Horse riders during the lively Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon. Image credit: Png Studio Photography via Shutterstock.

8 Underappreciated Towns to Visit in Oregon

Oregon is a state flanked by some of the best the United States has to offer, such as the heritage of Washington and the glitz and glamor of Nevada. Additionally, it has its highlights, like the capital city Portland and Bend, which often steal the limelight from small yet beautiful towns, making them underappreciated by tourists. However, each town possesses a quaint beauty, from the picturesque coastal town of Astoria with its Victorian architecture and maritime heritage to the quaint charm of Hood River, nestled in the Columbia River Gorge. These are 8 of Oregon's underappreciated towns promising unforgettable experiences for those seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations.


Overlooking Astoria, Oregon.
Overlooking Astoria, Oregon.

Astoria is where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean and is often overshadowed by its more famous Oregonian neighbors. Astoria's history is rich and varied, dating back to its establishment as the first American settlement on the West Coast. It is prominent at the Astoria Column, a 125-foot tall tower featuring panoramic views of the town, river, and the Pacific Ocean. The climb up its 164 steps is rewarded with an unparalleled vista that captures the essence of this coastal town. Similarly, the Columbia River Maritime Museum is a must-visit, with exhibits on the region's fishing industry, shipwrecks, and the legendary Columbia River Bar. Here, you can explore an authentic lightship and learn about the dramatic rescues conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Astoria’s historic downtown is dotted with many interesting stops. The Flavel House Museum, a beautifully preserved Queen Anne-style mansion, gives a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of 19th-century sea captains. The food scene is equally impressive, where the Bowpicker Fish & Chips, a converted boat, serves up some of the best fish and chips you will find on the coast.


Winter view of Wallowa Mountains and traditional red barn on a cattle ranch near Joseph, Oregon, USA.
Winter view of Wallowa Mountains and traditional red barn on a cattle ranch near Joseph, Oregon, USA.

While many visitors flock to more famous destinations, Joseph, known as the "Little Switzerland of America" due to its stunning mountain backdrop, is quite a catch. The Main Street is where you will find bronze sculptures lining the sidewalks, a testament to Joseph’s reputation as a premier bronze foundry center. The Josephy Center for Arts and Culture showcases local artists and offers workshops, making it a great stop for art enthusiasts.

Outdoor adventurers will find Joseph a gateway to the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Here, you can hike to Ice Lake or take a scenic drive to Wallowa Lake, where boating, fishing, and kayaking opportunities abound. Simultaneously, the Wallowa Lake Tramway promises a breathtaking ride to the top of Mount Howard, providing panoramic views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Additionally, the Embers Brewhouse creates a delightful local dining experience with an extensive selection of craft beers and a cozy atmosphere.


Usa, Oregon, Yachats. Thor's Well, Waves Crashing into Thor's Well.
Usa, Oregon, Yachats. Thor's Well, Waves Crashing into Thor's Well.

The "Gem of the Oregon Coast," or Yachats, often escapes the spotlight but provides a peaceful retreat compared to busier coastal towns. A walk along the Yachats 804 Trail, a historic path, boasts stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and opportunities to spot whales, seals, and seabirds. The nearby Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is a marvel, featuring the highest point on the Oregon Coast accessible by car. From here, enjoy panoramic views and explore tide pools, old-growth forests, and unique geological formations like Thor’s Well and the Devil’s Churn.

The town also hosts the Yachats Celtic Music Festival, a celebration of Celtic culture with music, dancing, and workshops. Meanwhile, the Green Salmon Coffee Shop is a great place to enjoy organic coffee and pastries and a hub for local artists to display their work.

Hood River

The enchanting Multnomah Waterfalls. Editorial credit: Bob Pool /
The enchanting Multnomah Waterfalls. Editorial credit: Bob Pool /

Despite its array of attractions, Hood River flies under the radar, making it a hidden gem for travelers seeking an authentic Oregon experience. Hood River's reputation as a windsurfing and kiteboarding hotspot might be known to some, but the town offers much more than just water sports. The Columbia River Gorge, with its dramatic cliffs and lush greenery, provides a stunning backdrop for countless adventures. For hikers, the Eagle Creek Trail is an adventure, featuring breathtaking waterfalls such as Punchbowl Falls, Multnomah Falls, and Tunnel Falls.

