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Gig Harbor Getaway

As we pulled into the Best Western Wesley Inn at Gig Harbor, the lush Pacific Northwest was enjoying one of its seasonal downpours. However, we didn’t let a little rain slow us down, and you and your intrepid hound shouldn’t either.
Written by Brandie Ahlgren | Photography by Jamie Pflughoeft | Click an image to enlarge
The charming facade of the Wesley Inn is a welcome sight. A gray-shingled exterior gives way to a lobby where Parker, furry resident and “pup-lic relations ambassador,” is ready and waiting to greet you—or at least willing to rouse all nine-plus pounds from a napping spot in the lobby to check your bags for cheese or snacks.

They’re serious about being pet-friendly here—Parker even has his own blog to prove it, though he obviously prefers strolling the grounds to typing at a keyboard. Pets do require a $10, non-refundable fee per pet, but that maxes out at $50 per week. Pets are discouraged from lingering in the lobby (perhaps Parker likes the place to himself), but there are plenty of services and things to do listed in a special brochure provided by the Inn.

Rooms at the Wesley Inn are perfectly cushy for human and canine. Décor is simple and relaxing, with amenities including wireless Internet service and a morning paper delivered to your door. If you want to scale up to an executive room, you’ll get a Jacuzzi tub, 37” LCD television and a bay window or private balcony. Cozy fireplace rooms are a delight in the cooler months—what’s better than a warm fire to curl up next to after lots of jaunts around the local fauna with Fido? In the summer months, the heated outdoor pool in its gated courtyard setting sure looks appealing.

But, although it’s tempting, don’t get too settled in at Wesley Inn —if you’re spending time in Gig Harbor, then you really ought to see the harbor! And of course, the best way to do this is with a jaunt out on the water. Captain Tom Drohan at Destiny Harbor Tours is happy to help you with that. He founded the company in 2007 to “give people of all ages a chance to have the Puget Sound experience ‘up close and personal’ for a very reasonable price.” And reasonable it is—one- and two-hour tours are just $22 for adults in peak season, with discounts for children and seniors (kids under four ride free and dogs are welcome). You can stick with a simple harbor tour, take an “eco tour” that includes the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Salmon Beach, or visit Point Defiance, Thea Foss Waterway and the Port of Tacoma. And if you want to make a day of it, Destiny Harbor Tours has boat charters for 35 people, $1500 for a full day’s excursion.

Back on land, green space is important for a getaway—for both people and pups. The 702-acre Point Defiance Park pretty much offers everything you could wish for in a natural environment: old growth forest, saltwater beaches, spectacular views, kayak rentals and hiking trails. The jewel in this natural crown is the newly opened, off-leash area. This off-leash area is not a formal dog park, meaning it’s not fully fenced, so you’ll need to have voice control of your dog. What the off-leash area does have is seven full acres for you and your dog to run and play, completely free of leash, sun-up to sundown. Park in front of the off-leash area entry gates, at the Fort Nisqually picnic area (walk along the road to the south of Fort Nisqually until you reach the off-leash area) or on Mildred Street at the back of Camp Six (walk down the utility road to the west until you see the off-leash area).

If you still have energy after that, there’s plenty more to do in Point Defiance Park, some for people only (check for more information) like the Zoo & Aquarium, special events like the Point Defiance Flower & Garden Show, even go-kart rentals and batting cages.

Bridging the gap between outdoor spaces and people places are attractions like Watson’s Greenhouse & Nursery in Puyallup. What started out as a family “u-pick” vegetable operation in 1974 has grown to 85,000 square feet of retail space showcasing the plants grown on more than 60,000 square feet of land—oh, and an additional 20,000 square feet of landscaping. You’ll find gorgeous plants, gifts, garden art and an infinite amount of inspiration in this green and vibrant space.

Another growing operation, so to speak, is Wilcox Family Farms. Located just outside the town of Roy, Wilcox Farms is home to more than 800,000 laying hens, several hundred thousand pullets (young chickens), a shell egg processing plant, a liquid egg processing plant and a free range, organic poultry house. With all those chickens, it’s no wonder you need to keep your dog on a leash. There’s plenty more worth clucking about, however. You can see the restored one-room schoolhouse that was attended by the farm’s founders, Judson and Elizabeth Wilcox, in the late 1800s, tour a museum of antique farm machinery and cars, and even walk a three-quarter-mile salmon interpretive trail. Guided tours of Wilcox Family Farms are just $5 per person.

