Out-of-towners sometimes don’t know where to start in getting to know the many secrets of our beautiful town. As a 25-year resident of Gig Harbor, I can demystify all of the questions I often hear about Gig Harbor, as well as tell you the best activities, shopping, restaurants, and accommodations to check out. Read on for an in-depth guide on all this and more.
Why Gig Harbor is Worth Visiting
Gig Harbor is the rare combination of an idyllic small town surrounded by unique natural beauty, all within a short drive from Seattle, offering:
- Breath-taking views
- Gorgeous downtown filled with shops and restaurants
- Tons of recreational activities, from golf to kayaking
- Really fun events
If you are interested in moving to Gig Harbor, click here to skip to the section I wrote just for you on everything you need to know about buying a home and living here. As one of the area’s most active realtors, I provided the exact information most people are looking for.
A Comprehensive List of Gig Harbor’s Many Activities
For such a small town, Gig Harbor punches waaaay above its weight with all the activities it offers visitors and residents alike. I’ve made a list here of the most noteworthy places you’ll want to put on your agenda.
So many activities!
Waterfront Farmers Market Thursdays June through the first week of September.
Waterfront Walking Tours Free, available through the summer.
Galaxy Luxury Cinema A unique movie theater experience with plush adjustable seats and a wine and beer bar in lobby.
Oceans 5 Entertainment for all ages: 22 lanes of bowling, private suites, gaming arcade, lazer tag and quality restaurant all in one facility.
Harbor History Museum Programs, Exhibits and live community events in a beautiful modern facility right in downtown Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor BoatShop (501(c)(3) non-profit) in the historic Eddon Boatyard on Gig Harbor’s working waterfront.community access to hands-on working waterfront activities and an intact historic boatyard space that’s been characterized as a “remarkable treasure.” Become a member, volunteer in the shops, visit the boatyard, or engage in a BoatShop skills program – it’s your community boatyard.
Gig Harbor Gondola Venetian-style Italian Gondola ride, private tours of Gig Harbor’s main Harbor.
Gig Harbor Audio For the “Audio-phile” Recording studio. Listen to vinyl, browse books, enjoy a beer from local breweries.
Local Breweries Gig Harbor has become home to a large number of craft breweries in the last few years offering tasting rooms in unique locations.
Ollala Vineyard and Winery Tasting room and wine sales, wine club, tours of the vineyard and winery, live music events, business meeting and special occasion venue, weddings, Dinner in the Vineyard and more.
Butler’s Farm Small farm open to the Public near Purdy. Come and tour the unique rock mural, flower beds and view the orchard from inviting sitting areas. Beautiful flowers, shrubs and landscaping. Hundreds of varieties of apples ripen from August through December.
Recreational activities for the outdoorsy folk
Water Activities: Gig Harbor is a gem for water recreation with more waterfront than any area of Washington state. This is due to the large amount of bays, harbors, inlets, and islands. There are even some lakes for water skiers and boaters who don’t like to get salty.
Boat Launches The Olympic Peninsula and Gig Harbor area have 8 public boat launches.
Marinas The Gig Harbor area boasts 11 Marinas! That is a lot for one district and part of the huge draw for boaters to visit and live in the area.
Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals Don’t have the gear? No problem. Downtown Gig Harbor has you covered.
Gig Harbor Sailing Club and SchoolSailing programs, certifications and community for the novice or the pro.
Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team Summer camps, Regattas, and year-round programs for youth.
Destiny Harbor Tours Wildlife, History and Eco Tours, Charters & Sightseeing of Tacoma Narrows Bridges, Gig Harbor, Salmon Beach, Point Defiance, Thea Foss Waterway and the Port of Tacoma. Scheduled tours or Private Charters.
Fishing: Gig Harbor has too many areas for fishing to cover here including fishing docks and boating spots.
As a town that grew and developed mainly as a retirement community, golf has always been a mainstay, established culture here. Below is a list of the many golf options in and near Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor Golf Club 9 holes with a par 35 (Private). An established and affordable community course with golf camps for youth and panoramic views in a wooded setting.
Madrona Links Golf Course 18 holes with a par 71 (Public) and a popular eatery, right off the freeway and near the Uptown District. Doesn’t get more convenient than this.
Trophy Lake Golf & Casting 18 holes with a par 72 (Public) Golf and fishing in a resort setting with beautiful wildlife and an elegant lodge style clubhouse.
McCormick Woods Golf club 18 holes with a par 72 (Public) A championship Public Course in Port Orchard featuring natural lakes hidden amongst towering firs and cedars. Luxury clubhouse suitable for special events like weddings. Good place to spot eagles.
