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Though only one part of Washington State borders water, it makes up for it with a lot of inland waterways: the Salish Sea, which includes the Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, and a number of huge bays. All along the shores of these various bodies of water, delightful towns have grown to serve the industries in the area: fishing, shipping, and of course, tourism.
In this post, I’m highlighting what I consider to be the best coastal towns in Washington, which you could use to plan a road trip or weekend getaway when you’re visiting the state (or if you call Washington home, lucky you!).
During the time I lived in Washington, I was lucky to visit almost all of these coastal communities – perhaps that’s why most of my Washington blog posts focus on the western, coastal part of the state and very few are inland! Though some cities on this list are quite far inland, they’re still coastal, thanks to inland waterways like the Salish Sea (including Puget Sound) and a number of bays. So yes ß all of these communities are on “a” Washington Coast, if not “the” Washington Coast.
If you’re ready to plan a coastal trip in Washington, read on for the list of what I consider to be the best towns on the Washington coast. Oh, by the way: I’ve ordered these Washington coastal towns from north to sound, working along the coast of the Salish Sea through Puget Sound then out around the Olympic Peninsula to the Pacific Ocean. So while these cities are numbered, that’s not a rank order – it’s just the geographic order!
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of many First Nations peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in June 2021, and was updated in May 2023.
Thanks to Western Washington University, Bellingham has an exciting college-town vibe. In addition to all of the college students, this city also has cool music venues, awesome eateries, and beautiful nature. Simply put, Bellingham is one of the best coastal towns in Washington.
Some of the best things to do in Bellingham include hiking at Whatcom Falls Park, catching a musical performance at the Wild Buffalo House of Music, and shopping at the Bellingham Farmers Market.
Eastsound is a small town on Orcas Island, one of the famous San Juan Islands. Like the rest of the San Juan Islands, the best way to experience Eastsound is by fully embracing the gorgeous nature.
If you don’t want to break a sweat, you can drive along the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. But if you’d prefer to be a little more active, you can hike to the top of Mount Constitution, admire the waterfalls at Moran State Park, and pop into the boutique shops in downtown Eastsound.
3. Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor is another coastal Washington town that’s situated in the San Juan Islands – in this case, the biggest island, San Juan Island. Out of all of the cities on these islands, Friday Harbor is the most tourist-friendly.
If you make Friday Harbor your home base, there’s so much that you can do. You can take a whale-watching tour, explore Lime Kiln Point State Park, try the lavender ice cream at Pelindaba Lavender Farm, and dine at one of the waterfront restaurants.
4. Roche Harbor
If you’re looking for a more posh version of Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor might fit the bill. Also located on San Juan Island, Roche Harbor is actually a private community.
During a typical day at Roche Harbor, you’ll get to feel rested and relaxed. You can wake up late in your room at the Hotel de Haro, the only hotel in town. Then, you can stroll through the Roche Harbor sculpture gardens and enjoy a few samples at the San Juan Island Distillery. Finally, you can finish off your day with a lovely dinner at one of the waterfront eateries.
Anacortes is undoubtedly one of the best coastal towns in Washington. Unfortunately, most people don’t make the time to explore it. Instead, they just pass through it on their way to the San Juan Islands, and that’s a shame.
I highly recommend taking time to explore Anacortes before continuing on your way. You can take a historic walking tour, admire the views from Cap Sante, and kayak in Burrows Bay.
6. Oak Harbor
Many of the best coastal towns in Washington are actually located on islands in Puget Sound – and Oak Harbor is no exception. Nestled on Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor is one of the most naturally beautiful locations on this list.
During your time in Oak Harbor, you can explore Deception Pass State Park, spend an entire day at North Beach, and watch the eye-catching sunset from Joseph Whidbey State Park.
Despite its tiny population size of just 1,000 people, Langley is one of the best coastal towns in Washington. And since it’s so small, it often gets overlooked, making it a hidden gem.
The best way to experience Langley is by simply popping into the adorable shops and restaurants. You can sip flavorful wines at the Ott & Murphy Tasting Room, grab a fantastic seafood dinner at Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar, and purchase some minimalistic sea-inspired jewelry from Foamy Wader.
If you love all things plane-related, you won’t want to pass up a trip to Everett. As the home of Boeing, Everett revolves around all things aeronautical.
During your time in Everett, you can learn all about planes at Boeing’s Future of Flight Aviation Center, pop into the Flying Heritage & Combat Harbor Museum, and check out the old airplanes at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center.
That’s right! Thanks to its location on Puget Sound, Seattle counts as one of the best coastal towns in Washington.
Since Seattle is the largest city in Washington, there are so many things that you can do there. You can admire the views from the top of the Space Needle, peruse the local goods of Pike Place Market, grab coffee at the original Starbucks location, and catch a beautiful sunset from Gas Works Park.
