View of the harbor and lighthouse in Port Townsend, Washington

7 of the Most Quaint Small Towns on the Pacific Coast

Embarking on a weekend getaway along the Pacific Coast unfolds a journey through beautiful towns like Cambria and Langley. Cambria's Moonstone Beach Boardwalk invites you to savor amazing views and the opportunity to unwind while listening to the waves on the Beach. Langley, the village by the sea, treats visitors to the beautiful mountain vistas of the Cascade Mountain Range. For those in search of natural wonders, from breathtaking coastal landscapes to beautiful small towns, the Pacific Coast promises a harmonious blend of outdoor adventures, cultural richness, and the soothing melody of the Pacific Ocean.

Cambria, California

A row of tourist shops in Cambria, California. Image credit agil73 via Shutterstock
A row of tourist shops in Cambria, California. Image credit agil73 via Shutterstock

Cambria, found midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, presents itself as a tranquil retreat on the Central Coast, providing opportunities for creating lasting memories. Whether you bury your toes in the sandy shores, catch glimpses of marine life in the water, or marvel at the amazing coastal views, your Cambria seaside escapade begins at the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. Take a leisurely bike tour of Cambria, exploring notable sites like the Fresnel Lens and Soto's True Earth Market, and end your day at the serene Moonstone Beach Park. For those with a fondness for animals, visit the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas Rookery, or you can keep a keen eye out for whales and other marine creatures gracefully navigating the coastal waters.

Port Townsend, Washington

boats in the harbor in Port Townsend, Washington
Waterfront in Port Townsend, Washington.

The Jefferson Museum of Art & History in Port Townsend is located in the 1892 City Hall and awaits your exploration, providing insights into the town's history. In the summer, The Rothschild House, built in 1868, stands as it did over a hundred years ago. The Commanding Officer's Quarters Museum, situated on the parade grounds at Fort Worden since 1904, offers a captivating view of Admiralty Inlet. Walk or cycle along the Chetzemoka Trail, starting at Chetzemoka Park, connecting various points of tribal, geographic, and historical significance and presenting abundant beautiful views. Alternatively, you can visit Fort Worden State Park, a turn-of-the-century army base located just 1.5 miles from the downtown core.

Langley, Washington

Main street in Langley, Washington.
Main Street in Langley, Washington.

Langley, the village by the sea, is on Whidbey Island, offering delightful views of Saratoga Passage and the Cascade Mountain Range. The South Whidbey Harbor marina invites you to appreciate the water vistas of the Saratoga Passage. Consider bringing a picnic to savor a leisurely lunch at Phil Simon Memorial Park, which is located on the waterfront by the marina. When the tide retreats, you can descend the stairs off First Street to discover the Beach at Seawall Park in Langley. For those intrigued by marine life, the Langley Whale Center Museum is worth a visit. Alternatively, delve into the early history of Whidbey Island at the South Whidbey Historical Museum, housed in an old logger bunkhouse, unraveling its roots as a hub for the logging and fishing industries.

Friday Harbor, Washington

Lime Kiln Lighthouse near Friday Harbor.
Lime Kiln Lighthouse near Friday Harbor.

Since the 1890s, Friday Harbor has played a crucial role in the evolution of San Juan Island into a center for commerce, serving as a cultural hub. The San Juan Historical Society, established in 1979, houses a museum that shares the island's history. The Whale Museum, also founded in the same year, actively interprets the lives of whales in their natural habitat. Exploring trails at the San Juan Island National Historical Park, such as the Mitchell Hill trail, provides panoramic views. Additionally, you can witness the preserved historic sites from the 1859 Pig War, a peaceful boundary dispute between the United States and Great Britain over the San Juan Islands.

Mendocino, California

The seacoast village of Mendocino, California, lines an ocean headland at low tide on a sunny spring afternoon.
The seacoast village of Mendocino, California, lines an ocean headland at low tide on a sunny spring afternoon.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Station in Mendocino offers an opportunity to enjoy the most beautiful symphony of nature while marveling at the amazing ocean views. Nature enthusiasts and families alike will delight in the Fern Canyon Trail at Van Damme State Park—a 2.5-mile round-trip hike that meanders through a lush canyon adorned with ferns, towering redwoods, and a babbling creek. If you seek a bit more challenge, explore the Russian Gulch Waterfall loop, a 7.5-mile trail guiding you through redwood forests, meadows, and along a creek, ultimately leading to a breathtaking waterfall. Enhance your experience by considering the accommodations available at the Inn Newport Ranch.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Crescent Beach at Ecola State Park, Oregon.
Crescent Beach at Ecola State Park, Oregon. 

Cannon Beach, Oregon, emanates coastal appeal and is renowned for its beauty and artistic attraction. Guests can explore into the town's origins at the History Center and Museum, where the cannon's history unfolds, connections of Lewis and Clark to the region come to light, and stories of natural history, native cultures, and early settlement are revealed. Cannon Beach is graced by the prominent landmark Haystack Rock, which offers exciting tidepools and serves as a habitat for diverse birdlife. Ecola State Park calls out with its scenic viewpoints and recreational spaces at a close distance to the shore. Visitors can experience the tranquility of the Oregon coast like never before at Arch Cape Inn or the Cannon Beach Hotel Collection.

Astoria, Oregon

Cars on the street in downtown Astoria with Astoria-Megler Bridge in the background, via Enrico Powell /
Cars on the street in downtown Astoria with Astoria-Megler Bridge in the background, via Enrico Powell /

Astoria, positioned in the northwestern corner of Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River, holds the distinction of being the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Its historical connections to the Lewis & Clark Trail are noteworthy. The Great Northern Railway dedicated a monument in 1926, and today, the Astoria Column stands on Coxcomb Hill, serving as a tribute to the people of that era. From its vantage point, it offers panoramic views of the Columbia River, Youngs Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can learn about maritime history at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, exploring the seafaring past of the northwest United States. Alternatively, in Astoria's downtown district, one can discover the Captain George Flavel House.

A visit to the Pacific Coast is an invitation to explore a fascinating combination of coastal beauty that can be seen at The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Station in Mendocino, California, or Haystack Rock, offering exciting tidepools and diverse birdlife in Cannon Beach. Whether you're visiting the Whale Museum in Friday Harbour or admiring 1892 City Hall in Port Townsend, the region is full of natural wonders and cultural prosperity. The Pacific Coast is calling, promising a memorable journey filled with awe-inspiring landscapes and the soothing embrace of the sea.

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