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The 15 Best Small Towns in Oregon

Here's what you need to know...
  • Oregon is a state proud of its history, and that history is on display in the many small towns and cities
  • There is a strong arts community in Oregon that adds even more color to an already colorful state
  • Some of the best small towns in Oregon make excellent use of their spectacular views of the ocean

Oregon is one of the regions that was mapped by the famous explorer duo of Lewis and Clark as they pushed from Missouri to the West Coast.

The famous Oregon Trail was established in the early 1800s, and by 1846 the United States and Britain had agreed to share the territory with a border that went along the 49th parallel.

On Valentine’s Day in 1859, Oregon was admitted to the Union as a part of the United States.

The area has never lost its frontier roots, and it thrived for decades on the local fur trade. The state’s capital is Portland, and it is regularly regarded for its clean air and high quality of life.

If you are looking to visit Oregon soon and want the best auto insurance before hitting the road, compare at least three to four policies today! Enter your ZIP code above to begin!

Nature in Oregon

The climate in Oregon contains a little bit of everything. There is a desert region where the temperatures remain high throughout the year, there is a mountain region with snow and rain, and then there is the oceanic climate thanks to the Pacific Ocean.

The climate in Oregon is broken up primarily by the Cascade Mountain region. East of the Cascade Mountains is an arid and dry climate with occasional rain, and west of the Cascades is cold and often sees snow.

Despite its wide range of climates, Oregon does see four seasons every year that include snowfall in the Cascade Mountains of up to 550 inches each year.

The landscape throughout the state ranges from mountainous in the west to desert conditions in the south. Much of the area in the northeastern portion of the state is forest, which is where the early settlers of Oregon first placed down their roots.

If you love the outdoors, then you will love visiting the state of Oregon.

Throughout the entire state, you will find lakes lined with lush forests, waterfalls, camping under the big sky, skiing in one of the many resorts, and what many people refer to as the best fishing in the world.

Steens Mountain contains many of the desert resorts Oregon is famous for, while Wallowa Mountain contains an area referred to as “Little Switzerland” that is known for its ski resorts and unique architecture.

The 15 Best Small Towns in Oregon

Obviously, Oregon has a lot to offer visitors, but if you are looking to stay in a place with a small-town feel, we got just the places for you. Here are our top 15 small towns we recommend visiting while in Oregon!

#1 – Silverton

Population: 9,344
Must See: Oregon Garden, Homer Davenport Community Festival, and Palace Theater

Silverton, Oregon was formerly referred to as Milford and Silver Creek before finally being incorporated as Silverton on July 16, 1855. For 6,000 years, the native people of the land used seasonal burning techniques to make the ground easier to plant and harvest.

By the time the European settlers arrived in the 1800s, the centuries of burning had made the land ideal for farming.

Silverton is located in the Willamette Valley and is named after Silver Creek which starts at the Silver Falls and flows to the Pudding River. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Silverton was inhabited over 6,000 years ago by tribes called the Kalapuya and Molalla.

Much of the culture and the things that make Silverton unique come from its rich soil and lush landscape.

While there are forested areas that have quiet waterfalls and lakes, the area is primarily flat. Because of the lush soil and flat growing areas, Silverton has become a popular location for industries such as growing real Christmas trees.

Silverton is known for its unique architecture and small town feel. The town itself is covered in unique murals inspired by artists such as Norman Rockwell, and it has a farmer’s market every Saturday that brings in people from all over the area.

#2 – Florence

Population: 8,649
Must See: Edwin E. Benedict House, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and Heceta Head Lighthouse

The area known today as Florence, Oregon was originally the home of the Siuslaw Tribe. There are conflicting reports on how the city got the name of Florence, as that name is not derivative of any part of the region.

One story has it named after Senator A.B. Florence who was the state representative of the area in the late 1800s, while the other story insists that the town was named after the February 17, 1875 wreck of a French fishing vessel known as the Florence.