Furthermore, the town is at the heart of the Hood River Valley, renowned for its fertile orchards and vineyards. The Fruit Loop is a scenic driving tour that takes you through acres of orchards, farms, and wineries. Visitors can tour orchards, sample fresh fruit, and enjoy wine tastings at local wineries like Cathedral Ridge Winery and Marchesi Vineyards.


A view looking down the main street in downtown Sisters, Oregon. Editorial credit: Bob Pool /
A view of the main street in downtown Sisters, Oregon. Image credit: Bob Pool via Shutterstock.

The cozy western retreat of Sisters holds a unique charm and a wealth of hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers. Outdoor recreation is a major draw in Sisters, with hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails winding through the surrounding Deschutes National Forest.

Culturally, Sisters boasts a thriving arts scene. The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, held annually in July, transforms the streets into a colorful outdoor gallery, showcasing thousands of quilts created by local and international artists. The Sisters Folk Festival is another noteworthy event celebrating music, arts, and community spirit. Culinary delights await in Sisters as well. The Cottonwood Cafe is a popular spot for hearty breakfasts and homestyle cooking, while Three Creeks Brewing Company offers a taste of Oregon's craft beer scene with a cozy brewpub atmosphere.


At the market in Old Town Florence, Oregon.
At the market in Old Town Florence, Oregon.

Florence's underappreciated status lies in its serene coastal ambiance, away from the bustling crowds of popular tourist spots. Heceta Beach and South Jetty Beach are popular spots for beachcombing, picnicking, and watching spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The nearby Siuslaw National Forest offers hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Alternatively, take some time to discover the Hobbit Trail, a magical woodland path that leads to a secluded beach with tide pools and stunning ocean views—a perfect spot for a peaceful retreat or beachcombing adventure.

Historically, Florence has ties to the region's timber industry, reflected in its preserved Old Town district. The Siuslaw Pioneer Museum showcases artifacts and exhibits detailing the area's logging and maritime heritage, including a collection of antique tools and logging equipment. The Heceta Head Lighthouse, just a short drive from Florence, is another historical landmark offering breathtaking coastal views and guided tours that delve into its fascinating history.


Horse riders during the lively Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon. Editorial credit: Png Studio Photography /
Horse riders during the lively Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon. Editorial credit: Png Studio Photography /

Pendleton's underappreciated status can be attributed to its location off the beaten path, away from major tourist routes. However, this town holds a wealth of historical significance, notably showcased in the iconic Pendleton Round-Up. This annual rodeo event, dating back to 1910, celebrates the region's cowboy heritage with thrilling rodeo competitions, parades, and cultural displays. History buffs will enjoy exploring the Pendleton Underground Tour, a captivating journey beneath the streets of Pendleton to the subterranean world of the city's past. Here, they will learn about the town's colorful history, including its Prohibition-era speakeasies, opium dens, and Chinese immigrant community.

Outdoor recreation abounds in Pendleton, with opportunities for hiking, fishing, and exploring the nearby Umatilla National Forest. The scenic Pendleton River Parkway offers a picturesque setting for picnics, birdwatching, and about 3 miles of walks along the riverbanks.


The Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon.
The Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon.

Newport boasts a fascinating maritime heritage, evident in attractions like the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This historic 1871 lighthouse has guided tours that delve into its maritime history and provide panoramic views of the coastline from its lantern room. Nature enthusiasts will find Newport to be a paradise. The town's iconic Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area flaunts rugged cliffs and tide pools teeming with marine life. Visitors can explore hiking trails, spot whales from the observation decks, and learn about coastal ecology at the Interpretive Center.

Food lovers can indulge in Newport's culinary scene, which is known for its fresh seafood and waterfront dining options. Bestsellers include clam chowder at Mo's Seafood and Chowder and Dungeness crab at Local Ocean Seafoods.

Exploring the underappreciated towns of Oregon promises a journey filled with hidden gems and unique experiences. Visitors can expect captivating lighthouses, serene wetlands, vibrant arts scenes, and engaging marine adventures. These towns, often overlooked in favor of more popular destinations, reveal Oregon's diverse heritage and scenic splendor, inviting travelers to step off the beaten path and uncover the treasures that lie beyond the tourist hotspots. From the coastal charm of Astoria and Yachats to the alpine wonders of Joseph and Sisters, Oregon's underappreciated towns beckon with open arms.

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