Avalon, California

10 Best West Coast Beach Towns

The American West Coast is a stunning and picturesque area with abundant fascinating history, warm sun, and charming locales. Ideal for family vacations or solo tours, the coast along the Pacific Ocean can be the most memorable trip one decides to ever embark on. From sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, and rich cultural scenes, exploring the West Coast is a must for all. This article looks at the 10 Best West Coast Beach Towns.

Encinitas, California

Aerial view of Encinitas, California, along the Pacific Ocean coastline
Aerial view of Encinitas, California, along the Pacific Ocean coastline. 

One of San Diego County's best-surfing destinations, the southern California town of Encinitas has frequently been cited by locals and tourists alike as one of the premier places to catch a tide in America. From the Spanish for "Small Oaks," this town has a charming and welcoming beach and surf culture, in addition to its great festivals and year-round events.

 Visitors can enjoy events such as the Fall Festival, Oktoberfest, or the always popular Encinitas Bazaar Marketplace. And, of course, no visitor to town could ever leave before viewing its famed flower and garden nurseries (many of which can also be seen at the San Diego Botanic Garden, just a short 30-minute drive away). Indeed Encinitas has been called the "Flower Capital of the World" and is celebrated as the United States' leading grower of Poinsettias, a must for any Christmas celebration. 

Capitola, California

Colorful residential neighborhood Capitola Venetian Court in the California coast
Colorful residential neighborhood Capitola Venetian Court in the California coast. 

California’s oldest seaside resort, Capitola, can trace its history back to the 1850s and continues to maintain its old-world charm. Today just under 10,000 residents call this Monterey Bay town home, which attracts thousands of tourists throughout the year. With an abundance of beach areas, restaurants, shops, and historic buildings, Capitola also offers comfortable weather year-round. 

Stroll through the Riverview Historic District, rent a colorful summer home in the Venetian Court neighborhood, or visit the quiet and relaxing Soquel Creek. Nature lovers can also rent fishing equipment and a boat and do their own fishing or just take a soothing swim in the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific. When in Capitola, a feeling of the “good ol’ days” may certainly be had in a coastal setting unlike any other.

Morro Bay, California

Morro Bay, California
Morro Bay, California. 

Founded in 1870, Morro Bay is a stunning fishing town where no dull moment exists. Home to Morro Rock, a 576-ft volcanic peak that juts out from the shoreline, this town is full of charming shopping boutiques, tasty local restaurants, fascinating historical markers, and of course, plenty of gorgeous beach coastline.

Visit the Museum of Natural History, stroll through Main Street and its eclectic range of shops, stop by the Harbor, or visit the iconic Hearst Castle estate just a short drive away. And naturally, tourists in Morro Bay will surely want to take advantage of the great opportunities for swimming, sailing, fishing, hiking, surfing, and bird watching. Or perhaps just a relaxing lounge day on the beach is all one needs.

Sequim, Washington

View taken in Sequim on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington
View taken in Sequim on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

Situated at the Olympic Mountains' base, along the Dungeness River, the town of Sequim is a charming coastal community with a population of just under 8,000 residents. With annual precipitation of only 400 mm of rain, Sequim is Washington's sunniest locale, with pleasant temperatures year-round. 

Visitors can enjoy beautiful beach areas and the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, where over 41 species of mammals reside and up to 250 varieties of birds! Meanwhile, at the Sequim Museum And Arts, one can explore the region's natural history and view the massive Mastodon tusks excavated in the area. And, of course, a visit to Sequim is a must in July when the annual Lavender Week is held for flower lovers, showcasing some of the best in lavender plants and other local flora.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon

The town of Cannon Beach boasts truly breathtaking coastal views and cool sea breezes. Here the residents and tourists can enjoy a quaint beach community with abundant splendid nature, wildlife, and small-town charm.

Visit the nearby Ecola State Park for animal sightings (including elk) and its picturesque rainforest-like surroundings. The adventure lovers can also partake in great ways to go hiking, cycling, swimming, and playing a water sport or two. And, of course, the magnificent Haystack Rock (standing 235 ft tall) dominates the local panorama and makes for truly excellent photo opportunities.