Parks and Fitness
The great outdoors and health and fitness go hand in hand and they have been a high priority for this community for many years. As a result there are many options for both parks and fitness. The city alone has 19 parks, Penmet has 9 parks, the Key Peninsula has 8 metropolitan parks and there is one large, waterfront state park. You can find a full list here, but below are some highlights.
Kopachuck State Park a 280-acre, day-use marine park with 5,600 feet of saltwater shoreline on Henderson Bay. One portion of the park, Cutts Island, is a half mile from shore and reachable only by boat. This park offers 50 picnic tables and 2 miles of wooded hiking trails.
Crescent Creek Park Covered kitchen with water, sinks, wood stove. Play structure, swings, climbing structures, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, baseball field with bleachers, freestanding barbecues, picnic tables, and stream bed viewing platforms where you can seasonally watch salmon runs. Restrooms and onsite parking.
Cushman Trail 6.2 miles with mixed grades, 16-foot-wide paved, non-motorized trail for pedestrian and bike use. Five restrooms along trail. Four onsite parking locations. Bike racks, benches and picnic tables along the trail.
Jerisich Dock / Skansie Brothers Park and Netshed Side by side these are technically 2 parks that appear to be one. This large area is where you will find the summer farmer’s market, and concerts and movies in the park. There is also a historic netshed museum. On the Jerisich side is a Welcome plaza with restrooms, seasonal splash pad/water feature, accessible viewing deck with picnic tables and a long dock for viewing the harbor that gives mooring access to visiting boaters.
*Skate Park Concrete skating area, kids climbing wall, play structures, benches and trails. Video surveillance. Restrooms at Grandview Forest Park (adjacent). Onsite parking.
Wilkinson Farm Park 16 acre wildlife park with wetlands, holly groves, meadows, community garden and trails featuring a historic homestead includes a barn, house and outbuildings. No restrooms. Onsite parking.
Sehmel Homestead Park 98 acre park with playground, artificial turf, soccer/football/lacrosse field, Boeing Mariners Care baseball field, two softball fields, tennis and basketball courts, 1,500-person amphitheater, 100-person pavilion, picnic areas, open grass meadow, heritage garden, pond, over 4 miles of trail and 76 acres of meadow, pond, wetlands and forest conservancy area. Art/artifacts. Drinking fountain. Restrooms.
Narrows Park 35 acres with 1,000 feet of Tacoma Narrows shoreline access, excellent fishing, and views of the Tacoma Narrows bridge. A paved path, gazebo, and a sandy rock beach. Two telescopes provide up-close views of the bridge and beach. The 6-acre waterfront has paved parking, grassy play and picnic area, picnic table, and non-motorized boat launch. Honey bucket restroom.
Full Calendar of Gig Harbor Festivals and Events
It can be difficult to find a full calendar of the events that happen in Gig Harbor. Below, I included a list of notable events that you should definitely check out if you get a chance. They are a lot of fun and draw people from all over Puget Sound!
- Shamrock’n The Harbor 5k/12k Family-fun run/walk on the beautiful Cushman trail, put on by the Gig Harbor Foundation, raises funds for the Gig Harbor Senior Center
- Farmer’s Market runs through the summer starting in June at downtown’s Skansie Brothers Park
- Maritime Gig Festival Featuring Grand Parade, traditional “Blessing of the Fleet”, Live music, Fun Run, Wheels on the Water Car Show, and booths and vendors
- Tuesday Night Concerts in Skansie Park run June through August and are well attended, on the beautiful waterfront of downtown Gig Harbor
- Gig Harbor Garden Tour a weekend-long, popular tradition since 1998 featuring local gardens throughout Gig Harbor and select vendors
- Gig Harbor Summer Art Festival Very established 2 day festival with over 120 artist booths, food vendors and “Chalk the Harbor” all right in downtown on the waterfront
- Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival at the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard
- Cruise the Narrows Car Show in Uptown Shopping Center
- Gig Harbor Salmon Derby
- Gig Harbor Film Festival, Washington State’s destination film festival.
- Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour a well established event featuring the studios of 20+ professional mixed media visual artists
- Donkey Creek Chum Festival Celebrating the return of the spawning salmon in Donkey Creek, family-friendly festival with boat races, booths, workshops and salmon burgers
- Turkey Trot 5k run with Thanksgiving morning with 3,000+ participants
- Annual Skansie Brothers Park Tree Lighting Featuring live music and a visit from Santa
- Lighted Boat Parade and Lighted Car Parade A well-attended beautiful spectacle on land and water
- Tidefest What started as a small high school craft show has turned into one of the largest art vendor events in Washington.
