The Pacific Northwest is home to the quirky cities of Portland and the coffee capital of Seattle. It is bounded by a ruggedly beautiful coastline, where verdant forests along the headland lead to rocky outcrops that look down to the beating ocean waves. This scenically charged region is also strewn with off-the-beaten-path towns along the peninsulas or hidden within mountains, which makes the enclaves even more picturesque. Discover these nine underrated towns on your next trip to the Pacific Northwest, or make a point of hitting a few on your way from Seattle to the coast or on the most worthy coastal roadtrip.
This viciously overlooked townscape in the Beaver State is the oldest town west of the Rocky Mountains, with a bit of everything for everyone who visits. Astroia was Lewis and Clark's last stop on their westward expedition, so you can expect to find a lot of scenic history around these parts. Check out the thriving arts scene around prettified streets, with live music, vaudevillian theater, and even regular drag shows.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Astoria is its vast beer scene. Seek out its multiple microbreweries, including Oregon's best, but first make a diversion into nature. Take a short drive to the beach sand strip, bounded by Fort Stevens State Park, and seek out the spot where Columbia meets and picturesquely flows into the Pacific. Set up a summertime picnic with a cooler of that beer, or return to the dreamy small town for a pint and have more adventures the next day.
Bellingham, just 88 miles north of Seattle, is one shining gem you will be lucky to discover on the way to Whistler or Vancouver. The quirky college town is among the most scenic and underrated along one of the most scenic drives in the entire state, off I-5. The historic town of Bellingham is an aesthetic place to uncover on a stroll, set scenically candy-wrapped by a picturesque bay. Enjoy the lively street vibe, with reasonably priced attractions and great tourist services for any group.
Explore the charming old district in the southern part of town, with shops and cafes for every taste, and check out the vast brewing scene, including some of the West Coast's finest places. The bustling municipality is also great for everything outdoorsy, like skiing and hiking. Linger a little longer for a ferry ride around the bay, and try some great restaurants to recharge for the journey ahead.
This underrated largest town along the Kitsap Peninsula boasts a spectacular mountainous backdrop and a renowned outdoor art scene. Just picture it: large plazas surrounded by public parks that celebrate with plenty of events the city's historic naval and maritime heritage. Seek out both urban and natural displays, and nearly all of it is free to the public. Stroll across the bridge to the hip little Manette for sights as well as boat launches and cycling trails to explore around this community with artsy shops, restaurants, bars, and bakeries.
Stroll or bike along the Bridge Urban Trail's 3-mile loop through neighborhoods, the Manette, and over the Warren Avenue Bridges amid scenic waterways and passing through parks and streets lined by historic houses. Stop by the farmer's market along the route, local businesses, and art districts. Sightsee the memorials along the Bremerton waterfront and the Arts District before heading harborside to Fountain Park, home to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Memorial Plaza and the historic USS Turner Joy at the Harborside/Mentor Boardwalk. Kids love the Valentinetti Puppet Museum & Evergreen Theatre and the Bug Museum & Nature Gift Shop west of the shipyard.
Find this lesser-known port town and consider yourself to have hit the jackpot. Ashland is the gateway to one of Washington's best, Cape Disappointment State Park, with many attractions to linger for in town, away from the more touristy Long Beach, Washington. Share the sight of the rocky surf crashing against the coast in the glorious park with only the scenically lonely Cape Disappointment Lighthouse as your only accomplice.
Check out the sweet little waterfront strip for shopping and dining with views of the area's notorious waters that turned many explorations into shipwrecks. Veer into historic and nature parks and stop by Fort Canby, where derelict army batteries are scenically weighed down by the old-growth forest cover.
Just 17 miles from Seattle off highway I-90, Issaquah is the Emerald City's must-discover easternmost suburb with a small town feel, glorious nature, and great attractions. Enjoy the refreshing 1,700-acre spread of park land on three sides on a quick getaway from the city and take the High Point Trailhead for a hike through a verdant forest with bridges and mountain views peeking behind the trees. Access Lake Sammamish State Park from the north end of town—your ultimate pathway to the beach and its beautiful namesake lake.
Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and sunset picnics on the sand while the kids play and go monkey on the Sunset Playground. The creek through Issaquah's heart is a quick natural escape for the lucky locals and visiting weekenders. Enjoy lovely strolls with cute water sights on one side and historic buildings along the street on the other. Issaquah got plenty of good eats, like the renowned Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-In with its famous XXX Burgers, and a trip across the floating bridge to reach it for a special bonus. Forget that you are just 20 minutes out of the city, but enjoy having entertainment nearby.
La Conner, Washington
Find this cute waterfront town just 66 miles from Seattle, perched along the Swinomish Channel. La Conner is utterly captivating with its strip along the waters packed with attractions. Enjoy scenic walks and check out some of its enticing restaurants and bars, along with a great brewery and a winery. Dine on fresh catch at a number of excellent seafood restaurants and head to the literal ice cream tower for the best dessert on a hot summer's day.
There are more local businesses with antiques and eclectic finds than in any other town of similar size in the state. Despite this, La Conner sits humble without the tourist trap vibe, even along its main 1st St. Enjoy everything with open views and no lines for the hotspots on a weekend escape from the city and stay at one of the scenically historic, but oh-so-comfortable, 12 rooms of the Hotel Planter.
Lincoln City, Oregon
This vibrant, underrated town along the coast will leave you with lasting memories, forever grateful that you have discovered its most worthy scene. Lincoln City is filled with endless discoveries, like historic districts with a variety of shopping, dining, and fun attractions. Imagine a picture-perfect getaway where you can join in the fun during colorful kite festivals, eat fresh catch every day, learn a new skill at the glass blowing studio, and bring home a handmade souvenir to enjoy or gift to a loved one.
Check out the aforementioned Lincoln City Glass Center along with the Lincoln City Outlets for shopping, and stop by the casino if you are a fan. The eclectic food scene, from fine dining to family-friendly, will keep you happily satisfied and ready to keep exploding or dive into the lovely nightlife. Enjoy seven miles of beautiful, walkable beaches with hidden treasures and every inch as sandy and lovely as the last for sunbathing and picnics with views. Find this pristine beach stretch from Roads End to Siletz Bay for a relaxing day, or climb to the top of Cascade Head to the Salmon River Estuary. The Nelscott beach sees world-class waves, while the bay is great for paddling.
The town, just a short drive to both the ocean and the dunes, may just be the most underrated in the state. Reedsport is scenically tangled amid three rivers and verdant forests filled with wildlife. The real Oregon Coast crossroads town strives to keep the rugged state's spirit and a rich heritage of its own, but its cute streets filled with modern culture and friendly locals make it the most welcoming place for tourists.
Enjoy the ancient forests on scenic hikes and camping trips, much like the town's founding days as a camp for rough-handed men who built the Southern Pacific Railroad track to Coos Bay. Now the hub for the Oregon Dunes region, Reedsport is home to chainsaw-carved wood sculptures and painted totem poles that have withstood the test of time, as well as the Umpqua Discovery Center with natural and cultural history exhibits. The by-running Dean Creek is great for a hike along, with covered vantage points and year-round Roosevelt elk habitat.
This beautiful town, with its own historic Grays Harbor Lighthouse, scenically juts out on a peninsula with the Pacific on one side and the North Bay at its head and on the other side. The 129 miles from Seattle to Westport make this underrated town a perfectly uncrowded summertime vacation spot with all the applicable things to see and do to make it a fun one with lots of memories.
This town is a real breath of fresh air from Washington's most popular seaside destination, Ocean Shores, just across the bay. Westport is a more relaxed surfing mecca for the adventurous at heart and sightseers, where you can dig for razor clams and visit the Maritime Museum. Begin your excursions on your way in with a stop at Kurt Cobain's childhood home in nearby Aberdeen and swing by one of its most out-of-the-way bars to leave on a high note.
The beautiful Pacific Northwest region is strewn with hotspots and less popular towns. Uncover these nine underrated gems amid some of the nation's most scenic nature on your next getaway from the city. From pristine nature trails through fresh, verdant forests to uncrowded beaches bounded by refreshing waters, the explorations are boundless.
Trek in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and seek discoveries along the historic districts, where cool sites are interspersed with modern attractions for every taste. The scenic maritime history awaits with lighthouses, daunting cliffs, and notorious waves in waters once responsible for pirates' shipwrecks and now great places to surf, with plenty of ready-to-be-caught seafood for you to enjoy prepped fresh.