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11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Gig Harbor, WA

Written by Brad Lane
Sep 29, 2021

Gig Harbor is on the Kitsap Peninsula in Western Washington, across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma. It surrounds a harbor of the same name at the southern end of Puget Sound. Much of the waterfront area comprises Gig Harbor's charming downtown district. This pedestrian-friendly area offers absolute postcard views in every direction, including scores of boats docked at the local marinas.

It's this seaward charm that draws so many visitors to this town of under 10,000 residents. Countless coastal vantage points and patio-clad restaurants make simply strolling the streets a fun thing to do. A great place to start exploring downtown is the waterfront Skansie Brothers Park and Netshed, and while you're out and about, other tourist attractions, like the Harbor History Museum, and a scenic hill climb add to the day.

Gig Harbors' central location in the Puget Sound region also draws a lot of visitors. The city is approximately a 40-mile drive from Seattle. This short commute makes for easy day trips, but with plenty to see, and plenty of hotels to choose from, a long weekend trip is the recommended way to go.

Add to your weekend itinerary with our list of top things to do in Gig Harbor.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Stroll around Downtown Gig Harbor

Dining at Anthony’s in the historic Finholm district
Dining at Anthony's in the historic Finholm district | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Walking around the downtown waterfront is one of the top things to do in Gig Harbor. This charming area extends from either side of Skansie Brothers Park and connects to the historic Finholm district. It features a scenic walking path near the water, meandering next to many marinas.

Whether you're looking for shopping, dining, or photogenic moments in the day, this pedestrian-friendly area covers all interests. Visiting foodies tend to gravitate towards places like Brix 25 and Netshed No. 9, and burger fans will want to search out The Gourmet Burger Shop.

Casual readers and bibliophiles alike should head to No Dearth of Books, a used bookstore specializing in Pacific Northwest and maritime literature. Other downtown specialty shops include the Beach Basket Gift and Clothing Shop and Fox Island Trading Co.

Downtown Waterfront
Downtown Waterfront | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

And the entire downtown area is brimming with postcard-worthy images. Every direction seems to be a new jigsaw puzzle-worthy ocean scene, including boats bobbing in the water and big skies broadcasting the weather. Add in the soundtrack of seabirds squalling, and indulging in this waterfront scene is worth the visit itself.

2. Skansie Brothers Park and Netshed

Skansie Brothers Park
Skansie Brothers Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This 2.59-acre waterfront park is at the center of downtown Gig Harbor. The property ties back to the city's early history and the four Croatian fisherman brothers that prospered near the shore. The Skansie family donated the land in 2002, and ever since, it's been a central community space.

Skansie Brothers Park presents postcard views of the waterfront. Several dozen boats of all sizes punctuate the water next to the park, and a vibrant green space enables the best outlooks. Here, it's easy to pass the time just appreciating the seaward scene.

Historical remnants on-site include the Historic Skansie Brothers House and their Netshed. The park is also home to a welcome plaza and a Fisherman's Memorial dedicated to those who lost their life at sea.

Fisherman’s Memorial, Skansie Brothers Park
Fisherman's Memorial, Skansie Brothers Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

And Skansie Brothers Park is also host to some of Gig Harbor's most celebrated events. Catch The Waterfront Farmers Market at the park between June and the beginning of September. Other weekly events include Friday night movie screenings and a summer Saturday night music series.

3. Harbor History Museum

Harbor History Museum
Harbor History Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Harbor History Museum offers a unique look into the maritime culture that has shaped the Gig Harbor Peninsula today. The museum is in the middle of the city's historic district, where Donkey Creek meets Puget Sound.

Several artifacts, photographs, and intricate exhibits catch the eye at the Harbor History Museum. The main gallery consists of 7,000 square feet of exhibits detailing the region's rich history. Here, among much more, learn about the Indigenous cultures that lived on the land for generations, and the intrepid shipbuilders that paved the peninsula's early economics.

Midway Schoolhouse, Harbor History Museum
Midway Schoolhouse, Harbor History Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The museum also has a few outdoor exhibits, including the vessel used for a self-supported row across the Pacific Ocean. This outdoor area of the museum is also home to the Midway Schoolhouse, constructed in 1893. This well-kept relic of history is available to tour during the museum's operating hours.

Also on-site is the Shenandoah, a 65-foot fishing vessel originally built in 1925. A multi-year restoration effort by the museum is slowly bringing this regal watercraft back to life. Visitors have the chance to watch restoration works as they're happening in the outdoor courtyard.

Address: 4121 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Washington

Official site: https://harborhistorymuseum.org/

4. Finholm View Climb

View from the Finholm View Climb
View from the Finholm View Climb | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a quintessential view, head to the Finholm Historic District at the back of the harbor. Here, on the other side of the road from the patio-clad Anthony's Restaurant, a wooden set of stairs connects Harborview Drive and Franklin Avenue. Along its ascent, the view of the waterfront gets better and better.

Approximately 100 stairs connect the two streets. Expect to feel soreness in the thighs upon heading up, but enjoy the viewing platforms and rest points along the way. For those looking for a view without the climb, parking is available along the residential Franklin Avenue. Here, an accessible platform sits at the top of the stairs.

5. Take a Guided Tour in Gig Harbor

Gig Harbor
Gig Harbor | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A big appeal of Gig Harbor is its prominent location on the water. This sea-adjacent status enables all sorts of aquatic activities, including guided tours. And for those looking to set sail from Gig Harbor, they have plenty of trips to choose from.

