Oregon: A Guide for Visitors

Day Trips from Portland  The Coast coast

Located 80 miles west of Portland, Cannon Beach is a great place to start your coastal journey.  Canon Beach has nine miles of accessible beachfront, perfect for kiters, castle-builders and beachcombers.  Downtown Cannon Beach is full of shops and places to eat.

Haystack Rock, which juts out from the coastline some 235 feet, is something you don’t want to miss.  Weather permitting, a picnic at the beach is just the thing.

Take the 4-mile loop hike in Ecola State Park (north end of Cannon Beach) for a view of some magnificent old-growth timber as well as the Pacific Ocean. At the 2-mile turnaround, you can take a look at some WWII bunkers.  At 1,100 feet above the ocean, this was one of the lookouts along the Pacific coast used during the war to observe Japanese subs. Ecola is also an excellent spot for a picnic lunch.

The Oregon Coast Highway, U.S. 101, is listed as the most beautiful drive in the Western Hemisphere by the Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom.

Web sites For Oregon Coast Visitors:

Of the nine original lighthouses on the Oregon coast, seven are open to the public and most are still active working lighthouses.

The further south you travel on the Oregon coast, the less crowded it becomes. The Oregon coast (all 362 miles) is public land so you can walk anywhere on the beach.

The Oregon Central Coast recreation map covers federal, state and private lands from Tillamook south to Coos Bay, and from the Pacific Ocean east to the Willamette Valley. Land ownership, roads, rivers and recreation opportunities are clearly marked, making it easy to use for navigation and planning. This is an “interagency map,” with more detail and coverage into the surrounding land ownerships outside of national forest boundaries. Available at the forest headquarters at Corvallis and offices are at Hebo, Waldport, Reedsport and Cape Perpetua (seasonal hours).

The past and present get along famously in Toledo, Oregon, a 147-year-old shipbuilding and lumber-mill center near Yaquina Bay, where traditional maritime pursuits have melded with a budding arts scene to create an uncommonly enchanting small town. The Annual Port of Toledo Wooden Boat Show is an old-fashioned, down-home waterfront festival where everything is fun and nothing much is fancy. It’s as authentically grassroots American as you can get! Launched in 2005, the first Wooden Boat Show kicked off to coincide with the City of Toledo’s Centennial Celebration. Held in August when the weather is fantastic, the Wooden Boat Show showcases vintage and new wooden boats at Port Dock One! The finest boat builders in the Pacific Northwest come to display their work and demonstrate their craft. Live music, food from various vendors and events for the whole family make this a festival not to be missed. Local artisans line the walk to display and sell their work.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria is one of the finest research libraries on the West Coast. Here, researchers will find Captain James Cook’s Journals from his three voyages around the world, John Meares’ journal of his voyage to the northwest in 1788 and 1789 and an original ship log from the fur trade era in the 1770s. That’s along with thousands of other documents and 30,000 historic photos.

Roosevelt Elk

If you’d like to see a large herd of Roosevelt elk, watch for the Jewell turnoff about 37 miles before reaching Cannon Beach on U.S. 26. From the turnoff, continue 10 miles north following the wildlife-viewing signs to the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area  where there’s a large meadow frequented in the cooler months by up to 300 elk. Although November through March is the best months to see the elk, September and October is the rutting season and big bulls can often be heard bugling and seen locking antlers. Call (503) 755-2264 for details.

Fort Clatsop National Park

The park was the home of the winter quarters of the Corps of Volunteers (Lewis and Clark) for North Western canonbeachDiscovery in 1805-06.  It was created in 2005 by congress. The Visitor Center includes two theaters, an exhibit hall, laser disc programs in the lobby, and many displays which are rotated through the year. The park has several trails, a picnic area, restroom facilities, and a replica of the fort the Corps of Discovery constructed as winter quarters after crossing what is now the United States in search of a water trade route to the Pacific Ocean. Fort Clatsop is located in the northwest corner of Oregon. It is six miles south of Astoria off Highway 101.

Day Trips from Portland  Other Places 

Wine Country

First, take a look at the information provided by the Oregon Wine Growers.  Oregon is famous for two wines:  Pinot noir and Pinot Gris.  With more than 175 wineries in the state, the heart of the wine industry is located southwest of Portland.  It’s a perfect day trip.  If you’re staying overnight on the coast, you can head back to Portland and visit a winery or two before you return to the city.

