Gig Harbor is an old fishing village, with one of the most picturesque harbors in Washington State.
Gig Harbor is less than an hour from Seattle on Puget Sound in a stunning inlet, with tasteful shops, waterfront restaurants, a marina full of luxury boats, and gorgeous waterview homes.
The main hub of activity is along Harborview Drive, where Gig Harbor's popularity as a tourist destination has resulted in a proliferation of gift shops, wine bars and eateries.
There's also some luxe waterfront inns, within walking distance of upscale restaurants and cosy cafes.
10 best things to do at Gig Harbor
1. Explore waterfront Skansie Brothers Park and the Visitor Center.
Skansie Brothers Park (3207 Harborview Drive) at Gig Harbor is the first stop for tourists, and the heart of this quaint township. This is where the community comes together for farmer's markets, holiday celebrations, and summertime concerts.
The park is historically significant and houses a net shed and family home owned by the Croatian Skansie brothers, an early fishing and boat building family. There are picnic tables and a covered pavilion, and a lovely grassed area for recreation, with beautiful views of Gig Harbor.
Take the stairs to the top of the Jerisich Public Dock at the Skansie Brothers Park, for some of the best views of Gig Harbor. There's some picnic tables on top, and restrooms below.
This fisherman statue is in the welcome plaza of Skansie Brothers Park in Gig Harbor, testament to the rich fishing heritage of this area. You can see the historic Skansie family house behind the statue.
The historic, red brick Skansie family house was built in 1908, and is now a visitor center and museum, sold to the city along with the netshed in 2002.
The Skansie family were fisherman in the spring, and successful shipbuilders in the winter. Peter Skansie arrived in Washington first in the 1890s, followed by his three brothers Joe, Andrew and Mitchell. Andrew Skansie was an experienced stonemason and built the house, living in it with his wife and five children. The three sons lived in the house for most of their life, and it remained in the family until the death of the final son in 2002.
This is an early photo of the Skansie home and the Skansie family. They had three sons (Vincent, Antone, Peter) and two daughters (Clementina, Jeroma).
Gig Harbor was settled by European immigrants in the late 19th Century and became a thriving fishing village, shipbuilding and mill town. The rustic net sheds and boatyards still line the waterfront, giving a glimpse of yesteryear. However, commercial fishing boats are now outnumbered by recreational boaters and kayakers, taking advantage of the calmer waters of Gig Harbor Bay.
This is the historic Skansie netshed, constructed in 1910 by Andrew Skansie, used for storing fishing gear and nets. From 1910 onwards dozens of these netsheds cropped up along the western shoreline of Gig Harbor. Today there are only 17 left. They hark back to the earliest roots of Gig Harbor's identity as a commercial fishing area for Croatian immigrants, building netsheds at the waterfront, with their homes a few steps away uphill.
Jerisich Dock is adjacent to Skansie Brothers Park, and is named after the earliest Yugoslavian pioneer Samuel Jerisich. When Samuel arrived in 1867, the entire area was covered in thick forest, and he lived in a very basic log cabin. Jerisich married an Indian woman, and had eight children, selling fish to make a living.
Take a seat at the raised platform at Jerisich Public Dock, and keep a close eye on all the activity at the dock below. Stairs lead from the raised platform down to the dock.
Today you'll only see recreational boaters using Jerisich Dock. The old commercial fishing boats are long gone.
2. Explore shops along charming Harborview Drive.
Gig Harbor has a quaint downtown area on the picturesque waterfront. Browse some shops including Tickled Pink Gift Shop, For the Love of Spice, and Gallery Row, and pick up your morning cuppa at Java and Clay. The Beach Basket Christmas Shop is a fun stop for unique Christmas decorations.
There's usually lots of on-street parking along Harborview Drive.
Stop by The Boatyard for hotdogs and other comfort food.
The Harbor General Store sells coffee, wine, soda and more.
Stop by the icecream stand for a delicious treat in summer.
The Commercial District in Gig Harbor developed in the early 20th Century. Some of the first buildings were the Memorial Presbyterian Church (1913), and Peninsula Hotel (1925). The Peninsula Hotel is now used for restaurants and retail today, and stands on the corner of Harborview Drive and Pioneer Way in Gig Harbor.
Java and Clay Coffee is a popular hang out place in Gig Harbor. Sip coffee in a charming setting, while hand painting some pottery.
Find a cute gift at Tickled Pink in Gig Harbor.
The Heritage Distilling Company at Gig Harbor is an award winning craft distillery, selling vodka, gin and whiskey.
Stop by the tasting room.
3. Savor beautiful views at a waterfront restaurant.
Gig Harbor has some great choices for waterfront dining, including the more upscale Anthonys Gig Harbor. The NetShed No.9 has a quaint setting in a historic netshed with a yummy breakfast and lunch menu, and patio dining with stunning water views. The Devoted Kiss Cafe also serves breakfast and lunch, with equally beautiful views and a patio.
This is the historic Netshed 9 restaurant, along Harborview Way, serving breakfast and lunch, and dinner twice a week.
Sit out on the patio, and savor the glorious water views.
4. See the lighthouse from the Old Ferry Landing.
Drive to the end of Harborview Drive for breathtaking views of Puget Sound, Point Defiance and Mount Rainier from the platform at the Old Ferry Landing (2700 Harborview Drive). This was the site of the old Ferry Landing from 1928 to 1940, before a bridge was built over the Tacoma Narrows.
The Gig Harbor Lighthouse is visible across the water from the Old Ferry Landing, constructed in 1988 as a minor navigational aid. The lighthouse is full of time capsules with photographs and other memorabilia. The first timecapsules were opened after 25 years in 2014, and replaced by a new batch soon thereafter.
Unfortunately you can't visit the Gig Harbor Lighthouse by foot or road. The road dead-ends nearby, but private property signs prevent you from walking out to the sandy spit. The best way to experience it is by kayaking out to the spit.
This is the viewing platform at the Old Ferry Landing, at the end of Harborview Drive in Gig Harbor. There are some picnic tables with soaring views of snowcapped Mt Rainier. The beach is visible directly below, but is private property.
5. Visit the FREE Gig Harbor Museum
The excellent Gig Harbor Museum (4121 Harborview Drive) has some fascinating displays on the early days of this vibrant fishing and boat building town. For a hundred years the fishing industry here was dominated by Croatian immigrants, and many of their boats were constructed in one of Gig Harbor's three shipyards, churning out dozens of tugs, rowboats and steamboats. By the 1940s their focus changed to leisure craft.
Learn about the daily struggles of the first settlers in the Gig Harbor area, step inside an authentic 1890's School House, and see the original Shenandoah Fishing Boat built in 1925 at Gig Harbor by the Skansie Shipbuilding Company. Learn about life on the once remote outpost of Gig Harbor, where everything once had to be shipped in.
This is the Shenandoah Fishing Boat built in 1925 by the Skansie Shipbuilding Company in Gig Harbor.
The first school was originally a shanty donated by the local Indians in the 1880s. It was eventually replaced by this new schoolhouse constructed in 1893.
The one room school has many of the original artifacts, like the desks, maps, wood stove, and Victrola record player.
Learn about the spectacular collapse of the first bridge constructed across the Tacoma Narrows near Gig Harbor, named Galloping Gertie because she swayed in the wind. The bridge opened in July 1940, but collapsed only four months later in a wind storm.
6. Stroll along peaceful Donkey Creek Park and Austin Estuary.
The tranquil Donkey Creek Park (1714 N. Harborview Drive) at Gig Harbor, has a lush, lawned area with a creek and viewing platform. It's just across the road from the Gig Harbor Museum and Austin Estuary, and is a lovely place for a picnic, to read or book, or for kids to run around.
Take the short path under the bridge and along the creek, from Donkey Creek Park to the Austin Estuary.
This is where the path follows the creek to empty out into Gig Harbor at the Austin Estuary. The Gig Harbor Museum is set back from the estuary.
The Austin Estuary is historically significant as the site of Gig Harbor's Austin Mill, constructed in 1909. This mill closed in the 1950s, and was replaced by the Peninsula Light Company, and then eventually the Gig Harbor Museum. The mill was Gig Harbor's largest employer, and employed ranchers and fisherman in the off-season.
