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9 Offbeat Towns to Visit in Oregon

by Staff

The 33rd US state of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest is famed for its complex landscape of mountains, coasts, and forests. Plenty of travelers enjoy the charm of the Beaver State with a visit to its most populous city, Portland (the City of Roses), or its capital, Salem. Adventurous travelers and curious tourists can also find Oregon’s beating heart in its offbeat towns, from the family-friendly Coos Bay to the sandy shores of Rockaway Beach.

Coos Bay

Shore Acres State Park is a state park located to the South of Coos Bay in the state of Oregon.

Coos Bay is where the land, sky, and sea all meet, creating a picture-perfect coastal destination! Coos Bay neighbors other communities like North Bend, Coquille, Lakeside, and Myrtle Point. This family-friendly destination is also known as the “Gateway to Oregon’s Adventure Coast.”

Experience North America’s largest expanse of coastal dunes at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, featuring sand dunes reaching 500 feet above sea level! This natural attraction is part of the Siuslaw National Forest and is ideal for recreational activities like wildlife watching, birding, hiking, camping, and paddling.

Soak in some creativity at the third-oldest museum in Oregon, the Coos Art Museum. The museum is home to rotating exhibits and over 600 works of art for visitor’s enjoyment. The Coos Bay Boardwalk in the town’s downtown area is a must-visit, fit with a fish market and displays highlighting the community’s maritime history. Here, visitors can take a stroll along the walking trail and enjoy their meal on the picnic benches while soaking in views of the Bay.

McMinnville

Aerial view of Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville, Oregon.
Aerial view of Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville, Oregon.

Oenophiles can enjoy the heart of Oregon Wine Country at McMinnville! This Oregon town is famed for its proximity to the world-class wineries of the Willamette Valley, the state’s leading wine region and producer of Pinot Noir. Visitors can easily sample the region’s sumptuous wines at one of the 220 (and more) wineries near and around McMinnville.

The charms of McMinnville also emanate across its downtown area, hailed as one of the best Main Streets in Oregon. This downtown area hosts plenty of one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants, though its charm lies in its historic architecture, with many of these buildings constructed around 1885 to 1912. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the historic McMinnville Downtown District, noting historic properties like the Carnegie Library, the McMinnville National Bank Building, and Houck’s Flouring Mill.

On the outskirts of McMinnville, the Erratic Rock State Natural Site is a natural and unique oddity. The site features a 90-ton rock deposited during an Ice Age flood, which carried this rock over 500 miles in an iceberg from the Northern Rocky Mountains to the Willamette Valley around 12,000 to 17,000 years ago. Visitors can look onward at the Willamette Valley to visualize how differently the landscape may have looked when covered with water.

Coburg

Coburg, Oregon. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coburg,_Oregon By M.O. Stevens - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7438474
Coburg, Oregon. In Wikipedia. By M.O. Stevens – Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia

A visit to this Oregon town is like stepping into a time machine back to the 1800s! Coburg’s historic, small-town charm is just adjacent to Eugene and off of Interstate 5. Here, travelers with a knack for vintage wares and antiquities can find these timeless goodies, like one-of-a-kind collectibles and unique quilts.

Visitors can explore plenty of historic sites in Coburg since the town is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to over 187 historic sites or structures. Travelers can also take a walking tour to admire Coburg’s 20 historic homes. Alternatively, visitors can take their day slowly by picnicking by the banks of the McKenzie River at Armitage Park. This day-use park also has an RV campground, a 57-acre park attached to the half-mile Crilly Nature Trail, and an off-leash dog park.

A long day of exploring Coburg calls for indulging in local delights. Hungry travelers ought to try homemade pies at the Coburg Pizza Company. This local pizza joint is home to some of the most innovative slices—try the Idaho Baked Potato pizza or feast on the Chinatown Crab Rangoon pie.

Brownsville

Brownsville, Oregon. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownsville,_Oregon By 46percent - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7713785
Brownsville, Oregon. In Wikipedia. By 46percent – Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia

Brownsville emanates small-town vibes, peeking in the Southern Willamette Valley and only within 30 miles of Eugene, Lebanon, Sweet Home, and Albany. Brownsville is Western Oregon’s pioneer community with storied roots from the 1840s. The town is also known as the location of the filming of the Hollywood film Stand By Me.

Downtown Brownsville is lined with historic architecture, including its late 19th to early 20th-century buildings and its historic houses from the 1850s. Spend some time at the Living Rock Studio Museum, a creative roadside attraction built by artist Howard Taylor in 1985. Take a tour to learn about one of Oregon’s pioneer families while admiring this two-story house made using local crystal and semi-precious rocks like agates and quartz.

To commemorate its Hollywood feature, Brownsville also celebrates Stand By Me Day every July. Visitors can be a part of the festivities this day, which include a breakfast of blueberry pancakes and tours of the filming locations!

Cottage Grove

Chambers Covered Bridge. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chambers_Covered_Bridge https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9641294
Chambers Covered Bridge. Image credit Bruce Fingerhood from Springfield, Oregon, US, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From 1905 to 1925, there were an estimated 450 covered bridges present across Oregon. As the number of covered bridges dwindled within the state by 1977, Cottage Grove kept this piece of architectural history. Today, this Oregon Town proudly calls itself the “Covered Bridge Capital of the West” due to owning the largest collection of covered bridges in any other county west of the Mississippi River!