The Best Places in Gig Harbor to Eat, Shop, and Stay
Gig Harbor truly has so many little gems for the size of town that it is. Combine this with many of them being located in our picturesque downtown, with the harbor and Mount Rainier in the background, and I can’t think of many places I’ve seen in my travels that compare.
Eat, Drink, and be Merry!
Before delving into the dining options here, I must make mention of the quality grocery options in the area. Metropolitan Market is a large upscale grocery that offers a variety of prepared foods as does the Fred Meyer and the smaller local Harbor Greens.
If you are in the outlying areas you can grab something at the quaint historic Rosedale Market, or on Fox Island, you will find Zogs, Market and Deli, a local hangout with a variety of beer and wine and an attached cafe.
Gig Harbor has a variety of districts that offer dining options. There are the traditional locals spots that have been around for years, but recently Gig Harbor has seen an expansion of new establishments and a growing brewery and wine culture.
Local Traditions Downtown
JP’s Hy Iu Hee Hee The original was established in 1935, shortly after the end of prohibition with a Chinook Jargon name meaning “Good times and lots of laughter” it doesn’t get anymore “old school Gig Harbor” than this. The first building was demolished to make way for Hwy 16.
A must-see local dive bar known for breakfast and burgers and even offers Wagyu beef.
Tides Tavern Another historic tavern (21+) established in 1973 and still owned by the same family. The building was constructed in 1910 and originally served as a general store next to the public ferry landing.
It’s as well-known for its deck right on the water as it is for its seafood and tap beer selection. Always packed and usually quite loud.
Susanne’s Bakery Located in the historic, waterfront Millville District of downtown Gig Harbor, Susanne’s is a popular deli/bakery that offers delicious freshly made cakes, pastries, breads, sandwiches, salads, and special orders.
El Pueblito Foundly known as “El Pueb” to locals this busy authentic restaurant sits right in the midst of the Gig Harbor waterfront. Consistent Mexican fare, colorful, quick and family owned. If you are from the harbor, you can’t go here on a weekend without running into SOMEONE that you know.
Puerto Vallarta A solid, local chain restaurant with a location that has been here 20+ years and has a large seating area great for groups.
Anthony’s Another local chain with a long history in the Harbor. Elegant enough for a special occassion, casual enough for Sunday lunch with the family. Wall of windows and a deck that offer epic water views of the Harbor. A solid menu with a focus on seafood.
Devoted Kiss Cafe Local cafe next to Anthony’s with the same epic views from the deck, and a very creative and fresh menu, which includes items like a Lemon Brioche Muffin. Usually a packed crowd for breakfast and weekends
Il Lucano Ristorante Italiano After you take an authentic gondola ride on the water, you can have an authentic Italian meal! Fresh local ingredients, a great menu with the promise of “made to order” plates and an extensive Italian wine selection keep locals coming back.
Brix 25 That special occasion spot right on the water featuring seasonal Northwest cuisine. An open kitchen with a rustic chef-designed menu and classical cooking techniqe. 20+ years of harbor dining.
Some of the most established eateries are the favorite Teriyaki Shops. Here is a short list of top local picks. Kinza | Teriyaki Japanese Restaurant, Tokyo Teriyaki, Happy at the Bay Teriyaki, Nagoya Teriyak, not technically teriyaki but another popular quick and tasty spot is PHO’ & More
Near the Purdy bridge you will find Massimo Italian Bar & Grill right on a sandy beach this cozy spot offers a casually elegant Italian menu and matching bar for locals to hang out at.
Dexters No small town experience is complete without a classic old school burger joint. It’s been there forever, looks like it and has a surprisingly varied menu with salmon burgers and even an oyster burger. ultimate greasy spoon, burgers and shakes.
The non-greasy alternative to Dexters is one of the best taco trucks on the peninsula. Taquerie El Guero is a quality food truck right on the water with covered and non-covered outdoor seating.
The commercial district of Gig Harbor North is mainly retail big box stores but you will also find a few spots to grab and go. Mainly commercial chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks and QDOBA but you will also find a NW favorite in MOD Pizza and local teriyaki spot Wok Teriyaki II.
Coffee: Typical of the Northwest coffee is a mainstay and always a spot for community connection.
