Rod Benders Car Club annual June show in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Image credit David J. Mitchell via Shutterstock

13 Best Small Towns In The Pacific Northwest For Retirees

The Pacific Northwest is a unique region of the continental United States. Idaho, Washington, and Oregon distinguish themselves with evergreen views over bright blue waters and snow-capped mountains on the vista. Many small towns in the area have easy access to National parks and forests that preserve the natural allure of the region. These 13 best small towns in the Pacific Northwest for retirees demonstrate the best characteristics of the three states. These small towns have great golf courses, annual festivals, and community resources for retirees to socialize or find the healthcare that meets their needs.

Bonners Ferry, Idaho

The calm Kootenay River near Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
Kootenay River near Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Bonners Ferry, Idaho, is in the northern stretch of Idaho's panhandle, just over 30 minutes from two international border entries with Canada. The rugged mountains in the Kootenai and Kaniksu National Forest have kept the small town tranquil with minimum development to ensure the charm of this historic pioneer town. Kootenay River splits town, yielding valuable soil for wheat, hops, and canola farming and a thriving ecosystem stocked for the avid sportsman. The small population of close to 3,000 residents has earned the title "Idaho's Most Friendly Town," updating areas to make the frontier land set in a surreal landscape more accessible for everyone.

Healthcare options like Boundary Community Hospital include services such as diagnostic imaging, inclusive outpatient clinics, and specialized physicians to meet Bonners Ferry's needs. Bonners Ferry Family Medicine is an adequate alternative for minor illness and trauma, respiratory infections, and bloodwork. Scenic living in Bonners Ferry can be found at Mountain View North Apartments in the ascending pine trees and Oak Street Apartment on the river. December is the coldest month of the year, with an average high of 32ºF and an average snowfall of 21 inches. July and August share the highest average temperature at 84ºF. Bonners Ferry has year-round rain and averages 20 inches of precipitation annually. The nearby National Parks and adequate medical resources make Bonners Ferry a relaxing small town for retirement.

Sandpoint, Idaho

First Avenue, the main street through the downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho, on a summer day.
Main street through the downtown area of Sandpoint, Idaho. Image credit Kirk Fisher via

Sandpoint, Idaho, is south of Bonners Ferry and nestled by three mountain ranges. Schweitzer Mountain towers over Sandpoint, bring snow enthusiasts to the freshly powdered slopes. Sandpoint borders the north shore of Pend Oreille River, flowing into Lake Pend Oreille. City Beach, on a small peninsula split by Sand Creek, is a water paradise with a splendid view of the northern edge of Coeur d' Alene Mountains and the National Forest. Lake Pend Oreille hosts boaters, bass fishing, and beach sports like volleyball. Nearing 10,000 residents, the classic atmosphere in downtown is a great setting for the passionate community to hold the annual Pend Oreille Arts Council's Arts and Crafts Fair with four blocks of artisans selling fine jewelry, metal, glass, and woodwork. 

Sandpoint Area Seniors is an inclusive place for elderly citizens in the area, promoting the health of retirees by providing nutritious meals. Panhandle Health District partners with Sandpoint Area Seniors and the Fit and Fall Proof Program to host mobility and balance classes through strength and flexibility training, with an emphasis on socializing. Bonner General Health specializes in ophthalmology and anticoagulation. For long-term care and residence, Lakeside Assisted Living has activities for its residents, like karaoke, card games, and a pool room.

Hayden, Idaho

Aerial view of lakes and golf course in Hayden, Idaho.
Lakes and golf course in Hayden, Idaho.

Hayden, Idaho, borders Hayden Lake on the western edge of Coeur d'Alene National Forest. Another great small town with nearby ski slopes, Hayden is less than 15 minutes from the amenities of Coeur d'Alene and has its own jewel in Honeysuckle Beach, with 40 miles of shoreline and endless adventure for hunters and hikers in the sprawling Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Capone's in Hayden is a great place to refuel and enjoy the season's big games. Voted Panhandle Best Sports Bar 2023, Capone's is an entertaining place with succulent wings and a top-notch beer selection to enjoy after a day of fishing or golfing at Avondale Golf Club or Hayden Lake Country Club. 

Hayden's Senior Center is another place for mature residents to socialize. Nutritious meals are provided between health and wellness classes focusing on physical and mental education. They even have tai chi and line dancing events. Throughout town, there are urgent care, physical therapists, brain specialists, and holistic alternatives. Senior living facilities are well established, like Honeysuckle Senior Living, which offers lively adventures and a mission to maintain and improve the capabilities of its residents. A strong senior contingency exists in town, as 25% of the 16,500 residents are over 65. Hayden also shares the healthcare options and amenities of Spokane, Washington, about 35 miles west of town.

