Watersports in a waterfront town near Mount Rainier.

By Travel + Leisure
Updated: January 20, 2017
Joseph Becker/ Alamy

Set in the shadow of Mount Rainier, Gig Harbor is one of the prettiest and active small towns (population: just over 7,000) in the country. It’s a working fishing village whose sailors spend salmon season in Alaska, but on the shore of Puget Sound, it’s also a launching point for sailors and paddlers. Beyond the water, there are Washington wine festivals, open-air movie nights, and a bustling farmers market.

Gig Harbor Rent-a-Boat

For an aquatic perspective of Gig Harbor, rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboat, or powerboat. For more surefooted types, there's also the relatively newer sport of paddleboarding. Guided and non-guided excursions are available, in addition to lessons and a kayak camp for kids. A guided sunrise paddle educates about local history, while streaks of red and orange often paint the sky as the sun rises. Bring binoculars; it’s not uncommon to spot Great Blue Herons or local harbor seals. Also, pack a picnic for a quick bite on the beach below Gig Harbor’s lighthouse. 

Kopachuk State Park

Paddle out to tiny Cutts Island, keeping an eye out for seals; later, wind down the day with a beach stroll on Kopachuk’s shore, looking for sand dollars.

Tanglewood Grill

This Gig Harbor restaurant specializes in American fare with a focus on Pacific Northwestern ingredients. The dining room resembles a hunting lodge, with taxidermy heads mounted on the walls, a large stone fireplace, and wooden paneling. Menu selections include garlic vermouth salmon, potato-crusted cod, and nine varieties of freshly ground, hand-pressed burgers. Prime rib is popular with locals and served on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; but make sure to arrive early since they often sell out.

The Green Turtle

Have an elegant dinner of Asian-influenced seafood at a water-view table.

Maritime Inn

On the waterfront, the hotel has 15 tastefully decorated rooms named for historic ships that plied the local seas. Some have gas fireplaces and private balconies.