Stairway leading down to rocky beach at Coquille Point in Bandon, Oregon.

6 Coolest Towns in The Pacific Northwest for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Low in crowds and high in attractions—what more can a heart desire for a summer getaway or vacation? How about a dose of PNW charm and wildness in equal proportion to what these towns aspire to? Spectacularly remote within the vast region, the shoreside gems offer easy access along scenic oceanfront highways, while the inland town of Snoqualmie is Seattleans' favorite escape, being 30 miles out of the city. There's no better time than this summer to visit a cool town under the hot sun with a beach nearby and shaded hikes a hop away.

Seaside, Cannon Beach's calm neighbor, offers a fair share of incredible attractions by the ocean, like the unique Painted Rock Beach, animal interactions at the Seaside Aquarium, and the mega-popular Funland Entertainment. Snoqualmie is home to a gigantic waterfall for misty picnics and adventures through the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. From the soaring mountainscapes to the soaring eagles over the ocean in Oysterville and comic baby seals, the Pacific Northwest keeps it authentic but incredibly cool.

Bandon, Oregon

Panoramic view of sea stacks along Bandon Beach in Oregon.

Panoramic view of sea stacks along Bandon Beach in Oregon.

Bandon, at the heart of Oregon's South Coast, where the beach feels softer, and the sun feels pleasant enough to make you linger just a tad longer at ocean vistas, yearns for a true expression of the PNW. From the boulder-studded Bandon Beach to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, this is coastal life to the fullest, to taste in the salty air, seafood at Lord Bennett's Sand, and delectable pies and pastries throughout bakeries like Bandon Coffee Cafe. The active can enjoy fishing, hiking, and kayaking on the Wild Rivers Coast, while the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge is just to the north for a nature hike.

Once destroyed by a fire, Bandon is home to charming shops and galleries, a wooden boardwalk on the beach, and spectacular sunsets while lounging on the sands, making it undeniably cool and hitting something on the bucket list of every traveler in the PNW. Bandon is the "Cranberry Capital of Oregon," with thriving agriculture, and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is world-famous for having the best links in the country. Putting its heart into everything and bringing the storied past into the present, don't miss Coquille River Lighthouse and the intriguing outdoor sculptures of painted creatures at the waterfront Washed Ashore Gallery & Volunteer Workshop.

Camas, Washington

Street view of Camas, Washington.

Street view of Camas, Washington. By Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Camas, a small Washington town, delivers a hefty dose of cool for any taste to maximize every PNW experience. Nestled between Lacamas Lake and the Columbia River, visitors can enjoy waterfront recreation from the doorstep, from calm kayaking paddles to the thrills of whitewater rafting. One of the larger small towns, Camas, comes with a lot of attractions for active seafood lovers or if relaxing is your top priority. From the waterfront Heritage Park to Lacamas Park for hikes, Liberty Theatre and Top Burger Drive-in evoke an old-timey feel.

Home to just over 27,000, the tree-lined town nestles in between the rugged Washington Coast and the nearby forests with easy access over tranquil, misty hills, perfect for a packed picnic or a backpack for in-depth hikes. Lacamas Lake Regional Park is just a hop from the Camas downtown area with its historic buildings, where visitors can browse the Camas antique store filled with gifts before departing, while the aforesaid cinema also hosts live performances and music concerts for a romantic and cultural evening. There's no better time to plan a visit than now for the Camas Farmers Market between May and October and the 2024 Camas Plant & Garden Fair.

Oysterville, Washington

Sunrise at the restored Oysterville community church on the south Washington coast.
Sunrise at the restored Oysterville community church on the south Washington coast. Editorial credit: CL Shebley /

If oysters, quirky history, and dreamy seaside walks are your cup of tea, take a stroll along the shores of Willapa Bay with bald eagles diving for small fish and oysters in the tide pools—life-changing. The ocean here ebbs at its own tide, and the comic baby seals entertain passersby while their mamas snack on some of the best salmon in the country, which you, too, can enjoy. Just a tiny town of profound beauty found along the north end of the 45-mile Long Beach Peninsula, Oysterville, will take away your breath as a photographer's paradise. This historic village with ultra-fresh seafood from the bay, one of the top-producing oyster regions in the world, maximizes the sweeping views over the bay to the horizon at sunset, coloring the skies in purples and oranges.

Home to Oysterville Sea Farm, visitors can buy fresh-from-the-sea delicacies and cook 'em up over a beachside fire or a grill at a cozy waterfront rental. From fishing charters to Ilwaco on the south end of the peninsula to a scenic drive between the area’s seafood markets for some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest Dungeness crab, salmon, and Albacore tuna, don't miss a downtown stroll amid perfectly preserved homes from the 1800s and manicured gardens straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. In the mid-1800s, Robert Hamilton Epsy and Isaac Alonzo Clark befriended Chief Klickeas of the Chinook Indian tribe, who introduced them to oystering. Sold as far as San Francisco, Oysterville was the county seat of Pacific County until a legendary rebel stole all the county documents, and the seat went to South Bend.