Cutters Point Coffee A Gig Harbor inception, this chain has spread to other communities, but the flagship store, where it all started, is a popular gathering spot for locals featuring a cozy fireplace, large seating area, and quality food and drinks. They also host a popular open mic. Cutters Point also has a location in uptown and the main gas station on Point Fosdick.
Kimball Coffee House A Gig Harbor original since 1989. It has grown with a freshly made menu, beer & wine, local art, and live music and entertainment on the weekends. Kimball Coffeehouse is a second home. A comfortable place to meet with friends, read a book, enjoy a coffee and lunch, study, or just relax.
Java & Clay On the main drag of downtown Gig Harbor this eclectic little local shop has a homey feel and the surprise of being attached to a pottery shop where you can paint your own and have it fired in their kiln. It’s worked for 20+ years.
Davenport Coffee Shop Gourmet coffee with the wine and tap room and baked goods, salads and sandwiches.
Breweries and Wine
You may have noticed a consistent common denominator that nearly every eatery above has wine, beer, or taproom in part of the description. This is a place where if you aren’t sitting on the deck of a boat, you may be sitting on a deck looking at boats and of course, having a glass of wine or beer in your hand. It’s part of the resort feel of Gig Harbor and in recent years breweries have been popping up like seals during a salmon run.
Finholm’s Market Founded in 1935 as the local market with lockers for visiting boaters and offering “free cake” with your coffee. This mainstay still offers grocery and deli items but has morphed in recent years into a taproom for locals to hang out at
Since a new one seems to come along weekly, I will just list a notable handful here: Locust Cider Cidery and taproom, 7 Seas Brewery Craft beer and waterfront taproom, Gig Harbor Brewing Craft beer and taproom at the boatyard, Heritage Distilling Co. Features small plates and indoor and outdoor seating and the Hop Pharm offering craft beer, wine and ciders in a weekly rotation and indoor and outdoor seating.
The area even has its own local vineyard and winery: Ollala Vineyard and Winery with lovely grounds, tasting room, special events, and live music.
Shop, Shop, Shop!
Downtown Gig Harbor
The first commercial district of this charming little maritime town still boasts mainly local establishments and family-owned businesses making it a great retail therapy location for a day out. This is so popular that the annual “Girl’s Night Out” shopping event in November always sells out.
This is a walking friendly district full of boutiques, cafes, art galleries and other small speciality shops. Too many to cover here but you can get the full details at the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance that not only lists all the shopping and dining options but also has a calendar of events.
Just a few highlights. Established in 1969 and located in a historic sawmill building, it is also voted online as the #1 shopping spot in Gig Harbor, The Beach Basket Christmas Shop has to have first mention. It’s Christmas all year round at this large old-school souvenir/resort wear shop that also boasts lots of local and beach-themed gift items and home decor. A few other backbones of the shopping district are McBeckland’s Boutique and the Ebb Tide Art Gallery and Artist Cooperative. Both have been established since Gig Harbor was just a quiet little weekend-boater destination.
A few of the newer establishments (and by that I mean 20 years or less) include Dolly Mama and Boujie, and Ship to Shore all featuring clothing, gifts and home decor, Fox Island Trading Company with locally made skin care products, Gig Harbor Fly Shop with all the gear for serious fishermen, No Dearth of Books and Gig Harbor Book Company both dealing in new and used books, and For the Love of Spice offering fresh spices, gourmet oils and vinegars and tea.
Rural Gig Harbor
While there are a number of modern shopping districts in the area, first and foremost, its important to touch on the shopping experiences that are uniquely Gig Harbor. For me, some of the most interesting retail establishments are not in a shopping district.
Probably the most unique of these is Chalet in the Woods. Located on 12 lovely acres of gardens, woodlands, and pasture for a flock of Oxford sheep and lambs, this store specializes in artisan European clothing from Norway to France with gifts handmade in Finland and Sweden. A beautiful outdoor experience in the summer and festive to visit at Christmas. Since the pandemic, this iconic shopping experience is by appointment only.
Raft Island Roses features 10,000 rose plants on 4 acres and Rosedale Gardens with everything you need for creating your dream garden. Both are popular local nurseries located near each other in Rosedale.
Artondale Farm Store Located in the historic Artondale Grange building, the space operates as a farmer’s market for the adjacent Artondale Farm, selling produce, fresh herbs, jams and bath and body products made at the farm.
Gig Harbor really took a leap into the modern world when this area was redeveloped and brought in the first big box retailers.
The actual Uptown Shopping Center offers 35 retailers with a fashion row featuring Ann Taylor Loft, J. Jill, Chico’s, Soma, and Talbots. This area also hosts a Home Goods, Marshall’s and Kohl’s.
