Summer has the Pacific Northwest in its grip: warm breezes and outrageously blue skies replace the morose grey and heavy raindrops that fall from the leaves throughout the rest of the year. It’s time to GET OUTSIDE, and every Seattleite knows it.
This is why if you try and call your Seattle friends on the weekend, you get voicemail and a text late on Sunday night, sorry, was out hiking Hurricane Ridge! or sorry, was floating the river in Leavenworth! The pull to be outside and enjoy the good weather is insatiable.
With that in mind, consider Gig Harbor. A town with shy of 8,000 residents and nestled into one of the Puget Sound’s most safe and secure natural harbors, Gig Harbor is a whole bunch of cliche words like charming and quaint and #PNW. It’s the perfect candidate for a day-trip, weekend getaway, or even (hint, hint) a long holiday weekend like the 4th of July or Labor Day.
Traveling to Gig Harbor
My first trip to Gig Harbor was decidedly residential; the second was much more immersive in the local economy and all it has to offer. Whether you’re visiting friends with waterfront property or looking for a luxe city center stay, Gig Harbor can oblige.
No matter what though, you’ll have to drive across the Tacoma Narrows bridge to get here. (Unless you have a friend with a boat and are sailing into town… uh, invite me next time?) The Tacoma Narrows Bridge (along Washington Highway 16) is a toll bridge, but only when traveling east toward Tacoma. As of July 2016, the fee is $6 for a standard vehicle or truck.
The 45-60 minute drive from Seattle (barring Tacoma traffic) is all highways, but as soon as you get across the bridge it’s apparent you’re now near the Olympic Peninsula (technically, Gig Harbor is on the Kitsap Peninsula). Towering trees and deeply fresh air are the norm, and the frenetic pace of life slows a bit.
When To Visit
Luckily, Gig Harbor is blessed with the same temperate climate as the rest of the region, so there isn’t necessarily a bad time to visit: in late autumn, winter, and early spring you might get rained on, but it shouldn’t be miserable.
That said, any time between April and October is ideal for a trip to Gig Harbor. Even on my most recent visit in early April, what started as a grey day became stunningly nice and warm by the mid-afternoon. It’s the Pacific Northwest: pack layers, make sure you have an umbrella or raincoat, and you’ll be fine.
Where to Stay
Gig Harbor has four main hotel/inn options (plus Airbnb reports several dozen choices ranging in price from $80-$500 per night). I have had the pleasure to enjoy the hospitality of two properties first-hand.
Inns/B&Bs in Gig Harbor
The Maritime Inn hosted me during my recent stay, and I loved being right in the heart of town. Directly across from Skanskie Brothers Park, Mr. Valise and I had a wonderful water view from our window, and a luxurious queen room to relax in after a hard day’s sightseeing and walking. The building is a bit labyrinthine, but the room more than made up for the staircases we had to navigate to get there.
The whole staff of the Maritime Inn were welcoming, and someone was available whenever we came and went, and when we had questions. Breakfast was a conservative spread of basic continental breakfast items – in our case that worked well since we needed to rush off to catch a ferry home.
Another option is the Waterfront Inn, similarly situated right on the water, but in a different part of the harbor. They also have a large deck that guests can enjoy.
Rooms at the Maritime Inn start from $129 per night, or at the Waterfront Inn starting from $169 per night.
Local Hotels in Gig Harbor
I also had the pleasure to enjoy the hospitality of the Inn at Gig Harbor. This interesting property seems to cater more toward conference and business travelers, but still had some wonderful touches: our room had an in-suite jacuzzi and was huge. The second room was what we affectionately dubbed “The Board Room” due to the large table in the room. The lobby and staff were wonderful, and I loved looking at the historic photos on the walls throughout the property.
Rooms at The Inn at Gig Harbor start from $159 per night.
Chain Hotels in Gig Harbor
Normally I don’t mention chain hotels as I typically don’t stay at them, but as there’s only one in the area, it would be remiss to exclude them. The Best Western Plus Wesley Inn & Suites is not located in the central part of Gig Harbor, and offers standard Best Western Plus amenities.
Rooms at the Best Western start from $164 per night.
What to Do in Gig Harbor
On a beautiful sunny day in Gig Harbor, my best recommendation would be to walk around. The town is entirely walkable, thanks to nice paved paths that run from one end of the harbor to the other. You’ll get a workout climbing up and down some of the hills, but there’s so much to see that when the weather is good, you should enjoy it all al fresco.
