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Explore Gig Harbor

"The Maritime City"

Harbor views of boats and great shopping await you across the Narrows Bridge. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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There is no giant octopus beneath the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. We all know it to be true, but most of us still contemplate the eerie possibility every time we cross the bridge, leaving the hustle and bustle of Tacoma behind and heading for the quiet charm of Gig Harbor. "The Maritime City," as Gig Harbor is known by locals, has become a hotspot for tourism over the last few decades.  Despite steady economic growth and expansion, the city has managed to hold onto its historical roots and desirability as a location offering true, Pacific Northwestern living.

"Gig Harbor's heritage is unique and interesting," said Karen Scott, the tourism and communications director of the City of Gig Harbor. "Several heritage markers illustrate history and can be found along the waterfront. The bay itself is unique; sheltered and peaceful yet full of activity."  

Gig Harbor was named in 1840 by Cpt. Charles Wilkes, when he sought shelter in the harbor using a small boat called a "captain's gig." In 1867, the city was settled by Swedish, Norwegian and Croatian immigrants hoping to commercially fish the area. Up until the 1950s, the city built its economy off the same fishing, boat-building and logging industries that it got its start from. Today, the legacy of those industries drives tourism in Gig Harbor.

Some of the historical attractions related to Gig Harbor's heritage are the Harbor History Museum, Eddon Boat Building, and the historic netsheds still standing along the city's western shoreline. "The scenery is breathtaking and Skansie Brothers Park is the heart of town," Scott explained. "It hosts hundreds of events and festivals." Water activities including kayaking, paddle boarding and boating are also available near Skanskie Brothers Park, making it an ideal location to start a day of sight-seeing or excursions.

In addition to its historical charm, Gig Harbor is also known for its abundance of unique eateries and craft spirits. The Waterfront Farmers Market, Tides Tavern and Brix 25° restaurants all offer a quintessential Gig Harbor culinary experience. "A trip across the bridge is worth it with a visit to Brix 25°," said Jackie Fender, a bartender and server at Brix 25°, who commutes daily from Tacoma to Gig Harbor. "The owner and chef, Thad Lyman, heads a team that creates some impeccable dishes. Co-owner Katie Doherty selects a beautiful Pacific Northwest selection to pair with food, and the restaurant boasts the most creative libations in Gig Harbor. Even before I was an employee there, I knew the intimate ambiance and unique flavors (their ghost pepper sorbet is divine) were a true gem to discover in Gig Harbor's downtown." Visitors looking for craft spirits won't be disappointed either, as Heritage Distillery, Trillium Creek Winery and 7 Seas Brewing Co. all call Gig Harbor home.

Like Fender, many locals across the Puget Sound don't mind commuting to Gig Harbor for work because of its convenient location. The city boasts quick access to Tacoma, Seattle, Naval Base Kitsap and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Gig Harbor is also considered the "gateway to the Olympic Peninsula," as it offers a scenic and coastal drive to popular vacation spots surrounding the Olympic National Forest. Discovery Bay, Port Townsend and Port Angeles are all points of interest worth exploring just beyond Gig Harbor's city limits.

But what truly makes Gig Harbor unique, according to Scott, isn't the historical allure, decadent coastal cuisine or convenient location. It's simply the people. "The people make this place even more special," she shared.  "Their love for Gig Harbor is evident." 

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