Tacoma is an urban boating destination complete with the hum of a thriving city. It has excellent museums and restaurants, a variety of marinas, and attractions like the Point Defiance Zoo.

When transiting Commencement Bay, watch carefully for large container ships or car carriers that frequent the area. The most centrally located moorage is in the Thea Foss Waterway, at the southeast corner of the bay.

The Thea Foss Waterway is about a mile long. It was the original harbor area of Tacoma, and the old warehouses are now renovated into museums and meeting spaces. When entering, boatyards are on the port side with a mix of commercial and recreational vessels. The fuel dock to port is next to the Youth Marine Center, and a portion of the profits from fuel sales benefit boating and maritime programs for Tacoma youth.

Tacoma

Thea Foss Waterway is lined with marinas and close to museums, restaurants, and other amenities.

Tacoma

Moored at Dock Street Marina with the Highway 509 bridge in the background.

The transformation from industrial area to marine tourism center shows. Look up and you see the gleaming Le May-America’s Car Museum on the hill. The marinas are clean and modern. The striking Highway 509 bridge looms overhead.

Many of the docks along this stretch are for temporary moorage, handy for a day stop. The Foss Harbor Marina has a fuel dock, convenience store in the office, and transient moorage. It is a convenient walk down the esplanade to the museum and restaurant area of Tacoma. Dock Street Marina is to starboard, a little further in. It is located right below the Museum of Glass and the Washington State History Museum.

Museums and Attractions

Dock Street Marina is a superb facility, with new docks and in-berth pumpout. The stairs and walkway above the marina lead to the Museum of Glass. Here you can view the work of local glass artists and often see guest artists working in the hot shop with molten glass, creating all types of beautiful works.

Next, take the Chihuly Bridge of Glass footbridge across the railroad tracks. The distinctive brick building, the former railway station, now houses the Washington State History Museum. The exhibits are well done and it’s easy to spend several hours learning more about Washington State.

The Tacoma Art Museum, with its well-regarded rotating exhibitions of paintings and an extensive permanent collection of Dale Chihuly’s work, is a couple of blocks north of the Washington State History Museum. Combination tickets for the Glass Museum, History Museum, and Art Museum are available.

LeMay-America’s Car Museum is another fantastic museum in Tacoma. Take the light rail east to the Tacoma Dome station and then walk up the hill to the museum. We spent several hours looking at the hundreds of cars on display—works of art in their own right.

Tacoma

Outside LeMay-America’s Car Museum.

Tacoma

Inside, on the top floor of LeMay-America’s Car Museum.

On the way back to the light rail, consider stopping at Tacoma Book Center, on the corner of 26th Street, between D and E streets. They have thousands of used books on every subject you can imagine. There is an extensive collection of nautical books and even a few vintage editions of the Waggoner Cruising Guide. Occasionally, you can find out of print cruising guides that are worth collecting such as copies of Jo Bailey’s “Gunkholing” series.

Puget Sound

We found a 2003 Waggoner Cruising Guide at Tacoma Book Center.

If you have kids or grandchildren along, visit the Tacoma Children’s museum or arrange transportation out to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. One idea is to take your boat, or dinghy, to the new Point Defiance Boathouse docks, just east of the Washington State Ferry dock at Point Defiance. The docks are new and it is a short walk up the hill to the zoo and aquarium. 

Dining

Along Pacific Avenue, near the Washington State History Museum, there is a nice selection of restaurants from the Harmon Brewing Company and Restaurant to a variety of ethnic and fine dining restaurants. For breakfast, brunch, or lunch consider the Renaissance Cafe. The menu is unique with breakfast served all day. Scrambled eggs are cooked in using the steam wand on a latte machine. Sandwiches are good and filling, with a variety of hot sauces available for those who feel the need for heat.

Several restaurants have recently opened along the Thea Foss esplanade. Locals tell us the best place for lunch is Choripan by Asado at the Museum of Glass. The menu features exquisitely prepared Argentinean style food. 

Just a little further west is a bar and grill called Social, with indoor and outdoor dining. Outdoor tables have built-in gas fire pits to keep you warm. The food is unique and tasty.

Continue west on the waterway to the newly renovated Pacific Seafood for some of the best and freshest seafood in Puget Sound.

Events

In early April, the Foss Waterway celebrates spring with their Daffodil Days Parade on the water as part of Tacoma’s Daffodil Festival. This event is hosted by the Tacoma Yacht Club and rivals Opening Day on the Montlake Cut, with a parade of decorated boats that circle for several hours. In October watch for information on the Oktoberfest event on the waterfront.

Tacoma is renovated, revitalized and ready for visiting boats. With a selection of museums, restaurants and other attractions – it is too good to miss.

This spring Dock Street Marina has a special for weekday cruisers. Stay one night and get the second night free (valid until May 22nd).
Mark Bunzel

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