Not many towns welcome you the way Gig Harbor, Washington does. Heading westbound from Tacoma on Highway 16, you’ll cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and your red carpet into “The Maritime City.” The Olympic Mountains sit stoically on the horizon above layers of evergreens, while unobstructed views of the Puget Sound stretch out to the right and left as you cross the windy Narrows Strait, serving as a preview of this peninsula town’s allure.
Visiting Gig Harbor
Gig Harbor sits at the southern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula across the Highway 16 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, now a toll bridge in the eastbound direction. Staying in Seattle? Take the Fauntleroy to Southworth ferry for the scenic route. Gig Harbor is about a 30-minute drive from the ferry dock. But before you go, check ahead for ferry schedules and bridge conditions with WSDOT.
A historic fishing town with a storied past, Gig Harbor now offers visitors a vibrant downtown rich in character and charm. An influx of top-notch cuisine, cozy brew pubs and local boutique shops has this sea-side economy running full speed ahead.
If being outdoors is more your style, Gig Harbor has that covered too. Whether it’s a carefree stroll through a lush forest trail or beach-combing the miles of public shoreline, you’re guaranteed to find your favorite way to get your feet dirty. Playing on the water? Wrap a cleat at one of two area dockside pubs for fish and chips or a pint of your favorite beverage. With so many great things to see and do, join us as we take you through a day in Gig Harbor.
Business is booming again down by the docks. The heart of the city and the driving force behind its thriving tourism economy, the waterfront has shopping, art galleries, restaurants, distilleries and event space.
A very walkable two-mile stretch of sidewalk starts at Crescent Creek Park and cruises along the waterfront and goes to the Old Ferry Landing. With 13 city parks or points of interest and six public restrooms along your route, walking the harbor is fun for the whole family and a great addition to your trip at any time of day.
Starting Your Day
Start your day off at Devoted Kiss Café. The water views are unbelievable, but the homemade, from-scratch, biscuits and gravy are even better. After a quick five-minute food coma, peel yourself from the booth and take a walk, if you’re able, down to explore Donkey Creek Park. Place a padlock on the bridge railing over the creek like the locals do to declare your connection with that special someone or walk next door to visit The Harbor History Museum.
Looking for a quick healthy meal to go? Head over to The Harbor General Store for an Acai Breakfast Bowl to go. Check out their grocery section for quality meats and cheeses. Take items to go for a picnic down the street at Jerisich Public Dock.
Keep an eye on harbor traffic from the patio at Tides Tavern. A 1910 mercantile shop left for ruin, the building was bought and renovated in 1973. This dockside restaurant has been feeding weary boat captains ever since. Check out their good food and quality beer for a great lunch spot.
Just up the hill on Judson Street is the 7Seas Brewing Co. taproom. A favorite of mine, this laid back, television-free pub, offers good conversation and a family friendly environment. No food is served by the brewery, but look for a food truck outside most weekend nights, or other outside food is allowed. Plans for a new facility along the water are in the works, so perhaps they’ll add a kitchen next.
If you happen to be visiting 7Seas from on the first Saturday of the month, check out the Gig Harbor Night Market from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m, put on by the same folks that run the popular Tacoma Night Market. All ages are welcome at this free indoor market which provides a unique evening showcasing local artists, good food, lively environment and most importantly, good beer.
Gig Harbor Parks
Open, green, community space can take the back seat to progress in some up- and-coming cities. Luckily, the City of Gig Harbor and PenMet Parks took a strong approach to land conservation some years ago, to the benefit of our today. Spend the afternoon wandering a few of the nearby parks on a beautiful day.
A favorite with families, the Sehmel Homestead Park boosts 98 acres of meadows, wetlands, multiple play areas, clean restrooms and an indoor community center. Set on the original Sehmel family homestead, follow posted trail maps to explore this Gig Harbor landmark.
Sunrise Beach Park and Narrows Park are prime locations for whale watching. Resident pods of Orcas and nomadic Humpback Whales frequent these waters. Grab a blanket and some binoculars if you’re feeling lucky.
Kopachuck State Park
About 6 miles west of downtown sits Kopachuck State Park and the adjacent Cutts Island Marine State Park. You could spend the whole day just here, wandering under the canopy of giant maples and towering firs. Waist-high ferns line the trails downhill to the water. Your efforts are rewarded with mountain views and some of the most bio-diverse and picturesque seascapes in the Puget Sound. As you wade through the shallows, keep your eyes peeled for jelly fish, Dungeness crab, Moon Snails, Ochre Sea Stars and even Pacific Octopus. A Washington State Discovery Pass or a single day admission fee is required at Kopachuck State Park.
Offshore to the north sits Cutts Island Marine State Park, accessible by non-motorized watercraft only. A protected habitat, these shores are nesting grounds for migratory waterfowl, eagles and harbor seals. An amazing afternoon kayak trip when the winds allow, float the current and watch the seals play tag on the sand spit. With enough time and patience some curious eyeballs start staring back at you from the water. Please share the sea and give them space. Check out parks.wa.gov for more information on both parks.
After a proper day of exploring, grab a pint and a view across from Raft Island. A half century’s old market turned taproom, Island View Market and Public House, is a unique waterfront establishment with dockside tie up for boats and paddlers. Find a stool and bring your day to a close with the sun setting over Henderson Bay.
Writing and Photography by Chris Boone.