Western Washington, where Gig Harbor is located, is a unique, beautiful landscape that can bewilder outsiders as much as it can amaze them. People moving into the area can find it difficult to get a sense of the terrain, highways, and just generally what’s accessible nearby. After living and working as a real estate agent here for a few decades, I can help you understand the ins and outs of where Gig Harbor is situated beyond what you would merely glean from a map.
Where is Gig Harbor in Washington state?
Gig Harbor is located in Western Washington, within Pierce County, on the Western side of the lower Puget Sound region, and technically, it is part of the Olympic Peninsula. It is located on the Tacoma Narrows Straight of Puget Sound, directly across from Tacoma. It is accessed from Tacoma via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
What is Puget Sound? Here’s a satellite view for you. When you look at the state you may notice that it has a distinct shape with a sort of finger of water coming down into the upper left corner. This is one of the rare bodies of water called a “Sound”. A sound is “an inlet containing islands and/or bodies of open salt water not fully open to the ocean.” Puget Sound meets both of these descriptions.
It is one of the main things that sets Western Washington apart from the rest of the Pacific Northwest. The name comes from the idea that after being in the volatility of the open ocean, you find yourself safe and “sound” in a sheltered inlet. To live near a sound gives you the unique opportunity of having access to a large body of salt water with the relative calm of a large lake, making it a top boating destination.
This location is really what makes Gig Harbor unique. The many bays, harbors, inlets, and some islands contained here make it an area with more waterfront properties than most places in Washington state and many places in the world.
At one time, prior to the Northwest tech boom started by Microsoft, on the east side of Seattle, Gig Harbor had the highest per capita wealth statewide, I believe. This was mainly due to the fact that people with money often desire to own or live on waterfront property. As a result, Gig Harbor is known not only as a scenic retirement town but also as an upscale area.
The eastbound Narrows Bridge, built in 2007 doubled traffic capacity and the massive growth in all areas of Washington has spread into Gig Harbor bringing diversity and development that has shifted the sleepy town into a bustling suburb.
What is Gig Harbor close to?
Gig Harbor is close to many natural wonders, like the Puget Sound, the Hoh Rainforest, and Mount Rainier, while also being located within the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan area. It is right next door to Tacoma, which means it is not far from JBLM, Federal Way, and Dupont. It’s also not far from Seattle, Bellevue, Bremerton, and Poulsbo.
Generally, I find Seattle can be reached in 45 minutes with good traffic. To the West, less than 100 miles away, is the Olympic National Park which can be reached in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Near the entrance to the park you can catch a ferry to Victoria, Canada. The Pacific Ocean is only 101 miles away and can be reached in 2 hours.
To the east lies the crown jewel of the North West: Mount Rainier. It also can be reached in 2 hours or less depending on what part of the National Park you visit.
To the south, in less than 3 hours you can reach Portland, Oregon, known to some as the “Manhattan of the Pacific Northwest”.
Altogether, Gig Harbor is a very centralized location for all that Western Washington is known for.
There’s so many other locations that could be mentioned here but it is worth mentioning the many other mountains nearby, including the world-famous Mount Saint Helens, which erupted in 1980 and is about 2 hours and 15 minutes away. Of course, I also need to mention the many parks for snow sports, like Snoqualmie Pass, Crystal Mountain, and White Pass, which are all within a few hours drive.
Last, but certainly not least, the Puget Sound itself it ripe for boating, canoeing, kayaking, and other water activities.
Is Gig Harbor north or south of Seattle?
Gig Harbor is located 44 miles south of Seattle. Without traffic, Seattle can typically be reached in 45 minutes, but heavy congestion can sometimes stretch that to 2 hours. However, there are multiple commuting options, including trains, buses, and ferries, for those working in Seattle while living in the beautiful setting Gig Harbor offers.
Seattle offers not just job opportunities but concerts, shopping, first class dining, art galleries, and the famous Pike Place Farmer’s Market.
Is Gig Harbor in Western Washington?
Gig Harbor is located within Western Washington, in the South Puget Sound area of the Olympic Peninsula. It is situated across the sound from Tacoma and located within driving distance of other prominent towns like Seattle and Bellevue. This means Gig Harbor is able to take advantage of Western Washington’s unique temperate climate.
Western Washington is quite different than Eastern Washington. While the mild climate generated by the warm currents of the Pacific Ocean are trapped in place by the Cascade Mountains, Eastern Washington is left with a much starker, more extreme climate. I think most Western Washingtonians find Eastern WA’s summer too hot and winter too cold.
On this side, we experience warm summers and winter weather but not the scorching heat and long brutal winters that can occur inland, on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. For instance, Gig Harbor gets little snow, like the rest of Western Washington. Maybe one or two snowfalls a year and sometimes not at all.
I definitely think Eastern Washington also has a more conservative and rural culture, on average, than this side of the mountains.
Puget Sound is one of the biggest features of the West side of the state. It offers beautiful scenery and lots of opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water sports. As a result, Western Washington boasts the busiest and largest ferry transit system in the United States.
What county is Gig Harbor in?
Gig Harbor is located in Pierce County, which stretches from Gig Harbor clear past Mount Rainier National Park, with Gig Harbor being located on its western end. The county is directly below King County and encompasses Puyallup, Tacoma, Lakewood, and other sizable towns like Bonney Lake and Sumner.
I love that this means that you can reach Mt. Rainier and its national park in just over two hours. The Mountain has always been an icon of the Pacific Northwest.
“Live like the mountain is out”, has become a popular local slogan for those beautiful sunny days when this majestic summit isn’t obscured by cloud cover. The mountain is visible from nearly all of Pierce County and beyond.
What peninsula is Gig Harbor on?
Gig Harbor is on The Olympic Peninsula, which is located on the west side of the Puget Sound. Seattle and Tacoma sit opposite the peninsula on the east side of the sound, with Gig Harbor located directly across from Tacoma, accessed via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This makes Gig Harbor a gateway to the peninsula’s rich natural beauty.
Gig Harbor is about 3/4 of the way down the peninsula, towards the end of the sound. It is located at the “Tacoma Narrows Straight”. This is a very narrow and deep channel of the Sound and is spanned by two large suspension bridges giving easy access to the Peninsula. Gig Harbor sits one side of “The Narrows” as it is known to locals, and Tacoma sits on the other.
Being on the Olympic Peninsula gives Gig Harbor ease of access to the Naval base in Bremerton and charming, small, waterfront towns like Poulsbo with its Nordic culture. A few other towns worth noting are historic Port Townsend and Sequim, which is located in one of Western Washington’s only “sunbelts”.
Further out is the large and beautiful Olympic National Park with the stunning Olympic mountains and the Hoh Rain forest, the only continental rain forest outside of Alaska in the United States. Continuing around the peninsula is the scenic and remote Neah Bay and La Push known for fishing and great ocean and forest camping. You will also find the Quinalt Indian Reservation, Lake Crescent and Lake Cushman.
What island is Gig Harbor on?
Gig Harbor is not on an island, though some may get that impression after crossing the Narrows Bridge, which is the city’s main point of access to and from the Seattle-Tacoma area. Gig Harbor is actually located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
I do find that this is not an uncommon point of confusion for people who are new to the area and just getting oriented with the lay of the land.
Gig Harbor is directly across the Tacoma Narrows Strait from Tacoma and is accessed by the aforementioned pair of long suspension bridges.
Leaving Gig Harbor on the East bound Narrows bridge will take you to the eastern side of Puget sound, which is the more developed I-5 Corridor. That side of the sound is also home to the Cascade Mountain Range dividing it from Eastern Washington, with its very different climate and culture than Western Washington.