Best Towns 2010: Port Townsend, Washington

Best for Flatwater

Port Townsend     Photo: Sunpix Travil/Alamy

POPULATION 9,136
MEDIAN HOME price $320,00
HOMETOWN HERO Michael Kenna, founder of Printery.com, the West Coast's first Forest Stewardship Council–certified print shop

THE LIVING: With its Victorian buildings, wooden schooners, and swarthy past (Jack London spent a night in jail here), Port Townsend is a postcard of maritime history. But don't let its old-school charm fool you. This peninsula outpost, in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, offers the best of Northwest culture: ubiquitous Wi-Fi coffee shops, lively farmers' markets, and, of course, progressive civic planning, including a new $8 million maritime center and oceanfront public walkway. Although Seattle is 50 miles away, the convoluted car/ferry commute takes at least two hours. Better to convince your boss to let you work remotely.

THE PADDLING: For the past 26 years, Port Townsend has hosted the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium, the biggest and oldest kayaking event in North America. The reasons are everywhere you turn: You can paddle toward Marrowstone Island and look for porpoises, harbor seals, and bald eagles in Kilisut Harbor. At high tide, you can paddle up Chimacum Creek and see herons, kingfishers, and river otters. And that just scratches the surface. Because the San Juan Islands are just a short ferry ride away, it's also a great launch point for multi-day adventures.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Townsend is divided into two main neighborhoods: uptown, with its posh Victorian homes perched along the cliffs, and downtown, which is filled with historic condos. But our favorite spot is the North Beach area, where you can get a beachside home with commanding views of Canada for as little as $400,000.

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