Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho.

11 Quaintest Small Towns In The Pacific Northwest

Perhaps the most diverse region in the United States, the Pacific Northwest, is also the most quaint. From the misty beaches to the wooded mountains and wildlife-ridden trails, it is a real patchwork coming alive at Mother Nature's hands with endless fields of flowers under some of the best skies in the country for stargazing. If this doesn't sound quaint, just finish your big-city coffee in Washington and drive over to explore Olympic National Park. With small towns throughout, the PNW is a dreamy escape any time of year that enchants along landscapes that take bits and pieces from New England, the sunny coast, and the northern wilderness. Each town on this list has its own cafe culture, especially Sequim, which still lets nature shine with the most sunny days of the year and the Lavender Festival.

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria, Oregon, along the Pacific coastline.
Astoria, Oregon, along the Pacific coastline.

This elegant port city in the northwest corner of the state feels both lively and sedated by nature along the stunning Columbia River at the crossroads of the ocean and the mountains. Ensconced in water on three sides, Astoria envelops you in old-time charm and nature, overlooking Youngs River and Youngs Bay, with creek- and trail-spliced wilderness behind you in search of the next quaint pursuit. The modern town with Victorian-era streets is replete with historic buildings, many museums, and galleries.

You can take a jolly Astoria Trolley through the sights and picnic at the popular Shively Park or Tapiola Park, which has a cool playground. There are also two scenic bridges and marinas, while the Astoria Column from 1926 offers murals on Oregon history and spectacular views from its 126-foot observation deck. Studded by stays along the coast, you can be content doing nothing in the picturesque cradle over morning coffee against the mountainous backdrop. But with easy access to adventures and delicious seafood to follow, Astoria is the ideal town to explore the Pacific Northwest.

Bainbridge Island, Washington

The beautiful town of Bainbridge Island in Washington.
The beautiful town of Bainbridge Island in Washington.

With beauty, "second nature," and innate quaintness, Bainbridge Island is an unreplicable small-town destination in the Pacific Northwest. Home to about 24,000 lucky souls, just across from Seattle, it is easy to get away and find solitude along numerous trails, parks, and nature areas with the most picturesque views. There is plenty of nature at the heart, like Hawley Cove Park, Strawberry Hill Park, and Off-Leash Dog Park, and just north, the epic Grand Forest West and Grand Forest East.

The lush oasis with all the modernity for the comfort-creatures is perfect for a romantic getaway or memorable family adventures. From the beautiful beaches to an array of restaurants and local cafes downtown, the inebriating mix is hard to beat for an escape to fill the moments with peace and relaxation. Even the quaint neighborhoods are fun to explore along the laid-back streets in the sea breeze and hotspots for all, like Owen's Playground, Doc's Marina Grill, and Winslow Wharf Marina.

Camas, Washington

A scene from downtown Camas, Washington.
A scene from downtown Camas, Washington. Image credit: Triddle at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons.

This underrated town in the state is your quiet escape from the city hustle, some 20 miles from downtown Portland, snug against the Oregon border. With 28,000 locals, there is something for everyone along these shores of the Columbia River. The vast river is beloved alike among pleasure seekers on a stroll along, on a cruise, or for the thrills of whitewater rafting. In town, the long Lacamas Lake offers scenery and refreshment at the doorstep, with the Heritage Trail from the north end.

The popular Heritage Park along the southern shore features epic, bright blue water views, just a hop away from Round Lake and Fallen Leaf Lake. Replete with greenspaces that disperse local crowds for blissful quaintness, the Hammond Kitchen & Craft Bar is a favorite lively scene after nature. There is no wrong time to visit Camas, a tree-lined town that seasonally transforms with Mother Nature's magic touch, like the golden leaves bejeweled by the rain droplets in October and November. 

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach in Oregon.
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach in Oregon.

This coastal city along the stunning Pacific Ocean blends small-town charm with its peaceful, rock-studded beach—hard to beat in terms of scenic quaintness. Home to Haystack Rock, the beach town makes appearances left and right, but the long, pristine sand stretch stays quaint for year-round strolls, swimming, surfing, fishing, and waterfowl. Peaking just off shore, the majestic granite is accessible at low tide, with starfish at the bottom and birds overhead.