Gig Harbor North
You will find your practical big-box shopping here with Target, Home Depot, Office Depot, Petco, Costco and more. This newer district saves from having to cross the toll bridge to Tacoma. Plus you can skip the overwhelming crowds and traffic that are often at the Tacoma locations of these stores!
The Best Hotels to Stay at in Gig Harbor
Though Gig Harbor is growing, traditional lodging is limited. Thankfully Air Bnb helps to supplement that quire a bit. As a Gig Harbor veteran, here is a short list of my favorite places to stay:
The Waterfront Inn I’m thankful someone had the foresight to create this very small Inn right on the water in downtown Gig Harbor. It is the only lodging like it. A very well-run quality establishment that gives you the experience of living on the water in Gig Harbor.
The Maritime Inn I’m also grateful that years ago when property was more affordable someone had the foresight to build this quaint but modern inn, with quality service, right in the heart of downtown. It’s a welcome addition. owned and operated by a local family since its construction 25 years ago.
The Best Western Wesley Inn & Suites has also been locally owned since it was built and offers simple quality lodging at an affordable price. They also offer meeting rooms for events and free lobby coffee and tea service.
The Inn at Gig Harbor The largest lodging establishment in Gig Harbor. 3 star inn that offers meeting rooms for events.
As a tourist town Gig Harbor has a long-time culture of traditional Bed and Breakfasts. Some of the most popular include No Cabbages Bed & Breakfast and the Washington Woodland Estate (formerly known as the Bear’s Lair).
What You Need to Know About Buying a House in Gig Harbor
We talked a lot about myriad reasons someone would want to be in Gig Harbor, but that doesn’t just apply to visiting. Gig Harbor is also a popular place to purchase a home. There are many home options and diverse types of properties, from a single family home on acreage to townhouses and condos in town.
You will also find more waterfront and view properties than almost anywhere in Washington as it is home to many harbors, bays, inlets and even some fresh water lakes.
What you need to know before you get started
There are a few things you should know about buying a home in Gig Harbor that will likely weigh in your decision of whether or not to live here.
First, Gig Harbor is a very safe area. Crime, homeless problems, graffiti or any of those issues you might worry about in some cities are just not a problem here (see our detailed analyses above for more info).
Second, be prepared to commute. Gig Harbor is a bedroom community. There is no real industry to speak of outside of some small fishing companies. Beyond that, most jobs in town are here to support the community, not export any goods or services elsewhere: lots of shops, grocery stores, restaurants, doctors offices, etc.
Check out our ultimate Gig Harbor commuting guide for everything you need to know on this subject.
Third, the average price point for a Gig Harbor home is currently $833,000. If you are looking for a good deal on your first home, Gig Harbor is not the best market for that. But it is an idyllic place to raise a family, retire, or buy a gorgeous vacation home on the waterfront.
The types of questions you need to ask
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, here are the questions you’re going to need to ask in order to make your desire of living in Gig Harbor a reality.
- What kind of home do you want?
- A custom-built home? A track home? Do you care one way or another about an HOA?
- What area do you want to live in?
- Does your home need to have Airbnb possibilities?
- If so, you might be out of luck because the city council recently placed a moratorium on new Airbnb units. However, existing properties are grandfathered in as of the date of this writing!
Meet a really, really good local realtor
A local realtor is going to be your best asset for buying a home here. Not only will they help expertly guide you on the ins and outs of your home purchase process, and Gig Harbor itself, but they will go to bat for you to make sure you are treated well through the real estate transaction, once you make an offer.
This is where I need to come clean. I am that really, really good realtor. It’s always weird bragging but I’ll just quickly mention that, not only am I one of the top agents in Gig Harbor, I’m one of the top in the nation. In 2022, I actually placed #49 out of all Re/Max agents nationally.
The reason I even bother to mention these numbers is not because I’m proud of them, per se, but I am immensely proud of what they represent: dogged devotion to my clients and extremely punctual communication. I work hard for all my clients… like to the point that some wonder if I have a life outside of real estate. The nerve! But, they do have a point. Call it a positive weakness 🤷♂️
I would love to chat with you if you are curious about purchasing a home in the Gig Harbor area. Go ahead, give those claims about punctual communication a test and reach out!
You will also need a really, really good local mortgage person
This one is less obvious, because technically mortgages can be handled from anywhere these days. While that is true, there are a lot of drawbacks to using a someone from outside the local area/from one of those big companies.