Florence, Oregon is a city with a lot to do and a good sense of humor.

In the older part of the city, there is a sign post that points out the direction and distance to other cities named Florence in the United States. It is broken up into Old Town Florence and the new Florence, and both have a lot to offer guests.

Florence is home to many beaches and wide-open waterways that allow people to take advantage of the city’s landscaping.

You can sail directly from Florence to the Pacific Ocean via the Siuslaw Waterway, or you can just enjoy a leisurely day on one of Florence’s many lakes. The Sea Lion Caves are just outside of Florence where you can go and watch sea lions play.

You can also stay in a real lighthouse that has been converted to a bed and breakfast.

#3 – Carlton

Population: 2,043
Must See: Carlton Winemakers Studio, Willamette Valley Cheese Trail, and Soter Vineyards

The history of Carlton, Oregon starts with its original property owner, Wilson Carl. Directly before 1874 when the official Carlton post office was established, Wilson Carl negotiated with the local Portland railroad company to bypass the mountains coming west and build on his property instead.

As was the case with most Western towns, the railroad stop immediately caused the population of Carlton to grow.

Carlton, Oregon was incorporated in 1899 and has kept its peaceful small town ambiance throughout its history. The town is located in Oregon’s wine country and has perfected the idea of helping anyone to relax and get away from it all.

You will love Carlton if you love peace, quiet, wine, and cheese. Carlton is recognized as a world-class wine region with wine tours going on all year round.

Carlton is unique because nearly all of the accommodations for guests are bed and breakfasts, and they all offer access to the local wine tours.

#4 – Baker City

Population: 9,769
Must See: Baker Historic District, Baker City Tower, and Baker Heritage Museum

The Baker City post office was officially established on March 27, 1866, but it would take another eight years for the city to finally get incorporated. By 1868, Baker City became the county seat for Baker County, which is when the city started to grow by leaps and bounds.

Baker City, Oregon is the only city in the United States to be named after a Senator who was killed in active military service.

Edward D. Baker was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln and a U.S. Senator from Oregon who was killed while leading his regiment into the Civil War’s Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861.

Baker City has over 100 historical buildings and is considered the heart of Baker County. It is home to the award-winning Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, and there are regular tours of the different historical sites throughout the city.

The landscape in and around Baker City attracts people interested in hiking, fishing, cycling, and skiing. If you are looking for a place that knows how to get the most from outdoor activities, then you are looking for Baker City.

#5 – Bandon

Population: 3,046
Must See: Annual Cranberry Festival, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and Coquille River Lighthouse

Bandon is so charming that OnlyInYourState.com named it one of the 21 “Coolest Towns in Oregon.” From the beachfront hotels to the coastal golf course, there is plenty of reasons to visit Bandon, Oregon.

Bandon is a town in Oregon that is named after its sister town in Ireland. Bandon, Oregon sits along the shores of Coos Bay, and it is a little Oregon town that has no problem engaging in a wide variety of water sports.

It is a classy little beach town known for its shops, restaurants, and overall small town charm.

Every fall, Bandon is home to the Annual Cranberry Festival that brings in visitors from all over the country. The Bandon Dunes Golf Course gives people the experience of links golf that is similar to the kind of golf played in Scotland.

But for many people, the best reason to visit Bandon is to watch the sunset from a view in the famous Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

While in Bandon, you can get up close and personal with businesses that make everything from chocolate with a hint of that seaside air to cream made fresh to order.

Either way, anyone who loves the water will be captivated by one of the many wide beaches that Bandon has become known for.

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#6 – Vernonia

Population: 2,142
Must See: Friendship Jamboree, Banks-Vernonia State Trail, and the Vineyard and Valley Tour

Vernonia, Oregon was initially settled in 1874, but it wasn’t until Judson Weed and Ozias Cherrington moved from Ohio to Vernonia that the town started to take shape. The town is named after Cherrington’s daughter Vernonia.

