While most people flock to popular cities and coastal towns in the summer, there are numerous underrated summer destinations in the U.S. that offer unique experiences and fewer crowds. From coastal retreats to mountain getaways, these locations offer a variety of attractions that make for an unforgettable summer vacation.
Nestled in the Mule Mountains, Bisbee, Arizona, boasts a vibrant arts scene, historic architecture, and a cooler climate than much of the surrounding desert. Once a thriving mining town, Bisbee has transformed into a quirky, welcoming city where local artists showcase their talents. Explore Bisbee’s underground mining history or indulge in the unique gastronomy. Its picturesque streets and breathtaking mountain views make it a surprising summer destination.
- Beaufort, South Carolina
Tucked between Charleston and Savannah, Beaufort is a picturesque coastal town rich in American history. This charming destination offers enchanting Southern architecture, sweeping oak trees, and a waterfront park perfect for afternoon picnics. The town boasts historic sites from the Civil War era and an authentic low-country cuisine experience that few have discovered.
- Whitefish, Montana
Just a stone’s throw away from Glacier National Park, Whitefish, Montana, provides an outdoor haven in the summertime. From serene mountain hiking to thrilling water sports in Whitefish Lake, there’s something for everyone. In town, you’ll find a laid-back atmosphere complemented by locally-sourced dining options and a thriving craft beer scene.
- Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs, with its winding streets and Victorian architecture, is a town seemingly untouched by time. The entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places. Whether you want to explore the haunted Crescent Hotel, relax in the natural hot springs, or indulge in the local culinary scene, Eureka Springs is a hidden gem that delivers a unique, authentic experience.
- Sandpoint, Idaho
Located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint, Idaho, is a mecca for nature lovers. The stunning mountain lake scenery, thriving arts community, and expansive outdoor recreational opportunities – including hiking, biking, and water activities – make it an underrated summer destination.
- Brookings, Oregon
Known for its warmer climate compared to the rest of Oregon, Brookings provides a unique blend of coastal beauty and adventure opportunities. From spectacular ocean vistas at Harris Beach State Park to the unusual Botanical Gardens at Azalea Park, Brookings is a summer paradise waiting to be explored.
- Bayfield, Wisconsin
Overlooking Lake Superior, Bayfield, Wisconsin, serves as the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The town offers apple picking in the orchards, kayaking, and sailing during the summer. The stunning sea caves, historic lighthouses, and beach camping make this a truly unique summer destination.
- Girdwood, Alaska
While most associate Alaska with harsh winters, Girdwood provides a stunning summer getaway. With scenic trails for hiking, biking, or bird watching, you can take in the awe-inspiring mountain views or venture to the nearby glaciers.
- Brattleboro, Vermont
Despite being a small town, Brattleboro brims with culture and vibrancy. This artistic community offers art galleries, live music, and film festivals. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Green Mountains and Connecticut River, providing plenty of adventure for summer vacationers.
- Block Island, Rhode Island
Off Rhode Island’s coast lies the unspoiled Block Island, featuring pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs, and a serene atmosphere. Its preserved open spaces, miles of beach, and charming boutiques make it an ideal summer destination for those seeking solitude and natural beauty.
- Leadville, Colorado
Leadville offers a refreshing summer escape with an elevation that beats the heat. From exploring historic mining sites to hiking along the Continental Divide, Leadville provides a mix of history and adventure. Its scenic beauty and plethora of outdoor activities make it an underrated summer destination.
- Pismo Beach, California
Pismo Beach is a small city on California’s Central Coast, renowned for its beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets. The area offers excellent surfing, wine tasting, and a historic pier for leisurely strolls. Monarch Butterfly Grove, a sanctuary for thousands of monarch butterflies migrating in winter, is another must-see spot. Though it doesn’t share the fame of its larger neighbors like Los Angeles or San Francisco, Pismo Beach’s serene environment makes it a perfect underrated summer destination.
- Walla Walla, Washington
Walla Walla may be a lesser-known destination, but it has a lot to offer. With an up-and-coming winery scene, it’s a must-visit for wine enthusiasts. Walla Walla also has a rich history showcased through its preserved downtown buildings. The Walla Walla Balloon Stampede in May offers a visual feast, while outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy biking or hiking in the scenic landscapes.
- Cedar Key, Florida
Cedar Key provides a relaxed, slow-paced atmosphere that contrasts with Florida’s typically bustling beach towns. Here, you can enjoy local seafood, birdwatching in Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, or kayaking through the surrounding mangroves. Its historic downtown, art galleries, and museums make Cedar Key a cultural hub with a small-town feel.
- Port Angeles, Washington
Port Angeles, a small city on the Olympic Peninsula, serves as the gateway to the Olympic National Park. Offering a perfect blend of ocean, rainforest, and mountain trails, Port Angeles provides countless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Visit the tranquil Lake Crescent or take a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, for a day trip. The area’s mild summer climate and majestic scenery make Port Angeles a hidden gem for summer explorers.
Indeed, Port Angeles is a truly underrated summer destination. As the primary gateway to the Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, Washington, is perfectly situated for exploring the stunning Olympic Peninsula. This small city sits nestled between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, creating a beautiful contrast of sea and mountain vistas.
One of the town’s most notable features is its perfect blend of ocean, rainforest, and mountain trails. As part of the Pacific Northwest, the region is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the U.S., offering ample opportunities for outdoor adventures. You can traverse the various trails weaving through the temperate rainforests, showcasing the area’s lush greenery and diverse wildlife. Head towards Hurricane Ridge, a 45-minute drive from the city, for panoramic mountain views and trails that suit all levels.
Just west of the city, Lake Crescent is a must-visit. This deep, glacially carved lake is famous for its vivid blue waters and its tranquillity, providing the ideal setting for kayaking, canoeing, or simply picnicking by the shore.
What makes Port Angeles even more unique is its ferry connection to Victoria, British Columbia. This allows visitors to experience an international day trip without the hassle of a long journey. Once in Victoria, you can explore the charming Inner Harbor, visit the historic Butchart Gardens, or immerse yourself in the city’s British-inspired architecture and attractions.
The climate in Port Angeles during the summer months is mild and comfortable, often hovering in the seventies with a light sea breeze. This pleasant weather is perfect for outdoor exploration and enjoying the city’s majestic scenery. Downtown Port Angeles has a collection of local shops, art galleries, and restaurants offering fresh seafood, making it a vibrant spot to unwind after a day of adventure.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or simply someone looking for a serene summer getaway, Port Angeles provides a balance of natural beauty and quaint city life that makes it truly a hidden gem. Its unique geographical location, diversity of outdoor activities, and underrated status make it a memorable summer destination worth exploring.