15 Most Underrated Towns To Visit in the Pacific Northwest

NEWS & TRENDING - TRAVEL NEWS
Whether you’re looking for a small, coastal town or an artistic haven away from the big cities, there are many underrated towns worth visiting.
Updated May 14, 2024
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When you think of the Pacific Northwest, your mind may automatically jump to Portland or Seattle. 

And while there’s plenty to do and see in both of these lively and thriving cities, the region has a lot more to offer — from quaint shore towns to natural wonders to surprisingly bustling downtowns.

Here are 15 excellent yet lesser-known Pacific Northwest towns to consider adding to your travel bucket list if you're stepping up your travel game.

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Anacortes, Washington

Tanner McQueen/Adobe anacortes washington sunset

Located about midway between Seattle and Vancouver, Anacortes allows for a quaint island getaway in the middle of the Pacific Northwest.

Guests can enjoy plenty of natural beauty (including a lively waterfront and 50 miles of hiking trails) and a packed events calendar filled with festivals and live music.

Ashland, Oregon

john/Adobe emigrant lake ashland oregon

Ashland, in southern Oregon, is near plenty of natural wonders — like the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges — but it also offers small-town vibes and is an artistic haven.

It’s home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is close enough to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area that visitors will find plenty to do in Ashland no matter what time of year they visit.

Astoria, Oregon

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Astoria is a beautiful city overlooking the Columbia River. It’s a fishing village, but proximity to the Pacific Ocean and stunning Victorian architecture gives it a unique charm.

With plenty of museums and great places to eat and drink, it’s worth a stop on any journey along Oregon’s coast.

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Cottage Grove, Oregon

Laurens/Adobe two seniors enjoying sunset

Cottage Grove is one of several small and charming towns south of Eugene — and while there’s plenty to do around the area, Cottage Grove’s beautiful covered bridges are a must-see for anyone visiting.

The bridge tour makes for a fun excursion — and you can do it on foot or by bike.

Florence, Oregon

CheriAlguire/Adobe lighthouse state park scenic viewpoint

About an hour west of Eugene, Florence is an excellent option if you’re looking for rest, relaxation, and fun along Oregon’s beautiful coast.

It’s small but packed with plenty to do — with miles of beaches, Historic Old Town Florence, an array of accommodations from riverfront hotels to cabins in the forest, and top-notch dining.

Friday Harbor, Washington

Richard/Adobe orca whales in san juan

Located in San Juan County, Friday Harbor is a delightful seaport town. It’s slow-paced, extremely walkable, and full of charming shops, restaurants, and attractions.

It also happens to be a great place to join a kayaking or whale tour.

Gig Harbor, Washington

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Gig Harbor is a maritime village that makes for an ideal, tranquil getaway while still offering a lively waterfront filled with shops, restaurants, wine bars, and more.

There’s no shortage of natural beauty either, as visitors can enjoy stunning views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier.

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Leavenworth, Washington

Joe/Adobe streets of leavenworth in december

Located in the Cascade Mountains in central Washington State, Leavenworth is a Bavarian Village offering a picturesque charm and much German influence.

The stunning natural beauty and adorable buildings are enough to warrant a visit, but Leavenworth also has events that draw visitors year-round (particularly a months-long Christmas festival).

Long Beach, Washington

Jo Ann Snover/Adobe long beach washington

Long Beach is an excellent area to kick back and relax, particularly along the beach and boardwalk on the Long Beach Peninsula.

Washington’s coast may not be as well-known as California’s or even Oregon’s, but visitors can enjoy miles of beach, delicious seafood, excellent hotels and accommodations, and proximity to the beautiful Northwest rain forests.

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Neskowin, Oregon

sumikophoto/Adobe neskowin ghost forest oregon coast

It may be small, but the village of Neskowin offers the very best of the Oregon coast. With more than three miles of beautiful beach, a friendly atmosphere, and proximity to plenty of natural beauty (like Cascade Head trail), Neskowin is an excellent option for a tranquil getaway.

Port Townsend, Washington

R. Jeff Huth/Adobe port townsend washington

A quirky small town with plenty to offer, Port Townsend — located about two hours from Seattle in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula — offers a mix of natural wonder (with beautiful beaches and Olympic National Park) and a lively village.

It’s also got several renowned restaurants and a thriving arts and culture scene.

Seaside, Oregon

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Another small yet mighty Pacific Northwest beach town is Oregon’s Seaside. There’s plenty to do in the charming little town — from lounging in the sand to flying kites to strolling the grand promenade and getting in some kayaking or biking.

With nearby trails and stunning wildlife, it’s an excellent choice for vacationers looking to get up close and personal with the beauty of Oregon’s Coast.

Sequim, Washington

Mike/Adobe sunset sequim washington beach

A small town on the Olympic Peninsula surrounded by natural beauty, Sequim is an ideal destination for hikers, bikers, fishers, and all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts.

The lavender farms are a must-see and though small, Sequim has a lively downtown with an array of dining options as well.

Whidbey Island, Washington

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Whether you’re driving or arriving by ferry, there is plenty to do and see on beautiful Whidbey Island — from hiking and fishing to strolling through shops and farmer’s markets and perhaps even sampling some local wines.

Just north of Seattle, visiting Whidbey is an excellent way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day or two.

Yachats, Oregon

Teressa L. Jackson/Adobe yachats oregon pacific northwest

Another small city along the Oregon Coast, Yachats offers a mix of natural beauty and a lively village with plenty to do.

Whether you’re looking to shop and enjoy some excellent restaurants or would prefer to hike gorgeous trails and take in the Pacific from stunning viewpoints (or both), Yachats is an excellent choice.

Bottom line

Alex Photo/Adobe happy traveler couple resting

While many of these destinations make for excellent summer getaways, don’t sleep on winter in the Pacific Northwest — particularly if you’re into cold weather activities.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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