It remained a small farming town until 1924 when the Oregon-American Lumber Company brought jobs and brand new technology that would change Vernonia forever.

Vernonia, Oregon is well-known for its outdoor activities, which include biking or hiking the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

Vernonia is also known for its unique summer nighttime skies with bright stars and a fantastic view of the moon.

Vernonia is a quaint small town that makes excellent use of the nature around it. The many hiking trails that run around and through Vernonia bring in nature enthusiasts from around the state.

When you visit Vernonia, you can take a tour of the many wineries in the area, and you can check out the wood mills that have made Vernonia a central hub in the Oregon lumber business.

#7 – Wheeler

Population: 414
Must See: Upper City Park, Kayaking on the Nehalem River, and those Wheeler Sunsets

Wheeler, Oregon was just a tiny farming and fishing community until a railroad depot was set up in 1911. The railroad caused Wheeler to erupt with strong lumber and fishing trades; the town soon became an early 20th-century hub for lumber and fish packing.

The natives in the areas surround Wheeler refer to it as “the hole in the sky” because of the way Wheeler sits in a valley that protects it from fog and inclement weather.

The little town proved its resiliency when the lumber and fishing industries died out, but Wheeler was able to turn what is referred to as its “million dollar view of the ocean” into a thriving tourist industry.

Wheeler offers plenty of outdoor activities, as well as a collection of quaint local restaurants that deliver a variety of cuisine.

The town is built into the hills that surround the Nehalem River, and that is just one of the reasons for the incredible views people get when they stay in Wheeler.

#8 – Brookings

Population: 6,316
Must See: Azalea Park, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, and the Annual Kite Flying Festival

Brooking, Oregon was founded in 1906 by the Brookings Timber Company as a place to set up a lumber mill and associated housing for the workers and their families. The town thrived and was finally incorporated as its own legal entity in 1951.

Brookings, Oregon is known for its coastal views and unique weather that keeps the city relatively warm all year round.

Brookings is a city with many interests that include:

  • Nature
  • Art
  • Photography
  • Kite flying

Brookings is home to an extensive network of nature trails and many kayaking and water tour companies. Brookings hosts several annual sporting events including the Wild Rogue Relay foot race and its famous Kite Flying Festival.

Many people from throughout Oregon visit Brooking during the winter holiday for its lighting displays that make up Nature’s Coastal Holiday.

#9 – Astoria

Population: 9,527
Must See: Fort Clatsop, the Astoria Column, and the Astoria Riverfront Trolley

Fort Clatsop in Astoria, Oregon was the last stop for Lewis and Clark, and the duo endured a harsh winter in the fort before heading back east. Traders came and went into Astoria until an official post office was established in 1847.

By 1876, Astoria had grown to the point where it was officially incorporated.

Astoria, Oregon is fiercely proud of its place in American history and its unique look. The hillside in Astoria is dotted with Victorian homes, and the city offers a lot of ways for guests to relive history.

Fort Clatsop has been rebuilt, and the local people do regular re-enactments of the events that occurred during the Lewis and Clark days. The buildings throughout Astoria have preserved history, and anyone who loves the idea of literally living in the past will enjoy visiting Astoria.

#10 – Joseph

Population: 1,054
Must See: Joseph Bronze Artwalk, Hells Canyon, and the Wallowa Lake Tramway

Joseph, Oregon was officially named in 1880 after Chief Joseph of the native Nez Perce tribe. It was officially mapped in 1883, and the 1908 addition of a rail depot caused Joseph to thrive.

In 1982, the city rebranded itself from a dwindling logging town to a thriving Bronze manufacturing area.

Joseph, Oregon had several names until it was officially named after a Native American Chief. It is a small town with amazing architecture and a surrounding landscape that has earned it the nickname “Oregon’s Little Switzerland.”

The Joseph Bronze Artwalk is a series of bronze statues depicting famous people in the history of Joseph. For some unique interactions with nature, guests can get a bird’s eye view from the Wallowa Lake Tramway or enjoy the surrounding hills in Hells Canyon.

