Gig Harbor is the name given to both a bay on Puget Sound and the charming city on its shore in Pierce County, Washington.
It is one of several cities and towns that boast of being “the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.”
It is a beloved destination for its endless scenic views, beautiful historic waterfront, a remarkable number of state and city parks, adventurous culinary options, and thrilling recreational opportunities.
This city has its share of local history, maritime stories, a boat-building past, and Native American and agricultural fingerprints.
With its central location in Puget Sound, its harbor and marina mark a jumping-off point for those seeking waterborne escapades paddling, sailing, boating, swimming, and indulging in the peaceful waters.
The seaward siren call of the harbor draws in visitors who flock to the scenic coastal vantage points, tour the charming downtown district, and stroll the streets in search of postcard scenes.
If you’re interested in making Gig Harbor your next waterfront Washington destination, check this handy list of the best things to do in the city:
Stroll on the Shore at Sunrise Beach Park
Sunrise Beach is among the must-visit outdoor spaces in Gig Harbor.
It is a local favorite for family outings and outdoor strolls, with its 82 acres of attractive land, 6-acre beachfront, 2 miles of trails, and a breathtaking meadow.
It is a rocky beach of Puget Sound gravel and rocks, so put on sturdy footwear when you explore.
Go on its walking paths and forest trails, admire the views of Mount Rainier, Vashon Island, Puget Sound, and follow the linear shoreline along Colvos Passage.
Let your kids enjoy climbing the fallen trees, start collecting shells and driftwood, try swinging around the makeshift playground, and rest in the shaded areas for a bit of peace and quiet.
Sunrise Beach is also a spot that gives access to a lovely scuba diving destination, so feel free to bring along your gear for a good dive.
Have Fun Outside at Crescent Creek Park
On the northeast side of town, Crescent Creek Park is a lovely 5.8-acre natural spot of open-air green space that is still known to residents as “City Park.”
It carries a touch of history with its natural creek bed, regal specimen trees, and landscape that represented much of Gig Harbor’s rural lifestyle.
For many years, it was the only park within city limits, and it first served as the recess grounds for Crescent Valley School in the 1900s.
There are picnic tables, a covered shelter, a baseball field with bleachers, volleyball fields, a basketball area, tennis courts, a play structure and swings, a bike jumping trail park, a splash pad, and a large grass field for events.
You can while away an entire afternoon here, finding athletic pursuits and basking in nature’s cradle.
Satisfy Seafood Cravings in Anthony’s at Gig Harbor
Anthony’s is a Pacific Northwest seafood restaurant chain that serves local catches with regional wines and beers.
At Gig Harbor, you will find Anthony’s to be a bright, innovative, roomy dining area that looks out on the harbor and Mount Rainier, along with glimpses of the kitchen where the staff works their seafood charms.
The restaurant is always committed to serving Northwest seafood that reflects the style and personality of the seaside neighborhood.
At Anthony’s, expect the most delicious offerings such as clam chowder, king salmon, grilled prawns, Pacific oysters on the half shell, ginger marinated mussels, crispy calamari, wild seared poke, and more.
The team at Anthony’s very much knows their fisheries, seasonal openings, and cycles and selects the freshest seafood at the height of the seasons to showcase their natural flavors.
Seek Outdoor Pursuits at Sehmel Homestead Park
Sehmel Homestead Park used to be an 1885 multi-generational homestead northwest of Gig Harbor.
After a generous donation in 2002, it became a thriving public space with a little bit of something for everybody.
The property includes 76 acres of wetlands, meadows, landscaped gardens, a naturalistic pond, rolling hills, and forests.
There are 4 miles of maintained trails for hiking and walking, plus boardwalks that include one showcasing a stream traveling through a tree.
About 22 acres of the property concentrate around team sports and amenities, where you will see a 300-foot combination baseball and softball field, a 375-foot baseball field, two tennis courts, a basketball court, an artificial turf soccer field, and a Boundless Playground open for children with disabilities.
Also on-site are several picnic areas, a picnic shelter, an indoor pavilion, an outdoor performing arts amphitheater, concessions, restrooms, and a drinking fountain.
Go Sightseeing with Destiny Harbor Tours
Another great way to hit the water is with Destiny Harbor Tours, which will take you on an up-and-close look at more wonders of Puget Sound.
