Gig Harbor, Washington: Late afternoon sunlight at the harbor.

9 Must-Visit Small Towns in Washington

When the state of Washington is mentioned in conversation, it's a normal reaction for people to think of dark clouds, pouring rain, and endless rolling hills. For some lovers of the outdoors, this is a perfect Twilight-like dream. If this is the case for you, here are nine must-visit small towns in Washington that will make you feel as if you've stepped into a whole different reality.

La Conner

La Conner, Washington State: Swinomish Channel with Mt. Baker in the background.

La Conner, Washington State: Swinomish Channel with Mt. Baker in the background.

Traveling to La Conner is a lot like stepping into a scenic postcard. This small town located on the Salish Sea between Vancouver and Seattle has built an entire settlement along the bend of a charming river. Enjoy their vast collection of historical museums, walk tours, or go out boating to capture some once-in-a-lifetime pictures.

What's most notable about La Conner, however, is the variety of activities tourists can find. It doesn't matter what time of year you visit this small town because it has something new to offer for every season. During the months of October to April, the Trumpeter Swans and Snow Geese are a sight to behold — so preparing yourself with binoculars and cameras is always a good idea. In November, there are holiday parades and art events that are sure to bring the community and tourists alike together.


Winthrop, Washington, USA: Shops along Riverside Avenue.

Winthrop, Washington, USA: Shops along Riverside Avenue. By Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Imagine riding horses, drinking wine, and dancing the night away to live music. Winthrop offers all of this and more with all its family-friendly activities. The tiny old western town is filled to the brim with a rich history in every corner with its antique boardwalks or vibrant boutiques. It captures the 1850s Wild West with ease while also adding fun for all to enjoy.

On Winthrop Washington's official guide for a weekend getaway, the itinerary is packed. There are wineries and bistros to take a look at while also giving time for visitors to take in the stunning views and maybe have a go at the skating rink. It's a great blend of both natural views and entertainment.


Pre-Christmas celebrations in Leavenworth, Washington.

Pre-Christmas celebrations in Leavenworth, Washington.

Unsure of when to visit this quaint little European-style town? Wintertime is the answer. During the holiday season, Leavenworth transforms into a modern-day "Whoville" and lights up with magic and Christmas joy. Nestled in the picturesque Cascade Mountains, not only is the scenery beautiful, but the winter months bring this place to life.

During the night, be sure to visit the Village of Lights, which is precisely what you may picture — except the entire town is filled with sounds of laughter and happiness. Or perhaps visit the various karaoke nights, Adventure Park, and more to get the whole experience of what this unique little town has to offer.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend, Washington: Historic District, a late 19th-century port town on the west coast.
Port Townsend, Washington: Historic District, a late 19th-century port town on the west coast. 

Port Townsend has one phrase locals go by: "Leave ordinary behind — experience extraordinary," and it's easy to see why, given how unique this little town is. History is embedded in every corner, showing its early Native American roots to its Victorian architecture. Not only is it an excellent getaway for adventurous families looking to brave the seas, but it's also a truly romantic destination with its various boutiques and swoon-worthy restaurants.

Live theatre and other performances are another pastime that locals love to enjoy. Head on over to the Key City Public Theatre to enjoy shows any time of the year, or visit the Art Walk to speak with artists while enjoying refreshments. There is an activity for every kind of person in this unique little town where the extraordinary thrives.


Sequim, Washington: Chamber of Commerce and visitors center.
Sequim, Washington: Chamber of Commerce and visitors center. Editorial credit: CL Shebley /

Have you ever dreamed of wearing a long, flowing dress and running through a field full of lavenders? Look no further than Sequim if that's you! One of the driest places in western Washington, Sequim holds a certain small-town charm topped with unique outdoor experiences. In fact, the Sequim Lavender Trail is unlike any other family activity, where tourists are able to visit various lavender farms in a short period of time. Guests are able to follow a tour guide as they explain the history of how the land came to be, or they can participate in festivals, gaze at alpacas, and "taste" special essential oils. 


Coupeville, Washington: Three old buildings anchor the waterfront strip of downtown Coupeville on Whidbey Island.

Coupeville, Washington: Three old buildings anchor the waterfront strip of downtown Coupeville on Whidbey Island.

Coupeville is Washington's second-oldest town and holds many years of history in its farms, buildings, and more. It used to be home to Coast Salish villagers of Lower Skagit people and remained as such for thousands of years until European settlers arrived. The meeting of the land and sea provided a great opportunity where crops were grown, and life was rich.

While Coupeville looks a lot different nowadays, that doesn't mean it isn't a special place to visit. Lovers of history will find a certain thrill in being able to explore the Coupeville Wharf while kayaking on Penn Cove and enjoying all the eats this small town has to offer. There is also a ferry so that traveling around the region is convenient and accessible.

Gig Harbor

Gig Harbor, Washington: An aerial view of Gig Harbor.

Gig Harbor, Washington: An aerial view of Gig Harbor.

Gig Harbor is one of the most well-known places in Washington State, and for good reason. The vast variety of things to do, especially on the water, attracts tourists from all over the world. The water is a place for families to earn income and tie people with one another, but it's also a place of recreation where visitors and locals alike can paddle or sail and walk along the waterfront to enjoy the gorgeous sunset. Not to mention, Gig Harbor's canoe and kayak team are national champions.

The inns by the harbor, such as The Maritime Inn and Inn at Gig Harbor, all offer a stunning view of the water and boats and are located in a tourist-like, convenient area. 


Stehekin, Washington: Boat landing for passenger ferry.
Stehekin, Washington: Boat landing for passenger ferry. Editorial credit: Amehime /

For those who genuinely want to get away from the rest of the world, look no further than Stehekin. It's more of a community rather than a town, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the visit. Nestled in the heart of the North Cascades, this remote area is only accessible by plane, boat, or foot, but once you do reach your destination, all your worries are sure to fly away.

Listen to the freshly melted glaciers glide along the rocks, or take an electric bike to soak in the peaceful nature of it all. Nearby ranches, lodges, or pastries offer excellent dining options where classic staples such as burgers, salmon, soups, and freshly-made beer can be found. And while Stehekin may be described as "the middle of nowhere," its adorable log or lake cabins will bring a sense of comfort and home.


Forks, Washington: The Forks Timber Museum with numerous displays and relics from the early logging days in and around Forks.
Forks, Washington: The Forks Timber Museum. Editorial credit: Chris Haden /

"In the state of Washington, under a near constant cover of clouds and rain, there's a small town named Forks." Twilight described it best — and while the description may seem a bit gloomy, there's a certain charm and comfort that Forks has. The community takes pride in its weather, and it isn't every day that someone can say they were able to hike underneath looming lush trees and dark, rainy weather. While maybe not everyone's cup of tea, it sure is unforgettable. There are also many other things to partake in, such as kayaking down the river, visiting nearby museums, and, of course, visiting the Olympic National Park.

Forks also has many events honoring the beloved Twilight franchise, as well! There is an annual Forever Twilight in Forks Festival held on the weekend closest to September 13th (Bella's Birthday), where people come together and celebrate Stephenie Meyer and everything Twilight-related. During any other time of the year, fans can get a glimpse of a collection of props used throughout the movies, get a picture with Bella's truck, or take a map to see every significant Twilight stop in Forks.

Washington's Hidden Gems

Washington is undoubtedly one of the most naturally gorgeous states in the U.S. while also having that big-city feel if visitors travel to Seattle and Olympia, all within a couple of hours from these destinations. The simplicity and magic of something as familiar as rain and clouds are showcased beautifully here, and the small towns within are the best places to witness it all.

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