Top 15 Best Cities and Small Towns near Portland

Located in the NorthWest, Oregon’s largest city enjoys a beautiful setting on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The beautiful scenery surrounding Portland stretches for miles and miles and is definitely worth exploring as is are the urban areas that can be reached by car or RV.

Starting from the nearest to the furthest distance away, here are the best cities and small towns to visit near Portland, Oregon…

1. Silverton, Oregon – Silverton is Oregon’s Garden City and one of Oregon’s hidden gems

Silverton Oregon

Silver Falls State Park Oregon

Silverton is an interesting small city in Oregon located on the Eastern margins of the Willamette Valley, only 12 miles NE of Salem. It is known as “Oregon’s Garden City”, with a huge 80-acre botanical garden to be proud of.

The city boasts some lovely attractions with extensive walking paths, hiking trails, ice lakes, and scenic drives.

Visitors can go back in history and experience the Old One Hundred gold mine, and Silverton’s Stage Coach rides. The scenery around the city is truly memorable, with the Cascade Mountains looming tall, spectacular waterfalls, quaint covered bridges, wineries, and interesting architecture.

There are guided tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural wonder, Gordon House, located in town right next to the Oregon Garden. Also don’t miss the beautiful Silver Falls State Park which is located near the city.

  • Distance from Portland: 56 minutes

2. Salem, Oregon – the capital city of Oregon which is located in the center of the beautiful Willamette River valley

Salem Oregon

Salem Vineyard

The capital city of Oregon, Salem is a visitor’s delight. It is a city of gardens, fields of flowers, lush green pastures, and vineyards. It nestles in the Willamette Valley, with the coast on one side, and the Cascade Mountains on the other.

It is a magnet for nature lovers who can hike to magic sites like Silver Falls, or take in expansive views of the rural landscape framed within the mountainous backdrop.

There are also plenty of visitor attractions and unique cultural experiences in the city, including the landmark Oregon State Capitol building, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art featuring local and native American artists, the historic Elsinore Theater, and the Willamette Heritage Center which features a Victorian wool mill.

Take a leisurely stroll around Riverfront City Park and enjoy the city’s manicured public gardens and natural attractions like Minto-Brown Island Park, and take in the vibrant restaurant scene.

  • Distance from Portland: 50 minute drive

3. Astoria, Oregon – a charming a city in Oregon located on the Columbia River, near the Pacific Ocean

Astoria Oregon - great day trips from Portland, Oregon

Astoria Bridge Oregon

Astoria is located on the Columbia River, close to the Pacific Ocean. It is a culturally diverse city with a strong Greek influence along with Brazilian, Egyptian, Italian and even Irish communities, all reflected in the enticing selection of food and entertainment on offer.

City landmarks worth a visit include the Astoria Column, which is a tall monument erected on a hilltop with panoramic views, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum which is a waterfront building that depicts shipping, and the history of the local area.

You will also find the culturally fascinating Noguchi Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. In more recent times, Astoria is also famous for being the setting of the 1985 film, The Goonies, which was filmed on location.

  • Distance from Portland: 1 hour 50 minutes

4. Eugene, Oregon – a great city for the arts and outdoors

Eugene Oregon

Eugene Park Oregon

Eugene is a dynamic city located alongside the Willamette River in Oregon State. It has a culture all of its own and is known for its organic farming, outdoor recreation activities, and biking and hiking wilderness trails.

In town, you can take a leisurely waterfront bike ride along the riverside and enjoy the views of the river and its abundant wildlife. You can cycle down the Covered Bridge Scenic Bikeway in Cottage Grove and explore the seven historic covered bridges.

There is also a vibrant cultural scene to take in, with the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, various art galleries, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art with its superb Asian collections.

As well as the river, Eugene has the nearby Calapooya Mountain range, ideal for plenty of outdoor adventures or you can spend a pleasant day touring the local Pinot Noir wineries and unique little craft breweries.

  • Distance from Portland: 1 hour 50 minute drive

5. Newport, Oregon – a scenic city is home to two lighthouses Oregon’s central coast

Newport Oregon Lighthouse

Newport boats Oregon

Poised alongside the Pacific Ocean, Newport is a city on Oregon’s central coast with a long history of fishing and maritime commerce

The nearby arched Yaquina Bay Bridge has two observation points for visitors to take in the spectacular coastal views.