Port Townsend, Washington

Port Townsend, Washington
Port Townsend, Washington. Editorial credit: Cascade Creatives / Shutterstock.com

Situated in Washington’s Quimper Peninsula, the harbor town of Port Townsend was first charted by the famed explorer George Vancouver in the 1790s and formally established in the 1850s. Over the years, it developed into a sizeable port and was even unofficially named the “City of Dreams.” Today, with over 10,000 residents, the town is full of beautiful 19th-century Victorian buildings and historic locales. 

Visit the Port Townsend Historic District along the waterfront for up-close encounters with some of the town’s most unique buildings like the Quimper Inn and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1865), or spend time in downtown where great restaurants and small shops can be found. Amongst Washington’s driest places, with only 480 mm of rain on average, Port Townsend also has quaint beach areas. Stop by the nearby Fort Worden State Park for some time in the sun or explore the old army base nearby and the majestic Cascade Mountain range in the background.

Florence, Oregon

The Siuslaw River Bridge in golden morning light at Florence, Oregon
The Siuslaw River Bridge in golden morning light at Florence, Oregon. Editorial credit: Ian Dewar Photography / Shutterstock.com

Though only formally incorporated in 1893, the area of the now town of Florence has been inhabited by Native American peoples for centuries and is a beautiful coastal treasure in Oregon’s Lane County. Indeed, visitors will never be in short supply of outdoor activities when in Florence. Florence is a great place for the entire family, from charming beach areas to annual festivals, to fascinating historic sites, and of course, time spent on the water. 

Take in the annual Rhododendron Flower Festival, visit the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, explore some of the town’s entries on the National Register of Historic Places, or just enjoy sailing on the Siuslaw River. One would be remiss not stopping at the nearby Sea Lion Caves and the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area, where some of the very best in natural wonder can be experienced firsthand.

Avalon, California

Flowers, harbor, and casino in town of Avalon, California
Flowers, harbor, and casino in town of Avalon, California. Editorial credit: Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

Avalon is the only city in this stunning and picturesque area off the California coast on Santa Catalina Island. Although it has a population of just under 4,000, up to 1 million tourists visit this beautiful resort community yearly, often on cruise ships. Just 35 km from Los Angeles, Avalon, and Catalina Island is a great day trip for families and solo travelers. 

Hop on a ferry to get to the Island and take advantage of the great opportunities for sailing, swimming, fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling in the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean. Visit the Catalina Island Museum, the picturesque Avalon Harbor, or just soak up the sun on the beach; when in Avalon, a most special holiday is sure to follow.

Port Angeles, Washington

Port Angeles City Pier
Port Angeles City Pier. 

The modern town of Port Angeles is a beautiful coastal and mountain community that is an undoubted jewel of the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by the majestic Olympic Mountains, this town of 20,000 inhabitants is a one-stop for some of the best natural wonders. Spend time alongside the rugged beach coastline, gaze at the majestic mountain peaks, or go sailing or swimming; in Port Angeles, outdoor adventure is always on hand.

Several great local restaurants are available in the charming downtown, while cute boutique shops and galleries ensure a special memento to bring back home. Whether on the way in or out of the town, driving along State Route 112 is always a treat. Visit the beautiful Hurricane Ridge and its stunning views, or catch the breezes at the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Bandon, Oregon

The Bandon Lighthouse on the Coquille River at Bandon, Oregon
The Bandon Lighthouse on the Coquille River at Bandon, Oregon. 

Bandon is right on Oregon’s Coquille River and was founded by Irish settlers in the 1870s. With moderately cool temperatures year round, this community of 3,000 is a comfortable stopover for anyone looking for a charming small town and beautiful natural surroundings. A center for the production of cranberries, visitors to Bandon, can enjoy the annual Cranberry Festival every September, which celebrates the harvest. 

Meanwhile, at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, one can enjoy up to 121 holes to play on, all against a stunning backdrop of rocky cliffs and Pacific Ocean waves. With golden sands and rugged rock walls, Bandon’s beaches are also a star attraction, and visitors can get stunning panoramic views at the nearby Coquille Point lookout. Back in Bandon’s historic downtown, an assortment of old-fashioned shops, restaurants, and welcoming hospitality make it a sojourn destination not to be missed.

Many beautiful, historic, and charming towns can be found alongside America's West Coast. With the splendor of the Pacific Ocean as a unifying element, these West Coast towns offer residents and visitors stunning views, pleasant atmospheres, and fascinating history. Indeed when traveling along the West Coast, these and other small towns are well worth a visit any time of year. 

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