By Carrianne Ekberg, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance Executive Director
Looking for an idyllic weekend away? Local expert Carrianne lays out her perfect two-day game plan for exploring the charming waterfront town of Gig Harbor, featuring plenty of good eats, historic sites, and opportunities to dive head-first into maritime heritage—including the chance to build your own boat!
“Nestled along a picturesque waterfront, Gig Harbor invites visitors to indulge in a delightful blend of coastal beauty, boutique shopping, diverse dining experiences, and engaging cultural attractions. With its stunning views, vibrant arts scene, recreational opportunities, and welcoming community, Gig Harbor provides an ideal retreat to unwind, explore, and create lasting memories over a leisurely and fulfilling extended weekend.”
Stroll Gig Harbor’s historic waterfront
Get walking to start your morning! Grab a coffee and a baked fresh daily muffin from Susanne’s Bakery or an authentic New York-style bagel from B’s Bagels. If you’re looking for a quick bite, stop by Java and Clay Café (think yogurt, donuts, and scones) or one of Gig Harbor’s many coffee shops.
Walk off breakfast along Gig Harbor’s historic waterfront. Follow the sidewalk on the water side around the Harbor and enjoy the approximately 1.5 mile walk from Tides Tavern to Anthony’s Restaurant. As you’re walking, make sure to stop by these historic places:
- Skansie Brothers Park. 3211 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98335. The Skansie Brothers Net Shed is open on summer weekends and a great place to learn about Gig Harbor’s historic fishing fleet and netshed operations. If you happen to be in town on a Thursday from early June to mid-September, visit the Waterfront Farmers Market at Skansie Brothers Park, open from 1:00-6:00 pm.
- Harbor WildWatch Marine Life Center. 3207 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98335 in Skansie Brothers Park. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am-4:00 pm. Harbor WildWatch is an environmental education organization focused on inspiring stewardship for the Salish Sea through fun and interactive programs for locals and visitors of all ages. It’s a place for adults and families to learn about marine creatures with aquariums, touch tanks, microscopes, skull display, and rotating exhibits. They also offer free guided walking tours throughout the year at the beaches, estuaries, and wetlands in Pierce and Kitsap counties.
- Ancich Waterfront Park. 3589 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332. The Gig Harbor community successfully preserved this historic property against private development, ensuring public access and maritime industry use. The site features an original netshed listed on the Historic Places Register, waterfront view tables, fishing-themed sculptures, a “Community Paddler’s Dock,” and an upcoming Commercial Fishing Homeport development. Learn more about the history of Ancich Park from the City of Gig Harbor.
Pro tip: if you keep walking southeast past Tides Tavern and 7 Seas Brewing, you’ll come to the old ferry landing with breathtaking views of the mouth of the harbor, Point Defiance, and Mt. Rainier.
While you explore the waterfront, don’t miss a chance to do a little shopping. Downtown Gig Harbor features a diverse selection of retail shops along its waterfront. These stores offer a range of products, from locally crafted soaps, jewelry and art to unique home goods and clothing boutiques with a Pacific Northwest influence. There are also a handful of amazing wellness businesses providing massage, facials and other wellness center activities. With picturesque harbor views, visitors can enjoy a unique shopping experience while taking in the area’s distinct maritime charm and character. Find more information on the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance website.
Lunch at the historic Tides Tavern
Open Sunday-Thursday, 11:00 am-9:00 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am-10:00 pm | 2925 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98335
You can’t visit Gig Harbor without stopping for a meal at the historic Tides Tavern. The iconic restaurant just celebrated its 50th anniversary and is a great spot for lunch with an amazing view.
- Note: the Tides Tavern is limited to guests ages 21 and up. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly spot, there are lots of amazing options along the waterfront. For a complete list of restaurants, check out these recommendations from the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance.
Visit the Harbor History Museum
Open Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00 am-4:00 pm | 4121 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332
Spend your afternoon wandering through the Harbor History Museum, where you’ll explore the rich maritime heritage of Gig Harbor, immersing yourself in captivating exhibits that chronicle the town’s seafaring past, from its fishing roots to boat-building traditions, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and maritime aficionados alike.
Pro tip: read more about the Harbor History Museum’s restoration of the historic F/V Shenandoah here.
“While our Maritime Gallery is currently under construction (due to reopen in January 2024), maritime themes run throughout our permanent gallery as well. Visitors will find stories of local boat builders, amazing adventures, and short films focusing on Gig Harbor’s maritime culture.”
Explore the local dining scene for dinner
Downtown Gig Harbor boasts an abundance of exceptional dining destinations, catering to a diverse range of preferences and occasions. From upscale fine dining establishments that elevate culinary experiences to family-friendly breweries and distilleries that welcome all generations, the culinary landscape in this charming locale offers an impressive array of options for every palate and dining inclination. Check out this list of downtown dining options from the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance.
Spend the night on board
We know you’ve probably stayed in a hotel before, but have you ever stayed in a ‘boatel’? Gig Harbor has several unique overnight accommodations—including houseboats that can be rented overnight. You can find a list of local hotels here, or search VRBO or Airbnb for unique rental options.
Start your day with a leisurely breakfast
Visit Netshed No. 9 (serving breakfast Thursday-Monday, 8:00 am-2:00 pm | 3313 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332) for hot cinnamon rolls or a stuffed biscuit in a historic netshed. Or stop by Devoted Kiss Café (open daily 7:00 am-2:00 pm | 8809 N Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332) for a Smoked Salmon Bagel or delicious Eggs Benedict. Both locations boast gorgeous waterfront views of the Harbor, and in the spring/summer, you can enjoy your meal on their decks over the water.
Build a boat at the Gig Harbor Boatshop
Open Thursday-Sunday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm | 3805 Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332
Sign up for a boatbuilding workshop at Gig Harbor Boatshop (Saturdays and Sundays, April through September) to really get hands-on with maritime traditions. Gig Harbor BoatShop, a nonprofit at the historic Eddon Boatyard, preserves local maritime heritage through boat restoration, boatbuilding programs, and community involvement in maritime activities. They offer hands-on activities, like the Family Boat Building Program, a children’s story hour, and a weekly Community Boat Restoration Program on Saturdays.
Spend some time on the water
If you’d rather ride on a boat than build one, we’ve got you covered. The Gig Harbor Boatshop Livery offers several classic boat rentals in the summer, and you can easily charter a boat all year long—there are multiple options to rent kayaks, paddle boards, and electric boats. You can even take an authentic gondola ride around the harbor! Check out this list from the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance to learn more. Most of the charter companies in Gig Harbor know each other well and will help refer you to other companies if theirs isn’t the right fit.
Pro tip: If you’re interested in trying something new, consider booking a fly-fishing class with the Gig Harbor Fly Shop.
Finish your trip with some ice cream (or a beer)
Wrap up your visit by heading on down to the Museum or Finholm District where you’ll find several unique restaurants for every palette. A trip to the Finholm district wouldn’t be complete without a quick pop-in at Finholms Deli (open Monday-Thursday, 7:00 am-10:30 pm; Friday and Saturday, 7:00 am-11:00 pm; and Sundays, 8:00 am-10:00 pm | 8812 N Harborview Dr, Gig Harbor, WA 98332) for an ice cream and a great selection of beers on tap!