Head west on Highway 99 and in a few miles you’ll start running across such vineyards as Ponzi, Cooper Mountain, Beran, and Oak Knoll.  Head out towards Dundee and you’ll find such wineries as Rex Hill, Erath, Adelsheim, and Argyle.  Towards McMinnville is Sokol Blosser, Chateau Benoit, and Eyrie.  The Portland Oregon Visitors Association has a map of the Willamette Valley vineyards plus other information on the wine country on their site — click here to view.

Here is a list of restaurants in the wine country that come recommend by Jennifer Cossey. She works and lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley as wine director and sommelier at Paulée Restaurant in Dundee.

  • Red Hills Market – Dundee. Opened by husband-and-wife team Jody and Michelle Kropf, Red Hills Market provides great food at reasonable prices while showcasing local culinary artisans. Products include charcuterie, cheese, nuts, honey, coffee and chocolate (just to name a few).
  • Jory – Newberg. Located in the Allison Inn and Spa, Jory is a foodie’s dream come true. Executive Chef Sunny Jin brings his capable and ingenious hands, years of experience and tremendous culinary ambition to the restaurant, along with some good old-fashioned friendliness.

The growing association of Bed and Breakfasts in Yamhill County currently consists of over 20 members.  Each of these member Inns are located in the Willamette Valley wine region and are a good place from which to launch your journey through Oregon’s wine country.

Columbia River Gorge

The 80-mile National Scenic Area Columbia River Gorge is one of the Northwest’s world-class outdoor playgrounds.  It’s considered the windsurfing and kite sailing capital of the world it functions like a wind tunnel, generatinkitesailingg 30-knot winds as pressure differentials in weather east and west of the Cascades find an outlet in the deep cut of the Gorge.  Hiking to the Gorge’s waterfalls is a Portland-area classic day trip, and in late fall and early spring, when the heights of the Cascades are buried beneath deep snow, the Gorge is the number-one option for area hikers and mountain bikers.

Start your trip on Highway 84 heading east out of Portland – it’s a perfect day trip.  Take exit 22 (Corbett) off of I-84 just out of the city and drive the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway for a few miles – it will take you back to I-84.  Stop at Latourell Falls and see one of the most spectacular falls in the Gorge.  You can take the lower trail if you’re in a rush or the upper trail if you have an hour or so.  At the city of Mt. Hood go south on Highway 35 and make a run to Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood for dinner.  Consider lunch or dinner at the famous Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River – note that the hotel closed in early February 2009 and awaits a new buyer.  A visit to the Gore Interpretive Center in Stevenson is worth your time.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

It’s an hour plus drive from Portland.  On May 18, 1980, the long-dormant Mount St. Helens erupted.  Shaken by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, the north face of this tall, symmetrical mountain collapsed in a massive avalanche of rock debris. Within moments, this slab of rock and ice slammed into Spirit Lake, crossed a ridge 1,300 feet high, and roared 14 miles down the Toutle River.

Outdoor Activities

Ski Mt. Hood where skiing is almost a year-around activity.  The high-speed Palmer lift begins operations each spring and it whisks skiers close to the summit.  Mt. Hood is 50 miles from the city.  Join the MazamasAudubon Society of Portland or the Oregon Nordic Club for a hike, bike, ski, or climb.  The Mazamas hike every Tuesday and Thursday in the early evening. Here is a list of day hikes in  Mt. Hood National Forest Zigzag Ranger District.

Oregon City Heritage Center

If you have children, the Oregon City Heritage Centerbigwagns in Oregon City will be just the thing for them and we’re sure you will enjoy learning about the struggles of early Oregon citizens. Clackamas Heritage Partners’ focus is the history of the Oregon Trail, the Oregon Territory, Historic Oregon City and Clackamas County with special emphasis on the 1840s through the 1880s.

Oregon Garden

The Oregon Garden is southeast of Portland 40 miles in Silverton, Oregon.  Originally built by the Oregon Association of Nurserymen, it is a landscaped approach to plant display, resulting in a garden that is a skillfully arranged.  During the summers, they have 6-8 evening concerts.

