Since the introduction of transcontinental rail travel, people have clamored to visit the Pacific Coast to see the endless horizons and the vast expanse of the ocean.
Three states make up the Pacific Coast range. Washington in the north, Oregon in the middle, all the way to California in the south.
While the Pacific Coast is well-known for its natural beauty, the area is filled with cities, towns, and people who call the region home.
Among them, these 13 towns stand out as some of the most picturesque destinations along the Pacific Coast.
White sands, cypress trees, and the salt air sweeping off the ocean welcome visitors to this small Californian coastal town.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small yet vibrant California coastal town, boasts an impressive culinary scene, with more restaurants per capita than any other American small town.
American designer and builder Hugh White Comstock created a collection of buildings, inspired by fairy-tale aesthetics in the 1920s. Nowadays, 21 of his originals remain, alongside Mediterranean-style estates and contemporary ranches.
Carmel Beach lies close by, with its scenic paths and white powdery sand, and offers a good opportunity to hit the waves and do some surfing.
Gig Harbor, Washington
Mount Rainier provides a dramatic backdrop to this appealing Washington State town.
Gig Harbor is located on the South Puget Sound, a deep inlet of the Pacific Ocean in Washington, full of maritime activity.
Prior to the arrival of settlers, the sx̌ʷəbabš, or Swift Water People, inhabited the region. Croatian settlers established fishing enterprises, followed by the arrival of Scandinavian settlers who set up businesses.
The town prides itself on its small-town feel but hosts world-class events such as the Gig Harbor Film Festival and the Gig Harbor Beer Festival.
The nearby waters are a prime location to see the ample wildlife, and if you're lucky you might see a pod of orca swim by.
Mendocino presents a striking contrast, situated in a dramatic landscape while providing a peaceful, tranquil way of life.
While the Californian town had a rambunctious past, filled with wild hotels and saloons in the 1800s, today it beckons artists and romantics to discover its awe-inspiring landscapes.
The area contains a collection of state parks with redwood groves, winding rivers, and wetlands full of life.
Van Damme State Park gives you the opportunity to explore a pygmy forest of miniaturized pines and cypress trees.
For a quiet day on the beach, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve offers a sandy beach to curl up on and read a good book.
Situated in Oregon's Rogue Valley, at the base of the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges, Ashland boasts expansive forests complemented by tranquil creeks and rolling hills.
The town’s downtown features a mix of historic and modern architecture. In the heart of downtown, Lithia Park boasts gorgeous gardens and scenic walking paths beside Ashland Creek.
Art lovers will be in heaven, as Ashland is thought to be one of the best small art towns in America. It counts award-winning galleries, multiple theaters, and the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival among its many attractions.
The rolling terrain holds thrilling biking trails for those looking for a challenge. If winter is more your thing, the nearby Mount Ashland Ski Area ensures unforgettable memories, establishing this town as a year-round adventure destination.
Newport boasts beaches that offer excellent vantage points for whale-watching and bald eagle sightings.
The iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge is known for its Art Deco design. It offers impressive views of Yaquina Bay and the Pacific Ocean, casting a striking background for the town.
Additionally, this Oregon town is home to two unique and classic lighthouses, with one holding the distinction of being the tallest in the state. The Yaquina Head lighthouse, standing at an impressive 93 feet, has been helping ships since 1873.
Newport is also charmingly known as the ‘Dungeness Crab Capital of the World’ due to the crab’s importance to the local economy. Over 40 percent of the total value of harvested seafood comes from the revenue generated by the Dungeness crab.
People looking for some local education and wonder should visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, located in Newport. It features a 1.32-million-gallon exhibit connected by underwater tunnels, providing a unique experience of walking beneath the sea, with over 3,000 sea creatures.
Located on Oregon's coast beside the Siuslaw River, Florence provides a distinctive experience. Its freshwater lakes and extensive coastal sand dunes make it an extraordinary destination to visit.
Visitors can ride horses on the beach, tackle the dunes in a dune buggy, or visit some of the region’s standout attractions.
Just 12 miles north of Florence stands the distinctive Heceta Head Lighthouse, perched 205 feet above the ocean on the cliffsides.
Its powerful light reaches up to 21 miles out to sea, making it the brightest beacon on the Oregon Coast.
Wildlife lovers should visit the nearby Sea Lion Caves, a year-round home to a herd of Steller Sea Lions. This cave is the biggest sea cave in all of America and stands as high as a 12-story building and spans as wide as a football field.