#11 – Gold Beach

Population: 1,950
Must See: Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge, Arch Rock Brewing Company, and the expansive Gold Beach

Gold Beach, Oregon gets its name from a mid-1800s gold rush that occurred when gold was found along the Rogue River bank. The post office was established in 1853 as Ellensburg, but the name was officially changed to Gold Beach in 1890.

Gold Beach, Oregon is located right where the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean. It is a city that makes the most of its access to natural waterways, and it is also known for its enormous ocean side beach.

Gold Beach is home to companies that offer exciting river rapids tours or simple fishing excursions out on the ocean. The Arch Rock Brewing Company offers regular tours, and the local restaurants are always ready to show off their local cuisine.

#12 – Sisters

Population: 2,118
Must See: The Sisters Rodeo, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, and the Sisters Folk Festival

Sisters, Oregon is one of the few remaining Old West towns that was established in the early 1800s. The town started to come to life in 1840 when the first Sisters Rodeo was held and has continued to thrive and modernize over the years.

Sisters, Oregon is located in the foothills of the Three Sisters Mountains and as a suburb of Bend, Oregon.

It is a community that enjoys the outdoors and revels in its artistic residents.

The people of Sisters are extremely diverse and offer plenty of artistic events, sports, and outdoor activities. The first weekend of September is when the very popular Sisters Folk Festival is held, which features music and art from the local area.

#13 – Lincoln City

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Population: 8,386
Must See: Summer Kite Festival, the Cascade Head Trail, and Devil’s Lake

Lincoln City, Oregon was incorporated in 1965 when the areas of Delake, Oceanlake, Taft, Cutler City, and Nelscott were all brought together into one city.

Instead of causing confusion and controversy by using one of the five area names to name the new city, a local school student submitting a winning entry in a contest used to name Lincoln City.

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Lincoln City, Oregon has some of the most picturesque hiking trails in the state. It is a community of people who enjoy unique arts such as glass, and businesses that offer plenty of local cuisine and unique shopping opportunities.

Lincoln City is filled with local restaurants such as the Wild Flower Grill and the Hearth and Table. Devil’s Lake is a recreation area where guests can swim, fish, water ski, and even go kiteboarding.

The Summer Kite Festival fills the sky with color, and the Cascade Head Trail offers some breathtaking views.

#14 – Cannon Beach

Population: 1,692
Must See: Summer Sand Castle Building Contest, the NorthWest POINT, and the Cannon Beach Distillery

While spending the winter of 1805 at Fort Clatsop, William Clark from the Lewis and Clark expedition went out and took blubber from a whale that was beached in nearby Cannon Beach.

In 1846, a U.S. Navy ship ran ashore while trying to cross the Columbia Bar, and one of its cannons washed up on the beach. The beach was initially called Elk Beach, but the name was changed to Cannon Beach in 1898 when the cannon was rediscovered.

Cannon Beach, Oregon is an award-winning community, boasting a place on the list of National Geographic’s ‘World’s 100 Most Beautiful Places’ in 2013.

Just off the beach in Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock, which towers over the entire area. Guests can check out the annual Sand Castle Building Contest or enjoy Cannon Beach’s unique Fourth Of July Parade that has different attractions each year.

#15 – Yachats

Population: 696
Must See: The 804 Trail, the Amanda Trail, and Cape Perpetua

Yachats, Oregon is named after the Yahuch tribe of Oregon that went extinct in 1860. It is an area that saw the Native Americans who lived there regularly moved to accommodate settlements.

The area was opened for homesteading in 1875 and has blossomed into a world-class tourism area.

Yachats, Oregon got its nickname as the ‘gem of the Oregon coast‘ from its fantastic sunsets and panoramic views and is often named by international travel guides as one of the best places to vacation in the world.

The reason Yachats is so popular as a tourist destination are sites like the Amanda Trail and Cape Perpetua.