The area also has the Yaquina Bay State Park where the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is located, towering over a basalt rock beach. For an immersion in outdoor experiences, visitors cannot go past the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

And history buffs will enjoy the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, which features art and interactive exhibits, a real working wharf, and informative programs exploring the rich history of the town’s mariner culture.

  • Distance from Portland: 2 hour 20 minute drive

6. Yachats, Oregon – a small coastal city with beautiful headlands, jagged shorelines and romantic lighthouses

Yachats - best day trips from Portland, Oregon

Yachats Thors Well Oregon

Named after the local river, Yachats is a little coastal city in Lincoln County. It has a mild climate that nourishes a temperate rainforest in its vicinity. There is plenty to see and do with fascinating art galleries, quaint hotels, and gift shops for visitors to enjoy.

Yachats landmarks include the Little Log Church Museum, the Heceta Head Lighthouse, and the Earthworks Gallery. The lighthouse, at an elevation of 1000 ft, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the area is a rookery for nesting seabirds.

The assistant lighthouse keeper’s house has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Yachats also offers plenty of outdoor adventures and activities, including hiking trails at the elevated Cape Perpetual Scenic Area and a sandy beach at the river mouth.

Trails lead up from the township to the entrance of the Siuslaw National Forest. Also don’t miss the incredible Thor’s Well which is also known as the drainpipe of the Pacific – this unique hole in the rock seems to drain the ocean away! 

  • Distance from Portland: 2 hours 50 minutes drive

7. Seattle, Washington – the cool metropolis in Washington State is Portland’s main big city rival

Beautiful Seattle Skyline

Seattle market at night

The largest city in the state of Washington, Seattle overlooks the Puget Sound in the nation’s Pacific Northwest. This dynamic, modern city is surrounded by water, lush forests and soaring mountains.

Along with world-class visitor attractions and a thriving cultural scene you will find breathtaking natural beauty in the vast untamed areas of parkland.

The city boasts the futuristic Space Needle, an iconic landmark with stunning panoramic views built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Seattle also has a well-earned reputation for domination in the sporting arena.

The busy metropolitan center is home to tech industry giants like Amazon and Microsoft. There is always a lot to do and experience in Seattle, from fascinating cultural attractions and the arts to outdoor activities and huge areas of natural attractions.

  • Distance from Portland: 2 hour 54 minute drive

8. Bend, Oregon – a small city on the Deschutes River which is a perfect destination for outdoor lovers

Lake in Bend Oregon

Beautiful forest in Bend Oregon

Perched on the scenic Deschutes River, you will find the delightful little town of Bend.

With a rich history in logging, Bend is now celebrated for its adventurous outdoor sporting attractions like camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing and hiking, to name a few. It is a high desert city surrounded by some fascinating wilderness.

You can explore the Oregon Badlands Wilderness with remarkable lava rock formations and fabulous views of volcanic peaks. There are many hiking challenges.

In town, you can climb the trail that leads up to Pilot Butte, which is an extinct volcano, and at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, you can take the stairs that lead into Lava River Cave, which is a vast lava tube.

  • Distance from Portland: 3 hour 15 minute drive

9. Anacortes, Washington – a vibrant coastal community offering the ultimate Northwest getaway

Anacortes,Sunset Washington

Anacortes boats Washington

Located on little Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, Washington State, Anacortes is a lovely small town worth visiting. It is about 70 miles north of Seattle, close to the Canadian border.

This seaside community boasts a sweeping coastline and glorious beaches and some wonderful nature parks. The town has the Washington State Ferries dock and terminal, servicing all the nearby islands and Victoria, on Vancouver Island.

Visitors will find plenty of activities and attractions to keep busy. There is the Swinomish Casino and Lodge and the Seafarers Memorial Park or you can take the Guemes Channel Trail, and visit Cape Sante Maria.

As well as the historic downtown attractions with shops, galleries, eateries, a marina and museums, there are plenty of outdoor adventures with nature trails or kayak tours.

  • Distance from Portland: 4 hours 30 minutes

10. Coupeville, Washington – Washington’s second-oldest town which is named after Captain Thomas Coupe

Coupeville Washington

Coupeville Washington

Coupeville is a town in Washington State, located on Whidbey Island. This is a historic district within the federal Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve with farmland, parks, shorelines and beaches, trails, and various buildings and structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

What Coupeville is most famous for is the excellent local seafood and the growing of Penn Cove Mussels, which are the basis of an international export industry.

