Autumn afternoon at the Bavarian themed village of Leavenworth, Washington. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher /

8 Of The Most Charming Small Towns To Visit In Washington

Washington, located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, is the 18th largest state by area and was admitted to the Union in 1889 as the 42nd state. Its geography ranges from the Pacific coastline to mountain ranges like the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains and includes the volcanic Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the state. Washington is a leading producer of lumber and plays a role in industries such as aircraft manufacturing, computer software development, and biotechnology. The state is recognized for its small towns, which are notable for their charm. These eight towns are nestled between scenic landscapes and have rich histories.


The charming downtown of Leavenworth, Washington.
The charming downtown of Leavenworth, Washington.

Leavenworth, Washington, is a town in the Cascade Mountains known for its transformation into a Bavarian-themed village in the 1960s. Originally a logging and railroad town established in the early 20th century, Leavenworth faced economic decline after the Great Northern Railway rerouted. To revitalize the town, community leaders adopted a Bavarian aesthetic.

Icicle Gorge Trail follows the Icicle River, with views of the gorge and surrounding forest. The trail has a mix of flat sections and gentle inclines, making it accessible for most visitors. At Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, visitors can learn about reindeer through guided tours and interactive experiences, set against mountain scenery. Waterfront Park, located along the Wenatchee River, has walking paths and picnic areas with views of the surrounding mountains for outdoor enjoyment.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend, Washington, in the Olympic Peninsula
Port Townsend, Washington, in the Olympic Peninsula.

Port Townsend, Washington, is a historic seaport town on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Founded in the mid-19th century, it quickly grew due to its strategic location for shipping and trade. The town's economy initially flourished with maritime industries, and its Victorian architecture reflects its prosperous past. Port Townsend's geography includes coastal bluffs and beaches.

Fort Worden Historical State Park is a historic military fort with bunkers, beaches, and trails. Visitors can explore the remnants of the fort and enjoy views of the Puget Sound. Point Wilson Lighthouse, at the tip of the Port Townsend peninsula, has views of the coastline and opportunities to learn about the lighthouse's history. Chetzemoka Park has gardens, beach access, and views of Admiralty Inlet, with walking paths and picnic areas for visitors to enjoy the park.


Langley, Washington
Langley, Washington

Langley, Washington, is a town located on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. In the early 20th century, Langley has a history as a center for logging and agriculture. The town's location on the eastern shore of the island provides scenic views of the Saratoga Passage and the Cascade Mountains. Its maritime and rural heritage is reflected in the local culture and community events.

Earth Sanctuary is a nature reserve with trails that wind through various habitats and art installations that blend with the natural environment. Double Bluff Beach offers views and areas for beachcombing, with sections of the beach designated for off-leash dog activities. South Whidbey State Park includes trails that meander through old-growth forests and along the shoreline, with views of the Olympic Mountains across the water.

La Conner

Rainbow Bridge in the Town of La Conner, Washington.
Rainbow Bridge in the Town of La Conner, Washington.

La Conner, Washington, is a town along the Swinomish Channel in Skagit County. During the 1860s, La Conner quickly developed as a trading post and agricultural hub. The town is known for its well-preserved historic buildings and arts community. La Conner's geography features waterfront views, fertile farmland, and proximity to the Skagit River delta.

Rainbow Bridge spans the Swinomish Channel and has views of the waterway and surrounding landscape. The Museum of Northwest Art showcases the art and cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest, with various exhibits and collections that highlight regional artists and themes. Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has trails and educational exhibits focused on the diverse marine life and ecosystems found in the estuary for visitors to learn about and explore the natural environment.

Gig Harbor

The waterfront at Gig Harbor, Washington.
The waterfront at Gig Harbor, Washington.

Gig Harbor, Washington, is a town also on the Puget Sound, known for its maritime heritage and harbor. Established in the late 19th century, Gig Harbor developed as a fishing and boat-building community. The town's geography includes a protected harbor, surrounded by hills and forests—a picturesque setting and haven for boats.

The Harbor History Museum has exhibits and historic artifacts that highlight Gig Harbor's maritime history and the development of the community. Crescent Creek Park offers walking trails, a playground, and picnic areas. It is a space for outdoor activities and relaxation. Point Defiance Park, located nearby, includes gardens, beaches, and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, where visitors can explore natural habitats and learn about marine and terrestrial wildlife.

Friday Harbor

The beautiful town of Friday Harbor, Washington, in fall
The beautiful town of Friday Harbor, Washington, in fall.

Friday Harbor, located on San Juan Island in Washington, was established in the late 19th century. It developed as a maritime and agricultural hub. Its location in the San Juan Islands has a unique setting with rocky shorelines, rolling hills, and abundant marine life. The town is accessible by ferry.

San Juan Island National Historical Park includes English Camp and American Camp, where visitors can explore historic sites and landscapes that tell the story of the island's past conflicts and settlements. Lime Kiln Point State Park is known for its opportunities for whale watching and the historic Lime Kiln Lighthouse. Marine wildlife sightings in the surrounding waters are common here. Pelindaba Lavender Farm is home to fields of blooming lavender, with walking paths and products made from the lavender grown on the farm.


The quaint town of Poulsbo, Washington
The quaint town of Poulsbo, Washington.

Poulsbo, Washington, is a town located on Liberty Bay in Kitsap County. Founded by Norwegian immigrants in the late 19th century, Poulsbo is known as "Little Norway" due to its Scandinavian heritage, which is reflected in the town's architecture, festivals, and cultural events. The town's geography includes waterfront views, rolling hills, and access to various natural landscapes.

The Poulsbo Marine Science Center has marine exhibits where visitors can learn about local sea life and the ecosystems of Liberty Bay. Fish Park has walking trails, opportunities for wildlife viewing, and scenic wetlands. It is a natural retreat within the town. Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park includes a waterfront promenade, a playground, and open spaces for relaxation and recreation, with views of Liberty Bay.


View along 1st Avenue in downtown Snohomish Washington
View along 1st Avenue in downtown Snohomish Washington. Editorial credit: Ian Dewar Photography /

Snohomish, Washington, is a town along the Snohomish River in Snohomish County. Established in 1859, Snohomish became an important trading and agricultural center in the region. The town is known for its well-preserved historic downtown, which features numerous antique shops and buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Snohomish Centennial Trail is a multi-use trail that runs through the Snohomish countryside, with paths for walking, biking, and horseback riding. Harvey Field is a local airport where visitors can take hot air balloon rides to see panoramic views of the Snohomish Valley and the surrounding mountains. Lord Hill Regional Park has miles of trails that wind through forests, meadows, and wetlands. Visitors get to explore diverse natural environments within the park.

In Summary

Washington's small towns make for charming visits. The Bavarian-themed Leavenworth has Alpine architecture and outdoor activities. In contrast, Gig Harbor is where visitors can delve into the town's fishing past and enjoy walks along the harbor. Port Townsend stands out with its historic Victorian buildings and seaside ambiance, while Snohomish offers a peek into the past with its well-preserved downtown and antique shops. Each of these towns showcases a different facet of Washington's diverse landscape and culture, proving that the state's smaller communities are among its most charming destinations.

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