You can unwind in any style in Cannon Beach Downtown, with delightful galleries, live entertainment, and restaurants like Lazy Susan Cafe, a hop away from the iconic rock, and hopping spots like Pelican Brewing just south. From the unreplicable beach crowned by the Haystack to the nearby Tillamook Head, Cannon Beach is an oasis for adventurous souls and souls longing for beauty on a weekend getaway or a holiday vacation to beat the crowds. There is plenty of wild coastal nature along the four-mile, beautiful shoreline to enjoy in solitude, epic photoshoots, and renowned sunsets.

Hood River, Oregon

Mount Hood rising over Hood River, Oregon.
Mount Hood rising over Hood River, Oregon.

Blending unique nature, old-world charm, and modern amenities on the Columbia River shore, this charming town seeps quaintness from every pore against majestic mountains and more rivers around. The "hook," a natural pier jutting out into the waters, is great for strolls and paddling, with Hood River SUP and Kayak at the tip. With a mix of microbreweries, chic restaurants, and trendy boutiques, Hood River is the perfect girls' escape, a trip with your friends, or a family vacation. The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) just south has something for all ages.

From kayaking and fishing to horseback riding and whitewater rafting, your whole gang will have a blast in beautiful scenery. Near Hood River Waterfront Park, Solstice Wood Fire Pizza-Café & Bar is an all-time favorite for dinner and no better than the Double Mountain Brewery for after. With plenty of leisurely activities, you can snatch a quaint B&B for a cruise down the river, a visit to a local winery, and the many lakes with nature trails and sailing. Don't miss the epic Rowena Crest Viewpoint after a hike and Cathedral Ridge Winery to unwind with unreplicable views.

Manzanita, Oregon

Methow River near Mazama, Washington
A misty fall morning over the Methow River near Mazama, Washington.

Manzanita is a real gem along the Oregon coastline, between the stunning Pacific and the Neahkahnie Mountains to the north. Just a 100-mile drive from the capital, Salem, or 85 miles from Portland, the scenery here inspired Oswald West, the famous Oregon governor, to declare the state's beaches forever open to the public. After brunch at Yolk or Manzanita Lighthouse, a cafe, Neahkahnie Mountain has modern and challenging hiking trails with picturesque coast and valley views, including Neahkahnie South Viewpoint and Neahkahnie Viewpoint. 

You can hike the Oregon Coast Highway or drive it to the North Trailhead for the Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain Trail inland or the Elk Flats Trail to the coast. Just north of downtown, the Hoffman Center for the Arts offers local cultural sights and goodies, or it is a stroll south to the waterfront Neakahnie-Manzanita State Park. Featuring windswept dunes with easy trails, you can explore against coastal views and unwind at the nearby Neakahnie Beach, which allows fireside picnics.

Mazama, Washington

The Methow River at Mazma, Washington.
The Methow River at Mazma, Washington. Image credit: Murderbike via Wikimedia Commons.

At the aptly named Lost River Road, the Methow River flows just south of this enchanting Washington village in the heart of the North Cascades. Mazama, a real-life metaphor for how good things come in small packages, has a bakery, a brewery, and a distillery. With literally just a few stores, there's the most popular Mazama Store and Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies. The quaint mountain location lends a crowdless feel to year-round fishing and hiking trails that transform into snowshoeing and snowmobiling routes.

You can spy on foliage from the bridge or scope out a fine spot for a picnic on a summer day, while the Chechaquo Road around the ranch estate is epic for biking and scenic drives. The surrounding majestic mountains and valleys, great for skiing, hold some of the most stunning outdoor scenes in the Pacific Northwest. Rough it out with views at the comfortable Lions Den hostel or stay in style at Mazama, while the Mazama Ranch House gives off real country vibes.

Mendocino, California

Seaside homes in Mendocino, California.
Seaside homes in Mendocino, California.

Surprisingly home to only 700 locals, this NorCal town channels quaint vibes like no other from the bluffs overlooking the Pacific. Headed by beautiful beaches, Mendocino is a real tourist magnet and a TV star in many movies. The enchanting seaside, with artists at easels and photographers, is the fictitious Cabot Cove from Murder, She Wrote, and where the crime writer Jessica Fletcher famously lived. From the endless Oregon Coast views to refreshing forest hikes, there's the Portuguese Beach and the Big River Beach at the spectacular Mendocino Headlands State Park.