Avalon is located on the southeastern tip, hidden away in the undisturbed Avalon Bay of the immaculate Santa Catalina Island.
The island has seen a collection of famous individuals visit, including former presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon.
Visitors have an assortment of choices to delve into, including high-speed zip lines, diving, or boat tours that will take you around to see some gorgeous scenery.
Not only that, scuba diving, parasailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are more things visitors can enjoy, all with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean at your back.
Port Townsend, Washington
This serene Washington State maritime town traces its roots back to its founding in 1851, the second official city in the Puget Sound after Olympia.
Fort Worden State Park, a historic coastal army base park, is less than two miles from the town and offers visitors incredible views of the Olympic and Cascade ranges and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The famous Olympic National Park National Park is only 55 miles away from Port Townsend and offers the outdoors person a limitless playground.
This UNESCO site offers unparalleled views, with a series of jagged, glacier-clad peaks alongside temperate rainforests and a rugged coastline.
Sausalito is a coastal town, only a 10-minute drive from San Francisco, and is known for its art, houseboats, and stunning views of the nearby ocean.
The Mediterranean hillsides rise above the water, giving views of the San Franciso skyline and the surrounding ocean.
Nearby Swedes Beach, named after John Swede who operated a ferry service in the late 1800s, offers a quiet place to watch the sunset.
If you feel more active and want to get out and explore, abundant sailing and kayaking options offer a quiet day on the water.
Solvang is a quaint Danish-inspired town in California's wine country, with windmills, timber-framed houses, and a distinctive European feel.
Walking down Mission Drive, you can see all the Danish-themed sweets and souvenirs, from wooden shoes to cuckoo clocks.
Fans of sweets will enjoy aebleskiver, a Danish fluffy, donut hole-type treat.
Wine lovers will feel right at home in Solvang, located in the Santa Ynez Valley, renowned for its abundance of vineyards and wineries.
For a truly rare experience, make sure to visit in September for Solvang Danish days. This event has a parade featuring a collection of Danish costumes and horse-drawn wagons, Viking re-enactments, an aebleskiver-eating contest, and much more.
Gold Beach, Oregon
Gold Beach is a tranquil Oregon town where the Rogue River touches the Pacific Ocean. Beaches stretch for as far as you can see and the hilly terrain completes the landscape.
Fishing for salmon and steelhead, thrilling jet boat tours on the Rogue River, and a plethora of wildlife make this town an adventurous escape.
The town has some world-class walking trails. Cape Sebastian Trail winds through a thick forest of Sitka spruce, and spectacular views might grant you a look at some gray whales on their migration voyage.
If you are in the mood for a peaceful day beside the roar of the ocean, beachcombing is a popular activity. The black sand is flush with agates, jasper, petrified wood, and jade.
Port Angeles, Washington
Located on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, Port Angeles has striking mountains and the beauty of the coastal ocean at its doorstep.
The town lies close to the border with Canada, and on a clear day, you can see Victoria, British Columbia across the water.
In the vicinity, majestic Olympic National Park sprawls across almost 1 million acres, inviting adventurous individuals to partake in hiking, biking, and exploration.
The placid waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are prime for water activities such as snorkeling, fishing, or hitting the waters to do some whale watching.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon is home to one of the most iconic views along the entire coastline.
Haystack Rock stands proud against the boundless background of the Pacific Ocean and is one of the most identifiable landmarks in the area.
The area's weathered rock formations contrast with the stunning coastal views, providing a distinct visual experience.
Ecola State Park is located on the edge of Tillamook Head. It offers expansive views of the area, including the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, sitting dramatically on a lone slab of basalt rock, less than an acre large, in the Pacific Ocean.
Nature lovers will love the diversity of wildlife in the area, which includes roaming elk, puffins nesting on the rocky cliffs, and frequent sightings of gray whales in the nearby waters.
The Pacific Coast houses a wide variety of cities and towns, alongside the natural beauty that defines the region.
These thirteen towns situated on the Pacific Coast offer a rich collection of experiences, from whale watching to kayaking, or just plain sitting down and eating fantastic food on the boulevard.
From Carmel-by-the-Sea's white powdery sand, to the European charm of Solvang, each town has its own unique story to tell visitors and residents alike.
This journey to the coast promises encounters with nature's marvels and vibrant communities, leaving lasting memories for the adventuring spirit.