Peter Skansie had the first motorized fishing boat in Gig Harbor. This photograph shows his boat, The Eagle, with friends and family fishing in 1905. The photograph hangs above the bed in the hotel room, The Eagle, at the Maritime Inn in the Downtown Historic Waterfront District, Gig Harbor. The windows from the room look out onto Skansie Brothers Park, which slopes down to the bay of Gig Harbor and the waters of Puget Sound. The shoreline was less than a football field away from our bed.
The land of the waterfront park and open space was once used to spread out and dry tarred fishing nets. The history of Gig Harbor, like the boats in the marinas, is tied up to the wharfs, docks, and sheds along the bay.
This was our first stay at the Maritime Inn. What a joy it was to be right in the middle of the day-to-day activities of the community. There’s always something going on. It wasn't hustle and bustle but more relaxed and enjoyable. The inn has about a dozen rooms and features off-street parking. The staff members were friendly and helpful.
We were greeted with a glass of wine and shown the continental breakfast area. Although to get to our room we had to go down stairs and then up stairs (with no elevator) they do have one accessible room for people with mobility impairments.
Our room was clean and tidy with a beautiful gas fireplace. The room looked out on the street, the park, and the bay. Even though it was October, Peg and I slept with the windows open. I woke up one morning to the honking of geese as they flew from the dark green grass of Skansie Park into the waters of Gig Harbor, just yards away. In the summertime there are concerts each Tuesday in the park, which makes a room at the hotel a prime location for rest, relaxation, and entertainment. Add a bottle of wine from room service and the evening would be perfection.
I enjoyed sitting on the bed and just looking out the window. At various times I saw young men playing Lacrosse, lovers walking hand-in-hand and families just strolling about.
Our first night in Gig Harbor we crossed the street to the park on our half-block walk to dinner. On one of the docks we saw young people dressed for a high school prom, probably Homecoming. They were getting their photos taken and laughing. Obviously they were all friends. The girls were all beautiful with colorful dresses. Most were wearing high-heels that looked a little uncomfortable, but they probably gave the young women a feeling of being fashionable and grown-up.
Everywhere we went there was a feeling of small town neighborliness. It was euphoric.
We walked to Harbor Landing, which is a building containing small shops and the Mexican restaurant El Pueblito. I had seen an ad for El Pueblito in Your Local Shopper - Gig Harbor, which is owned by our friend Mark Sigafoos, who is also a member of the Tacoma Executives Association. His magazine featuring ads and discounts gave us a good idea of places to visit in the Gig Harbor area.
Peg and I entered Harbor Landing and she immediately disappeared into the Bayside Book Company, the book store, while I wandered ahead and found a booth at the restaurant. Like the window in our room, the booth at the El Pueblito gave me a great view of activity: people walking their dogs and prom girls now carrying their high-heeled shoes.
After a few minutes I saw Peg walking on the sidewalk. She took the long way around. The inside entrance to the restaurant was only about twenty feet from the book store.
Peg had a beer and I had the largest Shirley Temple I've ever been served (two cherries). Her crab enchilada was excellent. I had the mole with pork. The mole was sweeter than I like, but with several spoonfuls of salsa it was "just right." The service was friendly. The waitress took our magazine coupon (for lunch and dinner) and simply tore off the dinner part and gave the other portion back to me, "You might want to stop in for lunch." Indeed, I just might.
After dinner we looked into some of the shops before entering Pickers Northwest, which offered treasure after treasure. Like they say on the TV show American Pickers, "We look for rusty gold." I fell in love with a model of a Ford Tri-Motor monoplane (circa 1930). It looked original, but the price was more like "Rusty Titanium." I moved on to a little phonograph player from the ‘50s or ‘60s. On the spindle was a record from the Seattle World's Fair. I knew exactly what it was.
The music was conducted by Jazz great Paul Whiteman. The music was written by Toni Mineo and orchestrated by Attilio Mineo. Toni and "Art" lived less than half a mile from us. Art passed away a few years ago. Toni was the musical genius of Holy Cross Church. Art was an entertainer at the New Yorker Night Club in Tacoma during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. He also created the music for the famous "Bubbleator" at the World's Fair. We love both Toni and Art.
I showed the record to Peg and then turned to the owner of Pickers Northwest and realized he looked familiar. Ken and Sherry Millsap are the owners, but Ken used to be a manager at Tacoma's Landmark Convention Center. They just recently opened this store. Peg had already fallen in love a few times in their shop. Ken talked about one of his staff members, Mick, from the Landmark and I knew just who he was talking about. Mick was my favorite server there - always friendly and helpful with his eyes always checking out the crowd.
“American Pickers” is one of my favorite shows on TV and it, like “Pawn Stars”, tells the history of our country piece by piece. Pickers Northwest does the same for the Pacific Northwest.
Back at the Maritime I watched the Husky football game and then slept nicely. I always wake early and Sunday was no different. Unfortunately our room did not have a table in it for my laptop, so I got up and drove around Gig Harbor enjoying all of the sites, in the fog. While we were in Gig Harbor we saw a gorgeous day, a foggy day, a misty day and a gray day. Not bad for only staying there two nights.