The reality is, a local lender can:
- Match or beat big banks while also…
- Be super responsive and on time and…
- You can often get ahold of them on the weekend
This availability and responsiveness is huge for home buying. In fact, in the competitive heyday of 2020, most deals in town came down to who the lender was. Some sellers just flat out refused to work with certain lenders (I’m looking at you, Navy Federal Credit Union) while local lenders’ responsiveness always gave such a competitive advantage.
Though the market has slowed for now, the same holds true in that, the better lender you have, the smoother your process goes and the more leverage you have in the deal.
Again, feel free to contact me if you don’t have someone and are looking for a solid recommendation. I definitely know who the best people in town are to work with.
A Small Town with its Own Distinct Culture
Gig Harbor draws people who love the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, want to escape city life and most of all love the water. The many harbors, bays and inlets of the area boast the largest amount of waterfront property in Washington.
Whether its just walking the historic harbor or a quiet beach to enjoy the view, or getting in the water on kayaks and paddle boards the area lends itself to a lifestyle that incorporates the water.
Gig Harbor has long been one of the most popular destinations for recreational boaters and is host to sailing schools, yacht clubs, boat rentals and many fishing piers and boat launches for public access.
In the last 12 years Gig Harbor’s population has nearly doubled. As recently as 2010, the population within the city was only a little over 7,000. Over the years, as a smaller rural community, Gig Harbor established a strong local culture with small businesses run by well-known families and many community traditions, events and festivals that have grown over the years.
In this day and age, it is rare to find a tight-knit community with strong traditions. It also means that it is cleaner and has lower crime than many other communities. It is well known for quality schools also due to parental and community involvement.
I think this is one of the area’s biggest draws, next to the natural beauty, people enjoy belonging and being a part of a unique and genuine community. There’s no end to the ways that one can engage and get involved or just attend and enjoy the many annual events.
Fitness and the Outdoors
The natural beauty here has also been a draw for people who enjoy the outdoors and physical activity. This has led to a culture that, as a community, has set aside many parks, and developed fitness and sports organizations. Gig Harbor isn’t only for jets skiers, sailors and fishermen.
The area boasts numerous premiere golf courses, sporting leagues, running and biking trails, fitness gyms, and a large modern YMCA facility.
There is a strong soccer and baseball community here with plenty of fields and groups to get engaged with.
Homecoming football games are a major draw to the community and especially games that feature Gig Harbor High School versus Peninsula High. It is a real-life version of “Friday Night lights”.
Art, Music and Gardening
For many years due to having a small economy and being so quiet, this area has been known as a retirement community. That has changed somewhat in the last 10 years, but the retired people of the past have established organizations and groups in the arts and gardening that continue to thrive and grow.
The area boasts numerous prolific and well-tended community gardens and also garden clubs and garden tours.
The natural beauty of the area doesn’t just inspire outdoor enthusiasts, it also is a source of inspiration to creatives and artists. Gig Harbor features a number of local art galleries and studios along with an annual artist “Studio Tour”. They also have an established “Art League” going strong since 1979 and an alliance working on creating a large “Visual and Entertainment Arts Center”.
Live music abounds at open mics, the Gig Harbor History Museum, and well-attended summer concerts on the downtown waterfront. The concerts are packed events and have become a huge community tradition.
Our Schools are Pretty Great
Gig Harbor is well known for it’s quality schools. There has always been a high level of community and parent support that makes them very successful. Overall they do well in test scores and graduation rates, those this can greatly vary according to different schools in the district. It is helpful that alternative schools are available for kids that fall through the cracks.
The Public school district has six elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools, plus two alternative schools. In addition, there are a number of small private schools.
Here are some statistics from the Peninsula School District:
Gig Harbor High School
- graduate in 4 years 93%
- Classroom Teachers 79
- Total Enrollment: 1,432
- GreatSchools Rating 9/10
Peninsula High School
- graduate in 4 years 90%
- Classroom Teachers 86
- Total Enrollment: 1,478
- GreatSchools Rating 7/10
Henderson Bay Alternative High School
- Total Enrollment: 85
- Classroom Teachers 12
- Graduate in 4 years 64%
- Not rated.