The owner of Austin Mills was C.O. Austin, who tragically died in an accident at the mill. He is pictured in the top right.
7. Visit Gig Harbor's first downtown, and climb the stairs up Finholm View Climb
The Finholm View Climb is located in Gig Harbor's first downtown. This first downtown area was settled in the 1880s at the head of Gig Harbor, 1-mile northwest of the second commercial area that sprung up in the 1920s. It's a 1-mile walk along Harborview Drive, between the two commercial areas.
Get the best views of Gig Harbor up Finholm View Climb, just across the road from Anthony's Restaurant (8826 N. Harborview Drive).
This is the view from the top of the Finholm View Climb.
Finholm's Market and Grocery was purchased by Finnish immigrant John Finholm in 1935, from Swedish immigrant Axel Uddenberg. Check out the stunning mural.
Between the 1880's to the 1920s, Gig Harbor's first downtown was the heart of the community, with a library, restaurants, post office, bakery, community hall and steamboat landing.
Cross the road from the Finholm Stairs, to the Bogue Viewing Platform, celebrating Ruth Bogue who was mayor of Gig Harbor from 1978 to 1985.
The Bogue Viewing Platform has superb views of Gig Harbor and Mt Rainier, from the head of the harbor.
8. Take your kids to the playground at Crescent Creek City Park.
Crescent Creek City Park (3303 Vernhardson Place) has an awesome marine themed playground with a boat. It's also the perfect spot for a gathering, with a baseball stop, tennis courts, BBQ area with covered shelter, picnic tables and a creek.
There's also a sandbox for the littlest kids, with lots of sand toys.
9. Go sightseeing on Gondola Tour.
Gig Harbor Gondola offers 90-minute tours of the harbor, on a Venetian gondola. The gondolas seat a maximum of six people. What a fun way to see Gig Harbor by water!
10. Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore Gig Harbor.
There's no better way to explore Gig Harbor's pristine waters than by kayak. Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore Gig Harbor's inlets and docks, and mysterious lighthouse. Boat rentals are available along the waterfront.
The Ship to Shore (3403 Harborview Drive) rents kayaks and paddleboards. It also has some super cute, marine-themed gifts inside.
The Gig Harbor Fly Shop (3115 Harborview Drive) also has kayaks and paddleboards for rent.
In warmer months, Gig Harbor is teeming with kayakers. It's one of the best places in Washington State for kayaking, with a breathtaking backdrop.
11. Learn about Gig Harbor's fishing and boat building history at Eddon Boat Park.
The Eddon Boat Park is on Harborview Drive at Gig Harbor, with a lovely lawned area overlooking the water. This is a historically rich area, with boatsheds from Gig Harbor's earliest commercial fishing industry, and a boathouse shop.
These are some photos of Gig Harbor's earliest fisherman, hauling in their catch. Fishing boats are still visible today at Eddon Boat Park.
The Gig Harbor Boathouse is a notable building at Eddon Boat Park. Boats were built by three Gig Harbor yards from 1912 to 1931. This is the original site of one of them, opened in 1920 by Norwegian Conrad Anderson. It was then torn by new owner Art Glein in 1946, who built the new boathouse. The business was sold twice more, before plans for demolition in 2003. However, the Gig Harbor community thankfully prevented this from happening.
Are there places to swim at Gig Harbor?
Gig Harbor doesn't have any great swimming beaches. Some people choose to swim off the docks, and others wade out from the pebbly beach into the waters at small Ancich Park. Unfortunately neither option has lifeguards. Kopachuck State Park is a 15-minute drive west of Gig Harbor, and is a better choice for beach time. However, once again there are no lifeguards.
Book a luxe overnight stay at Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor has some beautiful inns, including the Inn at Gig Harbor, Wesley Inn, Maritime Inn, and Waterfront Inn at Gig Harbor.
What's near Gig Harbor?
Visit Tacoma with excellent museums and trendy waterfront dining at Ruston Point, including the Tacoma Art Museum, LeMay Car Museum, Museum of Glass, and Washington State History Museum. The FREE Childrens Museum of Tacoma is also great fun!
Nearby Point Defiance Park is stunning, with a zoo, rose garden, beach and miles of trails.