Family Fun in Gig Harbor
The Gig Harbor lighthouse welcomes boaters to its entrance
Whether you come by boat or car, a day in Gig Harbor feels like a week's vacation. This sparkling waterfront village is an hour southwest of Seattle if you drive across the new Narrows Bridge. For a longer, scenic route, try either the Bremerton or Southworth ferries, and then drive south. Check current schedules and prices at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries.
Gig Harbor's historic downtown offers families fun shoreline beach programs, weekly concerts, and outdoor movies, all at Skansie Brothers Park on Harborview Drive. With its waterfront lawn, picnic tables and gazebo, the park also hosts one of Gig Harbor's two Farmers' Markets with a music club (bring your children's instrument), fresh oysters, hand-crafted cheese, and local vegetables. Harbor WildWatch offers beach walks where children collect specimens and add them to touch tanks under the guidance of interpretive naturalists. What a fun way to learn about local marine life!
Where: Skansie Brothers Park and Jerisich Public Dock, 3207 Harborview Drive.
When: Farmers' Market, Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Summer Concerts, Tuesday, 6:30 to 8 p.m.; Summer Outdoor Family Movies, Aug. 8 and 22, dusk. Harbor WildWatch Kids Saturday Beach Programs: Aug. 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Aug. 11, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Aug. 18, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Aug. 25, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: All free.
Contact: www.gigharborguide.com, www.harborwildwatch.org
Harborview Drive, the town's main street, has three separate clusters of shops, art galleries and restaurants interspersed with homes and parks. When you're ready for ice cream, Kelly's Café is the local favorite. It's around the corner from the waterfront at 7806 Pioneer Way. Don't miss Mostly Books, a tiny bookstore with terrific children's books. A block farther, Java Clay Café offers ceramics to paint as well as your latte fix. As you stroll, watch for the Gig Harbor Kayak Racing Team – national champions – to paddle past working fishing boats, sailboats, and yachts.
Destiny Harbor Tours
Continuing on the waterfront, you'll pass the new Eddon Boat Park and the History Museum at 3711 and 3805 Harborview Drive, expected to open in late 2009. They will showcase Gig Harbor's history and actual boat building, reminiscent of the town's Croatian and Scandinavian heritage. Next, head to the docks in front of Anthony's restaurant where Destiny Harbor Tours offers one- or two-hour cruises. Captain Tom Drohan points out sights and narrates fun local history. You'll probably see seals and bald eagles, and maybe even a whale.
Where: 8829 N. Harborview Drive
When: Tuesday through Sunday, 12:30, 2 and 6 p.m.
Cost: One hour tour, Adults $17, seniors $15, children 5 to 12 years $10, 4 years and under free.
Contact: 253-225-6306; www.destinymarine.com
If you're feeling more adventurous, rent a kayak, sailboat, paddle boat or a motor boat at Rent-A-Boat on the same docks.
Where: 8829 N. Harborview Drive
When: Most daylight hours, depending on tides. Call for reservations.
Cost: $14.00 per hour for kayaks; $140 for two-hour motor boat rental.
Contact: 253-858-7341; www.gigharborrentaboat.com
Kopachuck State Park
If you're ready for lunch, stop at Harbor Kitchen at 8809 N. Harborview Drive, and buy a picnic lunch to take to one of the state's most beautiful parks, Kopachuck. Explore the 109-acre park with old-growth forest hiking trails, a campground, a beach, and Cutts Island, a half mile from shore.
At low tide you'll find more sand dollars than you might imagine possible. Watch the orange sunset behind the Olympic Mountains from your waterfront picnic table as the children play in Puget Sound. Rental kayaks are on the beach Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: 11101 56th St. N.W. Take the "local's route" from downtown – a five-and-a-half mile, 13-minute drive from downtown. From Harborview Drive, head down Rosedale Street, go under the highway (Route 16), take a left at Ray Nash Drive N.W. and proceed to the other side of the peninsula. There are no stoplights and only two turns.
When: 8 a.m. to dusk. Camping check-in time is 2:30 p.m.
Cost: Free day visits. Standard camp site $15, additional car $10, utility site $21.
Contact: 253-265-3606; www.parks.wa.gov