Goodman Middle School
- Classroom Teachers: 36
- Total Enrollment 455
- GreatSchools Rating 5/10
Harbor Ridge Middle School
- Classroom Teachers: 36
- Total Enrollment: 582
- GreatSchools Rating 5/10
Kopachuck Middle School
- Classroom Teachers: 36
- Total Enrollment: 455
- GreatSchools Rating 6/10
- Classroom Teachers: 35
- Total Enrollment: 397
- GreatSchools Rating 5/10
- Classroom Teachers: 43
- Total Enrollment: 291
- GreatSchools Rating 9/10
Harbor Heights Elementary
- Classroom Teachers: 43
- Total Enrollment: 439
- GreatSchools Rating 7/10
Minter Creek Elementary
- Classroom Teachers: 35
- Total Enrollment: 279
- GreatSchools Rating 5/10
- Classroom Teachers: 53
- Total Enrollment: 486
- GreatSchools Rating 6/10
- Classroom Teachers: 46
- Total Enrollment: 460
- GreatSchools Rating 8/10
Harbor Christian High School, Hosanna Christian School (Preschool through 8th grade), Lighthouse (Kindergarten through 8th grade), St. Nicholas Catholic School (Preschool through 8th grade), Stepping Stones Preschool, Cadence Academy Preschool, Harbor Montessori (Preschool) and Arletta Montessori (Preschool).
Stats and Demographics for the Data Geeks
Ok, you know who you are… that’s right… my data geeks! Well, being a realtor, I’m a bit of a data guy myself and I have just what you’re looking for when it comes to Gig Harbors housing, population, and crime stats. Even if you’re not a big numbers person, I’m sure the below info from the recent Census will be helpful to anyone looking to move into the area.
Gig Harbor has seen extreme growth in the last 10-12 years. At 69% it tops all other areas of Washington except for Kirkland which was in first place. The population estimate for 2022 is 12,181.
Gig Harbor’s population is older than the rest of Washington. 28.9% of the population is over 65. The next largest age group is 35-54 at 20%. The smallest age group is 18-24 at only 5.7%.
The area continues to be a place of lower diversity with 85% of the population being Caucasian and the 2nd largest group being Asian at only 6%. 8.3% of the population uses a language other than English in the home according to the US Census.
Education levels are high in this area with 96% high school graduates and 48% being college graduates.
There are approximately 4,403 households with an average of 2.29 persons per household.
Housing and Financial Statistics
61% of Homes are owner occupied. This contributes to strong, clean communities. 80% of households have been in the same home for at least a year.
As of 2022, the average median home value is $567,752 and the monthly housing cost in Gig Harbor is $2,322. The average household income is $84,861. The average job commute is 28 minutes.
As of 2019, the violent crime rate was 73.2 compared to the national average of 205.8 but property crime was 283.1 compared to the national average of 178.6. The high-income and higher-priced properties of the area probably make it a target.
The Pandemic has seen an increase in certain crimes. Theft (Larceny) has increased by 11% and motor vehicle theft had an extreme increase of 70% with 46 vehicles stolen. Many parts of Pierce County have seen a dramatic rise in motor vehicle theft.
Stolen property has increased by 57% but fraud offenses has decreased by 45% and burglary has gone down 23%.
The rate of crimes against persons is only 10.4% compared to the Washington state average of 21.5%.
The police summary for 2021 stated that there were very few citizen complaints, or use of force and few police pursuits or collisions.
The state average crime rate is 62.5 and Gig Harbor is currently 72.3 but nearly average for Pierce County overall.
The full police report for 2021 and a monthly police summary can be found here.
All About Gig Harbor
Well, we’ve talked about all the reasons you’d want to visit, or even move here, but if this is going to be the ultimateguide to Gig Harbor, I need to tell you more about the storied history and beautiful geography of this place!
Gig Harbor is a rare jewel. A picturesque Maritime fishing village on the shores of Puget Sound, Gig Harbor is a top destination for boaters and is well known for its strong community and natural beauty.
The Harbor’s Unique Location
Gig Harbor is located along State Route 16, about six miles (10 km) from Interstate 5, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Gig Harbor is at the Southern end of the saltwater inlet of Western Washington named Puget Sound, part of what is known as “The Salish Sea”.
To the West lies the Olympic Peninsula and the scenic Olympic Mountain Range. To the East lies the majestic Mt. Rainierand Cascades Mountain Range To the North lies the bustling metropolis known as the Emerald City, Seattle. Finally to the south lies Washington’s capital city Olympia where the governmental scene meets bohemian college town vibe.
Gig Harbor itself, is accessed by the grand Tacoma Narrows bridge crossing. Two large suspension bridges carry traffic east and west. This divide really sets Gig Harbor apart from it’s urban counterpart, Tacoma on the West side of the bridge. As soon as you cross the bridge there is an immediate feel of the rural Pacific Northwest with it’s forests and water views.
