10 Best Places to Live in Oregon

Oregon is a study in contrasts. It has 363 miles of the most breathtaking coastline you’ll encounter anywhere in the world. But it also has dense forests, mountain ranges, and high desert country. Although it has bustling cities along its I-5 corridor, Oregon also is alive with small towns and rural communities.

Weather is another marked contrast. Yes, it rains during the winter in the western part of the state, but it usually is in the form of a light drizzle rather than a downpour. However, the eastern part of the state has a dry, high desert climate.

In terms of your finances, there’s another variation to consider. Although Oregon’s state income tax is one of the higher ones in the U.S., the state collects no sales tax. Housing prices also vary widely in the Beaver State. September 2020 data from Zillow lists the average home value in the state as $379,503.

Not surprisingly, Portland and its metro area have some of the most expensive real estates, and rural areas in the eastern part of the state have some of the least costly.

If you’re thinking of moving to Oregon, you should know that, while Portland – the state’s weird and wonderful most populous city — gets a lot of national attention, the rest of the state has much to offer.

From the unforgettable turquoise water of Crater Lake — the deepest lake in the U.S. — to the snowy and majestic Mount Hood — the state’s highest peak — Oregon has something for everyone.

The 10 best places to live in Oregon:

1. Portland

2. Bend

3. Corvallis

4. Eugene

5. Beaverton

6. Ashland

7. Hood River

8. Salem

9. Brookings

10. Joseph

1. Portland

Let’s start off with the state’s largest, best-known, and — let’s face it — most exciting city. Nicknamed “City of Roses” for the thousands of rose bushes planted for the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, Portland offers plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities, world-class restaurants and bars, and a friendly progressive vibe.

Top employers include the nearby Nike Headquarters, Oregon Health & Science University, and tech firms like Intel and Tektronix. The metro area population of Portland in 2020 is 664,103.

Portland is a city of eclectic neighborhoods. Home to the University of Portland and Portland State University, the city boasts one of the nation’s most college-educated populations. Coffee culture reigns supreme in this city, which is affectionately described as “weird,” but the city’s dozens of microbreweries are also booming.

When it comes to sports, Portlanders love their Trailblazers (NBA) and their Timbers (MLS). The bike-friendly city is recognized nationally for its green initiatives, including its 10,000 acres of public parks.

Median Home Value — $479,166
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $1,499 per month

10 Best Places to Live in Oregon

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Geographically, Oregon boasts dramatic Pacific coastlines as well as volcanic mountain ranges. Its climate spans from rainforests along the coast to semi-arid conditions in the central and southeastern regions. The Beaver State is home to both Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S., and Mount Hood, the second-most-climbed mountain in the world…

2. Bend

Nestled between the Cascade Range and the high-desert plains, Bend offers plenty of sunshine, beauty, and opportunities for outdoor adventures. You can raft the Deschutes River, hike the foothills, or ski or snowboard on Mount Bachelor.

The city’s name is a shortened version of “Farewell Bend,” a term pioneers gave to its original site, one of the few fordable points along the Deschutes River.

Bend’s downtown is alive with restaurants, breweries, and culture. With a population of 105,418, Bend has a small-town feel combined with a trendy urban vibe.

The Visit Bend website boasts that the only rush hour traffic you’ll encounter in this Central Oregon city is having to stop for a family of deer crossing the road. Tourism, tech, biotech, and agriculture jobs fuel the economy.

Median Home Value — $479,616
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $1,345 per month

10 Best Places to Live in Oregon

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3. Corvallis

If you are looking for a picturesque college town, you can’t go wrong with Corvallis. Located in the lush Willamette Valley, Corvallis has a lively downtown with restaurants, bars, galleries, and shops.

The League of American Bicyclists lists Corvallis as one of its top bike friendly communities, and the city offers free public transit. Top employers are Oregon State University (Go, Beavers!), Samaritan Health Services, and AVI Biopharma.

Corvallis is just about an hour’s drive from the Oregon Coast, and the city and its surrounding area offer hiking, hunting, fishing, bird watching, and skiing.

Many locally-owned and nationally-known wineries are part of the agriculturally-rich Willamette Valley, and the city is home to a growing number of microbreweries. The 2020 population of Corvallis is 61,027.

Median Home Value — $394,807
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $1,075 per month

4. Eugene

As the home of the University of Oregon, Eugene is rich in cultural and outdoor recreational opportunities. The popular and long-running Eugene Saturday Market, open every Saturday, April through mid-November since the 1970s, offers a fun glimpse into this thriving university town’s art, music, and food scene.

Located near the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers, Eugene was the site of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials. The city has 23 different neighborhoods, an extensive public parks system, and various housing options.

The top employers in Eugene, which has a 2020 population of 178,329, are the University of Oregon (Go, Ducks!), PeaceHealth Oregon, the State of Oregon, and Monaco Coach Corporation.