Tree to Tree Adventure Park a five-acre aerial obstacle course woven amidst the trees near Hagg Lake which is about 40 miles from downtown Portland. The park caters to groups, corporate challenges, and individuals looking for “thrills and chills without the spills!” according to the park Web site.

Exploring Oregon  Overnight Trips

 Here are a few sights if you have more time.  They require an overnight stay.

  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival  Located in Ashland, Oregon, it is a  nonprofit theater established in 1935 and has an annual attendance of more than 340,000.  It presents eleven plays in repertory from mid-February through October on its three stages.
  • Bandon Dunes Golf Resort  The game of golf was born on rugged, wind-swept land like this. Where every hole, every hazard, and every shot is defined by nature’s infinite presence.At Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, you’ll find four distinctly different courses built on a beautiful stretch of sand dunes perched 100 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes feature a dozen holes that run along the bluff overlooking 23 miles of sweeping, undisturbed shoreline. Bandon Trails begins on a massive dune, works its way through open meadows and upland forest, and then finishes in the dunes. Old Macdonald moves through dune to ocean revealing breathtaking views throughout. The courses here weren’t built as much as discovered. Among the coastal forest, dunes and gorse, lie golf holes that yield fresh rewards each time they’re played. Golf Digest rated one of the courses the number three course in the nation.
  • Fossil Beds  The three units of this national monument are spread across two counties.  The visitor center at the Sheep Rock Unit is on Oregon 19 between Dayville and Kimberly, and this unit also features the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. The Painted Hills Unit is nine miles northwest of Mitchell. The Clarno Unit is 20 miles west of the town of Fossil. The public is invited to dig on the hillside behind Fossil High School; $5 per person and each person is limited to two handfuls of fossils.  You’re almost guaranteed to find something  an interpreter is often on site to help.  Where to stay: Service Creek Lodge.
  • High Desert Museum  Located just south of Bend, Oregon on Highway 97.  The High Desert Museum has eye-catching appeal.  You will find pallid bats, collared lizards, a barn owl, playful river otters, birds of prey, plus many other desert animals.  You can also view eight dioramas representing a century of overland migration across the American West.
  • roundupPendleton Roundup  Held in the second full week of September, it’s billed as one of the top five  rodeos in North America. Established in 1909, the celebration includes an old-fashioned rodeo, cowboy breakfasts, a parade, a country music concert, dances, art shows, and a nightly pageant that details the history of Native Americans and pioneers of the area. The town’s normal population of around 15,000 swells to 45,000 during this four-day event. The Roundup is held in conjunction with the Happy Canyon Pageant, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation’s largest powwow.
  • Oregon Caves National Monument is small in size, 480 acres, but rich in diversity. Above ground, the monument encompasses a remnant old-growth coniferous forest. It harbors a fantastic array of plants and a Douglas-fir tree with the widest known girth in Oregon. Three hiking trails access this forest. Below ground is an active marble cave created by natural forces over hundreds of thousands of years in one of the world’s most diverse geologic realms.
  • Silver Falls State Park  Stay overnight at the Conference Center and make sure to reserve the Upper Smith Cabins. You’ll get the convenience of meals prepared for you at the Conference Center, and small, comfortable cabins to relax and sleep in at the end of the day. Be sure to explore the Trail of 10 Falls, an eight-mile loop of groomed trails along cliffs and pristine creeks and gorgeous waterfalls. The park is about a 90-minute drive from Portland.
  • Umpqua River  Jump off I-5 and stop at the Winchester Dam fish ladder where you can get an up-close glimpse at summer steelhead, chinook, and sea run cutthroats. Travel back roads to Kruse Farms to load up on fresh berries and nuts, then continue up the Umpqua to Hestness Landing to begin your Umpqua unguided rafting trip. Take a cooler of refreshments and enjoy easy rapids, wildlife and lazy stretches of sun and conversation. Jump out of the water at River Forks Park and head to Julianna Vineyards’ tasting deck nestled adjacent to the Umpqua, where the atmosphere makes it seem like you’re drinking wine on a friend’s back deck. Soak in beautiful views of the sparkling Umpqua as the sun sets over the hills. Conclude your day with dinner at an Umpqua icon, The Steamboat Inn, where rotating guest chefs prepare the best of Oregon cuisine, family style.  Tim and Campbell Stewart suggestion from The Oregonian Bounty Contest.