Walla Walla, Washington

Aerial view of Walla Walla, Washington
Overlooking Walla Walla, Washington.

Walla Walla, Washington, is in the southeast corner of Washington state and a 10-minute drive from the Oregon border. In the valley guarded by massive rolling hills at the base of the magnificent Blue Mountains, quiet residential streets adjoin the immaculate architecture of historic gothic and Queen Anne structures. Walla Walla also has incredible golf courses like Walla Walla Country Club. Members have access to tennis and pickleball courts, comedy nights, dinner and dances, bridge club, and other members-only activities. Veterans Memorial Golf Course is ideal for experts, with dynamic views capturing the essence of Walla Walla's landscape as an added bonus.

Walla Walla has resources for Veterans at Jonathan M. Wainwright VA Medical Center. Veterans and their families have primary care, pain management, and transportation options for patients. All residents in Walla Walla can use Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Named a high-performing hospital for heart attack, hip fractures, and hip replacements in 2023 by US News and World Report. Quail Run Retirement Home has more personal care with a dedicated staff ready to meet the needs of the residents. Wheatland Village by Veterans Memorial Park has a range of floor plans and care options for independent seniors and those who require assistance with memory loss.

Tumwater, Washington

Looking out over the Tumwater Falls in Tumwater Washington
Tumwater Falls in Tumwater, Washington.

Tumwater, Washington, is a small town south of Olympia, the state capital. The end of Puget Sound feeds the winding Deschutes River that brings pristine natural beauty southeast through Tumwater. With the nearby amenities in Olympia, Tumwater is inviting for active adults who want to settle in a serene small town with plenty of modern resources. Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls is an ADA-accessible park with massive rocks, misty river views, and a half-mile walking trail with reflecting ponds. The tranquil park sees the annual salmon run between September and October, displaying the exciting ecosystem unique to Northwest Washington. Rivers Edge sports bar is further down river and the 19th hole for Tumwater Valley Golf Club, a dream course with Mt. Rainier looming in the distance. 

In town, Olympic Medical Clinic specializes in chronic and acute geriatric medical conditions. Indigo Health is an inclusive urgent care clinic with facilities all over Puget Sound that guarantee a friendly experience and virtual examination to make care more accessible. Olympic West by Sinceri Senior Living is a dedicated retirement community where team members manage all levels of care and make adult living easy and appealing. Nearby shopping centers and a mall add to the comfort of living on the open and luscious campus. Grocery and essential resources are abundant with a local Walmart, Costco, Fred Meyer, and Safeway. About one in ten residents of Tumwater are over 65, but anyone looking to retire in town has to be comfortable with cold weather year-round, as the highest average temperature annually is 78ºF in July and August.

Aberdeen, Washington

Bridge over the Chehalis River in the downtown area in Aberdeen, Washington
Bridge over the Chehalis River in the downtown area of Aberdeen, Washington. Image credit Victoria Ditkovsky via Shutterstock

Aberdeen, Washington, is split by the Chehalis River, and about a 30-minute drive to the Pacific Ocean. At the southern edge of the Olympic Peninsula, the north side of town is cut by the Wishkah River, and the south end is split by Alder Creek. Aberdeen has the gambit of national fast food chains, sushi, breweries, bars, and taverns that line Heron and Wishkah Street in aluminum siding and limestone buildings, donning huge murals on the side. A unique experience in Aberdeen is Lady Washington, a replica of the first American ship to sail around Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean. Lady Washington has some silver-screen credits, too, featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

Aberdeen has moderate access to healthcare services. Harbor Regional Health offers infusion services, orthopedic, and primary care. Grays Harbor Health and Rehabilitation Center aids in more serious recovery, providing care from the hospital to home. A passionate staff works with patients on restorative therapy to help them return to full mobility. Westhaven Villa Assisted Living is tucked behind Harbor Regional Health. Surrounded by the wilderness and Fry Creek, with bright gold and orange leaves in the fall, Western Villa is a comfortable, homelike environment with an integrated community and smooth walking paths to enjoy the clean air and overcast days. Aberdeen is a gorgeous retirement town for rain lovers with an average precipitation of 84 inches annually. July is the driest month, still averaging 1.23 inches of rain.

