A Weekend of Waterfronts
The Salish Sea is a full-sensory experience, with waterfront experiences in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, DuPont, University Place, and Steilacoom. With the sheer vast variety of things you can do along the various waterfronts, you'd be hard pressed to find a better place to spend a weekend getting to know the sea.
Here's an insider's guide on how to best experience the waterfront in one unforgettable itinerary.
Day 1 (afternoon): Gig Harbor Waterfront
Arrive in the afternoon, and book a Gig Harbor Gondola ride, where your Venetian gondolier will regale you with stories from Gig Harbor's history, sing to you in Italian, and let you relax and enjoy the motion of the boat to your heart's content. You can order sweet or savory appetizers ahead of time, and he'll have them ready for you.
Day 2 (morning): Downtown Tacoma Waterfront
Located walking distance from downtown Tacoma, the area along the Foss Waterway has become known as the Downtown Tacoma Waterfront.
The Museum of Glass and its iconic cone (which contains a functioning glassblowing hot shop) is a must-do on the waterfront, before you explore the marina. The Foss Waterway Seaport Museum is the other bookend of the Foss Waterway, showcasing Tacoma and Pierce County's maritime history with mind-blowing artifacts (including Jacques Cousteau's wetsuit) and exhibitions.
Just outside the Museum of Glass, Dock Street Marina offers kayak and paddleboard rentals, because no Pacific Northwest experience is complete without a back-to-back museum visit and a kayak trip.
Before you head out, lunch at The Social is the perfect place for people-watching and wave-watching.
Day 2 (afternoon): Ruston Way Waterfront
Head right for Point Ruston, which will be your home base for exploring the Ruston Way Waterfront.
Point Ruston, located at the north end of the Ruston Way Waterfront, is an entertainment and dining destination, where you can catch a movie, coffee at Anthem Coffee + Tea, and have some dinner or a glass of wine while looking out on the Salish Sea. And did we mention there's a spray park for kids during the summer?
While you're at Point Ruston, we recommend renting bikes (or a bicycle surrey is perfect for families) at Wheel Fun Rentals and exploring the Ruston Way Waterfront on wheels.
The Ruston Way Waterfront has become a major draw for joggers, bicyclists, paddleboarders, photographers, families and just about everyone else who loves hearing the sound of water lapping against the shore with a backdrop of islands and mountains. In short: everyone.
Running alongside the waterfront, the Ruston Way Waterfront Trail is a two-mile paved trail that's dotted with small parks and tiny beaches. You can launch a kayak or paddleboard from several of those parks, or just sit and enjoy a meal at one of the several waterfront restaurants
Point Ruston is also just a short walk from Point Defiance Park, a 760-acre woodland park containing miles of walking trails in old-growth forest, as well as Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, which is a hit with families.
Once you're done with an afternoon of fun and activities around Point Ruston, Ruston Way, and Point Defiance, we recommend dinner with a water view at Duke's, The Ram, Katie Downs, or the Lobster Shop.
Stay the night at a waterfront hotel like Silver Cloud Inn Tacoma Waterfront or Silver Cloud Tacoma at Point Ruston Waterfront, or find a great hotel in downtown Tacoma or the rest of the city.
Day 3 (morning): University Place Waterfront
You might remember Chambers Bay Golf Course as the host for the 2015 U.S. Open Golf Championship, when the whole world looked on as views of the Olympic Mountains and the islands of the Salish Sea stole the show. (Not really...Jordan Spieth took home the trophy at five under par.)
Together, Chambers Bay and Chambers Creek Regional Park combine to offer a unique walking trail that takes full advantage of the lush greenery of the golf course, and the natural beauty of the Salish Sea. A small pedestrian bridge gives you access to a small beach that feels miles away from the world.
Day 3 (afternoon): DuPont Waterfront
Right now, you're probably thinking lunch. We've got you covered: Bruceskis Stone Oven Pizza in DuPont serves up traditional stone-oven pizza from dough made fresh daily, or you can find elevated pub fare at McNamara's Irish Pub & Eatery.
If you looked at it on a map, you might miss that DuPont has one of the lesser-known access points to a beach on the Salish Sea.
The Sequalitchew Creek Trail in DuPont is a mostly wooded trail that follows an old railway line that used to transport raw materials from the sea to the DuPont explosives manufacturing plant, and finished explosives back to the sea for export. Historical markers along the way point out a history that goes back several thousand years more distant, to when the Sequalitchew-Nisqually Native Americans used the area around the creek.
The real payoff for the trail is when it winds through an abandoned train tunnel, and opens out onto a sandy beach facing Anderson Island.