Visitors can sample handcrafted spirits at Heritage Distilling Company, a standout attraction in Gig Harbor. // © 2015 Heritage Distilling Company
Feature image (above): Boat tours provide postcard-perfect views of Gig Harbor's many assets. // © 2015 Carol Zahorsky
The Washington town of Gig Harbor has been enjoying extra attention lately thanks to its close proximity to Chambers Bay, host of the 2015 U.S. Open.
But golf tournaments aside, Gig Harbor is a bona fide visitor destination in its own right. Hugging the shores of Puget Sound, the tidy town lays claim to a beguiling blend of attractions, activities, accommodations, eateries and events by the sea.
And requiring just a one-hour drive from Seattle, Gig Harbor rewards day trippers and overnight visitors alike. Here are a few reasons to make the trip.
Boating and Hiking
With the water at its doorstep, Gig Harbor begs to be explored by boat. Destiny Harbor Tours runs eco-trips with views of seals, eagles, mountains, working ships and a sweeping suspension bridge.
Meanwhile, land lovers can hoof it along the handy 5-mile Cushman Trail, which winds in and around the town. Four miles of paths in McCormick Park meander through an old-growth forest, and a loop trail around Chambers Bay lets walkers ogle the famed golf course while getting a good workout.
With its naturally good looks, Gig Harbor serves as an appetizing backdrop for top-tier dining, especially at an outdoor table during summer.
Breakfast at Devoted Kiss Cafe can be rich (think smoked salmon Benedict with fresh-cut morning potatoes) or wholesome (such as fresh berries atop steel cut oats). Lunch fare at the lively Tides Tavern includes customized salads, sandwiches and award-winning New England-style clam chowder.
For dinner, the hip and convivial Morso turns heads with popcorn “kissed with truffle salt,” smoked trout salad, polenta lasagna and wines from near and far.
Two must-see attractions focus on Gig Harbor’s riches, past and present. At Harbor History Museum, artifacts and interactive exhibits tell the region’s unique history. In its light-filled maritime gallery, guests can witness the ongoing restoration of a storied 65-foot fishing vessel.
At Heritage Distilling Company, visitors sample superlative gins, whiskeys and vodkas crafted with local ingredients. As a heady bonus, it’s the only U.S. distillery where guests can legally make their own batch of spirits during hands-on classes.
Where to Stay
The recently renovated 82-room Wesley Inn and Suites has rightfully earned its Best Western Plus status. Leisure and business guests favor its free hot breakfast, outdoor heated pool and fireplace rooms. Travel agents can earn 10 percent commission on Wesley Inn bookings.
Also upgraded, The Inn at Gig Harbor has 64 rooms and sets a relaxed tone with its onsite massage studio. The 15-room Maritime Inn, located right across from the water and in the heart of the village, has rooms with air-jetted tubs and flat-screen televisions.
Gig Harbor’s annual events inject maritime mirth into any visit. April brings the Gig Harbor Paddlers Cup, where rowers and kayakers compete in splashy races. May’s Gig Harbor Beer Festival, a frothy beer fest, features local brews and live music.
Come summer, outdoor movies and concerts prevail in Skansie Brothers Park. At Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival in July, tastings, demos and celebrity chefs create a recipe for fun. Dogs do the town during September’s Harbor Hounds, and Gig Harbor shimmers during December’s Lighted Boat Parade.