Median Home Value – $354,073
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $1,060 per month

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5. Beaverton

Beaverton, Oregon

Located just seven miles west of Portland, Beaverton is not your typical suburb. Although it is close to all the attractions of its larger neighbor, Beaverton has its own distinct – and decidedly more laid-back– personality.

It is one of Oregon’s most diverse cities, with one in three residents identifying as a person of color and more than 100 languages spoken in the Beaverton School District.

Beaverton boasts that, because of its 1,000-acre park system, there is a park within a half-mile of every residence. The city also has a 25-mile bike path network and 30 miles of hiking trails. Within close proximity are plenty of hiking, rafting, and skiing opportunities as well.

With a 2020 population of 99,102, Beaverton is the home of Nike, Inc. The international athletic apparel company serves as one of the city’s top employers, along with tech firms, healthcare companies, and manufacturers.

Median Home Value – $422,225
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $1,198 per month

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6. Ashland

As the home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the nation’s top regional repertory theaters, and Southern Oregon University, Ashland has a vibrant arts scene as well as dramatic natural beauty.

The 93-acre Lithia Park is just a short walk away from the Festival’s downtown theater spaces and includes two ponds, tennis courts, a Japanese garden, two public greens, a bandshell, and miles of picturesque hiking trails.

Located in the foothills of the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges, Ashland is about 15 miles north of Oregon’s border with California. Nearby recreational opportunities include rafting on the Rogue River, hiking in the Siskiyou and Rogue River National Forests, skiing or snowboarding on Mount Ashland, and visiting Crater Lake National Park.

Job opportunities include medical research, education, healthcare, and tourism. Ashland’s 2020 population is 21,621.

Median Home Value – $465,365
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $840 per month

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7. Hood River

Situated on the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is about 60 miles east of Portland. The Gorge, which is up to 4,000 feet deep in some areas, forms the boundary between Oregon and Washington.

Known for its windy conditions, Hood River is known as the windsurfing capital of the world. Close behind are its growing reputations for craft beers and the visual and performing arts. Named for the majestic Mount Hood, the city is surrounded by fruit tree orchards and vineyards.

Hood River’s 2020 population is just about 8,000, and it is the seat of a county with a population of 23,332. Agriculture, tourism, and sports recreation are the backbone of the local economy, but tech and aerospace engineering firms have fueled new job growth in recent years.

Median Home Value – $491,385
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $787 per month

8. Salem

Salem, Oregon

If you were to ask most Americans to name Oregon’s capital, they would probably say Portland. But Salem, a city located a 50-minute drive south of Portland, has that honor. And this city, which is home to 179,944 people, feels much more relaxed and peaceful than its boisterous neighbor to the north.

The home of Willamette University, Salem’s jewel is the 23-acre Riverfront Park that rambles along the Willamette River. The state government is the city’s largest employer, with about 30,000 workers, and healthcare and service industries jobs also are prevalent.

The city’s park system consists of 46 parks covering more than 1,600 acres. Salem residents – or Salemites, as they call themselves — like that they are about an hour’s drive away from all the many outdoor activities Oregon has to offer.

Median Home Value – $311,329
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $850 per month

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9. Brookings

Brookings, Oregon

Brookings is a small city on the Southern Oregon Coast, but it is big on beauty. You can see everything from acres of azaleas blazing in color in Azalea Park to grey whales spouting off the shore. With a 2020 population of 6,485, Brookings has a relaxed attitude.

In fact, the motto of Curry County, where Brookings is located, is “No hurry in Curry.” Employers include tourism, healthcare, and the fishing industry.

Located just north of Oregon’s border with California and where the Chetco River flows into the Pacific Ocean, Brookings has a mild climate with temperatures rarely going below 36°F or above 75°F.

However, mornings can be foggy, and windy days on the beach can be frequent. Outdoor opportunities include exploring the local tidepools or hiking the Oregon Coast Trail and The Oregon Redwoods Trail.

Median Home Value — $359,065
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $651 per month

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10. Joseph

Joseph, Oregon

Although it’s the smallest city on our list by far, we couldn’t leave out a selection in Eastern Oregon. Joseph, named for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, is surrounded by natural wonders, including the Hells Canyon National Scenic Area, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, and Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.

The Wallowa Mountains are often called the Swiss Alps of Oregon, and when you see their beauty, you’ll understand why.

Joseph, which has a population of 1,139, sits at the north end of Wallowa Lake, known for its trophy-sized fish. Summer in Joseph is the time for hiking, mountain biking, boating, and fishing, while winter brings opportunities for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Joseph has a vibrant arts scene with life-size bronze sculptures lining the downtown sidewalks. Tourism, ranching, and agriculture provide the most jobs.

Median Home Value — $349,960
Median One-Bedroom Apartment Rent — $550 per month

Is Oregon the right state for you to call home? Only you can know for sure. But if you love the outdoors and would like to live near some of best scenery the world has to offer, you’d do well to take a close look at the Beaver State.

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