When you have small humans in your crew, there are times that you just really, really need a park. An open space to chase, scream, throw sticks, and eat lunch. Preferably with restrooms.
A public park is always a good road trip stop (on the way to Olympic National Park, for example), but Gig Harbor has some breathtakingly beautiful gems that are worthy destinations on their own. Whether you’re looking for playgrounds, forest trails, waterfront or a place to let Fido off his leash, this sparkling peninsula on the South Sound has it all.
Downtown Gig Harbor Parks — aka the Best Parks for a Lunch Stop
Let’s start with the most critical purpose for a park on a family road trip: a place to stop, let the kids out, eat and go to the bathroom. In Gig Harbor, your best bets are the city parks found downtown, which include the following:
3510 Grandview Street
From the main exit to Gig Harbor off of Highway 16, a long hill slopes directly down Pioneer Drive to the water. On your way down this hill, turn right on Grandview and you’ll run into the Gig Harbor Civic Center. On one side of the building is a skate park with adjacent playground and picnic tables. Directly in front is a huge grassy field, a great for a place to let toddlers play, and on the other sidel is Grandview Forest Park, a lovely block of well-kept trails through tall trees. The Civic Center houses the main police station, which makes you feel safe, lets your kids admire cop cars and allows you to remind them that car seats and seatbelts are the LAW. There are also bathrooms, making this is an easy and fun picnic stop.
3207 Harborview Drive
Right in the middle of downtown, on the water, is the recently renovated Skansie Park. It has a gorgeous location with a large grassy area for kids to run overlooking the peaceful harbor dotted with boats. There are real restrooms, as well as pay showers, should you happen to need those, and plenty of picnic tables. There’s also a small splash fountain that runs in the summer months — currently the only splash fountain in the area. The downside is that there is, well, water, so if you have toddlers you fear might run directly over the bulkhead and into the harbor, you might want to pick another park. They do have loaner life jackets to put on your kids should you want to take a walk down the dock to admire the boats.
3805 North Harborview Drive
This little patch of land is a former boatyard site, and has been preserved as a patch of grass that rolls down to a tiny sandy beach. It also has a collection of mussel sculptures, and admit it — you’ve never seen a mussel sculpture before. This is a good spot to launch a kayak or let your kids splash around, and they do have a restroom.
8714 North Harborview Drive
If you’re taking the scenic tour of downtown, driving along the curved waterfront, eventually you’ll reach Donkey Creek Park. This park has a small lawn without any play equipment, but it does have a little trail that runs down by the creek. It is conveniently located across the street from a burger place and a Thai restaurant if you are in search of food, and it has restrooms. The main draw is the creek, where you can see the salmon returning in the fall.
Parks with Playgrounds
3303 Verhardson Street
Crescent Creek Park has a grassy field, a picnic shelter, a bathroom and a creek — but what the kids will love is the adorable playground. In a nod to Gig Harbor’s history, this park hosts The Maritime Playzone, all-ability, inclusive boat-themed play equipment that is perfect for the younger set. There is a smaller toddler area with a little sandbox too.
10123 78th Avenue NW
If you are looking for a seriously awesome playground, head to Sehmel Park. You have to really want to visit this park, because it’s not right off the highway. However, in addition to a giant playground (you’ll have to chase your preschoolers and toddlers around, which is my beef with this park, but your older kids will love it) and lots of sports fields, Sehmel Park has great trails that ring the park and a meadow at the other end. And bathrooms. We love bathrooms.
3580 50th Street Court NW
If you are looking for a tiny playground — they type where you can give your kids their 15 minutes of play before hustling them back on to schedule — this is your best bet. Adjacent to a ballfield in town is this little playground. There are bathrooms and picnic tables, too.
10301 Bujacich Road NW
McCormick Forest sells itself as: a forest. It has some wide trails, however. The forest is great for walking around, and kids can mountain bike on these trails as well. It does get very muddy in the winter. There is a stream in one area, which can be fun for kids who like to get dirty. The only bathroom is a port-a-potty at the entrance.
6620 32nd Street NW
This park land is also only forested trails. The trails can be tight through the brush. However, the close trees make this a good rainy day hike, as the canopy keeps you a little bit dry. It’s also a great place to lose your kids, if you’re looking for that…or is that just me? These woods are kind of fun for hide and seek; you can’t see each other through the bushes but you can hear your kids breaking sticks as they run. There are no restrooms so go before you leave the house.
4118 Rosedale Street NW
This park on a former farm has an adjacent community garden and is a popular place to walk dogs. It’s good for exploring, with an old barn and the former farmhouse on the property. There are no restrooms but there is a water fountain. Wilkinson Farm is a popular place to walk dogs.
6811 Wagner Way
This paved nature trail runs around a pond, making it good place to walk with strollers or tiny ones who like to see ducks. There are viewing platforms and interpretive signs, but no restrooms.
1502 Lucille Parkway
Narrows Park has a little gazebo and telescope viewing area as well as a lawn and picnic tables, but people just come here for the beach. You do have to clamber down a little sandy/rocky hill to get to the beach (you’ll want to park strollers). However, you will be rewarded by a long stretch of beach that is mostly rocky with some sandy spots. You can walk for a long time on this stretch, and the views of the Narrows Bridge are gorgeous. If you take a right when you get to the beach, there’s a little swing kids can play on. This beach is popular for fishing as well as for letting kids play during the summer months. There are no restrooms except a port-a-potty in the parking lot.
10015 Sunrise Beach Drive NW
This tucked away beach park is rarely busy. It’s in a rural area; you park in a field and there’s a port-a-potty there. To get to the beach you have to walk down a long grassy hill and then over a little trail to the beach. Again, however, here is is your long, beautiful (if rocky) coastline. If your kids like to catch creatures, this is a great place to do it at low tide.
55 Bella Bella Drive, Fox Island
The park district owns this land, but is careful not to call it a park. The sand spit at the end of Bella Bella Drive on Fox Island is a gorgeous spot to fish, catch creatures in tide pools or play in the patch of sand on hot days. You have to walk down a very steep hill to get to the spit, and there is only a port-a-potty. If the four or five parking spots in front of the gate are taken when you arrive, drive to the parking lot just above the park on the hill. Do not park on the street; parking has been the main issue when they discuss whether or not to keep this beach open to the public.
10712 56th Street NW
Kopachuck State Park has a long coastline that is rocky at high tide, but with plenty of sand to dig in at low tide. It also has a variety of forested trails great for exploring. You do have to walk downhill on a trail to get to the beach, which is why this isn’t my favorite place with toddlers (carrying them down to the beach is one thing, carrying them back up is another!) State parks require a Discover Pass for entrance, which is $10/day or $30/year.
Off-Leash Dog Parks
You can walk your pooch on a leash at any of the above parks. If you want to let Fido run free, you’ll need to visit one of Gig Harbor’s two dog parks.
2120 14th Avenue NW
This dog park is an open field where pups can run free. It is divided into areas for large and small dogs. There’s a port-a-potty available.
10100 Bujacich Road NW
This is a fenced 15-acre park with trails through a forest, making it a fun place for anyone who enjoys encountering dogs. It’s located across the street from McCormick Forest. Parking is in the parking lot in front of the fire station. You can see a good map of the trails here.