Famous bridge with boats in La Conner, Washington. Image credit Andriy Blokhin via Shutterstock

12 Small Towns in Washington With Big Charm

It is easy to stay hidden in Washington, the 18th-largest state so densely forested as to have "Evergreen" as a nickname. Small towns can remain in the undergrowth longer than large cities, so dig out the most charming of these communities to help inspire an offbeat Washington vacation. Escape the bright lights of Seattle and embrace the low-key lucidity of rural Washington. Discover 12 tiny yet shiny emeralds with big charms in the Evergreen State.


Waterfront homes in Coupeville, Washington.
Waterfront homes in Coupeville, Washington.

Take your coupe on the ferry to this Whidbey Island ville. Coupeville has about 2,000 residents and scenic seaside attractions like Kingfisher Bookstore, 3 Sisters Market, Vail Wine Shop & Tasting Room, Toby's Tavern, Island County Historical Museum, and Fort Casey State Park, which spans 999 acres and features nature trails, historic military installations, and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse. Arguably the most charming Coupeville attraction is Price Sculpture Forest, an open-air gallery of giant abstract sculptures. It is practically magic, which is appropriate since 1998's Practical Magic was filmed in town.


Downtown Roslyn, Washington.
Downtown Roslyn, Washington. Image credit Graham Cornall via Shutterstock

Another filming location, Roslyn, a tiny community in Washington's interior, was used for the series Northern Exposure and The Man in the High Castle. It is easy to see why. Classic small-town buildings like The Brick Saloon and The Roslyn Theatre are framed by the picturesque Cascade Mountains. But Roslyn's normalcy is only topsoil deep. Nearby Balanced Rock is a popular tourist attraction for a moderate hike and snapping photos. If visiting in October, check out the Roslyn Mountain Ale Festival for brews, live music, and food.


A popular tourist hotspot in Edison, Washington.
A popular tourist hotspot in Edison, Washington. Image credit Ian Dewar Photography via Shutterstock.com

A lightbulb should go off for this community while planning your next vacation. Edison is a remote Samish Bay oasis with hip amenities. About 250 residents and offbeat tourists can grab a pastry from Breadfarm, a taco from Mariposa Taqueria, or oysters from The Old Edison before taking the 24-mile Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway where the Chuckanut Mountains hug the beautiful bay. Along the route, motorists can stop for a hike at Larrabee State Park and dinner at Taylor Shellfish Farms. Cap off the trip back to Edison at Terramar Brewstillery.

Metaline Falls

The main street shops and businesses of the rural town of Metaline Falls, Washington
The main street shops and businesses of the rural town of Metaline Falls, Washington. Image credit Kirk Fisher via Shutterstock

Washington has over 3,000 waterfalls and several waterfall-inspired communities. Metaline Falls was named for its falls and its metal, the latter of which was mined for nearly 150 years. Today, mining is dead, but the falls are alive in Falls View Park and the Sweet Creek Rest Area. Downtown is also alive with the Cutter Theatre, The Farmhouse Cafe, and the Metaline Falls Visitors Center, which is housed in an old rail car with a free bookstore. Moreover, Metaline Falls is near the Canadian border and historic Boundary Dam, where Kevin Costner filmed The Postman.

La Conner

Rainbow Bridge in the Town of La Conner, Washington.
Rainbow Bridge in the Town of La Conner, Washington.

Located south of Edison on Skagit Bay, La Conner is a 1,000ish-person town that takes picturesque to another level. Literal pictures adorn numerous art exhibits, including the Museum of Northwest Art, the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, La Conner Artists Gallery, Expressions Fine Art Gallery, and Nasty Jacks Antiques. During spring, visitors can take their own pictures at the La Conner Daffodil Festival and Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which come to life with millions of brightly colored flowers. Each festival has a photo contest.


Vineyards along the Washington side of the Columbia River near Goldendale Washington
Vineyards along the Washington side of the Columbia River near Goldendale, Washington.

Goldendale is a southern Washington community whose main attractions are light-years away. Three solar eclipses were seen from Goldendale in less than 100 years. Two of those were viewed from the Goldendale Observatory, which opened in 1973 and is now a state park with one of America's largest public telescopes. Another nearby stargazing spot is the Maryhill Stonehenge, a replica of England's Stonehenge completed in 1929. Unfortunately, the 2024 total solar eclipse is not expected to hit Goldendale or anywhere else in Washington. You can still come for the Maryhill Museum of Art or Dwinell Country Ales.