You will love talks about Gig Harbor’s trivia and stories, take in sweeping views of the Sound with the sight of islands and mountains, and have a great chance to spot ospreys and more creatures.
The trips pass underneath Tacoma Narrows Bridge, where one will float above the original sunken bridge, Galloping Gertie, and hear stories of its construction and the giant octopus that used to play tricks on the working divers.
You will also glide past the storied spots, Salmon Beach and Point Defiance, and learn about their pasts.
See harbor seals and sea lions feeding on fish beneath the bridges, and keep an eye out for bald eagles during the tour.
Sample Drinks at Heritage Distilling Company
Heritage Distilling Company, or HDC for short, has been the most awarded distillery in North America by the American Distilling Institute for eight years.
It has been called the best of the country’s premium distilleries and among of the West Coast’s most prominent, crafting award-winning whiskey, gins, vodkas, rums, and aquavits.
They create their spirits with passion and manage the process by hand with some of the top-quality ingredients available in Washington.
They maintain the “field to flask” ethos, from working directly with the farmers who grow the grain, milling the grain, securing the water source’s purity, making their own mash and wort, and running custom-made silts.
When you visit their distillery, you are sure to be met with satisfaction in the tasting rooms and fulfillment at their award-winning programs as you sample the best-flavored spirits around.
Lounge through the Waterways with Gig Harbor Gondola
Gig Harbor Gondola is the only place in Washington State where you can board an authentic Venetian gondola and enjoy a leisurely cruise on the water.
Where else can you experience the spell of Venice with the beautiful forests of Puget Sound and the storied past of ‘old Gig Harbor’ as your backdrop?
Gondoliers John “Cinque” Synco and Greg Garite will ferry you around the Harbor, tell fascinating stories about the homes and points of interest that line its shores and serenade you with authentic Italian songs.
All the while, have helpings of salami, cheese, crackers, fruit, vegetables and dip, and milk and white chocolate dessert.
Relax in the plush carpets and luxurious Italian adornments of the gondola, soak in the experience of a Pacific Northwest sunset on the water, and enjoy this momentary escape from the hectic world.
Admire the View from Skansie Brothers Park and Netshed
This 2.59-acre spot at the center of downtown Gig Harbor has ties to the city’s early history and 4 Croatian fisherman brothers who made their living at the shore.
The Skansie family donated the land to the city in 2002, and it has been an open community space ever since.
The park hosts events such as the Maritime Gig Festival, the summer concert series, the Holiday tree lighting, and other community gatherings throughout the year.
Found on the grounds are the Skansie Brothers Netshed that provided easy access to their fishing vessels and the historic Skansie Brothers House.
There is also the Fishermen’s Memorial, dedicated to the Gig Harbor fishermen lost at sea.
Here, enjoy postcard-perfect views: the picturesque Gig Harbor waterfront, the vibrant and rolling green lawn space, and boats of all shapes and sizes on the water.
Have a Movie Marathon at the Gig Harbor Film Festival
The annual Gig Harbor Film Festival is a stellar experience taking place every September.
It has emerged as one of the trendiest destinations in the independent film circuit, hosting over 80 visiting filmmakers, screening over 100 films, and being watched by an audience of over 4,000.
Its mission is to nourish a vibrant community of film lovers and filmmakers who celebrate the power of cinema to inspire, entertain, educate, and tell great stories.
The festival screens the films in high quality at the lavish and state-of-the-art Galaxy Theatre in uptown Gig Harbor.
The festival is of renowned hospitality, which is why plenty of filmmakers choose to attend it in person, offering question and answer portions to an eager audience at the screenings.
Be regaled by three days’ worth of star-studded film entertainment in a great range of genres, with something unique for every film lover to devour.
Taste Beer at 7 Seas Brewing
The branch of 7 Seas Brewing at Gig Harbor is committed to producing craft beer using technical knowledge and the freshest ingredients as they create distinct, well-balanced beer.
They have always driven themselves to create the best beer and challenge themselves with constant innovation and consistency.
They have a different approach to beer development than usual: first, they outline the final product they have in mind: its texture, aroma, flavor.
They then reverse engineer the processes and the ingredients to get the desired final product.
Knowledge of individual ingredients and how they interact together is vital in this development.
The creators launched the brewery in 2009 close to downtown Gig Harbor, and today, they distribute the beer throughout Washington State.