Hiking, touring,’re hungry by now, right? Back in Gig Harbor, you can grab lunch to go at the Harbor Kitchen to eat at nearby Crescent Creek Park. If you opt to eat in, you’ll get great views of the harbor and Mt. Rainier when it’s clear, and can eat by a cozy fire. The digs aren’t fancy, but Harbor Kitchen’s “upscale comfort food” (according to one online reviewer) includes offerings from breakfast to dinner like frittatas, lasagna and chowder.

Another local favorite is The Tides Tavern, arguably the best-known spot for chow in town—and clam chowder, too, cooked up daily. They also offer New Mexico Barroom Chili, cod, halibut, pizza, sandwiches and burgers. Of course, there’s a “tavern” in the name, so expect a large selection of regional and national beer and wine as well. In summer months, enjoy it all on a deck overlooking the water. Unfortunately, the deck isn’t dog friendly, but the Tavern does offer a water dish and tie-up outside the front door and we’re told dogs receive lots of pats from fellow patrons.

After a day bursting with activity, we were ready for dinner to be a quiet, sit-down affair. The Green Turtle Restaurant did not disappoint. Award-winning chef Romann Aguillon prepares dishes like Muscovy Duck, Scallops & Prawns Piri-Piri and Wild Salmon with as many fresh, local and organic ingredients as possible (all produce is organic). According to the Kitsap Sun, Aguillon, who returned to the Green Turtle in late 2009 after spending time in the corporate world, had previously won impressive industry awards including the Golden Fork. So expect your food to rival the restaurant’s beautiful views.

To us, it’s not a weekend getaway without some shopping, and Gig Harbor’s shops gave us plenty to peruse. First stop was Mostly Books, located in the downtown waterfront district. You’ll find a best-selling potboiler to read in your hotel room, sure, but Mostly Books has a lot more than that. They specialize in local, regional and nautical books and maps, and even offer a special section just for dog lovers. You’re welcome to have a seat and browse the floor-to-ceiling selection at your leisure.

Of course, no trip is complete without a little something for our animal companions. At Green Cottage Pets, the emphasis is on holistic pet food for all kinds of animals—dogs, cats, small pets and birds—plus supplements, grooming, and those all-important accessories like clothing, car seats, plush get the idea.

Gig Harbor is also a respite for pets and people who are less fortunate. A prime example is the Prison Pet Partnership Program, which not only trains dogs for therapy work, but also gives prisoners an opportunity to learn valuable skills that will translate to a workplace outside the prison system. Inmates are able to work toward Pet Care Technician Certification through the American Boarding Kennels Association by training, boarding and grooming dogs as well as learning office clerical skills. The animals in the program are getting a second chance, too—all are from animal rescue organizations. Some dogs are trained to assist individuals who experience seizures or are living with illness. Others are simply trained in basic obedience so they can find a happy home as a “paroled pet.”

Pet owners can help raise money for the Prison Pet Partnership Program and have fun at the annual Harbor Hounds dog walk. Each year, hounds and humans stroll two miles along the Gig Harbor waterfront, and then kick back with entertainment, contests, vendors and food.

We were so impressed by Gig Harbor’s hospitality for hound and human alike, we’ll be back for another visit soon!

More Information (also visit

Best Western Wesley Inn
6575 Kimball Dr.

Point Defiance Park
5400 N Pearl St., Tacoma

Watson’s Greenhouse + Nursery
6211 Pioneer Way E, Puyallup

Wilcox Family Farms
40400 Harts Lake Valley Rd., Roy

Cushman Trail    
Reed Rd. & 28th St.
Newly open 2 ½-mile trail extension runs from existing trail to 96th St. NW. Trailhead with restrooms and parking located at the end of Grandview St.

Wilkinson Farm Park
4118 Rosedale St. NW;
Scenic pond, historic barn, bird watching and walking trails.

Destiny Marine Tours
8829 N. Harborview Dr.

Harbor Hounds Dog Walk

Mostly Books
3126 Harborview Dr.

Simply Charmed Boutique & Skin
3004 Harborview Dr.

Green Cottage Pets
3024 Harborview Dr.
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