"The West Coast is the best coast" seems to be the mantra for folks living in Washington, Oregon, and California. While the title of "best coast" is certainly not settled, there's no denying that the West Coast of the United States is pretty freaking outstanding.
Craft Beers, snowcapped mountains, sunny beaches, and dense rainforests dot the West Coast map. It is a casual wonderland perfect for outdoorsy types, history buffs, and fans of good food and beer. Tourists crowds keep growing on the west coast, so here are ten lesser-known cities you should visit for a slice of what makes this region great.
10 Hood River, OR
Located in the Columbia River Gorge between Portland and the Dalles, Hood River is at the crossroads of multiple climate regions. It is smack dab in the middle of the Gorge, offering hiking and waterfall exploring, not to mention high winds for the best windsurfing in the state.
To the South are wineries and the snowcapped Mount Hood, with historic Timberline lodge nestled at the top. It is a perfect escape for active fans of the outdoors. If you're looking for a bite and a drink, try Double Mountain Brewing downtown. Their wood fire pizza is to die for and it offers some of the best craft brewing near Portland.
9 Ilwaco, WA
This lesser-known Port Town is a quaint escape just outside the more touristy Long Beach, Washington. The town itself has a sweet little waterfront with some fine eateries and shops that are great to explore. There are some excellent historic and nature parks nearby though that are a must.
Cape Disappointment State Park is one of the best in Washington. The rocky surf crashes against the coast and guarded by the solitary Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The history of the area is infamous for its exploration and shipwrecks due to the violent waters. Be sure to stop by Fort Canby as well for a look at some derelict army batteries overtaken by the old-growth forest.
8 Sisters, OR
While many choose Bend as their Central Oregon home base, a lesser know town is a great option for a more mountainous locale. Located at the base of the cascades, Sisters stands as a transitionary space between the forested mountains and the sage filled high desert.
It has a perfect small-town feel that you'll never want to leave. Grab a coffee at the cabin-like Sisters Coffee Company before you hike Black Butte for a perfect view of the Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson. A short drive away is Camp Sherman, a fly fishers paradise hidden away in a thicket of Ponderosa Pine. If you visit during the Summer, you might get a glimpse of the famous Quilt festival the town hosts annually, showcasing the art of local craftspeople.
7 Sequim, WA
Right at the tip-top of Washington state lies the little town of Sequim, Washington. A short ferry ride and a drive from Seattle, this town is known globally for its massive Lavender farms. It seems everywhere you go you'll be seeing purple.
Apart from the gorgeous lavender farms, the town itself is a cute stopover as well. The Oak Table Cafe is the perfect breakfast spot with the most insane potato pancakes you'll ever have. If hiking is your jam, you will need to make a trek out to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge for a taste of the Puget Sound
6 San Luis Obispo, CA
Right of the coast and divided by the historic Highway 101 is San Luis Obispo, California. Starting off as a Spanish Mission in 1772 (which you can still visit today), San Luis Obispo is a great little city that has a ton to offer on a coastal road trip. Just a short away is San Luis Obispo bay, complete with beaches and the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse.
In town you can stay at the extravagantly weird Madonna Inn, complete with Caveman themed rooms and a waterfall. The gumwall, similar to Seattle's, is much larger, taking up an entire alleyway. Not to mention the exceptional food and music events, San Lusi Obispo is an underrated gem of the Central Californian Coast.
5 Ashland, OR
In the middle of the Rogue River Valley sits a Shakespearean wonderland. Ashland, Oregon is a little slice of heaven. Known the world over for its Shakespeare Festival, the renowned theater runs from March through October, entertaining audiences from all over the world.
Yet Somehow it still attracts fewer visitors than a lot of other West Coast cities. Outside of the festival, the city is absolutely beautiful. Boutique shops, the excellent Standing Stone Brewery, and Lithia Park make up this every growing downtown. It is a haven for artists and retirees, and an excellently relaxing vacation spot.
4 Port Townsend, WA
Port Townsend is a lovely little Victorian town at the top of the Puget Sound. Covered in lovely period mansions, this port town his full of history and charm. Stop by the Fort Wooden State Park for a bit of military history, and later head to the Art Deco Lighting Museum downtown.
This lovely little gem is one of many historic small towns along the peninsula. Not far away is an even more period-accurate village of Port Orford. Both offer glimpses into the past while not skimping out on modern benefits, such as coffee shops and pizzerias.
3 Jacksonville, OR
Jacksonville is like stepping into the old west, but with the added charm of modern-day small-town America. The city center is made up of incredibly old buildings, with the classic western facade. Local restaurants, pubs, shops, and even the original town bank make up the city.
It is also one of the more reputably haunted towns, with ghost tours galore and a spooky Pioneer cemetery overlooking the town. The biggest benefit to this Southern Oregon charmer is its amphitheater which offers seasonal outdoor concerts with some of the biggest names in music. Only a short drive from Ashland, include this on your Southern Oregon itinerary.
2 San Juan Bautista, CA
Speaking of the old west, San Juan Bautista is another great example. The town was originally the site of an old Spanish mission. In fact, it was immortalized in the classic Hitchcock film Vertigo.
The historic Mission is now available for visitors, where it has brought the authentic life of mission residents out of the past. The spot is also just a short drive to other Bay Area highlights, so it doesn't hurt to keep it in your itinerary.
1 Astoria, OR
Astoria has a bit of everything for anyone who visits. It stands as the oldest settlement west of the rocky mountains, as well as the final stop for Lewis and Clark on their expedition out west. This town is full of living history.
It also has a thriving arts culture, with live music, vaudevillian theater, and drag shows regularly. It's a mini-Portland when it comes to beer, boasting multiple micro-breweries (some of the best in the state). Looking at the natural wonders, it is a short drive to the beach, and the magnificent Fort Stevens State Park, where you can find where the mighty Columbia meets the Pacific Ocean. It's a dreamy sort of small town, where you still feel adventure around every corner.