The mussels are renowned for their high quality. To reach Whidbey Island, there is a ferry service or visitors can drive across the Deception Pass Bridge from Anacortes, near Oak Harbor. It will take about 35 minutes to get across.

  • Distance from Portland: 4 hour 40 minutes

11. Leavenworth, Washington – a very pretty Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains 

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth Lake Washington

The little town of Leavenworth has a unique identity all of its own. Located in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, it is a Bavarian-style hamlet complete with Alpine framed buildings and restaurants that serve German food and beer.

During winter, snow covers the village and winter sports are a huge drawcard.

Visitors can go skiing and snowboarding or try sleigh rides and snowmobiling. The more adventurous can enjoy sledging and tubing or ice climbing, and dotted among the skis slopes are local wineries and plenty of resorts with day spas to pamper you and help you wind down after a hectic day.

Leavenworth offers cultural experiences as well, like the Nutcracker Museum, and for nature lovers, Waterfront Park on the Wenatchee River is a habitat for eagles and ospreys.

  • Distance from Portland: 4 hour 50 minutes

12. Sacramento, California – America’s funky Farm-to-Fork Capital

Cool cafe Sacramento

Hip cafe in Sacramento

The city of Sacramento is the state capital of California. It dominates the confluence of two rivers, the Sacramento River and the American River, and has a fascinating history originating in the great Californian gold rush era.

It is called the “Farm-to-Fork” capital due to its huge horticultural farming sector that ships food right across the nation, and the many farmers’ markets bursting with local fresh produce.

The city has an ethnically diverse culture, which is reflected in the culinary delights on offer in Sacramento’s restaurants and eateries, and all the colorful murals painted around the city streets.

Some of the visitor attractions include the California Hall of Fame, the California State Railroad Museum, and the Old Sacramento State Historic Park.

  • Distance from Portland: 9 hour drive

13. San Francisco, California – a cool Northern Californian city famous for the counterculture movement and ‘hippie’ culture

Quaint houses in San Francisco

San Francisco Skyline

Located on San Francisco Bay, San Francisco is a busy, modern metropolis and a cultural and financial heavyweight. It is one of the largest cities in the United States.

Iconic landmarks include the impressive Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland Bay Bridge, its cable cars, and the notorious island of Alcatraz. The surrounding bay areas boast a variety of wonderful beaches and coves that attract visitors and residents alike.

The USP Alcatraz prison closed in 1963 and it has become a National Historic Landmark that operates as a tourist attraction and museum.

San Francisco is also renowned for its unique culinary trends, to be enjoyed at the many restaurants and eateries dotted throughout the city.

  • Distance from Portland: 9 hour 50 minutes

14. San Jose, California – the heart of Silicon Valley and the cultural and technological epicenter of Northern California

San Jose Shops California

San Jose California

Located in northern California, San Jose is one of the state’s largest and most populous cities. It is famous for being a technology hub.

The headquarters of tech giants like Apple, Google, and IBM are based in San Jose, earning the city the distinction of being known as “Silicon Valley”. But San Jose’s attractions don’t stop there, the city lies in the Santa Clara Valley on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

Not only are there beaches and bays for leisure activities and sightseeing, but it is also surrounded by green hills, offering an elaborate urban network of nature trails for biking and hiking, and leisure pursuits.

The city also offers diverse historical and cultural attractions, including numerous museums, parks, and landmark buildings.

  • Distance from Portland: 10 hour 18 minutes

15. Vancouver, Canada – a beautiful and diverse west coast seaport in British Columbia 

Beautiful drone shot of Vancouver Canada

Vancouver Island - most beautiful places to visit in Canada

A diverse multi-cultural destination, Vancouver is one of Canada’s largest cities located just over the border from Oregon State, USA. It is surrounded by mountain wilderness, and forestry remains the largest industry.

However, the city is also home to a thriving filming industry. It is a dynamic urban center offering plenty of art, music, and theater experiences for the culturally minded, with gems like the Museum of Anthropology which displays fascinating First Nations collections.

Outdoor attractions and challenges include the coastline with beaches of unmatched beauty and the surrounding mountains offering hiking and winter sports. The city’s many cultural amenities and its picturesque natural attractions landed the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.

  • Distance from Portland: 1 hour 15 minutes flight time

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