Point Defiance is located at the very tip of Tacoma, which is shaped just about like a triangle jutting out into the Puget Sound. Point Defiance Park is a 702-acre wooded area with a number of great green spaces and attractions located within its bounds. Go hiking, visit the zoo, hang out at a cool festival, kick back at a beach, or just enjoy some time sitting in the grass with some friends—all at this lovely park in Tacoma.
Point Defiance Park
5400 N. Pearl Street
Tacoma, WA 98407
How To Get There
The entrance to the park is located at the north end of Pearl Street where the street terminates. You can get onto Pearl anywhere between Point Defiance and S 19th Street and head north. This will lead you straight into Point Defiance. Once you’re there, signs will lead you to the different attractions within the park. There is ample parking right inside the entrance and even more if you head toward the zoo.
If you are coming from north or south, take I-5 to I-16. Merge onto I-16 W. Take Exit 3 for 6th Avenue and then make an immediate right onto N Pearl Street. Take this to the entrance of Point Defiance. Follow signs to the zoo.
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Located inside the park with picturesque views of the Sound and mountains, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is not the world’s largest zoo by any means, but is very worth a visit. Animal exhibits include an array of Northwest animals, as well as areas such as the Asian Forest Sanctuary and the Arctic Tundra. Long-standing favorites include the tigers, polar bears, elephants, and ET the walrus. The aquarium shows off marine life ranging from sharks to what you would find beneath the pylons along the Waterfront. Zoo admission is cheaper for Pierce County residents, military, and children.
Five Mile Drive and Hiking Trails
Looping around the outer rim of the park is Five Mile Drive. The entire path is paved and has stopping points so you can take in the impressive views of the water, surrounding islands and landmasses, mountains, and the Narrows Bridge. The path is open to both drivers and those on foot. Point Defiance Park is an excellent place to go hiking or walking. There are a number of dirt paths that crisscross the park and weave in and out of the forest and down to the water.
Follow signs along Five Mile Drive to get to Owen Beach. This area is an easy walk or drive from the entrance of the park. Here you can walk along the boardwalk, relax on the beach, or rent a kayak. Facilities include a snack bar, restrooms, picnic tables, and some sheltered areas for eating or relaxing.
Park just after you enter the park to walk to the Japanese Gardens (there is no parking right next to the gardens). These gardens are free to enter and feature pools, a waterfall, a bridge, and lovely landscaped flowers and trees. At the center of the gardens is the Pagoda, a temple-inspired structure built in 1914 that is today used for weddings and events. However, in April 2011, the Pagoda caught fire and is closed for repairs at the time this article was written.
You can walk to this marina from Owen Beach or drive here if you veer right just before the entrance to Point Defiance Park. The marina offers moorage, rental boats, a boat launch, a fishing pier, and bait and tackle. The marina is located at 5912 N Waterfront Drive.
Fort Nisqually is a living history museum perfect for a family day out. Volunteers and staff members dress up as historical figures going about daily activities of the 1800s. A number of special events happen throughout the year, including a Summer Camp and often Halloween ghost stories around a fire.
Point Defiance Festivals
With big open expanses of grass at the entrance to the park, Point Defiance Park is ideal for festivals. The Taste of Tacoma takes place here each June and brings on live music, rides and games, and lots of food. Zoobilee takes place on the zoo grounds and is the most posh fundraiser in town with attendees donning formal wear. During the holiday season, Zoolights takes place on the zoo grounds as well, and sees the entire zoo decked out in Christmas lights.