Oregon, “The Beaver State,” is one of the gems of the Pacific Northwest. Home to stunning natural beauty, lively cities, and charming beach communities, Oregon’s landscape is also dotted with welcoming small towns populated by friendly locals. No matter where you travel in Oregon, you are almost certain to feel right at home, but we have picked out seven of the friendliest towns in the state. Our selected towns are fun, safe, and tourist-friendly communities that are well worth a visit. So, add some or all of them to your next Oregon itinerary to ensure a friendly and fun-filled time!
Located where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean, Astoria (population 10,000) has been an important port town since its founding in 1811, making it the oldest town in Oregon. While the Port of Astoria is still active, the fur, lumber, and fishing trades have declined over the past two centuries, leaving tourism as Astoria’s major industry. Fortunately, the town is perfectly situated for tourism, with a stunning waterfront location and a picturesque downtown area serviced by a vintage trolley. Numerous local businesses happily cater to the many tourists who come to experience Astoria’s natural beauty and small-town charm—or to see filming locations for the 1985 movie “The Goonies.”
Located along the Powder River and amidst the Elkhorn Mountains and Wallowa Mountains, the eastern Oregon town of Baker City has a stunningly picturesque setting. In addition to being a mecca for hikers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, Baker City is a popular tourist destination for those interested in history. The town is home to numerous well-preserved examples of nineteenth century architecture, especially in the downtown Baker City Historic District. Baker City’s 10,000 residents are happy to direct visitors to the Baker Heritage Museum, which has excellent content on early Baker City history, local gold mining, Chinese immigration during the railroad and mining eras, the Oregon Trail, and more.
The little oceanfront town of Cannon Beach has only about 1,500 fulltime residents, but its setting and charm make it a very popular travel destination. Artists come to experience the town’s thriving artistic community as well as to take in the stunning natural beauty of the shoreline, most notably Haystack Rock, which rises over 200 feet out of the ocean surf. Meanwhile, family vacationers come to enjoy the sandy beaches and numerous shops and eateries that Cannon Beach has to offer. No matter why you choose to visit Cannon Beach, you can expect to receive a welcoming smile and friendly advice on how to make the most of your experience there.
Cottage Grove, situated in the picturesque Willamette Valley of western Oregon, is sometimes called “The Covered Bridge Capital of the West” because of the six covered bridges located in or near town. These historic structures draw visitors to the town of 10,000, as do its four museums, covering history, mining, aviation, and medicine. The downtown business district includes a nice array of boutiques, antique shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes, staffed by friendly locals. Nature enthusiasts should check out the nearby Dorena Reservoir and Cottage Grove Lake, both of which offer boating, camping, and more. The 14 mile long Row River National Recreation Trail connects downtown Cottage Grove to Dorena Reservoir.
The coastal town of Florence has a minor claim to fame as the site of a poorly-judged 1970 attempt to blow up a beached whale carcass with dynamite; good-humored locals decided in 2020 to commemorate the incident by naming a new town park “Exploding Whale Memorial Park.” Beyond this odd historical footnote, however, Florence is a lovely oceanfront community of 9,000 residents, known for its towering sand dunes that offer spectacular views of both land and sea. Heceta Head Lighthouse offers similarly grand views to visitors, who are also drawn to attractions such as the charming downtown area in the Old Town neighborhood, the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, and the Siuslaw Riverwalk.
McMinnville, which marks the confluence of the north and south branches of the Yamhill River in the Willamette Valley of northwestern Oregon, sits in the heart of the state’s wine country. The McMinnville region is best known for its pinot noir, but numerous wine varieties are grown in the area. In addition to the many wineries in and around town, McMinnville has several farm-to-table restaurants and other highly-regarded eateries. Downtown is home to one of Oregon’s most charming main street shopping districts, with numerous boutiques and local businesses. McMinnville has a population of about 34,000 and provides a welcoming atmosphere for wine tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, and travelers of all stripes.
More so than many of the towns along the coast, the central Oregon community of Sisters maintains the classic look and feel of a timeless western town. Named for the nearby Three Sisters Mountains, the town of Sisters has only 3,000 residents but has boomed in population in recent decades, more than tripling in size since 2000. Transplants and tourists come for the temperate climate, natural beauty, and the town’s cowboy vibe. Downtown Sisters has several cowboy-themed businesses selling artwork, clothing, antiques, and more. The town celebrates both its past and present throughout the year with events like the Sisters Rodeo, Sisters Quilt Show, Sisters Car Show, and Sisters Folk Festival.
No matter how you choose to measure it, Oregon must be one of the friendliest states in the Union. And, if you particularly enjoy friendly small towns that make everyone feel welcome, Oregon needs to be near the top of your travel list. Whenever your travels take you to the Beaver State, be sure to do some exploring of small towns beyond our list—you’ll be sure to discover some friendly Oregon gems of your own!