The Amanda Trail is named after a Native American who died walking the trail while her tribe was being relocated by the U.S. Army, and Cape Perpetua is recognized as having one of the most spectacular views of the ocean in the world.

There are also several unique restaurants and shops in Yachats that can make your visit one you will remember for years.

Driving In Oregon

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Oregon is a state that has a combination of fault and no-fault insurance laws.

The driver who is considered to be at fault is responsible for paying damages in an accident, but Oregon also requires every policy to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provisions that could have the driver’s policy pay for the driver’s injuries.

A unique aspect of Oregon auto insurance laws allows drivers to sue each other before any PIP coverage would run out.

This right to sue is a different approach from most states and is part of Oregon’s hybrid at-fault/no-fault approach to auto insurance.

It is important to follow Oregon’s driving laws to be safe on Oregon roads. Using a cell phone while driving is illegal in Oregon, and that includes texting as well as talking.

Any impaired driver who consents to a breath test and goes over the legal limit of .08 BAC will have their licenses suspended. But in Oregon, the penalties can be more severe if you refuse to take a breath test.

Choosing The Right Car Insurance Coverage

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In Oregon, the minimum insurance coverage required is:

  • $25,000 in injury coverage for individuals
  • $50,000 total injury or death coverage for any number of people in an accident
  • $10,000 in liability to cover property damage
  • $15,000 in PIP coverage

Talk to your insurance agent to make sure that you meet the minimum insurance coverage requirements for Oregon, or to see if perhaps it would make sense to get more of one type of coverage.

For example, your agent may recommend more than $15,000 in PIP coverage to help cover the extensive costs of recovering from injuries.

You should use the Internet comparison websites available to make sure that you are getting the best possible deals.

Compare your current coverage to what is available every six months to ensure you are getting the right coverage for your money, and always get at least three or four quotes to choose from before making your final decision.

Try our FREE online quote tool and start comparison shopping today! Enter your ZIP code below!

References:
  1. http://www.history.com/topics/us-states/oregon
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Oregon
  3. https://www.visittheusa.com/state/oregon
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverton,_Oregon
  5. http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/oregon/coolest-small-towns-or/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence,_Oregon
  7. https://www.eugenecascadescoast.org/florence/
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton%2C_Oregon
  9. http://www.city-data.com/city/Carlton-Oregon.html
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baker_City,_Oregon
  11. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/eastern-oregon/baker-city/
  12. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/oregon-coast/bandon/
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandon,_Oregon
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernonia,_Oregon
  15. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/greater-portland/vernonia/
  16. http://visittheoregoncoast.com/cities/wheeler/
  17. http://ci.wheeler.or.us/
  18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheeler,_Oregon
  19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brookings,_Oregon
  20. http://visittheoregoncoast.com/cities/brookings-harbor/
  21. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astoria,_Oregon
  22. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/oregon-coast/astoria/
  23. http://www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2015/04/astoria_20_things_to_love_abou.html
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph,_Oregon
  25. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/eastern-oregon/joseph/
  26. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Beach,_Oregon
  27. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/gold-beach/
  28. http://traveloregon.com/trip-ideas/oregon-stories/road-trip-sisters/
  29. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisters,_Oregon
  30. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_City,_Oregon
  31. http://traveloregon.com/trip-ideas/itineraries/7-things-not-to-miss-in-lincoln-city/
  32. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannon_Beach,_Oregon
  33. http://www.cannonbeach.org/
  34. http://traveloregon.com/cities-regions/oregon-coast/cannon-beach/
  35. http://kids.kiddle.co/Yachats,_Oregon
  36. http://www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2016/07/20_reasons_to_love_yachats_the.html
  37. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yachats,_Oregon
  38. http://www.all-about-car-accidents.com/resources/insurance-law/car-insurance/oregon-auto-insurance-l
  39. https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/Pages/road_rules.aspx

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