Finholm View Climb – This 100-stair climb from the street level gives you a panoramic view of Gig Harbor in its entirety. You’ll pass people running up the stairs for a workout, and get an appreciation for how well protected the town is geographically.
Skanskie Brothers Park – This waterfront park in the ‘center’ of town (it’s hard to describe the center of a town when the town borders a body of water on three sides) is great for stretching your legs – there are netsheds to peek into, boats to watch, and plenty of piers to explore.
Donkey Creek Park – Situated at the far end of the harbor where Donkey Creek flows into the Puget Sound, this low, flat land offers plenty of trails and ‘beach’ (Pacific Northwest rocky beach) to explore. Mr. Valise and I sat and watched the crows and seagulls here for a long time.
Harbor History Museum – If the weather isn’t cooperating, be sure to check out the Harbor History Museum near Donkey Creek Park. This small-town museum boasts an impressively large collection of items that help bring the history of Gig Harbor to life. They’re also currently working on a boat restoration in the back of the museum.
The Old Ferry Landing – In days long past (before the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built), a ferry ran from Point Defiance to Gig Harbor to bring everything the town needed. Now, the small parking lot offers a great view of Puget Sound to one side, and the entrance to Gig Harbor on the other. This is perfect if you want to watch the boats come in and out of the harbor.
Where to Eat in Gig Harbor
Luckily, Gig Harbor is similarly blessed with talented restauranteurs like the other small Washington towns I’ve visited. There is no need to be hungry – in fact you’ll probably eat too much, like we did (hence walking everywhere!).
Netshed No. 9 – I have been to Netshed No. 9 on both of my visits, and it’s definitely among my personal favorites. They do an amazing brunch, including indulgent bacon cinnamon rolls (above) and awesome chorizo biscuit and gravy.
Brix 25° – This luxe little dinner spot was packed when we had our dinner here; it seemed like the spot that everyone in town wanted to be seen at. From the pork belly appetizer to delicious cheesecake brûlée, the meal was spot on – the chef even came out to say hello at our table.
Devoted Kiss Cafe – Situated at the far end of the harbor, we enjoyed sandwiches out on the patio overlooking the water. My Cuban sandwich was delicious, but I particularly loved the potato salad… it was a perfect flavor of summer.
Tides Tavern – A must-stop for both locals and travelers alike, Tides Tavern is a Gig Harbor institution. Everyone recommends the clam chowder, but Mr. Valise had fish & chips while I enjoyed a burger. We looked out over the harbor as the sun went down and, as became the norm for Gig Harbor, ate way too much.
Where to Drink in Gig Harbor
You thought I’d never get there, right? Never fear: I made sure to experience the libations Gig Harbor has to offer too. It wouldn’t be a complete guide without that.
7 Seas Brewing – Increasingly distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest, 7 Seas Brewing calls Gig Harbor home – though their production is moving to another part of the state to keep up with demand. Our eight-beer tasting flight was a great way to sample a big variety of their offering, and the server was wonderful about explaining each beer with her recommendations.
Wet Coast Brewing – I didn’t get a chance to try Wet Coast Brewery’s beers (their tasting room is located a little ways outside town) but they’re making waves among the locals.
Heritage Distilling – Last, but certainly not least, you can’t visit without taking the time to visit Heritage Distilling Company. They have two tasting room locations: one next door to the Inn at Gig Harbor and one right in the center of Gig Harbor. We had the chance to take a tour of the distillery, as well as sample way too many of their spirits. My recommendation? The BSB-Brown Sugar Bourbon is easily the best thing I’ve drank in a long time, and their flavored vodkas are a really fun way to create interesting cocktails (each made with the actual ingredient, rather than any flavors or fake stuff).
That’s it! Everything you need to experience Gig Harbor to the fullest. Are you ready to visit this perfect little PNW town yet?
My trip to Gig Harbor was arranged by Zahorsky PR on behalf of the City of Gig Harbor. Many thanks to The Inn at Gig Harbor, Heritage Distilling, Brix 25°, Netshed No. 9, Devoted Kiss Cafe, the Harbor History Museum, 7 Seas Brewing, Tides Tavern, and the Maritime Inn for their hospitality. As always, the opinions and recommendations expressed herein are my own.