America's Pacific Northwest region, which includes the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, is full of natural beauty. Alongside the winding river valleys, towering forests, rocky coastlines, and snow-capped mountain peaks, the Pacific Northwest is home to numerous welcoming and wonderful small towns. To help you plan a trip to this fantastic region, here are seven small towns that definitely deserve to be on your Pacific Northwest travel itinerary.
Astoria, established in 1811 at the strategic meeting point of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, takes pride in being the oldest American town west of the Rocky Mountains. The numerous historic buildings in the downtown area point to Astoria's role as a key fur, lumber, and fishing port during its first century. Soak up the historic charm on a walking tour or by riding on the town's vintage trolley. Highlights include Fort Astoria, a recreation of the 1811 fur-trading post built of logs, and the Gothic-inspired Astor Hotel (1924).
Bainbridge Island, Washington
The town of Bainbridge Island is only a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle across the lovely Puget Sound. The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, both located near the ferry terminal, are great starting points for a day trip. Downtown Bainbridge Island is home to bookstores, boutiques, cafes like Pegasus Coffee, and restaurants such as Sawatdy Thai Cuisine. To explore the outdoors, visit Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve or Grand Forest Park (East or West), then stay at a bed-and-breakfast or take the ferry back to Seattle for the night!
Cannon Beach, Oregon
William Clark, or the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, first glimpsed Haystack Rock, a 235-foot high stone monolith in the ocean surf, in 1805. Get this same elevated view of Haystack Rock from Ecola State Park, or head down to the beach for a closer look. In addition to being the home of Haystack Rock, the town of Cannon Beach is well known as a haven for artists. Check out the town's galleries, shops, and eateries, then stroll through the Presidential Streets District to glimpse the varied architectural styles on display.
Situated just north of the Methow River and surrounded by the North Cascade Mountains, the little town of Mazama is a true gateway to the outdoors. Whether you want to hike or fish in spring, boat or kayak in summer, take fall foliage walks in autumn, or cross-country ski in winter, Mazama is a great base of operations. Gear up at the Mazama Store or Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies, enjoy a meal and drinks at Mazama Public House, and rest up after an active day at the Inn at Mazama or Mazama Ranch House.
Like Mazama in Washington, the Idaho town of Sandpoint is a four-season gateway into outdoor fun. Set along Lake Pend Oreille in the shadow of the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains, Sandpoint is a winter wonderland of skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and sleigh riding. Outside of the snowy season, Sandpoint is great for hiking, boating, and more, and it also draws in visitors with its annual Arts and Crafts Festival and regular performances at the Panida Theater. And, no matter what time of year you visit, strolling through the quaint downtown area is always a rewarding experience!
While the Pacific Northwest is famously rainy, "Sunny Sequim" earns its nickname from both its low precipitation and its smile-inducing charm. The coastal town of Sequim is also known as the "Lavender Capital of North America," and each July hosts the Lavender Festival—surely one of the most fragrant festivals anywhere! Be sure to take some photos at the postcard-pretty 1857 New Dungeness Lighthouse, then explore the surrounding Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. From there, take the quick drive from "Sunny Sequim" to Olympic National Park's Hoh Rainforest, one of America's largest temperate rainforests.
Yachats is a fun seaside town, welcoming beachgoers in the summer and autumn visitors to its Oktoberfest, Mushroom Festival, and Celtic Music Festival. That said, Yachats is most famous for a hole in the ground! Known as Thor's Well, the gaping hole along the shoreline rocks is about 20 feet deep and only mildly impressive at low tide. But, come high tide, Thor's Well swirls the water like a gigantic and bottomless bathtub drain. Take advantage of this fantastic photo opportunity, but tread carefully amidst the crashing waves and slick rocks.
No matter the time of year, the lovely Pacific Northwest is a great travel destination, with so much to explore. Before long, each town you visit will feel like a must-visit town, so go ahead and add them to your own personal list. You are sure to want to come back again, maybe during a different time of year, to experience more of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer!