Customers waiting to order at the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Company in Friday Harbor, Washington. Editorial credit: The Image Party /

The Most Picturesque Small Towns in Washington

Being named after the first US president—and being the only state named after a US president—Washington is certainly a special state to explore. As a major producer of apples and the birthplace of Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks, tourists from all over the globe will mostly be impressed by the most picturesque small towns in Washington. Amidst the evergreen forests of the Evergreen State thrive humble communities like Leavenworth and Sequim at the base of majestic mountains. Neighboring the seas and bays are sparkling little villages like Port Townsend and Poulsbo that are sure to keep you warm and safe in a state with occasional fits of rain. So prepare an umbrella, pick your most insulated clothing, and ready your cameras for a wintery and rainy trip through Washington’s most picturesque small towns.


Downtown Coupeville waterfront.
Downtown Coupeville waterfront. Image credit T.Schofield via Shutterstock

On the island of Whidbey lies the humble settlement of Coupeville, a town capturing the perfect simplicities of the state of Washington. Approximately 11 miles away from Port Townsend, the region in and around Coupeville were once Coast Salish villages belonging to the Lower Skagit peoples. These days, indigenous peoples and travelers from far and wide can immerse themselves in the watery wonders of Penn Cove.

Being the second oldest town in Washington, Coupeville was also the site of numerous TV shows, such as the cult 90s classic, Practical Magic. And being the at the heart of Ebey’s Reserve, one can find all manner of eagles, blue herons, and other wonderful wildlife while gazing at the imposing Olympic Mountains in the distance. Consider roving through the many parks in Whidbey and Camano Island such as the Price Sculpture Forest, Fort Casey State Park, or the not-so deceptive Deception Pass State Park. Afterwards, settle down in splendid accommodations like The Inn at Penn Cove, Salty Vons Waterfront Inn, or Tyee Restaurant and Hotel.


Bavarian style village Leavenworth located near Cascade Mountains
Bavarian style village Leavenworth located near Cascade Mountains, Editorial credit: AnjelikaGr /

In the awesome Cascade Mountain Range, the Bavarian-styled village of Leavenworth entreats visitors with a cornucopia of stunning surprises. At the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, you can admire over 9,000 nutcrackers that old school woodcarvers and other artists have crafted for centuries. At the Greater Leavenworth Museum, on the other hand, you can learn all about how Leavenworth transformed from a simple railroad and timbertown to being the most Bavarian village in the US. Head over to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm to pet some of the majestic steads of Santa Claus. Experience thrills and chills at the Leavenworth Adventure Park for the Alpine Coaster, Alpine Ascent Climbing Wall, the Bavarian Bungee Bounce Trampoline, and Gems of The Enchantments Mining Sluice.

Birdwatchers will be fascinated by wild eagles and ospreys at the Wenatchee River and Waterfront Park. Some of you might be enchanted by the Enchantment, a vast region of wilderness alongside Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, Lake Wenatchee State Park, and the distant Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. From June 20 to 23, attend the much-beloved Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration to hear the rambunctious music of dozens of accordions. Last but not least, purchase a place to stay at the Haus Rohrbach Pension, the Cashmere Mountain Bed & Breakfast, or Na-Mu Lodge among dozens more.


Sequim, WA, USA: Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center
Sequim, WA, USA: Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. Editorial credit: CL Shebley /

Approximately 66 miles from the city of Seattle, the lovely town of Sequim is a paradise filled with Olympian marvels. Mainly, the humungous Olympic National Park and the Olympic Mountains all of which can be accessed by following the snaking Dungeness River towards the mountains’ base. Uncover the riveting cultures of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley at the Olympic Theatre Arts, where live performances are aplenty. Stand atop the New Dungeness Lighthouse for views of the Salish Sea and the distant structures of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. You can get a chance to be close to bears and big cats at the Olympic Game Farm, or you can watch whole fields of lavenders blossom to life during the Sequim Lavender Weekend from July 19 - 21. Do attend the Sequim Irrigation Festival every month of May, and remember to rest up in the chilly evenings at the Ocean Star Inn, the Olympic View Inn, or the Red Lion Inn & Suites.

Port Townsend

View of Port Townsend Washington from Puget Sound.
View of Port Townsend Washington from Puget Sound.

Port Townsend is an extraordinary small town just two hours away from Seattle, replete with a compelling maritime history and numerous modern amenities. The Fort Worden Historical State Park, the crown jewel of Washington’s State Park system, was once a military base that defended Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca against potential invaders from the Pacific Ocean during WWI and WWII. Visitors can learn more about the S’Klallam people who have thrived in the region for centuries along the the čičməhán Trail (Cheech-ma-han). You might be interested in crossing Port Townsend Bay to Marrowstone Island, where Fort Flagler Historical State Park and Mystery Bay State Park await. Aviation enthusiasts will certainly enjoy the vintage planes and other aircrafts at the Port Townsend Aero Museum. For those of you who wish to spend a longer period in Port Townsend, you can always feel safe and sound while staying at Manresa Castle Hotel, The Monarch Hotel, or Port Townsend Inn.


Front Street, Poulsbo, Washington.
Front Street, Poulsbo, Washington. Image credit Steven Pavlov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed “Little Norway” due to cultural and historic ties to Norway and other countries in Scandinavia, Poulsbo can be found in the fjords of Liberty Bay with the impressive Olympic Mountains sandwiching the town. Only about 45 minutes from Sequim, the townsfolk celebrate both an annual Viking Fest and a Road Race every May. There is also a Valisblot on February when the Sons of Norway Vikings light bonfires for their ancestors, and a Midsommer Fest in June. Visitors might also be interested in participating in the Chief Seattle Days, a three-day public festival on August honoring Chief Seattle of the Suquamish People. Aside from Norwegian celebrations, Poulsbo also has an alpaca farm in Sawdust Hill and several museums such as the Poulsbo Heritage Museum, the Poulsbo Maritime Museum, and Naval Undersea Museum. Should you need lodgings, then look no further than to the Raspberry Ridge Farm, the Poulsbo Inn & Suites, or Hotel Scandi.

Gig Harbor

People enjoy the Classic Yacht Festival Tour on Gig Harbor, Washington
People enjoy the Classic Yacht Festival Tour on Gig Harbor, Washington, via july7th /

If you have a gig for traveling, then you definitely should visit the gorgeous town of Gig Harbor. Only 17 minutes away from the city of Tacoma, Gig Harbor hails itself as “the Maritime City” due to its historic and modern connections to the winding waterways of Washington. One can discover more about Gig Harbor’s maritime traditions and history at the Harbor History Museum, which include several exhibits and artifacts of the indigenous and pioneering cultures. Outdoor lovers can brave the snowy slopes of Mount Rainier, one of the nation’s highest peaks, or venture into the Gig Harbor Viewpoint for splendid sceneries of Gig Harbor and the surrounding waterscape and landscape. Take a scenic boat trip on the Gig Harbor Gondola or a tour of Heritage Distilling, the most award-winning craft distillery in the US. Then when all the exploration gets you weary, settle down at the Inn at Gig Harbor or The Waterfront Inn.


Stehekin, Washington: Boat landing at the secluded community on Lake Chelan
Stehekin, Washington: Boat landing at the secluded community on Lake Chelan

Find the way through the North Cascades and into the serene town of Stehekin, whose name comes from the Salishan phrase for “the way through.” (It could also mean "turning around place" in Lushootseed/Coast Salish and "mountain tops" in nxa'amxcin/Interior Salish.) As a remote community only accessible via boat, airplane, or on foot, Stehekin is a distant getaway from every metropolitan and urban area in the state of Washington.

Lake Chelan—the third deepest lake in the US—is an enduring and placid destination for those seeking the tranquility of the outdoors. The historic Buckner Orchard, found past Rainbow Falls, is home to over 350 apple trees and other organic produce that testify to Stehekin’s active agricultural community. One can ride horses through the beautiful Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and beyond, even to the Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. More fun activities await in Stehekin, so find your way through the Cascade Mountains and seek nightly shelter at the Stehekin Garden House, Stehekin Creekside Cabin, or North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin.

Friday Harbor

View of downtown Friday Harbor, the main town in the San Juan Islands archipelago in Washington State, United States
View of downtown Friday Harbor, the main town in the San Juan Islands archipelago in Washington State, United States. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

Friday might well be the most appropriate day to visit and explore Friday Harbor, a charming small town on San Juan Island. Being the major commercial center of the San Juan Islands archipelago means that Friday Harbor attracts all sorts of visitors, many of whom spend a long time in town due to several landmarks in the area. The Whale Museum, for example, supports and promotes the protection of whales in the Salish Sea. The San Juan Islands Museum of Arts (SJIMA) houses numerous exhibits and masterpieces depicting the vibrant culture in the island and the town of Friday Harbor. Finally, the San Juan Historical Museum chronicles much of Friday Harbor’s history, even the explorations of Captain Vancouver and the development of Coast Salish settlements.

At Fairweather Park, admire the Coast Salish house posts that Susan Point, a remarkable Musqueam First Nation artist, carved. On the other hand, you can appreciate the Reef Net Captain Totem Pole and two Salmon Story Boards at the San Juan Island National Historical Park, specifically at English Camp. Lastly, head over to the American Camp for state-of-the-art exhibits that, according to park superintendent Elexis Fredy, pays “tribute to the multiple histories of San Juan Island and their meaning for different individuals and groups and the unique environment of our island.” When it comes to accommodations, you will feel right at home in The Orca Inn, Discovery Inn, or Friday Harbor House.


Street view of downtown Winthrop, Washington.
Street view of downtown Winthrop, Washington.

About 25 miles from Stehekin, across vast mountainous regions in the North Cascades, travelers will find themselves in the pleasant haven of Winthrop. As a town with a Wild West ambiance, one can feel like an adventurous cowboy while roving through the Methow Valley and its many hidden treasures. Every first days of March, the skies above Winthrop brighten with dozens of air balloons for hundreds of residents and visitors to view the North Cascades from the clouds.

Around May, Winthrop hosts the annual ’49er Days where the whole community commemorates its Wild West heritages. Consider touring the Shafer Museum, formerly called the “Castle” when Winthrop’s first settlers used to live there. Or you can visit Pearrygin Lake State Park for the pristine waters of the North Cascades. If you ever need to refreshen and recharge for the next day, then let excellent lodgings like Mount Gardner Inn, Chewuch Inn & Cabins, and Winthrop Inn boost your stamina for tomorrow.

In Conclusion

Beyond significant landmarks such as Harbor Island—the largest man-made island in the US—and Mount St. Helens, you will be enamored by the most picturesque small towns in Washington. Regardless of whether you are deep in the North Cascades in towns like Winthrop and Stehekin, or lounging in the waters of Gig Harbor or Friday Harbor, there are no disappointments to experience when you are roaming through these excellent communities. Purchase a Starbucks, get your traveling gear from Amazon, or eat one of Washington’s exquisite apples while browsing for more information using Microsoft. Whatever you do, since Washington was the first state to ban texting while driving, take care on your road trip as you visit the most picturesque small towns in the Evergreen State.

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