Gig Harbor, Washington

Sunrise Beach Park in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Sunrise Beach Park in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Gig Harbor, Washington, is a woodland bay town leading into the Puget Sound. Seattle is north of the maritime town, and connected with Tacoma to the south by the Narrows Bridge. Uptown Gig Harbor is an excellent outdoor mall with national and local stores housing popular clothing brands, home decor, gifts, and a yoga studio for active adults. Explore outdoors at Old Ferry Landing, with panoramic views from the harbor towards the Narrows in the southeast. There are picnic tables and benches to enjoy the Puget Sound air and take pictures of the lighthouse guarding the bay. Nearby, Madrona Links is a member's golf course with elusive trees squeezing the immaculate fairways. Hackers Bar and Grill is the course's 19th hole, with an all-day menu that is a stroke above the rest.

St. Anthony Hospital is a nationally recognized medical center in Gig Harbor, with a cancer care center, surgical services, and a peaceful healing garden. Gig Harbor Health and Rehabilitation is a local nursing home with a comprehensive team of professionals specializing in customized programs. An outdoor recreation area, a rehab gym, and post-acute rehabilitation care are just a few of the amenities that make recovery efforts seamless with their short and long-term resident options. Over 25% of the 12,500 residents in Gig Harbor are over 65, welcoming all retirees to see what small-town living is like set around the bay.

Anacortes, Washington

Gorgeous Anacortes in Washington.
Overlooking Anacortes, Washington.

Anacortes, Washington, is a Pacific Northwest paradise on Fidalgo Island, just over an hour south of the Canadian border. Mt. Erie, packed with cedar and Douglas-fir pine trees, marks the southern end of Anacortes and has a few hiking trails to the summit and around Whistle Lake. Currently, Anacortes is a happening place with fine breweries, seafood, Mexican restaurants, and casual burger joints. There is the Tulip Festival the entire month of April to ensure visitors see the full bloom, and the Anacortes Arts Festival the first weekend of August, bringing together 245 artists with stunning products and three performance stages to fill the streets with great local music.

Anacortes Senior Activity Center is open Monday through Friday and has activities all week long. Free computer use, a small library, and a pool are available between coffee, tea, and lunch. Accredited by the National Institute of Senior Centers, Anacortes Senior Activity Center offers aging and disability resources like a confidential liaison for local programs and the Anacortes Senior College. Island Health is a five-star Medicare facility and is in the top 100 rural hospitals in the nation.

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria, Oregon, the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast, overlooks the Astoria Megler bridge as it crosses the Columbia river to the state of Washington.
Astoria, Oregon, and the Astoria Megler bridge.

Astoria, Oregon, is in the northwest corner of the state, separated from Washington by the Columbia River. It is a hillside town resembling the tantalizing layout of San Francisco with views out into the Pacific Ocean. The jagged hills from Clatsop State Forest roll down towards the river, with an iconic downtown that transforms into an artisan marketplace the second Saturday of each month with an art walk that continues to the river. Four museums nearby preserve the exquisite Queen Anne and Neoclassical style buildings, like the one in the movie The Goonies, located in town.

Columbia Memorial Hospital has extensive medical services like primary care, urgent care, and a cancer collaborative unit. Coastal Family Health Center is an alternative for long-term care with its own primary care services as well as chronic disease self-management and referrals for specialized care. Clatsop Care Center provides a range of care options, from in-home assistance to assisted living. Specialized physical and occupational therapy focusing on health and rehabilitation is provided through Clatsop Care Center. Trustwell Living is a newly renovated senior community that has safe, modern features and welcoming gathering places inviting residents to congregate before going to town for their weekly outings.

Woodburn, Oregon

People visiting the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon. Image credit Hrach Hovhannisyan via

Woodburn is in Northwest Oregon. Between Portland to the north and the capital Salem to the south, The rich lands in the Willamette Valley give Woodburn an advantage in farming berries, hazelnuts, and Christmas Trees. Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm illustrates the colorful harvest in March through May with the annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. Over 100 varieties of tulips come in purple, red, pink, yellow, and deep violet. Hot air balloons rise above the fields, showing the long rows of flowers. More advantages are at Woodburn Estates and Golf, an Active 55 and up community with a golf course, pool, craft room, and weekly social events like coffee hour with musical guests. The Greater Woodburn Opportunity Center encourages more social interaction, hosting fun monthly events like bingo, sewing groups, and exercise classes every Monday and Wednesday.