Destiny Harbor Tours is always a popular choice for a morning or afternoon of sea travel. Trips leave from near Anthony's on the waterfront and depart the harbor to head south and pass underneath the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This approximately two-hour route also passes above the original sunken bridge, also known as "Galloping Gertie."

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Private charters are available aboard either of the two boats operated by Destiny Harbor Tours. The company also oversees Riviera Cruises on the same two ships. Riviera Cruises offers additional and unique boat adventures, like sunset cruises and private memorials at sea.

Gig Harbor Gondola might be the right choice for those looking to enjoy the water at a slower pace. This small tour company departs from the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard and offers 60- to 90-minute private trips within the harbor. Up to six people can fit into the gondola, including children and infants. Everyone is welcome to bring food or beverages of choice.

6. Sehmel Homestead Park

Aerial view of Sehmel Homestead Park
Aerial view of Sehmel Homestead Park

This 98-acre park is northwest of downtown near the Rosedale area. It was once a multi-generational family homestead. After a generous land donation in 2002, it's become a prominent public park. And the outdoor space has a little bit of everything, from organized sports to wild nature.

The hiking trails at Sehmel Homestead Park span approximately four miles. Wetlands, meadows, and landscaped gardens are the primary landscapes traversed, and visitors also stumble upon forest stands and pond habitats. Take a picture of the trailhead map before venturing into the network of hiking trails.

Approximately 20 acres of Sehmel Homestead Park is dedicated to team sports and other park amenities. The park has a top-notch football field, a baseball and softball diamond, basketball court, and a handful of tennis courts. Also on-site are an amphitheater, public restrooms, and picnic areas.

Address: 10123 78th Avenue NW, Gig Harbor, Washington

7. Kopachuck State Park

Kopachuck State Park
Kopachuck State Park

Kopachuck State Park sits on the shore of Henderson Bay on the far western side of the city. It encompasses over 280 acres, including 5,600 feet of saltwater shoreline. This ample space to spread out a towel and enjoy the beach is a significant draw to the state park. Visitors can reach the beach from downtown with a 15-minute drive.

The park is day-use only and a very popular place to visit for picnics, with over 50 tables to choose from. The park also encompasses two miles of hiking trails that meander more inland through a forested environment. Aim to be around Kopachuck in the evening, when the sunsets paint a spectacular color against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains.

Address: 10712 56th Street NW, Gig Harbor, Washington

8. Cushman Trail

Cushman Trail
Cushman Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This 6.2-mile paved pedestrian trail is a popular route that stretches north and south through Gig Harbor. It was created in cooperation with the city and the Tacoma Power Utility. It's a wide enough path to support two lanes of bicycle traffic, and periodic restrooms line the route.

The trail cuts northwest on the west side of town but east of State Route 16. Several areas allow access to the route, and a few developed trailheads offer spots for parking. The most prominent trailhead parking area in Gig Harbor is off Grandview Street. This trailhead also has a flushing restroom facility.

While much of the route is relatively flat, a few moments of up to 10% grade exist. Trail users should also be aware that the path crosses a few significant streets city streets. Bicycle riders should be ready to yield at these intersections.

9. Crescent Creek Park

Crescent Creek Park
Crescent Creek Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the northeast side of town, Crescent Creek Park offers a lovely natural space with a touch of history. This relatively small park was once the recess grounds for Crescent Valley School in the early 1900s. It was one of the first schools to spring up alongside the growing logging industry. When the school donated the parcel to the city, it became the first city park in Gig Harbor.

Still known as City Park among the locals, Crescent Creek Park has had much of the same appeal over the past 70-plus years. A WPA stone shelter sits among wooded surroundings next to the creek, surrounded by other shaded picnic areas. Here, a wooden platform also provides a great view over Crescent Creek.

Typical activities at the park include picnics, lounging, and spending the afternoon discovering nature. The park is also home to a popular playground and splash pad that tends to be a big hit with younger visitors.

Address: 3303 Vernhardson Street, Gig Harbor, Washington

10. McCormick Forest Park

This forested public space is northwest of downtown near the Rosedale area, approximately a mile east of Sehmel Homestead Park. The main entrance is off Bujacich Road, near Sehmel Drive. And upon reaching this entrance, an old-growth world of giant trees welcomes visitors.

McCormick Forest Park comprises approximately 120 acres, nearly half of which are home to Douglas Firs over 100 years old. These magnificent trees can't be missed when visiting, as they stand out with their age and circumference. Other standout features at McCormick include several views of the ambling McCormick Creek.

The trail system at McCormick Forest Park spans a minimum of four miles in length. It helps to have a picture of the map when exploring, as many side trails branch out. Horse riders and leashed pets are also welcome on the trail.

Address: 10301 Bujacich Road, Gig Harbor, Washington

11. Donkey Creek Park

Donkey Creek Park
Donkey Creek Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Donkey Creek Park is a 1.3-acre natural space near downtown and the Harbor History Museum. The large open lawn of the park borders the restored Donkey Creek near its mouth into Puget Sound. These healthy waters support salmon each fall as they return to the tributary. The "Returning of the Salmon" sculpture at the park commemorates this annual act of nature.

The park itself offers a quiet and serene place for a moment in the day. The lawn is well maintained, and benches surround the perimeter underneath the large trees bordering the park. And a nearby platform overlooking Donkey Creek offers an excellent view of the salmon-bearing stream.

Donkey Creek Park is often a pit stop in the day. It's close enough to local restaurants for an easy takeout meal, and the ample green space beckons for picnics in the park. Public restrooms are located at the front end of the park on Harborview Drive. And nearby, a pedestrian path crosses underneath the bridge to connect to the Harbor History Museum.

Address: 8714 N Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor, Washington

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