue demonstration. www.crab festival.org

The Black Ball ferry to Victoria, B.C., is a 90-minute voyage across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Parking is available in Port Angeles for walk-on riders. Passengers get free round-trip fare for travel initiated on their birthdays, but can return any day. www.cohoferry.com

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park: Entrance fee is $15 a car. http://tinyurl.com/HurricaneRidgeInfo

Heritage Tours are year-round, daily except Sunday. The two-hour tours, offered twice a day, start from the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, 121 E. Railroad Ave. Cost: $12 adults; $10 seniors and students; $8 ages 6 to 12; children younger than 6 are free. Reservations are recommended. For more information, call 360-452-2363, ext. 0, or go to www.portangeles heritagetours.com.

The Olympic Discovery Trail is for nonmotorized travelers. www.olympicdiscoverytrail.com

Swain’s General Store: 602 E. First St., 360-452-2357; www.swainsinc.com

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