When you think of romance, Gig Harbor, Washington might not come to mind. But, its twinkling harbor lights and sunset mountain views tell a different story. As a guest of the City of Gig Harbor, I discovered this picturesque town has plenty of romantic places to cuddle, kiss and inspire closeness.
The seaside town of Gig Harbor, known for its fishing heritage and Mt. Rainier views, is 49 miles from Seattle, 33 miles from Sea-Tac International Airport, and 11 miles from Tacoma.
Romancing Gig Harbor
An Inn with a View
I stayed at the Waterfront Inn, a 1918 Craftsman boutique inn nestled along the northern shores of Gig Harbor with incredible water views. My room,The Regatta Room, featured a queen-sized bed, a river rock fireplace, a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, and my favorite amenity–a red brick patio only 20 feet from the water's edge. After settling in, I took full advantage of the view from the patio and watched as a curious seal curled in and out of the sea.
On either side of my room, were two more harbor-facing rooms, The Crow’s Nest and The Boathouse. In total, the historic inn has six rooms, each with their own private entrance. Amenities include river rock gas fireplaces, large bathrooms with luxurious Jacuzzi tubs, flat screen TVs, and free wifi. All guests share a large over-the-water lounging deck with an assortment of tables, chairs, and loveseats. In the morning, I indulged in watching the shifting colors of the sunrise on the deck and listened to the musical sounds of seabirds. I also made a mental note that this spot would be perfect for an afternoon libation or cuddling up on a loveseat to watch the sunset.
Kayak, SUP or Paddle Boats
In Gig Harbor there is no lack of water activities. Guests can use the complimentary kayaks at the Waterfront Inn and launch right from their docks. Or take a 2-minute stroll to Lee’s SUP & Kayak Rentals to rent a stand up paddleboard (SUP) or paddle boat. I decided on the SUP. Even as a newbie to the sport I found the protected harbor easy to navigate. Having seen Gig Harbor's 15-foot lighthouse, which is only accessible by water, earlier in the day, I paddled slowly toward the harbor's narrow entrance. About half way through my breath caught in my chest as Mt. Rainier appeared majestically before me. The image of its glistening white slopes accompanied me all the way to my destination and made me wish I'd brought my camera.
Gig Harbor Gondola
When one thinks about the ultimate romantic city, Venice might come to mind. Gig Harbor Gondola has brought a piece of that passion to Gig Harbor with Nelly, an authentic Venetian gondola. From the moment the tour started, the stage was set. Gondolier Synco met us in gondolier attire–a red and white striped shirt and a straw hat with a red ribbon. Once situated on the cushy pillow seats, we coasted out into the water and the tranquility of the setting lulled me into its embrace. Synco steadily rowed, pointing out the town's historical net shed's that were an integral part of the fishing fleet. Then in the harbor, the view of Mt. Rainier blazed in the sun before us, and the tinge of salt floated on the warm breeze. The oars dipped in and out of the water. Quiet took over as Synco rowed toward the lighthouse. When we turned around he asked if we'd like to hear a song and soon the air filled with a lilting Italian serenade.
Gig Harbor Gondola offers a 60-minute ride for two ($85) and a 90-minute ride for two ($115). A locally prepared snack box is included and has assorted cheeses, meats, fruits and chocolates. I suggest bringing your favorite drink and booking an evening ride to admire the hues of the sunset on Mt. Rainier. And, if there is a chill in the air snuggle up under the blankets.
Olalla Vineyard & Winery
If you want to linger in the Italian theme a little longer take a short 14-minute drive to Olalla Vineyard & Winery. From the moment we entered the vineyard grounds, the lush gardens and melodic voice of Andrea Bocelli created the dreamy atmosphere of a Tuscan villa. Inside the tasting room, winemaker Mary Ellen Houston explained how they naturally ferment their wines in Italian clay amphorae. And then, we proceeded to taste a selection of their wines, including their signature “Golubok” wine, which has an earthy and smoky flavor. After the tasting, I wasn't ready to leave, so I took a short hike through the woods to a salmon stream and then strolled through the vineyards to admire Olalla Bay and Vashon Island.
If you'd like to turn the tasting into an amorous excursion bring a picnic lunch, or purchase one of Olalla’s Crimson Cove Basket for Two ($35, or $45 with a wine tasting).
For dinner, the “Creative Comfort Cuisine” of JW was on the itinerary. The outside of the building is unassuming, and one might not realize that intimate seating with candle-lit tables is tucked inside. From the moment I entered, I could easily see why JW was voted “Best Romantic Dinner” five years in a row by South Sound Magazine.
We sampled the Fig Crostini with feta cream, candied figs, pistachios, port wine reduction and crispy prosciutto, and the Filet Mignon Bites with coconut cauliflower mash and crispy fried garlic, and Chicken Ratatouille with summer stewed vegetables. The service and every dish exceeded my expectation. If you are in Gig Harbor on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, they offer a 3 for $30 Prix Fixe Menu, and the items change seasonally.
For our second dinner, we dined at Brix 25°, whose delicious menu is Northwest-inspired American cuisine. We started with the Mushroom Risotto special with chanterelles and shiitake mushrooms, and for dinner the Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut with fresh huckleberries and tomatillo salsa, Harissa Rubbed Lamp Chops with Sardinian couscous, eggplant caviar, baby carrots, pearl onions and Tzatziki, and for desert Ghost Pepper Gelato and Chocolate and Buttermilk Pecan “Pie”. I particularly enjoyed the Mushroom Risotto special and would definitely order the deconstructed pecan pie again.
Brix 25° also creates hand-crafted cocktails, and in the lounge has a daily Happy Hour from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and all day Saturday. The restaurant has an extensive regional wine list and in the past has won them “Washington Wine Restaurant of the Year.” On Wednesdays, wine is half price.
On my Gig Harbor excursion, we also had drinks at the wine-focused Morso, sampled Netshed No.9‘s signature cast iron skillet cinnamon bacon rolls and had lunch on Tides Tavern's famous deck, which has won them South Sound Magazine's “Best Outdoor Dining.”
Gig Harbor has many unique shops, dining options, outdoor activities, and is very walkable. At night, I found it easy be seduced by the gleaming moon over Mt. Rainier and the flickering harbor lights. Thankfully, the over-the-water deck at the Waterfront Inn was the perfect spot to take in its romance.
For more information on what to see and do in Gig Harbor, WA visit the City of Gig Harbor.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations and meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.