Fall City

Last Frontier Saloon, 33813 SE Redmond Fall City Road, Fall City, Washington.
Last Frontier Saloon, Fall City, Washington. Image credit Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another falls-based community, Fall City, sits along the river that becomes 268-foot Snoqualmie Falls. Aside from that natural, Twin Peaks-immortalized wonder, Fall City's commercial wonders include Small Fryes, a revered burger and shake joint; El Caporal, a mainstay Mexican restaurant; and Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater, an open-air performance space next to the falls. But it is hard to beat the charm of the Fall City Wallaby Ranch, which is not metaphorical. It is a mini Australia in western Washington with real wallabies and kangaroos.


A street view of downtown Winthrop, a small Wild West-themed town in Washington.
Downtown Winthrop, Washington. Image credit melissamn via Shutterstock.com

Following the lead of nearby Leavenworth and its Bavarian theme, Winthrop found a new use for its old rundown buildings by adopting an Old West aesthetic. Among the historic or historic-looking sites in this town is the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon, Winthrop Town Hall, and Shafer Museum. Visitors can complete their cowboy fantasy by riding horses in the surrounding Cascade Mountain foothills. If feeling extra brave, sleep under the stars, which will appear brighter than nearly everywhere else in the United States. The Winthrop area is a two on the Bortle dark skies scale.


Steilacoom, Washington, USA: Historic Town Hall in the Pierce County community.
Steilacoom, Washington, Historic Town Hall. Image credit Ian Dewar Photography via Shutterstock.com

Unlike Winthrop, Steilacoom does not have to pretend that it is historic. In 1854, it became the first town officially incorporated in Washington Territory. Steilacoom reminds tourists of its rich history with the William Webster Home, which was built around 1855 and once served as a general store; Steilacoom Catholic Church, the first Catholic church erected in Washington; and The Bair, a former drug and hardware store that is now a restaurant. Being flanked by Puget Sound and several lakes, Steilacoom offers an array of aquatic activities like swimming, boating, and fishing.


Population sign in Anatone Washington with elevation and animal numbers
Population sign in Anatone, Washington. Image credit Ian Dewar Photography via Shutterstock

Anatone is an unincorporated community not tracked by the US Census. As such, residents maintain their own population count, which they display and update on a sign leading into town. It includes the population of dogs, cats, and horses. Besides that quirky census, Anatone attracts visitors with Millie's Grille, Boggan's Oasis Restaurant, and one of the best driving routes in the Pacific Northwest, which begins at the Old Spiral Highway in Idaho, passes through Anatone and ends south of the Grande Ronde canyon in Oregon.


Participants at National Independence Day Parade.
Participants at National Independence Day Parade in Eastsound, Washington. Image credit Pecold via Shutterstock

Another untracked community but without a hilarious road sign, Eastsound is the unconfirmed largest population center on Orcas Island. Naturally, it is a maritime paradise with whale-watching tours, amazing seafood, and quaint seaside shops like Darvill's Bookstore, Brown Bear Baking, and Doe Bay Wine Company. Additionally and perhaps surprisingly, Eastsound is an artists' haven with such exhibits as Forest Ceramic Gallery, Orcas Arts, Crow Valley Gallery, and Orcas Island Pottery. Orcas Island also has inland natural attractions courtesy of Moran State Park.


Downtown street in Palouse, Washington.
Downtown street in Palouse, Washington. Image credit Robert Ashworth from Bellingham, WA., USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Palouse is considered a city despite having only about 1,000 residents. While it contains a few citylike attractions such as Palouse Caboose Bar And Grill and Palouse Brewing Company, its real draw is the region for which it was named. Palouse is a geographic wonderland comprising southeastern Washington and north-central Idaho. It can be explored via the Palouse Scenic Byway, which passes the Palouse River, Snake River, Steptoe Butte, Kamiak Butte, and Palouse Falls State Park with its 198-foot Palouse Falls.

Washington's small towns with big charm are numerous and span diverse terrain like mountains, valleys, forests, islands, and even deserts. While these towns barely scratched the surface of the state's small but spectacular settlements, they encompass a constellation of communities where you can spend your next off-the-beaten-path vacation. Let Coupeville, Roslyn, Edison, Metaline Falls, La Conner, Goldendale, Fall City, Winthrop, Steilacoom, Anatone, Eastsound, and Palouse be your launch points for exploration.

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