Staycation: Gig Harbor

From the beautiful, historic netsheds dotting the Harbor shoreline to the numerous shops and restaurants lining the surrounding streets, Gig Harbor proudly preserves its history as a working waterfront while embracing a noted reputation as a much-loved boating and pleasure craft destination. 

Nestled in the shadow of Mount Rainier, the harbor is located 35 miles from Seattle and considered one of the prettiest and most active small towns in the country. “We are a small-town community with a very vibrant lifestyle and a rich historic heritage,” said Mayor Kit Kuhn.

No ferry needs to be involved to reach this lovely harbor retreat, which makes a weekend, or even a weekday visit, a delightful possibility. Located right over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge off Highway 16 — Gig Harbor is closer than you think. It just feels like it’s a million miles away.

ON THE WATERFRONT

Jeff Hobson

The most recent addition to the waterfront is the completion of Phase I of the Ancich Waterfront Park with a viewing platform; a beautifully designed storage facility for human-powered watercraft like kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and small sailboats; and the restoration of the historic Ancich Netshed rebuilt with the wood from the original structure. 

Speaking of netsheds, one of the best spots for breakfast-eating and harbor-viewing is NetShed No. 9, with a wonderful selection of breakfast and lunch items. The fresh cinnamon rolls are not to be missed! On the other side of the harbor, located in the Finholm district with a spectacular view of the harbor and Mount Rainier, is The Devoted Kiss, another great breakfast and lunch spot. Make sure you finish your meal with the coconut cake. For quick, fun, lunch bites, check out The Trolley @ the Boatyard. You’ll find ice cream cones at Kelly’s Café + Espresso on Pioneer Way.

While we’re talking about food on the waterfront, there’s the famous Tides Tavern, reachable by land and sea, located at the end of Harborview. You’ll get an instant vacation vibe. Also check out the new Brimstone PNW Smokehouse, billed as an all-encompassing tour of smoked meats, on Pioneer right off Harborview. If you’re craving good Mexican fare, pop into El Pueblito on Harborview. 

There are plenty of places to grab a Gig Harbor microbrew, including the family-friendly 7 Seas Brewing on Judson; the Wet Coast Brewing Co. on Kimball Drive; or the Gig Harbor Brewing Taproom on Harborview, where you can order a beer called Sturdy Gertie, celebrating the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

For something other than beer, try the newly expanded Heritage Distilling Tasting Room on the corner of Harborview and Pioneer. This nationally awarded craft distillery, based in Gig Harbor, believes “Every Spirit has a Story,” so just ask, and they are happy to tell you. You can also schedule tours of their Flagship distilling facilities.  

Right across the street on Harborview, located in Skansie House, is Harbor Wildwatch. They offer free interactive marine and environmental activities, including guided beach walks and free interpretive “touch-tanks.” The visitor center has unique exhibits, including an augmented reality sandbox and an underwater video stream of Gig Harbor. 

Jeff Hobson

Every Tuesday night from the end of June through mid-August, the annual Summer Sounds of Skansie Concert Series, in beautiful Skansie Park, brings live music to the waterfront from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Bring your own lawn chair. On summer Thursdays, the park is home to the Waterfront Farmers Market from 1 to 7p.m. 

Farther down and rounding the curve of Harborview is the Eddon Boatyard, saved from the wrecking ball by citizens committed to the city’s maritime heritage. The Gig Harbor BoatShop, located on the premises, offers programming that focuses on boat restoration and repair, boatbuilding, boat use – even workshops like Useful Knots 101. You can tour and observe this working shipyard for free. 

If you keep traveling ‘round the bend, you’ll happen upon the 7,000-square-foot Harbor History Museum, where you can see the 65-foot Shenandoah, a legendary fishing vessel being carefully restored to its original glory. Admission is free. 

Across the street is The Gourmet Burger Shop. It may feel like a surf shack, but they have the most amazing burgers. Be warned: You won’t be hungry for quite a while after a pit stop. If you want gourmet pizza, head back to Harborview for Millville Pizza for some classic wood-fired pizza and a glass of wine. 

IN THE HARBOR, LITERALLY

Jeff Hobson

Canoes, power boats, kayaks, paddleboards, rowboats; if it floats, you can rent it. There are several places along the harbor, including Lee’s SUP & Kayak Rentals on Harborview, The Gig Harbor Boat Shop at the Eddon Boatyard, Gig Harbor Watersports, Gig Harbor SUP & Kayak Rentals, and Gig Harbor Yachts with Duffy electric boats for rent. 