The taproom at Gig Harbor is a warm and friendly gathering place with long communal tables and brews all year long.
Discover the City’s Historic Past at Harbor History Museum
The Harbor History Museum is a history and maritime museum that trains focus on the maritime culture that has defined the Gig Harbor area.
Here, encounter a range of photographs, artifacts, video kiosks, intricate, hands-on exhibits, a small theater, and computer interactive presentations.
The museum showcases the primary movers of the region’s rich past, such as the indigenous people that dwelt in the land for many generations and the pioneering shipbuilders that paved the early industrial and economic stepping stones.
The museum provides lectures, book readings, workshops, and 3 to 5 exhibits throughout the year so that there is always something new to discover.
The museum’s mission is to build opportunities of experiencing the Gig Harbor communities and their heritage by collecting, sharing, and preserving the region’s past.
Their vision is to be a cornerstone that provides a gathering point for the entire community.
Walk Down Cushman Trail
Get some exercise on this 6.2-mile pedestrian trail ranging from 12-16 feet wide and stretching north and south through Gig Harbor.
It weaves under powerlines and through green fields, creating a sizable path for runners, bikers, and walkers.
It is a relatively flat trail, but it is very hilly with 6 miles of grade changes in varying inclines in places, so you are ensured of a good workout challenge.
Many areas allow access to the route, with several trailheads within the city, the most popular being Grandview Street.
There are multiple spots along the trail for taking a break–benches, handrails, and five rest spots line it–so pack a picnic lunch and enough hydration to fuel up on your hike.
Remember to bring your wallet for stopovers at some of the unique shopping areas along the trail.
Do Some Cozy Shopping at Chalet in the Woods
Have you ever had a shopping experience that is all at once productive and restorative?
Visit Chalet in the Woods, a European gift and clothing store situated on 12 peaceful areas of the garden, woodland, and a pasture for a flock of Oxford lambs and sheep.
Your visit to the chalet will have you feeling right at home, with the owner even providing an offering of baked goods and coffee to every shopper.
They carry Norwegian-made Oleana clothing, silk, coats, blankets, sweaters, and accessories at this store.
They also carry Saint James clothing made in Normandy, France, with great selections for men, women, and children.
They have a wide gift selection from the Iittala line in Finland, Kosta Boda in Sweden, and other new and innovative artists.
Also spot home décor, candles, books, dishes, cutlery, jewelry, bath products, linens, holiday accessories, and additional beautiful European products.
Find Shelter under the Trees at McCormick Forest Park
This forested space will bring you to the heart of Mother Nature, a 122-acre marvel with spectacular old-growth trees, thriving wildlife, and more than 3 miles of trails.
The trails cover a wide range, ranging from flat to 200 feet of elevation gain: they are well-maintained with many twists and turns, good hills and steep areas, unique trees and creeks, and a pretty stream.
Don’t miss the wonders of the sights at this place: the 100-year-old Douglas Firs, which are of a grand old age with a hefty circumference, the flowing McCormick Creek, the admirable McCormick Creek Canyon.
Discover botanical diversity in the woods with the profusion of flora and fauna, all making you feel like you’re in a primeval forest.
There is also a fenced-in dog park where your furbabies can explore and socialize with fellow dogs and have a bit of exercise.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Appreciate the Scenery in Kopachuck State Park
Kopachuck State Park is a 109-acre marine and camping park with 5,600 feet of saltwater shoreline, located 13 minutes from Gig Harbor.
It provides stunning sights of magnificent sunsets, sandy beaches, the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound on its western exposure.
The beach is a popular destination for kayaking, swimming, boating, paddling, beachcombing, wading, fishing, and exploring the marine habitat.
At low tide, find riches in the sand: starfish, crabs, sand dollars, clams, crabs, oysters, and more eccentric sea life.
The park also has two miles of lush hiking trails where you can meander around a scenic forested environment.
You can even take a private boat to Cutts Island, a small clay butte with a growth of trees and its own teardrop-shaped beach, half a mile from the shore.
With its sunlit beaches and shaded forest, this lovely place provides another welcome escape from everyday city life.
This historic and beautiful waterfront place is perfect for small-town charm, picture-perfect scenery, and a wealth of recreation.
Gig Harbor will take you close to the wild outdoors and the seaward horizon, so if you’re vacationing in this uniquely-located city, make a note of this list to know the best things to do here.