At Cottage Grove, visitors can admire these historic bridges, which are the subjects of countless photographs and film settings for movies like The GeneralEmperor of the North, and Stand By Me. Come and explore the town’s six covered bridges, including the structure of the Chambers Railroad Bridge, built in 1925 and is currently the last remaining covered bridge of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

The town’s covered bridges are also less than 20 minutes from the Historic Downtown area. Walk around Main Street to explore the commercial Historic District and admire its collection of 20th-century buildings. Today, this historic attraction is lined with antique shops, boutiques, and eateries for visitors to enjoy.

Tillamook

 Facade of Tillamook Creamery, cheese factory.
 Facade of Tillamook Creamery, cheese factory.

Tillamook exists within a network of rivers and farming land on the corner of Tillamook Bay. The town’s reputation is tied to its successful dairy industry. However, Tillamook is also famous for its collection of nature-loving attractions, from its hiking trails to its 800-plus miles of navigable waters.

Visit the Tillamook Creamery Visitor Center with friends or family and embark on a self-guided tour to learn about local cheese and dairy cows in Tillamook Valley. Plus, discover the history and production process of the famous baby loaf.

Nature awaits at Tillamook. Admire the beauty of the Oregon Coast at the Three Capes Scenic Route, stretching 40 miles starting at downtown Tillamook and heading toward Oceanside. Drive this picturesque jaunt and come across gems along the way, including the Bay Ocean Park, Netarts Bay, and Cape Meares. The Sitka Sedge State Natural Area is Oregon’s newest playground located south of Tillamook County’s Sandlake. The rugged (and undeveloped) landscape of this park is an ideal setting for nature enthusiasts, especially with its rich wildlife and trails winding through sandy, forested, and marshy territories.

Troutdale

Columbia River Gorge. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_River_Gorge By Blue Ice at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47591849
Columbia River Gorge. In Wikipedia. By Blue Ice at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, Wikipedia

Troutdale is only miles from downtown Portland, near the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia Rivers. This small town is also known as the “Gateway to the Gorge,” perfect for adrenaline enthusiasts seeking adventure around the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood!

Learn some background information about Troutdale at the Gateway to the Gorge Visitors Center inside the Troutdale Rail Depot. Here, visitors can learn about the town, the Columbia River Gorge Region, and more. The Depot Rail Museum is another piece of history worth seeing, featuring a restored Multnomah Falls painting commissioned over 100 years ago.

Chase epic waterfalls at the Columbia River Gorge by way of the Waterfall Corridor. Choose to picnic by the 242-foot-high Wahkeena Falls or hike towards the cascades of Fairy Falls. This famous area is packed with tourists in the summer, especially to admire the rush of the Multnomah Falls. These world-famous falls plummet to 620 feet and attract roughly over 2 million visitors every year.

Sumpter

Sumpter, Oregon, historic dredge. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumpter,_Oregon By Doug from Portland, USA - Pardon me, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2904271
Sumpter, Oregon, historic dredge. In Wikipedia. By Doug from Portland, USA – Pardon me, CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia

This town quietly hides within Eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains with a reputation linked to the gold mining history of the Sumpter Valley. Sumpter holds relics of its gold mining past, representing a prosperous and bustling time.

Visitors can start their journeys at the Sumpter Dredge Visitor Center to learn some history surrounding the Sumpter area and its surrounding attractions.

Afterward, a visit to the Sumpter Dredge State Heritage Area at the base of the Elkhorn Mountain Range is a must-see. The site’s centerpiece is the Dredge, a historic piece of mining equipment. Between 1935 and 1954, the Dredge ran almost continuously for seven days a week, 24 hours a day, digging up over $4 million worth of gold! Embark on a ranger-led tour of the area and even board the Dredge from May to October.

The adventure need not stop here—adventurous souls can journey along the Elkhorn Scenic Byway for one of the most scenic road trips in Oregon. This byway stretches 106 miles and is packed with plenty of picturesque stops and historic sites, including gold-mining boomtowns and complex landscapes of mountains, rivers, streams, and lakes.

Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach, Oregon. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockaway_Beach,_Oregon By Rickmouser45 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92759359
Rockaway Beach, Oregon. In Wikipedia. By Rickmouser45 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

Rockaway Beach straddles the Coast Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean and is about 85 miles west of Portland. In the early 20th century, this picturesque destination was originally established as a seaside resort. Today, Rockaway Beach is booming, and visitors enjoy its seven miles of beaches!

Enjoying the beach is effortless, thanks to the 31 (and more) public access points across town. Rockaway Beach’s sands can also be enjoyed at the 46-acre Rockaway Beach Old Growth Cedar Preserve, a wetlands preserve and home of The Big Tree, a large cedar tree that is estimated to be between 500 and 900 years old.

A visit to Rockaway Beach is incomplete without some admiration of the Twin Rocks, two sea stacks formed over millions of years. Many claim this geological formation resembles a princess or the Loch Ness Monster. Regardless, this structure stands at 88 feet with a hole spanning 35 feet.

In the midst of Oregon’s famed landscapes lie its offbeat towns. Outside of bustling cities like Portland or Salem, Oregon’s offbeat towns are alternative destinations to experience the charm and soul found in the beauty and character of Oregon. Whether exploring covered bridges in Cottage Grove or delving into the gold mining history found in Sumpter, these towns promise unforgettable experiences for adventurous travelers seeking the authentic spirit of Oregon.

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