Setting: Tucked into the south end of Puget Sound, Gig Harbor (population 6,500) claims unparalleled views of Mount Rainier. The town's just an hour from downtown Seattle and a few minutes across the bridge from Tacoma.
Attractions: Year-round outdoor activities such as boating, skiing, sailing, tennis, golf; one of the best school systems in Washington; stunning natural beauty; special cultural events such as the Maritime Gig Festival and Scandinavian Fest.
Drawbacks: Traffic on the bridge can back up for two to three hours during rush hour or if there's an accident. A new toll bridge is planned to help with delays. Also, the weather may stay gray or rainy for days on end.
Housing Options: Craftsman-style homes join condos, fixer-uppers, historic houses in the Millville District, and rural homes with acreage. "You might see a $3 million home next to a $150,000 home. There's so much variance," says local Nancy Altman.
What It Costs: The average Gig Harbor home costs $350,000. Waterfront houses range from $249,000 to more than $3 million. In East Gig Harbor, you can pay $500,000 to $800,000 just for the property. Historic homes go for $200,000 to $500,000. Newer condos with Puget Sound vistas run $500,000 to $700,000. Condos without waterfront views cost around $300,000. In Canterwood, a gated golfing community, upscale homes on half-acre lots start at $500,000.
Your Next-door Neighbors: Attorneys, fishermen, airline pilots, former Microsoft software designers, actors Kevin Spacey and Josh Lucas. "It's a great place to raise a family, but also nice for retirees. You see the different groups mingling in a wonderful way," says Laureen Lund of the chamber of commerce.
How You'd Spend Your Free Time: Strolling the harborfront, browsing colorful galleries or sifting through stacks of books at privately owned stores, gossiping with local ladies at Salon Rouge, hiking in the nearby state park, meeting friends for a beer at Tides Tavern, watching plays at the two local theaters.
published March 2005