21 Best Towns in Washington State in 2023 (A Local’s Picks)
Mountain villages, forest escapes, rural retreats, and urban communities describe the many small towns in Washington state. I’m a local who’s gotten to explore a ton of them, and I’m going to let you in on some incredible Washington towns, including my personal favorites.
Note that this article focuses on towns with populations of around 10,000 or less according to the United States Census Bureau. If you want to know more about the bigger metropolises, bookmark my article on the best cities in Washington.
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Towns in Washington State
- FAQs About Washington Towns
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21 Best Towns in Washington State
Featured in a famous TV series, this small town is the gateway to several popular hikes
📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in North Bend on Booking
If you’re a fan of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series, then North Bend is probably already on your radar. About 40 minutes east of Seattle, North Bend is home to Twede’s Cafe. Grab the Twin Peaks’ staple (cherry pie and coffee), but make sure to try some of their delicious burgers, fries, and milkshakes as well.
North Bend is home to several popular hikes near Seattle, including Mount Si, Little Si, and Rattlesnake Ledge. If you’re not up for hiking, visit the parks in town for incredible views of the surrounding mountains. You can also learn about the town’s history at the Snoqualmie Valley Museum.
A mellow and romantic waterfront town with good restaurants and water recreation
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Gig Harbor is a small, maritime town nestled along the shores of a bustling little harbor. The town is just a short twenty minutes from Tacoma, the third largest city in Washington state. Gig Harbor is a calm retreat from city life and the perfect place for water lovers.
Rent a kayak, take a boat tour, or book a gondola ride for two to get out on the harbor in style. The downtown core of Gig Harbor is relatively sleepy but has good shopping and dining options. My top recommendations are Tides Tavern and 7 Seas Brewing since both have great patios to enjoy on a dry day.
This tiny, remote community is the perfect spot to explore North Cascades National Park
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You can only reach this tiny village at the foot of the North Cascades by backpacking, riding a ferry, or taking a seaplane. Stehekin is an unincorporated community of around 80 permanent residents, making it the smallest “town” on this list.
A visit to Stehekin is a little escape, and one of the best things to do in the USA. Hang around the quiet town and recharge from everyday life. Or camp here and go on day hikes to explore the rest of the North Cascades wilderness.
Whatever you choose, no visit to Stehekin is complete without a jaunt to the Stehekin Pastry Company. There, you’ll find the most incredible sweet and savory pastries you’ll have on your journey.
A cute town on the Kitsap Peninsula with Norwegian roots
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Poulsbo is, in a word, quaint. People who love small towns with interesting history and rich cultures should add it to their itineraries. Visit the Heritage and Maritime Museums to learn about the town’s Norwegian history. In May, attend the annual Viking Fest for an immersive experience filled with food, drinks, games, and late-night festivities.
The downtown area of Poulsbo has lots of worthwhile local shops for souvenir shopping. Make sure you also grab treats from the bakeries and cafes to eat at Liberty Bay Waterfront Park. And don’t forget to sit down for a beer at the Viking-inspired Vallholl Brewing.
A historic waterfront town with preserved Victorian buildings and cool festivals
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Port Townsend is one of Washington’s best small towns and my personal favorite. The downtown has antique stores, art galleries, restaurants, historic buildings, and waterfront views. Adventurous types should take a Port Townsend Bay Tour with the Northwest Maritime Center. You can also explore abandoned military bunkers in Fort Worden State Park.
If you like festivals, Port Townsend has several cool offerings. Come in June for the unusual yet lively Steampunk Festival. Or snag tickets to THING, a new music, and arts festival featuring up-and-coming artists.
A mountain town with cross-country ski trails and a cool, Western-style downtown
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Winthrop is a tiny Western town located in the beautiful, recreation-rich Methow Valley. It’s a paradise for avid cross-country skiers. Winthrop has a massive 120 miles of groomed ski trails for winter sports enthusiasts.
Plan a visit in early March to see the colorful Hot Air Balloon Roundup at sunrise on three consecutive mornings. Summertime brings hiking opportunities, along with fly fishing and horseback riding.
Winthrop’s small downtown area is a great place to recharge after a day of activity. Food from Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon, cold, sugary ice cream from Sherri’s Sweet Shoppe, and a brew from Old Schoolhouse Brewery are all musts.
Washington’s rainiest town with amazing access to the Olympic National Park
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Forks is a small town turned popular tourist destination because of its feature in the popular Twilight book series. However, it offers visitors more than vampires and teen romance. It’s known as one of the rainiest towns in the United States, but if that doesn’t scare you away, book a stay in Forks.
