Everyone always imagines Portland when they think of Oregon but it’s the smaller towns that really make up the heart of this Pacific Northwest state. The quiet seaside villages, cozy mountain towns and charming communities of Willamette Valley all have a lot to offer as well but somehow they just don’t get as much recognition. These are just ten of our many unique small towns that are vastly underrated.
If you’re going to visit anywhere in Oregon’s beautiful wine country, McMinnville should be it. Their historic downtown is charming to wander, with streets lined by maple trees, farm-to-table restaurants, and local wineries that will pour you an amazing glass of local Pinot Noir. Plan a day trip, or spend the whole weekend here – there’s tons of quaint hotels and B&Bs. Just east outside of town you’ll find the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, home of the Spruce Goose and other historic planes. If the kids get bored at the museum, take them to the adjacent waterpark where they can slide out of a real Boeing 747 parked on the roof.
As a historic gold mining community, Jacksonville, located outside of Medford, maintains small town charm with old-timey buildings downtown. Antique shops and boutiques line the Main Street, along with tons of local places to grab a bite to eat. Another cool thing that keeps them a tight-knit community? Every year they hold a City-Wide Yard Sale where you can score some pretty neat treasures for super cheap.
Florence offers peace, quiet, and easy access to the top highlights on the central coast. The Oregon Sand Dunes, Sea Lion Caves and Heceta Head Lighthouse are all just a short drive away. But you don’t even need to leave town to find relaxing ways to spend the afternoon. Go for a stroll along the riverfront, warm up with a cup of coffee at Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters, and browse the many local shops and businesses.
North of Bend, Sisters keeps things old-fashioned as an 1880s Western-themed town. They have a fun variety of shops to browse and a perfect location in the foothills of the Three Sisters Mountains, with outdoor opportunities just around the corner.
5. Cottage Grove
What makes Cottage Grove so special? They aren’t only known as the Covered Bridge Capital Of The West, with six historic bridges within the area, but this town south of Eugene also has a huge collection of 20 murals that you can see on just one walking tour.
Dundee is often overlooked on the north end of the Willamette Valley. But with beautiful rolling hills and vineyards as far as the eye can see, this quaint town is a Pinot Noir lovers paradise. If you’re a fan of pairing wine and cheese, try a tasting over at Briar Rose Creamery.
At the base of the Wallowa Mountains, Joseph has loads of charm and huge bronze sculptures on their Main Street. The downtown’s peppered with local shops to browse and unique dining establishments, like Outlaw Restaurant & Saloon.
Not only does Silverton have lots to see downtown but they serve as a gateway to Silver Falls State Park. After you’ve taken some time to wander the local antique stores, gift shops and restaurants, drive about a half-hour south and take the beautiful Trail Of Ten Falls Loop.
Dating back to the 1840s, Brownsville is a small pioneer town with old-fashioned storefronts. This is where you can find several filming locations from the classic ’80s movie “Stand By Me”, and the popular Willamette Country Music Festival in August.
10. Mount Angel
Dreaming of visiting Germany but don’t want to pay for a flight and hotel? Make a drive over to Mount Angel, northeast of Salem on Highway 214. The old world town was founded back in the 1800s by Swiss & German settlers and they still celebrate their roots every fall with their annual Oktoberfest. Even during the rest of the year there’s lots to see – including many antique shops downtown and the famous Glockenspiel Restaurant, pictured above.
How many of these small towns have you been to? Let us know in the comments below.