I bought the Sunday papers and then visited the Java & Clay Cafe, which opens at seven. I had coffee and a croissant and read the newspaper. I returned to our room. This was not a long journey. From the little window over our fireplace I could look down on the cafe. I was familiar with the Cafe; a few of my fellow members from the Tacoma Executives Association had a creative social there last year. You can drink wine and paint unglazed bisque ceramics and have them fired.
When I returned, Peg got up, showered and dressed and we drove to the Tacoma Industrial Airport. A new restaurant opened there and we thought we’d try it out with our friends. Two other couples joined us at "Pie OnThe Fly" from the "Hub." This is actually an extension of one of our favorite restaurants in Tacoma. They had received a nice write-up in the News Tribune a week earlier, probably for their pizza. I think the breakfast will have to grow into the glowing review it received. My buddy Donn and I were not impressed with our food . . . cold biscuits. The gravy was good, but a little thin. I asked for crispy breakfast potatoes. When delivered they looked just like everyone else's. The taste was nondescript as well. The highlight of breakfast was hearing the cheer as the Seahawks kicked a field goal to take an early lead, which subsequently disappeared as did the chance of winning.
When we arrived at the restaurant it was a very foggy morning. When we left it was a beautiful day. That's life in the Pacific Northwest. I had showed Donn my photo of Ken from Pickers Northwest; he too remembers both Ken and Mick.
While I watched the football game, Peg read the newspaper and napped and then it was time for a walk and lunch. We thought we would try Spiro's Pizza & Pasta. Peg had grand plans to attend a fundraiser in the afternoon back in Tacoma, but that evaporated by the time her hummus was delivered to the table. The pita bread was good and the sliced cucumbers and red onion were nice additions. The glass of wine probably sealed the deal.
While sitting at the table and looking out at the people walking by I spied friends Beth and Randy Lind of Lind Pest Control. They are both members of Tacoma Executives. It was nice to see friend’s faces among all the regular friendly faces.
I ordered the pizza lunch (two pieces of Hawaiian pizza and Caesar salad) and a bowl of sausage soup. I cut one of the pieces of pizza in two and shared with Peg, while I enjoyed the soup and continually nibbled at her hummus. The food was good and the atmosphere was relaxing. The restaurant is right at the one major intersection in the historical district. Just down the street from Spiro's on the way back to the Maritime was a sweet shop, but Peg looked the other way as she walked passed it. I was hoping to visit the small "Whole Foods" shop, but it was closed - too bad. However, we did see an additional location for breakfast . . . and ice cream. We'll try them out next time in town.
The point of this trip to Gig Harbor was not only to enjoy ourselves, which we almost always do, but to relax. This means downtime . . . no deadline . . . no appointments. While Peg napped, I read. While I napped, Peg read.
When I drove around in the fog that morning I revisited the new bridge over Donkey Creek. It’s now open. In the early morning there was nothing to photograph in the fog, but in the late afternoon? All things were possible. Peg and I drove onto the new bridge and parked illegally. While Peg stayed on the new sidewalk I walked practically down the new (muddy) embankment. The creek isn't big or deep, but since 1972, the Gig Harbor Commercial Fishermen's Club has incubated salmon eggs at Donkey Creek, releasing over 1 million fry into Gig Harbor Bay annually.
I climbed back up the embankment and crossed the one-way traffic to the sidewalk and found the breathtaking entrance to Donkey Creek. Donkey Creek lies at the western end of Gig Harbor Bay and looks out on marinas, Douglas fir lined shorelines with a majestic Mount Rainier in the distance.
I think we should search the languages of nearby Native American tribes for a name more in keeping with the dramatic beauty of the area. The least we could do is call it "stulce nsiyetk" (Salish for Donkey Creek). I wonder how they would translate "Short Term Parking."
By the entrance to Donkey Creek is the Harbor History Museum. If the inside is as good looking as the exterior, the interior must be fantastic.
The Harbor History Museum opened its doors September 18, 2010. It was the culmination of more than 10 years of dedicated work by the museum board of trustees, staff, and countless volunteers. The idea of preserving the history of the Gig Harbor Peninsula was conceived in 1964. Members of the American Association of University Women started the “history club” and asked the community to share their photographs and memories of early Gig Harbor. Shortly after, the Peninsula Historical Society was officially formed.
After crossing Donkey Creek we needed some place to turn around. What better place than the parking lot of Anthony's at Gig Harbor.
We parked the car and found a beautiful dog and its owner on an afternoon walk. It was a friendly Bernese Mountain (farm) Dog; it had long hair and the Mountain working dogs have short. It was a little intimidated by Peg. Perhaps, she should have spoken in German. The name in German is "Berner Sennenhund." It's a large breed of dog, one of the four breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps. What a nice dog. We talked briefly with the owner. People are always happy to talk about their dogs, their boats . . . and their grandchildren.
Anthony's is at the location of the old Shoreline Restaurant. We ate at the Shoreline a time or two, but I think this was only the second time we've eaten there since it became an Anthony's.