It’s perfectly situated for exploration around the Olympic Peninsula. Go to Ruby or Rialto Beach on the Pacific coast or check out the Hoh Rainforest and Sol Duc Falls. Don’t miss the Tree of Life in Kalaloch, one of the best things to do in Washington State. If you’re looking for a town to be your home base for these adventures, Forks is well worth a visit.
A relaxing town in southwestern Washington known for its long, sandy beach and annual Kite Festival
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Go to Long Beach on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula to relax and rejuvenate, especially during the summertime.
Unlike the pebbly sands of the beaches on the Olympic Peninsula, the sand on the southern coast is finer, giving it a more widespread appeal. Spend your time clamming, crabbing, or fishing. Take an easy stroll along the boardwalk, or go on little trips to the historical sights around the peninsula.
Long Beach’s main spectacle is the annual summertime Kite Festival where you’ll see the clear skies painted in color.
An artistic and easygoing atmosphere makes this town a relaxing getaway
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Whidbey Island, one of the best islands in Washington, has several unique towns worth visiting. Langley, located on the southwest side of the island, is one of these.
A laid-back, bohemian vibe permeates the tiny town. Art is valued here and you can admire local art in the various galleries in a walkable downtown. Spend time by the waterfront or relax in the coffee shops. If you end up craving a bit of excitement, order cocktails and a bite to eat at Spyhop, a favorite local haunt.
A tiny, historic, ex-coal mining town once featured in a ‘90s TV series
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People who watched the ‘90s TV series Northern Exposure may recognize some of the buildings in the tiny town of Roslyn. Historically a coal mining town, Roslyn has a few things to do and a lot of charm.
Visit The Brick Saloon, a tavern that’s been in operation since 1889, and enjoy pub grub and cold drinks with the locals. Head over to Basecamp Books and Bites for live music, trivia, and a well-stocked bookstore.
If you’re craving outdoor recreation, you’ve got loads of options. Enjoy snowboarding, hiking, and a variety of water activities in the surrounding area. And if you want to visit another worthwhile small town on this list, Cle Elum is just a 10-minute drive away.
A tiny town with waterside dining options, unique local museums, and annual Tulip Festival events
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Quiet and unassuming, La Conner is a small town in Skagit Valley that’s most active during the springtime Tulip Festival. La Conner has several worthwhile places to check out, whether solo or on a guided tour. Start with its museums, including the unique and crafty Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum.
Grab a bite to eat at one of the charming waterfront restaurants, and peruse wares at some of the other local shops. However you choose to spend your time, La Conner is a romantic and charming destination in a pretty part of the state.
A Bavarian town in the Cascade mountains with year-round entertainment and outdoor recreation
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Known for its Bavarian-styled buildings, Leavenworth is one of the most popular small towns in Washington state. There’s year-round entertainment in this Cascade mountain town.
October brings the popular Oktoberfest (moved east to Wenatchee as of 2022). During the holiday season, the town comes to life with lights and other Christmastime festivities. Make a point to visit the Nutcracker Museum on a holiday visit.
In spring and summer, check out nearby hiking trails and go mountain biking, paddle boarding, and ziplining. No matter when you visit though, you can always count on some German food and stellar brews.
A creative, artistic, and welcoming town on San Juan Island
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The San Juan Islands are one of the best places to visit in Washington state. While all major islands have cute towns, the most active and popular is Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
Start your visit with a caffeine kick at the San Juan Coffee Roasting Co or Salty Fox Coffee. Then, explore the Whale Museum to learn all about the region’s Orcas. You can often see them from the island’s Lime Kiln State Park or on a guided cruise. You’ll also want to stop in the dozens of cute boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries throughout town.
Friday Harbor’s locals are a welcoming and creative bunch, making it easy to immerse yourself in the island’s culture, even on a short visit.
A Washington town with a famous waterfall, hiking trails, and an interactive railroad museum
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Snoqualmie is another great town for Twin Peaks enthusiasts. They’ll recognize Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge from the show’s opening credits.
Both places are worth a visit whether you’re a fan or not. Take a guided tour to the falls, considered one of the best waterfalls in Washington state. The Lodge is a great place for a romantic dinner and date.
Snoqualmie is only ten minutes from North Bend, meaning there’s plenty of hiking to do nearby. History buffs should also visit the informative, yet kid-friendly Northwest Railway Museum. The museum educates visitors about the impact the railroads had on the local economy.