If you want to sightsee with someone while paddling, Destiny Harbor Tours, located on North Harbor Drive, is a great option. They offer two different, two-hour tours of the waterways with private charter options available for up to 33 people. Afterward, pop into nearby Anthony’s or Morso’s Wine Bar for a bite.

The Gig Harbor Gondola, located at the Gig Harbor Marine & Boatyard, is an authentic, handmade Venetian gondola. Gondolier John “Cinque” Synco can take you for a romantic spin for two or a tour of the harbor with a maximum of six. Reservations are needed.

Jeff Hobson

BEYOND THE HARBOR or AROUND THE TOWN

While the harbor holds a certain magic, there are plenty of other unique experiences to be had in Gig Harbor — and they don’t necessarily involve water.

For example: a two-story laser tag arena? Yes, and much more, at Ocean5 in the Olympic Towne Center, including 22 lanes of bowling, 50-plus games in the arcade, live entertainment, event space, fresh craft food at the 300-seat farm-to-table restaurant Table 47, small bites and drinks at the bar, or grab a coffee and some pastries at the T47 coffee lounge. The 57,000-square-foot entertainment space is designed for gatherings for kids and adults, with plenty of ways to keep you engaged and fed.

If movies are more your thing, be sure to check out the Galaxy Uptown Luxury+ IMAX Theatre, located in Uptown Gig Harbor, with 11 screens, reclining chairs, and a selection of beer and wine to accompany your popcorn. Mark your calendars for Sept. 26-29 for the 2019 Gig Harbor Film Festival, featuring the work of more than 100 filmmakers from around the world.

Jeff Hobson

The picturesque Cushman Trail quietly winds through town and is family-, bike-, and walker/runner-friendly. This 6.2-mile regional trail has trailheads within the Gig Harbor city limits at Borgen Boulevard, Hollycroft, and Grandview streets. 

Take some time and kick back at one of the unique local coffee shops. They even offer live music and entertainment — just like a coffeehouse should. The Kimball Coffeehouse, is a comfortable place to meet with friends, read a book, enjoy a coffee and lunch, or just relax. The shop focuses on local products and showcases local artists. Recently opened Davenport Gourmet Coffee Taproom + Wine, the former MarKee Coffee Shop & Wine Bar, is a new offering from the owners of Harbor Greens grocery, with an expanded menu of food and drink. 

A FEW LOCAL GEMS

Jeff Hobson

Gig Harbor Audio, tucked away on Judson Street, has an amazing selection of new and used audio equipment including — well — everything from tubes to home sound systems to speakers and cables. Pop in and take a listen, and grab a beer, too. You can even go analog and create your own mix tape from their selection of recordings. Plus, they have really cool T-shirts.

A little farther toward the waterfront at the bottom of Pioneer Way, learn to tie a fly at the Gig Harbor Fly Shop, and be inspired to sign up for their introduction to Fly Fishing Class, join one of their special fishing seminars, or reserve a spot for one of their guided Fly Fishing Trips. The shop also rents kayaks, rods, reels, waders, and boots. They even have a YouTube channel.

Work your way down Harborview toward Sea Hags, a well-curated shop filled with a variety of fine arts from local artists, distinctive gifts, and coastal décor sourced from small companies who maintain strong relationships with their artisan suppliers.

If you’re looking for a little bit of hidden hygge, head a few miles out to The Chalet in the Woods for an enchanting experience. Wind your way through 12 acres of gardens, woodlands, and a pasture filled with sheep to find a beautiful selection of home décor, books, candles, Norwegian-made Oleana clothing, dishes, jewelry, and carefully selected vintage finds. 

Back in town, The Garden Room, in Uptown Gig Harbor, packs an amazing amount of seasonal sass into their ever-changing product displays. Each seasonal switch offers its own special magic to showcase their amazing selection of home and garden goods and gifts.

WHERE TO STAY

Photo Courtesy Gig Harbor

If you decide you’d like to take more than a day trip to the harbor, and you are not planning to drop anchor with your own seaworthy accommodations, you can still experience the boating life by spending the night on one of six floating houseboats moored it the harbor and available for rent from Pleasure Craft Houseboat Rentals. Each houseboat comes fully furnished with linen, toiletries, cookware, and dishes. 

For a more traditional hotel experience, there is the Best Western Wesley Inn & Suites on Kimball Drive, and The Inn at Gig Harbor, which is not actually on the harbor but on 56th Street Northwest. For something on the water and walkable to the local amenities try, TheWaterfront Inn on North Harborview Drive. On the other side of street is The Maritime Inn, a sweet boutique hotel located across from Skansie Park, and right next to Java + Clay, where you can grab a morning coffee and paint some pottery.

For a complete listing of other events and activities in Gig Harbor, check out gighaborguide.com. 

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