Setting: In Clallam County, 85 miles northwest of Seattle along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles marks the gateway to Olympic National Park.
Attractions: Its location just north of the Olympic Mountains provides quick access to superb hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing, and also protects the town from winter rains blowing in from the Pacific. Winter temperatures averaging 40 degrees, summer hovering around 70, and an annual rainfall of 25 inches provide ideal gardening conditions.
Drawbacks: High unemployment rates resulting from a waning timber industry have left this town struggling to redefine its economy.
Housing: Limited growth (due to the protected park and timberlands), plus retiring baby boomers equals rising home prices. Neighborhoods are a mishmash of styles with glossy new houses next to tired fixer-uppers. Highland Estates and Mt. Angeles subdivisions feature Craftsman-style homes. New homes in Deer Park, Mallette Hill, and Mt. Pleasant command views across Puget Sound to the Cascades. "Small, early- to mid-century homes around town typically price under $200,000," says Terry Neske of Windermere Realty. "Newer homes go for $280,000 to $380,000―more for a water view." A mountainside house with vast water views costs $400,000 to $500,000.
Your Next-door Neighbors: Park rangers, shipyard workers, waiters, unemployed mill workers, Peninsula College students, sea pilots, real estate agents, doctors, retirees, and Microsoft telecommuters.
How You'd Spend Your Free Time: Skiing Hurricane Ridge, hiking rain forests, sailing to British Columbia's Gulf Islands, strolling the Olympic Discovery Trail, dodging ferry traffic, hanging out at Swain's General Store, gaming at 7 Cedars Casino, gardening.
(published September 2006)