Great getaways where past comes aliveThe Pacific Northwest has a rich history and much of it is evident today in unique small towns located throughout the region. In fact, there are many small towns that attract visitors simply because they have so many historic buildings with interesting architecture and a colorful past.
If you’re a history buff – or if you just enjoy visiting small towns steeped in history, here are several suggestions that are fun to visit year-round:
OystervilleIn the mid 1800s, the village of Oysterville, on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, began to prosper with the discovery by local settlers of the rich oyster beds located in Willapa Bay.
That set the stage for a lot of community growth. Once the county seat, with a college, two hotels and a weekly newspaper, the town began to decline in the 1880s when native oysters began to become scarce.
But the area has enjoyed a renaissance –this time revolving around the tourism industry – and the entire community is on the National Historic Register and the original one-room schoolhouse and church are still in use for community events.
The area is an especially great place for a getaway because of several nearby towns and attractions that also take advantage of the island’s waterfront. There is a robust tourism industry on the Long Beach Peninsula that includes a wide selection of lodgings, eateries and attractions.
For more information on Oysterville, call 800-451-2542 or www.funbeach.com.
FairhavenIf you love historical architecture, one place to put on your list is the Fairhaven Historic District in Bellingham, Washington. This Northwest Washington attraction is located within Bellingham’s southern city limits and was formerly one of four pioneer settlements in the area.
Fairhaven dates back to 1883 and the name was taken from Native American words for “safe port” or “quiet place.” Today, many red brick relics of Fairhaven’s Victorian era survive in six square blocks that have been designated as the Fairhaven Historical District.
There is a variety of unique local shops, art galleries, restaurants and pubs, and one of the best independent bookstores in the nation. People love to shop and enjoy refreshments in the area’s restaurants and bars.
The district really has blossomed into a lively getaway destination and residential community. Interestingly, even new buildings look historical in Fairhaven. Builders are required by city code to conform to traditional 19th Century architecture.
The area is rich in scenery and attractions, with Puget Sound to the north, the Mt. Baker recreational region to the east and Vancouver B.C. just an hour’s drive to the north.
For more information on Fairhaven, call 360-671-3990 or visit www.Bellingham.org.
SteilacoomJust a few miles south of Tacoma, you find Steilacoom, known these days as the location of a Washington state ferry terminal where you can go to interesting places like Anderson Island.
But Steilacoom really is worth a visit all its own if you’re a history buff. It’s actually the first incorporated community in Washington Territory. It had the first brick building north of the Columbia River and the first Protestant church building. The town is more than 160 years old and, when it was founded, was one of only a few waterfront settlements along Puget Sound. Eventually, Steilacoom’s dreams of material glory went elsewhere. The truth was that Tacoma and Seattle had better natural ports.
In 1975, the Steilacoom historic district was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places and today history buffs will enjoy taking the time to look around town at the many historic buildings that remain.
For more information on Steilacoom, call 253-581-1912 or visit www.townofsteilacoom.com.
WinthropOne of the best places to get a feel for the past is the Wild West town of Winthrop. This town is in North Central Washington and is a fun place to visit, whether you have warm summer weather or the snow that makes the city and surrounding mountains so beautiful in the winter.
It was in 1883 when the lure of gold brought the first permanent white settlers. The town was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1893. Today, many of those buildings from the 1890s remain and it’s fun to see the historic artifacts at the Shafer Museum.
In the early 1970s, with the new North Cascades Highway connecting Winthrop with Western Washington, the town got together and built western storefronts to further emphasize the town’s history. Like the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth, the project turned out to be a major renovation that transformed the town into a major tourist attraction.
Today visitors experience a town that looks like one of those western towns you see in the movies – except that much of Winthrop is authentic.
For more information on Winthrop, call 509-996-2125 or www.winthropwashington.com.
PoulsboLocated across Puget Sound from Seattle, Poulsbo got its nickname of “Little Norway” from the many Norwegian Americans who settled there in the 1880s. That heritage lives on today, especially when you stroll the local shops and enjoy the Scandinavian foods and treats that are available in the town’s stores.
Poulsbo is a fun place to shop – very enchanting with its location on Liberty Bay and its beautiful Puget Sound scenery. It’s a great place to enjoy a weekend getaway anytime of the year.
“Little Norway" has a fun, pedestrian-friendly, historic downtown lined with shops, eateries, art galleries with local artwork and historic attractions. For example, Poulsbo Maritime Museum features items from the Pacific Coast Codfish Co. and Mosquito Fleet that served Poulsbo and it also displays ship models, maps and a maritime library.
And don't forget to stop by Sluys Bakery for their famous Viking Donuts.
For more information on Poulsbo, phone 360-440-7354 or visit www.poulsbohistory.com.
PHOTOS: Fairhaven district of Bellingham
Click here for more great Northwest travel ideas!
Click here for great deals on California travel