With the easy-going atmosphere and something exciting around each corner, let curiosity guide you to the next scenic pursuit. The artist colony, with charming guest houses and B&Bs, cafes, and galleries, is home to the Mendocino Art Center, Ford House Visitor Center, and Kelley House Museum. The small downtown packs a culinary experience like no other, including delightful bakeries like GoodLife Cafe & Bakery, fine dining, a wine and beer scene, and even gourmet grocery shopping. You can stay at the vintage-inspired Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites and dine at the whimsical Luna Trattoria.

Sandpoint, Idaho

The marina at Sandpoint, Idaho.
The marina at Sandpoint, Idaho.

This town, tucked into the northern side of the immense Lake Pend Oreille, offers a hideaway vibe for a modern lakeside getaway without crowds. You can relax and reconnect with nature in your favorite way at the stunning lake views and rolling hills, with proximity to the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains. The downtown, bustling with unique shops, restaurants, and galleries, is home to the summertime music series Festival at Sandpoint, with world-renowned musicians.

There is plenty of scenic wilderness for activities year-round, from epic hikes to skiing and watersports galore, like kayaking and fishing. Complete with Wildflower Spa and Salon at Seasons, Sandpoint is great for some R&R to unwind from the city, just an hour and a half north of Spokane. Whether you stick to leisure at Sandpoint City Beach Park or take the Trailhead for Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail, the nearby Spuds Waterfront Grill and Trinity at City Beach welcome families for sunset dinner.

Sequim, Washington 

Aerial View of John Wayne Marina in Sequim, Washington. 
Aerial View of John Wayne Marina in Sequim, Washington. 

When seeking quietness, this coastal Washington town ensconced in parks along the Olympic Peninsula really nails a picture book cover appeal. With year-round attractions downtown and natural pursuits, Sequim stays quaint even through the annual Lavender Festival, as if humbled by natural beauty. From lavender fields around to the streets enveloped in purple blooms, small businesses like craft stores and boutiques, as well as the Olympic Theatre Arts, are favorite local pastimes. With a low-key profile, particularly against the nearby Port Angeles or even Port Townsend, Sunny Sequim lets the bountiful nature take center stage. 

Still, the vibrant shopping and renowned seafood dining scene are unbeatable, where cafe culture is the way of life, and the laidback streets pull you into a slower pace to carpe diem and peruse art places. With sunny days throughout the year, the clear skies inspire lazy crawls along the waterfront and strollable downtown, a hop away from Sequim Bay bounding to the east. From a sunny afternoon at the cute Carrie Blake Park in the heart to the Railroad Bridge Park in the west, you can swing by the popular Oak Table Cafe or the highly-rated Salty Girls Seafood Co.

Stehekin, Washington 

Lake Chelan in Stehekin, Washington.
Lake Chelan in Stehekin, Washington.

This town, spoiled by nature on the northern edge of the immense shoreline of the snakelike Lake Chelan, is immersed in quaintness. Practically colluding with Lake Chelan Wilderness in the north, the snowed peaks of Mount Reynolds and McAlester Mountain are visible just northeast. Lacking services bids Stehekin well with the most worthy Golden West Visitor Center to get your bearings and the first epic sights of the coast. Granted, the charming village of some 112 locals with a low-key profile is a one-stop shop for all in the nature department.

Only accessible by boat or seaplane, the isolated town is a unique getaway with irreplicable alpine scenery along the lake against the mountainous backdrop. From quaint downtown perusal to serene fishing, kayaking, and more active horseback riding, hiking, and cycling, picturesque scenery leads you through unforgettable experiences. The peaceful, laid-back atmosphere and the natural beauty of the inland Pacific Northwest account for innumerable hikes nearby, like the favorite North Cascades' Blue Lake.

Comprising Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in the contiguous United States, you can choose a national park or set off on a PNW road trip with a nearby quaint town ensconced in nature. From beach towns to Columbia River gems and an alpine scenery showstopper, you can visit Mendocino, the seaside fictitious Cabot Cove from Murder, She Wrote.

Among the many Pacific stars with easy access, like the elegant port city of Astoria, first on this list, there is also the hideaway resort town of Sandpoint along the immense Lake Pend Oreille. The Lake Chelan town of Stehekin is only accessible by boat or seaplane, or go midway to the Bainbridge Islands for an isolated feel across from Seattle.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 11 Quaintest Small Towns In The Pacific Northwest

More in Places