A pretty town with a lively, historic downtown and tons of shopping
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Snohomish’s vibrant, clean, and historic downtown makes it worth a visit. Full of antique stores, boutiques, and plenty of restaurants, it’s the perfect place for people craving a fun day of shopping.
The town is a good option for outdoor enthusiasts, too. It’s close to state parks, the Cascade mountains, a golf course, and the Snohomish County Centennial Trail.
Snohomish is close to Everett, one of the largest cities in Washington. This makes it a good and easy day trip from the bigger city.
A sleepy, rural island with plenty of farms, pretty parks, and beaches
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Vashon Island is one of the best day trips from Seattle, perfect for people wanting a place that’s close to the city, but feels much further from it. To get there, take the ferry from West Seattle or Tacoma. Although the island feels laid back and sleepy, there are more than enough things to do on Vashon to keep visitors entertained.
Explore the shops and restaurants downtown, or visit the little beaches throughout the island. Point Robinson Lighthouse is one of the prettiest places on Vashon, with stunning views of Mount Rainier across the Puget Sound.
Simply driving around the island is a treat, too. Be prepared to stumble upon the wide variety of farm stands with all manner of delicious produce.
The perfect town to relax, unwind and explore the outdoors
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This central Washington town with 4,500 people offers options for both relaxation and outdoor rejuvenation. Those hoping to unwind in Chelan have a myriad of wineries, restaurants, and parks to keep them entertained.
Outdoor adventures are easy here. Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the country and is 55 miles long. This means there’s plenty of room for jet-skiing, tubing, fishing, kayaking, and swimming. Because Chelan is close to the North Cascades National Park, you can hike around that breathtaking wilderness, too.
One of the oldest towns in Washington located on a beautiful reserve
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Coupeville is another one of Whidbey Island’s worthwhile, tiny towns to visit. Just 15 minutes from the island’s biggest city, Oak Harbor, this historic town is one of the oldest communities in the state.
Century-old buildings sit on its iconic wharf along Penn Cove. The quaint downtown area has gift shops, cafes, a few restaurants, and other shops. While small, Coupeville gets lively during its popular festivals, like Musselfest in March.
One of Coupeville’s biggest draws, however, is that it’s on Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. This beautiful reserve is full of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and stunning views of the Puget Sound from the island’s coast.
A town in the Olympic rain shadow with beautiful lavender fields
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Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”) is a small town about thirty minutes from Port Angeles and right near Olympic National Park. Because it’s in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, Sequim is much drier than other western Washington towns and gets a lot more sunshine per year.
Sequim’s main attraction is fragrant and purple. During the summertime, tourists flock to Sequim to see farms full of lavender fields. If you want to know just how much you can do with these pretty blooms, visit Sequim during Lavender Weekend. Afterward, wander through Sequim’s small downtown area to get a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes.
A quaint Orcas Island community near a stunning state park
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Eastsound is on Orcas Island, the second largest island in the San Juan Islands. Technically an unincorporated community, the historic village is the heart of activity on Orcas. Grab a cocktail from The Barnacle or do some shopping in a number of the cute boutique shops in the area. The Orcas Island Historical Museum is an excellent place to learn a bit of local history.
If you’re craving a little less activity and more quiet, though, make a point of visiting Moran State Park. It’s one of the prettiest state parks in the state. Hike, bike, or drive up to Mount Constitution for sweeping views of the islands, the Sound, and beyond.
A scenic mountain town with plenty of options for outdoor enthusiasts
📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Cle Elum on Booking
If you’re a fan of mountain towns, Cle Elum is a good one to explore. Located in the central Cascades, outdoor adventurers will love this town. Hikes, horseback riding, snowboarding, and skiing are popular activities. You can also bike along the Coal Mines Trail, a historic trail that connects to the neighboring town of Rosyln.
There’s no shortage of good dining in town with plenty of cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops. Book a stay at Sundcadia Resort if you’re visiting Cle Elum and want a touch of luxury. From there, you can soak in the beautiful surroundings from comfortable digs.
FAQs About Washington Towns
What towns are near Seattle Washington?
Towns near Seattle, Washington include North Bend, Snoqualmie, Vashon Island, and Snohomish.
What is the best town to live in Washington state?
The best town to live in Washington state is Snoqualmie because it has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. Other great small towns to live in Washington state are Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, and Vashon Island.
What is the prettiest town in Washington?
