To understand what makes Velocity, a cafe in Port Townsend, Washington, special, you have to start by learning a little bit about Port Townsend itself.
Port Townsend is a town with salty roots. Named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792, Port Townsend was officially settled in 1851, recognized as an important shipping port. The town grew rapidly, and the boom of that era is still visible today, with Victorian houses dotting the area. Called the “City of Dreams,” it was once thought that Port Townsend would become the largest port north of San Francisco.
It didn't. But today, with just over 9,000 people, Port Townsend is a quaint and quirky small town in a beautiful natural setting, and its maritime past is very much a part of its present.
While the town’s main street hugs the water, the central residential part of town is perched upon a hill, with almost every street offering a view down to the waters below.
The Olympic Mountains hover on the horizon to the southwest, the waters of Port Townsend Bay to the south, and the shores of Whidbey Island to the east. To say that the town is in an idyllic setting would be an understatement; it’s clear why people come here and fall in love with the place. Not too far away in Port Hadlock is the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, an educational and training center for some of the best and brightest in wooden boat construction, and besides being a host of the popular Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend itself is still a hub for all kinds of watercraft, particularly fishing boats coming down from Alaska to be repaired and stored over the winter.
But even if you’re currently not interested in boats, a visit to Port Townsend’s Velocity cafe might just spark a new obsession.
This cafe is housed in the Northwest Maritime Center, and while it has all the defining factors of a cafe devoted to specialty coffee—a La Marzocco Strada MP, various pour-over options, sparkling water served next to your espresso—its location and ambiance makes it anything but average.
This LEED-certified building, opened in 2010, has become a focal point of Port Townsend, and for a community coffeehouse, the location couldn’t be better. Velocity shares the space with the Wooden Boat Foundation, boat shops full of tools for wooden boat work, and a boat rental facility. In fact, you can even walk from the cafe right into the Wooden Boat Chandlery, a store where you can buy anything from lengths of rope to books on maritime history.
How many other places can you pick up a nautical chart or some rigging equipment followed by an espresso? If the weather is willing, you can even take your cup of coffee and sit at one of the communal picnic tables outside, watching the waves and the occasional ferry, shuttling passengers back and forth from Whidbey Island.
I was in Port Townsend for a long weekend earlier this fall, and each time I went in, Velocity was buzzing with people. There were people who had just come back from a run or a row, there were people working on their laptops, and there were groups of friends gathered for a catch0up—it truly felt like a community hub.
Pastries come from town’s infamous Pane D’Amore bakery, where European-style treats are baked fresh every day, and there are also bagels in a variety of styles from Bob’s Bagels, delivered by bicycle, of course. Keeping with their Washington State roots, the Velocity team serves Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, also available to buy and take home.
A bar lines the large windows facing out towards the water, and whether it’s a glorious sunny day or a more blustery one, there’s no better place to sit and nurse a cup of coffee. You’ll be addicted to this wonderful town and cafe before you know it.
Who knows, you might even buy a boat.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in the American Pacific Northwest, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.