I have lots of Seattle articles to help you plan a trip – or if you’re using Seattle as a base to strike out and see other towns on this list. Here are some to get you started:
- Seattle Bucket List: 25 Essential Experiences in the Emerald City
- One Day in Seattle: How to Spend a Day in the Emerald City
- 3 Days in Seattle: Itinerary for a “Local’s” Weekend in Seattle
- 10 Essentials You Need to Pack for Seattle in Any Season
10. Vashon Island
Situated between Tacoma and Seattle, Vashon Island is one of the largest islands in Puget Sound. And within its 37 square miles of land, there are loads of things to do.
During your time on this charming island, you can visit the famous Harbor Mercantile, relax on KVI Beach, check out the local artists at Gather, and hike at Shingle Mill Creek.
Just a ferry ride away from Vashon Island is the town of Tacoma. It’s also quite close to downtown Seattle, so many Seattle visitors like to venture to Tacoma during their getaway as well.
There are a shocking number of things to do in Tacoma. You can admire the glasswork of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, walk through LeMay – America’s Car Museum, smell the blooming flowers at Point Defiance Park, and say hello to the marine life at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
12. Gig Harbor
Gig Harbor is a charming little Pacific Northwest town with a population of just 8,000 people. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway.
Despite its small size, it’s easy to stay occupied in Gig Harbor. You can climb the 100 stairs of the Finholm View Climb to take in the amazing scenery, watch the boats at the Old Ferry Landing, and enjoy the waterfront Skanskie Brothers Park.
13. Bainbridge Island
If you cross Puget Sound from Seattle, you’ll end up on Bainbridge Island. This quiet island is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
After hopping on a ferry, you can enjoy the laid-back vibe of Bainbridge Island. You can relax at Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park, pop into the boutique shops of downtown Winslow, and grab a pint at Bainbridge Brewing Alehouse.
Hansville’s claim to fame is the fact that it’s home to the oldest lighthouse in Washington. Built in 1879, the Point No Point Lighthouse sits on a lovely, driftwood-filled beach. And if the day happens to be extremely clear, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier.
Other than visiting Point No Point Lighthouse, you can also visit Buck Lake County Park and pick a few flowers at Fat Turnip Farms during your time in Hansville.
15. Port Townsend
Nestled on the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend has quite a lot going for it. With historic buildings, thriving seafood and timber industries, and fantastic restaurants, it has many of the perks of a big city while still having the cozy feel of a small town.
During your time in Port Townsend, you can wander around the historic downtown area, enjoy the nature at Fort Worden State Park, and explore the abandoned Fort Worden Bunkers.
30 miles west of Port Townsend lies the little town of Sequim. Thanks to its stunning lavender farms alone, Sequim is undoubtedly one of the best coastal towns in Washington.
Every June and July, Sequim is filled with blooming lavender fields! It’s an absolutely picture-perfect scene. And if you happen to be visiting in mid-July, you might get to experience the Lavender Festival, where you can purchase all of the lavender goodies that you have in mind.
17. Port Angeles
With a population of 20,000 people, Port Angeles is one of the largest and best coastal towns in Washington. You can attend the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, visit the Olympic Coast Discovery Center, and take a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
But one of the best things you can do in Port Angeles is visit Olympic National Park. While there, you can hike along Hurricane Ridge and soak in Sol Duc Hot Springs.
18. Neah Bay
Neah Bay is as far northwest as you can get in the U.S. without crossing the border into Canada. It’s also the Makah Native American tribe’s home.
Since the Makah people have made such a great impact on Neah Bay, it’s important to learn more about them with a trip to the Makah Cultural and Research Center. And if you’d like to explore the nature of Neah Bay, the Cape Flattery Trail won’t disappoint.
19. La Push
Fifty miles south of Neah Bay lies La Push. This Washington coastal town is most well known for its lovely beaches and towering rock formations.
There are a few places where you can see the gorgeous rock formations of La Push, including La Push Beach, First Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the friendly birds and stay to watch the colorful sunset.
20. Ocean Shores
Ocean Shores is one of the most well-known towns along Washington’s coast. It’s also known as one of the family-friendly coastal towns in the state.
You and your little ones can search for crabs along the North Jetty, check out the restored bald eagle nest at the Coastal Interpretive Center, and get a sweet treat from Murphy’s Candy and Ice Cream.
The best coastal towns in Washington all have something that makes them stand out. In the case of Westport, it’s the surf scene.
Westport is known as one of the best surfing spots in all of Washington, thanks to the incredible and consistent waves at Westhaven State Park. And if you’re not much of a surfer, you can visit Grays Harbor Lighthouse, beachcomb, and dine at one of the local restaurants.
22.-23. Long Beach/Seaview
Long Beach (and neighboring Seaview) are two coastal towns in Washington that are right next to each other. From the center of one to the center of the other, it’s just one mile, so you might as well enjoy both towns in one trip!
During your getaway to Long Beach and Seaview, you can walk on the Long Beach boardwalk, check out the cool Gray Whale Skeleton, and hike the Discovery Trail. Long Beach is one of my favorite weekend getaways from Seattle, and the southernmost communities on the Washington coast.
There you have it: 23 incredible coastal towns in Washington that are just waiting to be explored. The only question is which one you will visit first! Have any questions about these Washington coast towns, or want to share your favorite? Let me know in the comments!