The vacant site next to it was once the site of the first library in Gig Harbor. All around Gig Harbor there are little signs and markers that tell us about the history. I like that. Just standing by the rail and looking out at the commanding view up the bay with its plethora of boats and activity was fun.
Dories, skiffs, and dingys seemed to move all over the place with people enjoying the water and life in general. The larger boats didn't seem to move as often, but they looked like they were well-kept AND used.
While I placed our name for seating with the front desk, Peg noticed a friend of from P.E.O., which is an organization that raises money for women’s post-secondary education. They chatted a while and then Peg and I said goodbye as we descended to visit the lounge rather than the dining room. We weren't hungry for dinner, but thought something sweet would be a nice way to end the evening. Anthony's was still in the middle of their Huckleberry campaign.
We were seated next to the window which looks out onto the harbor facing east. We were in time for happy hour, but we passed over the appetizers. Peg had a glass of wine while we waited.
As we waited we watched the traffic on the harbor. Back at our hotel I had seen a man carrying a paddle board and a paddle as he led a black dog out onto the dock by Skansie Brothers Park. From Anthony's I saw a man on a paddleboard with a black mound onboard. I didn't see a head, but if I were a betting man . . . and I am, it was a dog. The man was soon joined by a young teenage boy on a paddleboard and they were soon lost in a forest of masts and hulls.
When they left, a Tacoma boat began maneuvering to tie up to the floating dock. It was the Cetacea. (The order cetacea includes the marine mammals commonly known as whales, dolphins, and porpoises.) The boat owner gracefully slowed, backed and docked. A male whale could have done it quicker, but not so gracefully. The older couple soon joined the rest of us in the lounge.
Soon, Peg and I were eating our desserts. She had the huckleberry slump. Here's how Martha Stewart describes slump, "Cousin to the cobbler, a slump has dumplings on top instead of biscuits . . ." So, that's why I like cobblers AND slumps! I like both biscuits and dumplings. Biscuits are baked, while dumplings are steamed and moister. From the description I would have guessed the huckleberry slump to be a huckleberry cobbler. No disrespect intended. We both loved it.
I had a huckleberry sundae with Olympic Mountain Huckleberry Ice Cream and a tart huckleberry sauce bursting with juice. The slump was sweeter than the sundae. They were a nice contrast to each other.
After dinner we relaxed at the Maritime and watched Last Tango in Halifax and the current Masterpiece Theater production, The Paradise.
Sunday morning we packed up and toured two larger rooms at the Maritime. Both had tables, which would be ideal for sitting and using my laptop. We were well pleased. From the hotel we headed straight to our last destination in Gig Harbor, Netshed No. 9. (A netshed is were fishing nets were originally stored.) We parked in the parking lot and marveled at the artificial stream flowing between two parking lots. The only thing that would have made the stream more realistic would have been trout and salmon swimming and jumping.
Netshed 9 is owned by the same people who own and run Brix 25° Restaurant, which is a fine dining establishment in the historic downtown area. We knew we were in for a treat.
What I also enjoyed about the Netshed is the addition of a ramp for access. I like to see businesses that have gone out of their way to welcome people with mobility problems.
Our waitress, Holly, made us feel right at home. She was bright, cheery and helpful. Servers like that are worth their weight in gold.
It took us some time to review the menu. It was a far cry from just bacon and eggs. After placing our order we went out on the deck - lovely. I fell in love with the home next door. What a joy it must be to live on the water in Gig Harbor. The next best thing of course is to visit the places on the water in Gig Harbor.
Netshed 9 is only open until four each afternoon, but the deck doesn't go to waste. The deck can be reserved and catering is done by Brix. It doesn't get much better than that. I think we'll arrange for our Sunday morning breakfast group to join us at the Netshed soon AND again in the spring . . . and possibly several times in the summer.
Peg ordered the cast iron cooked waffle with bacon brittle (candied bacon) but didn’t want the whipped cream. I had the stuffed biscuit, which featured a Portuguese sausage and cheese cooked inside a biscuit and all covered with red gravy. Many places call to you after you've left, but the Netshed called to us well before we left. When we start sentences with "Next time I think . . .," we know we've found a new favorite place to eat.
The bacon brittle didn't work for us, but if we’d ordered a regular side of bacon to accompany it, that could work. My oldest son would have loved it, but would appreciate the additional side order, as well. The next time I order the stuffed biscuit I'll ask for a cup of gravy on the side. The red gravy had a little too much of a bite for Peg, but I really liked it. There were several other items on the menu that we would like to try like their frittata with tomato jam, but we couldn't eat everything; however, we did buy a small jar of tomato jam to go.
What a great weekend we had. We met some new friends, some old friends, and saw friends we weren't even able to talk with. Back in town I told a friend about our trip to downtown Gig Harbor and he said, "Next time give us a call. We just live two blocks away." We'll be back. We loved the Maritime Inn. It was so nice being right smack dab in the middle of things. We also found some inexpensive family style places to eat that still delivered good food, and, we found the Netshed with its relaxed atmosphere and excellent food. We can't recommend Gig Harbor enough.