The prettiest town in Washington is La Conner, in my opinion. Other pretty Washington towns include Leavenworth and Friday Harbor.
What are the towns in Washington?
The towns in Washington that are most well-known are Leavenworth, Snoqualmie, North Bend, Cle Elum, and Port Townsend. Some of these are considered second-class cities and some are considered code cities.
Hopefully, now you’ve got plenty of ideas for small cities and towns in Washington to visit. Leave a comment to let me know which is on the top of your list!
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Great article! Thank you for the lovely tour of many gorgeous WA towns, giving me plenty to escape to! Cheers! EM
Plan on moving to Washington. This was very helpful to make my decision. Thank you!
No love for Mount Vernon or Fairhaven? (I suppose Fairhaven probably wouldn’t qualify since it was annexed into Bellingham, but it still feels like a small town.)
Great article. It help me set my winter and spring in state travel plans.
Western Wadhington is absolutely beautiful, but Eastern Washington has some nice places to visit also. Try looking at the agritourism area of Green Bluff, WA.
I guess Eastern Washington wasn’t part of this. No towns like Omak, Ephrata, Soap Lake, Dayton, Okanagan, Newport, Tonasket, Colfax. Or maybe even SW Washington like Chehalis, Kalama, Castle Rock, Aberdeen, or Hoquiam or even Steilacoom. I appreciate you going to these towns, but this is more of a where can Seattleites go to get out of the big city that’s an hours drive.
We live in Kettle Falls in eastern WA. Love it here!
Great article! Thanks for reminding me how beautiful Washington state is. Have you ever been to Steilacoom?
It is a jewel but unfortunately so small a tourist would be done in 5 minutes. We live here, I like it the way it is.
You forgot about Enumclaw, the gateway to Mt. Rainier
I am surprised Walla Walla didn’t make the list. Beautiful wine region.
Hey Stan! Since Walla Walla is larger, it made my list of the best cities in Washington. You can check that out here: https://travellemming.com/cities-in-washington/ Cheers! -Chelsea
There’s also Lynden, a Dutch themed town on the border. We have a Farmer’s Day parade in June, Raspberry Festival in July, the Pioneer Museum, Jansen Art Center, and windmills, to name a few things.
The entire state is amazing and beautiful to me
Walla Walla for sure. Old, historic town with the Whitman Mission, many wineries and gateway to the blue mountains. Beautiful place.
Anacortes belongs on the list for sure!
Definitely come visit Yelm! Our small town offers so much from shopping, to great restaurants, hiking trails galore, A beautiful waterfall, an amazing cinema with all you can eat pop corn and soda, I could go on and on! Come visit our Holistic & Metaphysical Shop, BeJoyful Holistics located along the Highway. Need a guide? Reach out to me🙂
Being a lifelong resident of the Evergreen State, I really only opened your article to see if it met my expectation…unfortunately it did as you mentioned some true jewels, but a lot that were so similar with too little respect for the Eastside! Come on over and see us! Chewelah, Dayton, Republic, Walla Walla…
What about Steilacoom? We have beautiful views, two beaches, a great little museum, AND we’re the oldest town in Washington. Maybe we’re too small for some folks, but life here is pretty good. We have a ferry out to Anderson Island – another great place to visit.
Anacortes has a wonderful harbor, good services for boats, excellent restaurants, and friendly residents! Come visit!
I totally agree with you, Denise! Anacortes actually made my list of the best cities in Washington since it’s got a slightly larger population than some of the towns on this list. You can check that out here: https://travellemming.com/cities-in-washington/ Cheers! -Chelsea
Thanks for your article. I agree with you.
Love life at my second home of Leavenworth (soon to be only home). By the way… there IS an Oktoberfest in the city of Leavenworth put on by the Chamber of Commerce. They did a fantastic job. The ambience in the city of Leavenworth for Oktoberfest is the best! Prost!! https://leavenworth.org/
Sarah. I do not if you ever went to a Oktoberfest pre-covid but this is a sad come back. Pretzel throwing, Men and Ladies Stein holding contests, and costume contests? Maybe this is yours but it is not my Oktoberfest. Booo!!
Great article Ms. Booker! You should come by Langley again for the Welcoming of the Whales in May, Django Fest in the fall, or our big fair in July. I’ll likely try to get you to switch jobs with me as your job looks like a lot of fun! — Mayor Scott
Thank you for the kind words, Mayor Scott! I do intend to visit Langley again at some point this year, and will certainly make sure my visit falls during one of those awesome events. Cheers! -Chelsea