Seaside, Oregon

Boat rental at Necanicum River in the city center of Seaside, Oregon.

Boat rental at Necanicum River in the city center of Seaside, Oregon. Editorial credit: Victoria Ditkovsky /

Not quite as popular as the neighboring Cannon Beach, Seaside is every bit as beautiful. Home to a beachfront promenade, from the Little Beach to the Seaside Beach, the unique Painted Rock Beach is southernmost, and visitors can enjoy wistful strolls in between all three for different vibes and views to lounge in. This family-friendly town boasts attractions like the Seaside Aquarium, which has interactive marine life and creatures like seals and sea lions next door to the mega-popular Funland Entertainment Center right in the heart, by the ocean.

Don't miss a chance for a sunset stroll of your life at Seaside Cove; chances are you'll be virtually alone for the most romantic photoshoot, perfect after a day of go-karting at the fun Captain Kid Amusement Park nearby. Featuring not one but two rivers through the heart, visitors can follow the Necanicum River to where it empties into the Pacific or the Neacoxie Creek to the ocean. From there, it is all about paddleboarding or surfing in the sea, or, if you prefer to stay dry, ride the bike path along the promenade against the sea or hike some incredible trails through Ecola State Park with expansive views of the rocky coastline.

Snoqualmie, Washington

View of Snoqualmie Falls on a powerful day in Washington State.

View of Snoqualmie Falls on a powerful day in Washington State.

Snoqualmie, a remarkable town in the Evergreen State to visit in the summer, stands wholeheartedly behind its nickname, delivering a dose of inland wilderness. Just 30 minutes from the city, it is Seattleans' favorite escape on the weekends, and you could discover over a whole vacation of wonders that this scenic Washington Corner is renowned for. Home to Snoqualmie Falls, a world-class natural landmark and attraction, it is a spectacular sight to behold in the refreshing mist under the sun after a hot day hike. The magnificent 268-foot waterfall is a background location in the hugely popular 1990s TV show Twin Peaks, while the 45-mile Snoqualmie River runs through the town's heart.

Great for recreation from the doorstep, waterside strolls, and pretty views while browsing for souvenirs or a bite to eat, the three forks join above the waterfall in a sight to behold and experience as boaters and anglers do while the hikers in your group explore the trails through Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Reconvene at a great camping site, Douglas Fir Campground, for a night under the stars on the banks of the North Fork Nooksack River after a fire-cooked fish dinner against sunset views. The 7.7-mile Mailbox Peak Trail Loop is an arduous and rewarding trek to reward yourself with wine at Sigillo Cellars or a deserving stay and some pampering at the Attic at Salish Lodge & Spa.

Winchester Bay, Oregon

Aerial view of Winchester Bay, Oregon, featuring the residential district, harbor, marina, a large RV park, and fishing boats heading out in the calm water at sunrise.

Aerial view of Winchester Bay, Oregon.

Winchester Bay is a small port village between the open waters of the ocean at the Pacific end of the Umpqua River and the bay in the heart of the dunes, with its most notable attraction being the Umpqua River Lighthouse Museum. Whether you're in for sailing, dune buggy rides, or exploring the length of the river via kayak, Winchester Bay is an ideal base camp for all the cool pursuits, with no better place to start than the lighthouse with the Coastal Visitors Centre and gift shop for souvenirs before departing. As a long-time riverside strategic location and no stranger to expeditions, the frontier town in between the Oregon Coastal Dunes and the Southern Coast thrived early from fur and timber trades.

The legacy is its historic downtown, the flamboyant light, and plenty of unique opportunities in the outdoors for visitors, like photography, horseback along the beach, trails, and dunes, or partaking in the famous crabbing tradition. Being in the "Crab Capital of the World," there's everything from rental equipment to guides to try your own hand at crabbing for fresh Dungeness crab, ending the day with a fire-cooked dinner along the shore at sunset. Visitors can even rent out a yurt or cabin by the sea to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean and view of Umpqua Lighthouse, open for tours, and step out into the fresh morning sea breeze with gentle waves at their feet.

Discover Your Perfect Pacific Northwest Escape

The Pacific Northwest, aka Cascadia, covers mountain ranges, rugged coasts, sandy beaches with wilderness in between, and tiny towns close to it all. From Washington to Oregon, the Pacific Northwest is full of beauty, while the towns come with quirks like Bandon's intriguing outdoor sculptures of painted creatures at the waterfront Washed Ashore Gallery & Volunteer Workshop or Camas' old-timey attractions like the waterfront Heritage Park, as well as Liberty Theatre and Top Burger Drive-in for the evening. Evoking every kind of fantasy, there's a town on this list with something cool to catch your eye, where a simple stroll along the shores of Willapa Bay in Oysterville around tide pools is not just dreamy but life-changing.

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