Sunrise Beach Park in Gig Harbor, Washington.

8 Small Towns in The Pacific Northwest to Visit for a Weekend Getaway

The Pacific Northwest has no officially defined boundaries. However, it typically refers to the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of California, and North into British Columbia, Canada. The region is known for its immense beauty, which takes the form of gorgeous old, temperate rainforests, vast coastlines, and majestic mountain ranges. It is a top destination for recreational holidays, home to more national parks and ski resorts than can be listed here! As a result, it is the kind of place visitors would want to plan more than a single day in. This list of small towns will help travelers find the perfect destination to serve as a launching pad for a weekend getaway in the Pacific Northwest region.

Sisters, Oregon

 A view looking down the main street in downtown, Sisters.
 A view looking down the main street in downtown Sisters. Image credit Bob Pool via Shutterstock.

Located near Bend, Oregon, Sisters is a small town of little more than 3,000 people. While it has a petite population, it is known to draw thousands of visitors to the city annually by offering various festivals ranging from an annual rodeo to an outdoor quilt festival, several art festivals, and even a folk music festival. It boasts many inns and lodges, such as the Five Pine Lodge and Spa and the Sisters Inn. The community's numerous hotels result from the town's rich recreational opportunities. Located near the Three Sisters Wilderness, within Deschutes National Forest, the Sisters Trail Alliance has created and curates a number of hiking, biking, and even horseback riding trails from within the town limits into the Wilderness area. The Hoodoo ski resort is also nearby for those seeking a weekend ski trip.

Forks, Washington

Large rocks and waves on the shore of La Push Beach in Forks, Washington
Large rocks and waves on the shore of La Push Beach in Forks, Washington.

They were initially known by the name Quillayute, after the Quileute tribe who originally inhabited the region. For most of its history as a settlement, Forks was known as a logging community until recently; it became a tourist destination for fans of the Twilight franchise, which was set in the town. They also see several tourists set to visit the Olympic National Park or the Hoh Rainforest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the USA. Whether visiting for the natural rainforest or going on a guided Twilight tour, there are several options for lodgings for tourists in the town, such as the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast or the Olympic Suites Inn. For those hoping to indulge in the region's natural beauty, there is also the Olympic Adventures Campground for those who would rather camp.

Bainbridge Island, Washington

Secluded residences on Bainbridge Island with skyline of Seattle in the background
Secluded residences on Bainbridge Island with the skyline of Seattle in the background.

Located on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle, Bainbridge Island is a perfect hub for those looking for a place to stay. At the same time, visitors can explore the region's vast outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as for those looking for a quieter yet comfortable urban environment to spend the weekend. There are several parks and nature reserves on the island, such as the Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve or the Grand Forest East and Grand Forest West. Downtown also has a ferry into Seattle for folks wanting to spend the day in the big city while still making Bainbridge homebase. The town also has two museums in its downtown core, the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. The city's highest-rated lodging is the Eagle Harbor Inn, right by the shoreline and a short walk from Doc's Marina and Grill.

Astoria, Oregon

Captain George Flavel House Museum is now a house museum in Astoria, Oregon, United States
Captain George Flavel House Museum is now a museum in Astoria, Oregon.

The port town of Astoria, Oregon, sits comfortably at the intersection between the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. To the east lies the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, a 35,000-acre sanctuary for birds and aquatic animals. On the way there from Astoria, there is also the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary, 8 miles East of Astoria. It is 103 acres of protected marshland, part of the Columbia Land Trust, and is committed to protecting the hunting grounds of local bald eagles and the salmon that live there. Along Astoria's downtown waterfront are around 25 hotels and inns for those looking to spend the weekend in this beautiful, misty part of the world, from the Rose-River Inn Bed & Breakfast to the Astoria Riverwalk Inn. Make sure to visit Astoria's famous Astoria Column. This 125-foot tall concrete tower overlooks the Columbia River with a viewing platform at the top of its large spiral staircase, providing a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.

