The most scenic way to explore Gig Harbor
By Colin Anderson
Whether you are in town for an afternoon, an extended weekend or longer, Gig Harbor’s waterfront is the can’t miss experience in the city. While remnants of the fishing industry that shaped the town’s early days are ever present, today you’ll find welcoming restaurants, cafés, tasting rooms, shops, interactive sites, parks and, of course, water access. Harborview Drive is easy to navigate—and you can enjoy just about any experience you are looking for all in one beautiful and welcoming location.
A great place to begin your walking tour is at the Harbor History Museum. Admission is free and there is much to see and learn about the founding of the city, its early settlers and rich fishing tradition. The star of the show is the Shenandoah, a 65-foot purse seiner vessel that’s undergoing an immense restoration. Once completed, guests will be able to hop aboard to see what life was like on this amazing vessel. You can also watch the restoration in action and ask questions of those helping bring the vessel back to life.
As you meander the roughly mile-long stretch of Harborview Drive, you’ll encounter several parks in which to take a break and take in the view. Ancich Waterfront Park is a wonderful new place for a picnic. You’ll find several tables perched above the harbor surrounded by natural vegetation. Eddon Boat Park is a nice mix of history and relaxation, including a small beach home to the Gig Harbor BoatShop, which preserves part of Gig Harbor’s working waterfront heritage, and offers programming to keep traditional wooden boat-making skills alive. Skansie Brothers Park and Netshed is one of the main gathering places downtown. The Jerisich public dock and attached park offer a great place to watch kayakers practice or enjoy live music in the summers. You can also step inside the historic Skansie Brothers House, one of the prominent families and early boat builders in the area that now serves as home to Gig Harbor’s Visitor Center, as well as interactive learning exhibits from Harbor WildWatch.
Those looking to do some window shopping will find an eclectic mix of locally owned shops. The Beach Basket is a favorite spot for many, the family run spot has been there for over 50 years and includes some very unique items as well as year-round Christmas décor. The Weathered Cottage and Sea Hags Fine Art are other popular spots, and guests will find pet shops, music, specialty foods, fishing and outdoor outfitters dotting the downtown promenade.
For early risers, great cafés and to-go coffee shops open in time to catch a beautiful sunrise. Java and Clay is a paint-your-own ceramics studio with a espresso shop attached. Kelly’s Café and Espresso is another popular spot where locals begin their day. Susanne’s Bakery and Deli offers local favorites with pastries and sandwiches to go, and you can’t miss the “Harburrito” breakfast burrito from the Harbor General Store, located just off of Harborview Drive.
Gig Harbor is home to a couple of popular breweries and distilleries found in the Northwest. 7 Seas Brewing Company recently opened up a new tasting room right on the water. It’s family friendly, and guests are welcome to bring their own food, or order takeout from their favorite spot. You’ll find their standard brews and also a huge selection of seasonal and aged bottles you can take home with you.
Heritage Distilling gained notoriety throughout the country for its Brown Sugar Bourbon, but the ever-expanding distiller now focuses on whiskey, gin, rum, and many unique flavored vodkas—stop in for a taste test of ghost pepper, bacon, blood orange and huckleberry vodkas. The waterfront location is open daily and also offers tours.
Finding a bite to eat is not a difficult task, choosing between great food with even better views is the real challenge. Tides Tavern is a popular laid-back adult hangout that supports local purveyors and features one of the best patios in town. Netshed No.9, Anthony’s and Brix 25˚ offer fine dining with a view. More casual eats include The Gourmet Burger Shop, El Pueblito, Kelly’s and Millville Pizza Company.
Finally, if you ask anyone where the best view of the Harbor is, you’ll find it on the water. Whether by power boat, sail, canoe, kayak or SUP, taking in the views while floating around the harbor just can’t be beat. Several companies offer boat tours of the region or sunset cruises. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards or electric boats for the day or by the hour, and there are many public access places to launch.
The City of Gig Harbor and the Downtown Waterfront Association are wonderful resources in which to help you plan your visit. Take time to enjoy the scenic, friendly and lively waterfront, and enjoy a relaxing day in wherever your journey takes you … along the waterfront!