By: Emily Beloate
You can find me in the ground and in the air. I watch every morning as the boutique and shop owners along the waterfront flip the signs in their front windows from “closed” to “open.” I shelter fishing boats in the marina, supporting them during the winter and pushing them up toward Alaska in the prime summer months. This town is surrounded by my presence.
Gig Harbor, Washington is known as “The Maritime City” for a reason. One glance out the car window and odds are, you’ll see water. Nestled into a bay on the Puget Sound, water drives the community: the history, the economy, the tourism, and more. According to the city’s main website, Gig Harbor is home to 8,555 citizens and a fishing industry that dates back to the founding of the city.
Rahna Lovrovich, who has lived in Gig Harbor for 45 years and currently serves on City Council, is dedicated to the authenticity of this fishing town. Fishing is a huge part of Gig Harbor culture. Lovrovich said “It has had a huge impact on my life, as my husband is a third generation commercial fisherman whose family settled here about 100 years ago.” The town’s history stems from the fishing business, and Gig Harbor holds the largest collection of netsheds (storage for fishing gear) in the Puget Sound, some of the structures dating back to 1910.
There are also multiple events during the year that have their origins in the fishing industry, according to the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce Community Site. This includes the Donkey Creek Chum Festival, Maritime Gig Festival, and Blessing of the Fleet. These events are a huge draw in the community and give citizens a chance to connect to the roots of the city. Tourists visiting during these festivals will get an even more in-depth look into the clockwork of Gig Harbor. Locals appreciate when visitors take an interest in the city, as they are proud of the city’s history. Lovrovich said “People love to watch as we are loading the net on the boat, they are curious and ask questions, so many are fascinated by the boats, the industry, the history and the heritage. I love sharing it with those that visit.”
The opportunities for exploration in Gig Harbor are plentiful. Gig Harbor enjoys all four seasons and because of the diverse weather conditions, there are a variety of experiences to be had. On days when the sun is shining, outside is the place to be. Activities such as kayaking, bird-watching, fishing, walking on the beach or along the harbor, boating, and paddle-boarding are some of the locals’ favorite pastimes. The Cushman Trail is a 6.2-mile pathway that runs parallel to Highway 16 that people use for hiking, running, biking, longboarding, and walking their dogs. Tourists will discover that the locals in Gig Harbor are friendly and open to striking up conversation, especially in many of these outdoor settings.
Not only will you see water in the form of the ocean, but almost just as often falling from the sky. Washington State is known for its rainy climate, and Gig Harbor is no exception. Tourists who are not used to rain may see it as a negative, but the locals often embrace it. Even on days when you can’t step outside without taking a shower, if you put on a raincoat, the outdoor options are still available. Lovrovich said “As a resident, I feel blessed to have so many ways to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and I believe that that is part of the appeal for tourists.”
If channeling “Singin’ in the Rain” isn’t your cup of tea, there are many indoor activities to experience as well. Gig Harbor is home to local restaurants that you won’t find anywhere else, such as Tides Tavern, Kelly’s Cafe, HY-IU-HEE-HEE, and more. Over the last few years, many new shops and restaurants in town have become an important part of the destination. Karen Scott, the Tourism and Communications Director for Gig Harbor said “visitors and residents have seen the waterfront district blossom with the arrival of several new businesses that join the already award-winning chefs at restaurants sprinkled through town.” Uptown Gig Harbor is a center for shopping at both national and local retailers, dining, and catching a movie when you get tired after all of your exploring. Visiting local restaurants and shops is a great way to learn more about the city and experience the culture of a new place.
Gig Harbor is one in the string of cities that consider themselves the “gateway to the Olympic Peninsula,” making it a tourist destination for people who want to explore the city, as well as other locations around the Pacific Northwest. Gig Harbor is centrally located to much of the Puget Sound region. Drive north for about an hour and you’ll find yourself on a big city adventure in the heart of Seattle. If you’re interested in an outdoor scene, the Snoqualmie mountain pass is less than a two-hour drive and is an opportune place for activities like skiing, camping, hiking, and snowshoeing. Gig Harbor is also en route to the Washington Coast, where you can hop from log to log along the beach, skip rocks in the ocean, and watch kites fly in the wind.
I surround the city of Gig Harbor, protecting it from blowing winds and waves larger than the boats themselves. I am always here when the town wakes up in the morning and goes to sleep at night. I gave this city its history and identity. I give people a climate to explore, adventure, and appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.