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  • Writer's pictureGig Harbor Living Local

Exploring the Salish Sea through the Harbor WildWatch Marine Life Center

Gig Harbor Welcomes its Newest Attraction


 

Harbor WildWatch Marine Life Center Exhibit

Courtesy of Harbor WildWatch


Nestled along the picturesque waterfront, the Harbor WildWatch Marine Life Center has breathed new life into a historic building, becoming Gig Harbor’s latest attraction. Opened earlier this year with support from the City of Gig Harbor, the Gig Harbor Waterfront Alliance and the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, this nonprofit venture builds on a decade of success. Previously, Harbor WildWatch operated the Skansie Visitor & Interpretive Center since 2014, welcoming over 70,000 visitors — including the Prime Minister of Croatia — for visitor information, maps and a side of environmental education. With recent changes in the City’s Tourism Department, Harbor WildWatch renegotiated its lease in late 2023 to become the building's sole occupant, marking a new era in access to local marine education.


The Marine Life Center offers an immersive experience for both residents and visitors of the Maritime City. It features over 600 gallons of aquatic habitats showcasing diverse marine creatures, from sea stars to shiner perch. The star attraction is “Pancake,” a Pacific Red Octopus residing in a 300-gallon aquarium, mesmerizing guests with his dynamic color and texture changes. Beyond live exhibits, the center includes animal skulls, specimens, a microscope station, marine life videos and special events, ensuring a fresh experience for every season.


Lindsey Stover, executive director of Harbor WildWatch, highlights the project’s community impact: "This opening of this facility not only advances our mission of inspiring stewardship for the Salish Sea but also creates an inclusive space for learning and discovery for residents and visitors alike."


Under Harbor WildWatch’s leadership, the center is poised to become a bustling hub along the waterfront corridor. Rotating exhibits and interactive displays aim to engage visitors of all ages, fostering a deeper appreciation for Gig Harbor's marine ecosystems. Additionally, with extended winter and evening hours, the center will draw people downtown to learn, play, shop and dine, even in quieter seasons.


Mayor Tracey Markley reflects on the center's significance: "This transformation demonstrates Gig Harbor’s commitment to education and environmental care. It not only enriches our community’s understanding of local wildlife but also boosts economic activity by attracting more visitors to this unique attraction."


The Harbor WildWatch Marine Life Center invites you to experience its wonders Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm. Admission is free, with donations welcomed, making it accessible to all ages. For more information, media inquiries, or to learn how to become a volunteer docent, contact Lindsey Stover at Lindsey@harborwildwatch.org or 253.514.0187.


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