Woodburn has a number of medical resources, including family practices and vision specialists at Salud Medical Center and Salem Health Medical Clinic, with more resources in Portland just 30 miles away. For continuing residential care, Cascade Park Retirement and Silver Creek Senior Living both meet the individual needs of their elderly residents. The former is an accredited assisted and independent living facility with a garden and a water feature for residents to relax.

Newport, Oregon

Boats and houses in Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon
Boats and houses in Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon.

Newport, Oregon, is on the Pacific Coast, with the north and south shores of town separated by the Yaquina Bay, which flows from the Yaquina River. Twin jetties create a straight leading into the bay, one guarding South Beach State Park, a beachside campsite that has a playground, biking, and hiking trails with thick beach grass that waves over the rugged banks covered in sand. Newport locals who want to explore the ocean from a distance can visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Watch the sea otters and pinniped feed, see bat rays soar over the glass tunnel, and experience the ecosystem of a reef in their touch pool. Newport seniors over 60 can congregate away from the busy tourist attractions at the Activity Center, which sponsors social interactions and recreation for seniors, presenting support services, as well as classes like aerobic exercise and guitar lessons.

Newport has a number of healthcare facilities. Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital is a fully accredited complex with a compassionate staff skilled in pulmonary care and rehab, cancer treatment plans, and endocrinology. Alternatives in town include Lincoln Community Health Center and the Family Medical Clinic, Newport. Only a few senior living communities line the coast; Aging Wisely has a broad range of care from a 2-hour monthly visit to full-time assisted living and everything in between, including dementia and diabetes assistance.

Roseburg, Oregon

The Parrot House restaurant building in Roseburg, Oregon.
The Parrot House restaurant building in Roseburg, Oregon. Image credit Victoria Ditkovsky via

Roseburg, Oregon, is south of Eugene in the southwest corner of the state. The residual forestry from Umpqua National Forest creates stunning scenery in Umpqua River Valley and throughout Roseburg. The river splits into two separate waterways northwest of town at River Forks Park. The splash pad filled with quintessential ocean animals is a great way to spend the day with the grandkids. After a day of sharing the park and the lush green landscape over the water, Old Soul Pizza is a great place to share a slice on Roseburg's main street. The wood-fired pizzeria is family-owned and a part of the Great Umpqua Food Trail, with 40 other restaurants leading to the National Park. Roseburg is a great place to start the delicious and illustrious drive through the wooded mountainside. 

Roseburg Country Club is an open 18-hole course with greens that rise well above the fairways. Golfers of all skill levels will find a challenge around the trees and can enjoy a cocktail in the dining hall with giant windows overlooking the golfing grounds. Roseburg Senior Center is another commodity for residents 50 and beyond. For a very affordable annual fee of $24, members have access to bingo events, comfy chairs to enjoy the cafe and bakery goods, plus weekly tai-chi classes. Harvard Medical Park is a block full of pharmacies, dentists, skin care centers, allergy and asthma specialists, and more.

Grants Pass, Oregon

Aerial view of downtown Grants Pass with the Caveman concrete arch bridge and the 7th street bridge crossing the Rogue River.
Downtown Grants Pass, and the Rogue River.

Grants Pass is in southern Oregon, with close to 40,000 residents. North and South Grants Pass are divided by Rogue River. Less than an hour away from the California border, a chain of national forests reaches across state lines and creates the woodland landscape in Grants Pass. Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pines run into the oak woodlands over the rocky ridges into the salmon-spawning Rogue River. Grants Pass has a historic past full of trappers, gold miners, farmers, and lumbermen. Today, its main export is wine, and its primary activities include kayaking the Rogue River. Wildlife watching is a popular hobby whether floating down the river or from a peaceful park bench.

Grants Pass has sufficient medical resources in Asante Three River Medical Center. They boast innovative treatment blending holistic healing principles with high-quality medical tools. Asante Three River also specializes in diabetes care, urology, and neurological treatment. Grants Pass Clinic is a fair substitute for internal medicine and organ treatment. For more intimate care, The Bridge has 24 independent living apartments and over 60 assisted living rooms. The elegant Victorian building has a beautiful dining hall in the middle of town. Holiday Senior Living is another affordable option; surrounded by rolling hills, the residents can relax or engage in social events like trips to the local galleries.

These 13 best small towns to retire in the Pacific Northwest have a charm that you cannot find anywhere in the United States. Settle in the mountains of Northern Idaho, the valleys in Oregon, or the waterfront in Washington. Each has its own specialized medical facilities and comfortable living options fit with vibrant downtowns and communities to build new connections between exploring the pristine natural beauty.

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