Sleeping and Eating in Oregon 

Sleeping

  • Bella Beach  For a pleasant stay, consider Bella Beach located five miles south of Lincoln City.  Bella Beach has vacation homes for rent. From secluded hideaways for two featuring oceanfront hot tubs to larger homes. Every Bella Beach cottage rental is completely furnished to include bedding, linens, towels, dishes, cookware, and more.
  • Chateau at Oregon Caves National Monument is a rustic hotel in the Siskiyou Mountains adjacent to the entrance to the cave in the only active limestone formation in Oregon. The Chateau is part of a larger development that includes a chalet (dormitory/gift shop/multiple use structure), several employee and rental cottages, and a visitor contact station. The buildings were all constructed between 1923 and 1941.
  • Crater Lake Lodge  Originally built in 1909, the historic wood-and-stone building, perched at 7,000 feet oncratlklg the rim of the calderas, was weakened considerably by decades of heavy snowfall. The four-story summer lodge was restored in the mid-’90s with a $15-million taxpayer-funded makeover, and features 71 rooms. Even though only 26 rooms face the lake, all have great views. Best are the eight with claw-footed bathtubs in window alcoves. Crater Lake has long attracted the wonder and admiration of people all over the world. Its depth of 1,943 feet (592 meters) makes it the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the world. Its fresh water is some of the clearest found anywhere in the world. The interaction of people with this place is traceable at least as far back as the eruption of Mount Mazama.
  • Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City  The Geiser Grand Hotel, Italian renaissance revival architecture, is known as the finest hotel between Salt Lake City and Seattle since it was built in 1889.  Suites feature crystal chandeliers and 10′ tall windows affording breathtaking mountain views.  Toll-free 1-888-434-7374.  Visit the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill while in Baker City.
  • Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast  The crashing surf and the wind in the trees are all you’ll hear at this elegantly furnished Victorian B&B 10 miles north of Florence on US 101.
  • The Houses on Manzanita Beach  Three unique oceanside Manzanita vacation rentals front and center on the beautiful Manzanita Oregon beach.
  • Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guide  The Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guild Destination Guide can now be download.

Pet-Friendly Hotels/Properties Recommended by TripAdvisor

  • Five Pine Lodge & Spa in Sisters. Reviewers cited pet-friendly cabins located just outside the forest, making it easy to take Fido for a walk. Average nightly stay starts at $235, and there is a $25 fee per night for pets.
  • Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg. The Willamette Valley Inn features treats, kibble, and Fido-friendly wine tastings. Nightly rates start at $330, with a $50 one-time pet fee. 
  • Oxford Hotel in Bend. Pet-friendly perks at the boutique hotel include dog beds and bowls, organic dog treats and a map of area trails and parks. One TripAdvisor reviewer ranked it as “one of the best and pet-friendly.” 

 Eating

  • Oregon Coast Dining Guide  From the Willamette Week.
  • Joel Palmer House Located 40 miles southeast of Portland in Dayton, Oregon (wine country), Jack Czarnecki has transformed Northwestern fungus (mushrooms) from oddity to culinary treasure.
  • Local Ocean Seafoods  This restaurant with a simple menu has to be one of  the “Best Seafood” places on the coast.  Don’t expect ambiance or grand views of the ocean.  Instead, you’ll get great seafood and excellent service. Located at 213 SE Bay Blvd., in Newport, it’s just north of the bridge where the Newport fishing fleet is harbored.  Try the fish stew.

Online Guides to Oregon 

  • Travel Oregon is the official Web site of the Oregon Tourism Commission.  Great slideshow of the major regions:  The Coast, Portland, Mt. Hood and The Gorge, Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon, Central Oregon, and Eastern Oregon.
  • Online Highways  Visit to obtain essential information about Oregon events and places to visit in Oregon.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has built a highly detailed, statewide wildlife viewing map. Biologists across the state  determined which places were richest with wildlife and most accessible to the public. Visitors have a decent chance of seeing at least some of Oregon’s approximately 140 land mammal species, 30 amphibian species, 30 reptile species and 275 bird species.