Olympic Peninsula

Spotlight: Fort Worden — Got a flashlight?

Did you bring your flashlight? A headlamp, maybe?


In Port Townsend, Wash., Fort Worden’s grey-concrete gun batteries once provided shelter to soldiers on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and submarines trying to enter the Puget Sound. Today, the batteries provide shriek-filled echo chambers full of childish delight.

Play flashlight tag through windowless, unlit corridors and the barren, pitch-black rooms. Wear sturdy shoes and make sure your tetanus shots are up to date – broken glass and water are everywhere.

The dank walls seem to reach out and touch you first, urging you to keep your coat on.

Pick up a map at the visitors’ center, right inside the fort’s gates. If you have older children, you’ll want to make your way to the main cluster of bunkers, about a two-mile walk round-trip from a parking lot. It’s a 45-minute sojourn (without stopping), but you’ll be in the center of eight eeky batteries.

With younger kids, go to Battery Kinzie, near the lighthouse. This set of spooky rooms only requires a one-minute walk from the car.

Battery Kinzie, built in 1910, provides great views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Hold the kids’ hands and walk up the no-railing stairs; watch out for the thorny bushes that once prevented spies from sneaking in under the fog cover. Their prickly spines sprout from the ground, threatening pain.

Does this all sound a little dangerous? It could be. But it’s not, not really. Just set some ground rules – don’t eat glass, don’t poke your brother in the eye with the thorn bush, and no, you cannot slide down the concrete slab. You’ll tear your pants and the enemy spies will see your underwear.

If you can’t get enough of the freakishly cool fun, check out the gun batteries in Fort Casey, on Whidbey Island, Wash.

And don’t forget your flashlight.

Find more family travel excitement over at DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.