Stanley, Idaho

McGown Peak near Stanley, Idaho reflected in a pond located in a wetland area near Stanley Lake.
McGown Peak near Stanley, Idaho, is reflected in a pond in a wetland area near Stanley Lake.

Stanley, Idaho, is a tiny town with a population of under 200. Yet it is also the home of the Mountain Village Resort, a cozy lodge, and saloon that lies along the Salmon River and grants its guests access to the Mountain Village hot springs. The surrounding area features mountains, parks, campgrounds, wildlife reserves, and ski hills. Visitors can also find the Mackay River Trips company within Stanley, which offers professionally guided trips along the Salmon River, offering fly-fishing excursions and family-friendly white-water rafting adventures. However, most of these tours are six days and five nights long, so it is not ideal for those looking for a single weekend getaway. Another draw to the area lies above the surface; when the sun goes down, the skies are so free of artificial light pollution that a dazzlingly vast ocean of stars can be seen at night, including our arm of the Milky Way. The town hopes to one day be recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association, a prestigious list of the few places remaining on Earth where the night sky can be seen for how it was before the invention of electric light.

Florence, Oregon

 The Siuslaw River bridge in golden morning light at Florence, Oregon
 The Siuslaw River bridge in golden morning light at Florence, Oregon. Image credit Ian Dewar Photography via Shutterstock.

Located at the mouth of the Siuslaw River and just off the Pacific Ocean, Florence is a perfect town for a weekend retreat. Boasting a casino known as the Three Rivers Casino Resort, several golf courses, hotels, and even a sandboarding park near the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, travelers will find many activities to partake in during a weekend stay here. There are also several campgrounds and state parks nearby for those looking to explore the diverse biomes of the region, which vary from dunes to marshland to forest. Sitting right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, there are also many day-use beaches for anyone who wants to spend the day relaxing in the sun by the sea.

Winthrop, Washington

Spouses walking together on meadows in North Cascades National Park.
Spouses walking together on meadows in North Cascades National Park in Winthrop.

With a population of just under 400 people, the town of Winthrop is, like many of the small towns in the Pacific Northwest, rife with hiking trails and nature conservation areas, such as the Methow Trails, providing ample opportunity for people looking for a more recreational weekend retreat. Winthrop is a relic of an old gold-mining community known for its downtown strip. It maintains its American old-west architecture and aesthetic, making visitors feel like wandering cowboys exploring the town. The Mount Gardner Inn sits along the Methow River, which winds through the city or stay at the Methow River Lodge and Cabins for a more rustic stay. For lunch, check out the Three Fingered Jack's saloon, which leans into the old-west vibe, courteously providing swinging doors for customers to pass through. The town is also home to a brewery known as the Old Schoolhouse Brewery and a cidery called the Methow Valley Ciderhouse for those looking for a cold pint.

Gig Harbor, Washington

Sunrise Beach Park  in Gig Harbor, Washington
Sunrise Beach Park in Gig Harbor, Washington.

South of Bainbridge Island, within Puget Sound, lies the town of Gig Harbor, with a population of 12,000. For those looking to stay here while exploring the region, there is the Waterfront Inn, which unsurprisingly lies on the waterfront, along with the Maritime Inn, also on the waterfront, on the other side of the harbor. This town has a museum of the harbor's history and several municipal parks, such as Sunrise Beach Park. This area is an outdoorsy haven with many renowned nature preserves, including the Olympic National Forest and Mount Rainier National Park, ideal locations for a quintessential Pacific Northwest getaway!

It would be easy to spend a thousand weekends in the Pacific Northwest and still not even come close to taking in this region's natural beauty. Still, it would only take a weekend getaway to create lasting memories that will leave an impression of a lifetime. Whether travelers want to be surrounded by massive, towering redwoods in temperate rainforests and breathe in the clean, foggy air, kayak down rivers near isolated hamlets and camp out beneath a dazzling starry sky, or walk down the main street of a town lined with old-west buildings that haven't changed since the 1880s, the Pacific Northwest will have something for everyone.

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