With the access provided by the Narrows Span, during off-peak traffic times, Tacoma can be reached in 10 minutes and Seattle in just about an hour.
Gig Harbor is the gateway for the Olympic Peninsula which can only be otherwise accessed by driving South of Olympia and navigating through back roads of the Olympic Peninsula.
How it all began
Part of the reason Gig Harbor has managed to maintain it’s small town charm and control development is due to the fact that it has been very isolated for most of it’s history.
The only access to Gig Harbor aside from the one hour drive around the Olympic Peninsula is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The first Narrows Bridge was constructed in 1940 and collapsed only 4 months later due to poor aerodynamic design and the effects of high winds. It wasn’t until 1950 that the current bridge was built and a second bridge was added in 2007 to accommodate the large volumes of traffic to this growing community.
Prior to that, boats and ferries were the main means of access. The Harbor known as Gig Harbor is not extremely large but deep enough to accommodate a number of boat marinas and was a big draw to the fishermen immigrants that settled there.
Gig Harbor was named by explorer, Captain Charles Wilkes, when in 1840, he used the Captain’s Gig (small boat) to access the very narrow entrance of the harbor. Of course upon entering they were quite surprised to find such a large sheltered harbor.
In 1867 fisherman Samuel Jerisich arrived, along with many other immigrants from Sweden, Norway, and Croatia. They created a fishing community along with the tribal fishermen who had long lived on the shores of this sheltered harbor. Many of these original families still live in the Harbor and have businesses there.
Though today only 17 netsheds along the western shoreline remain, Gig Harbor Bay still boasts the largest inventory of historic netsheds on the Puget Sound.
The area was so deeply wooded that for many years the only means of getting around was by boat to waterfront settlements. Eventually, a ferry system was created from Titlow Beach in Tacoma to a landing at the end of Point Fosdick and a road was put in to downtown Gig Harbor. This was the only public access until the 1940 bridge was built.
Because of this, the area has many wooded and undeveloped natural land along with some small working farms and older acreage properties. Parks have been set aside to also preserve the natural beauty of the area.
Gig Harbor still is very connected to and proud of its boating history and roots. They live on with working fishing fleets, a large maritime museum and the largest number of preserved and working historic net sheds in the Pacific Northwest.
Hopefully you know a LOT more about Gig Harbor. It’s not hard to see why so many people see this place as a hidden gem!
From the awesome shopping and activities, to wonderful restaurants and gorgeous beauty, this place is perfect for a getaway.
Likewise, all those reasons, plus great schools, safe neighborhoods, and great small-town vibes, all within striking distance of the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area, Gig Harbor is a quite a place to live.
Hungry for more Gig Harbor goodness? Don’t forget to check out our awesome interactive neighborhood map and neighborhood profiles.
Is Gig Harbor a nice place to live?
Gig Harbor is a very nice place to live. Nestled in the natural beauty of the Puget Sound, as well as the Olympic and Cascade mountains, the city combines idyllic small town life, natural beauty, and quick access to the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan area. Good schools and outdoor fun are icing on top.
Gig Harbor has made the list of best small towns in both The Smithsonian Magazine and Travel + Leisure magazine.
What is Gig Harbor, WA known for?
That depends on who you ask, but generally speaking, Gig Harbor is known for being the most picturesque harbor in the Northwest, its long history of boating culture, natural beauty, popular events like the Maritime Festival and lighted Christmas Boat Parade, and being an idyllic small town that many people love to visit and reside in.
Does Gig Harbor have a downtown?
Gig Harbor has one of the most iconic small downtowns around. A historic fishing village that has been carefully preserved with streets full of quaint shops. The downtown wraps around the beautiful harbor itself, and a great view of Mount Rainer over the whole impressive scene, combine to make Gig Harbor’s downtown an extraordinary place to explore.
Is Gig Harbor walkable?
While Gig Harbor is walkable in the downtown area and certain shopping areas like Uptown, you generally need a car to get around town. The downtown was built before World War 2, which means it was developed to accommodate a walkable lifestyle, but most of the district was developed after that era.
How do I spend a day in Gig Harbor?
It’s easy to spend a day in Gig Harbor at one of the various golf courses shopping at local boutiques, visiting the history museum, attending a seasonal event, hiking at a park, fishing or walking one of the beautiful beaches, but no day is complete without visiting one of the many notable restaurants and taking a before or after-dinner stroll downtown, along the harbor or on one of the public docks. Afterwards, make your way to the Fox Island Bridge to watch the sunset.