Oregon: The Power of an Hour (Give or Take)
How on Earth did you get so lucky? Sure you’re charming, liberal, friendly and cool (sounds like the man/woman of all of our dreams, amiright?) and as if that wasn’t enough, your close proximity to an endless bounty of nature is so incredible that it’s borderline obnoxious…but we’re not mad. Within a short hour’s drive (give or take a little), you have an infinite amount of wondrous beauty at your fingertips: a wine-lover’s paradise, long stretches of rugged and staggering coastline, cascading waterfalls, and sweeping panoramic views for days. It’s just too easy to fall in love with you, Portland, and all of your Oregonian splendor.
Below is a suggested four-day itinerary.
Day 1: PORTLAND
What to do
The Pearl District is a wonderfully eclectic neighborhood to meander around and explore. Comprised of art galleries, funky boutiques, and a variety of restaurants and microbreweries, this was one of our favorite areas in all of Portland. If you love books, then visiting Powell’s Books is an absolute must. I know, typically a book store isn’t high on most travel itineraries, but Powell’s is the BEST. It’s the largest independent chain of bookstores in the WORLD (do you like how I keep using ALL CAPS TO GET YOUR ATTENTION?!), so in terms of books stores, it’s kind of a BIG DEAL. Peruse the aisles, grab some coffee, and let yourself fall in love with this literary haven. Did I mention there are microbreweries? Lots of them. Beer is king here, so why not take advantage of Portland’s numerous breweries– we enjoyed lunch at Bridgeport Brewing Brew Pub, one of Portland’s oldest breweries.
Spending some time in the Portland Japanese Garden is time very well spent. The garden is serene, lovely and authentic–a glorious place to get lost in and take a long stroll–and to take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Where to stay
Over a decade later, and Portland’s White House is still one of the best bed and breakfasts we’ve ever stayed at. In fact, this B&B is one of the main reasons why we fell in love with the bed and breakfast-style kind of stay and it still remains one of our preferred types of accommodation. Modeled after the actual White House, this historic Greek Revival mansion is majestic. Our room was comfortable and beautifully decorated and the complementary house-made cookies and delicious chocolates, along with the old-fashioned soaking tub, were wonderful added amenities. The common rooms are elegantly appointed with rich fabrics and artwork, as well as the owners’ beautiful collection of blue and white porcelains. The owners were so hospitable and thoughtful and even packed to-go breakfasts (which were delicious) for us on the early mornings that we set off on our excursions. A truly special and memorable place to stay.
We didn’t rent a car until our third day, when we drove out to the coast. During our time in Portland, we primarily relied on the Portland Streetcar and walking to get around. The streetcar is relatively cheap, reliable, clean and runs pretty frequently–we found it to be an easy and convenient way to get around downtown.
Where to eat
I’m hesitant to recommend restaurants, bars and breweries as we visited over a decade ago, and I’m quite sure the dining scene has changed drastically since we’ve been there. With that said, we had an outstanding and memorable dinner at Higgins (and based on my brief research, it’s still receiving good reviews).
Day 2: WILLAMETTE VALLEY
If the Hills ever go missing, there are a few places you should check first: South Africa’s Wine Country, Sonoma Valley, and Willamette Valley. Noticing a trend? Less than an hour away from Portland, Willamette Valley makes for a perfect day trip. Think California Wine Country with a fraction of the crowds and commercialism. Oh make no mistake, we ADORE Napa and Sonoma Valleys-but for somewhere far more low-key and relaxed where the wine speaks for itself, you’d have a hard time finding many other places that can rival Willamette’s simplicity and allure. If we could only revisit one place from our Oregon itinerary, it would be here.
We took a private wine tour with Oregon Wine Tours where our knowledgeable and informative tour guide Ron selected our wineries based on our preferences. We couldn’t have asked for four better wineries–to this day, our day in Willamette is still one of our all-time favorite wine tasting experiences.
Nestled into the slopes atop the Red Hills, Domaine Drouhin primarily produces distinctive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Because it’s French-owned, the wines are much more old-world influenced than most other Oregon wines. Ninety acres of vineyards are planted on their 225 acre estate and if you can get a tour of the impressive facility, I highly recommend it. Beautiful grounds, stellar wines and a knowledgeable staff help make this a must-visit on any itinerary.
Pinot seems to be the queen P here, as Anne Amie (pronounced on-ah-me) focuses heavily on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. Sipping on lovely wines accompanied with delicious cheese pairings all while overlooking expansive views of the valley was definitely a highlight of an already spectacular day.
One of Oregon’s premiere wine producers, Adelsheim is probably the most recognizable on this list and with very good reason. Their wines are outstanding: their Pinot Noirs are complex, while their whites are silky and elegant. An absolute must visit!
Like many wineries in the region, the family-owned Laurel Ridge winery is personable and welcoming. Here you can watch grapes being processed and eat grapes off of the vine–another place where taking a tour is definitely worth it.
Day 3: THE OREGON COAST
We rented a car first thing in the morning and made the 90 minute drive out to the coast. Oregon’s rugged coastline is breathtaking-much of it is still underdeveloped and its natural raw beauty will leave you inspired and humbled. Our first stop was Astoria, a richly historic port city that is often described as an old place that is newly hip. I was so intrigued by this place. Here is where Victorian mansions meet nautical relics and the streets are dotted with cozy cafes, rustic bistros, a Maritime Museum and seedy tattoo parlors. Yes, it’s quire an eclectic assortment, but somehow it works.
We then continued onward to our final destination: Cannon Beach. This adorable seaside village is straight out of a post card. The beach is gorgeous and we were lucky to have most of it to ourselves. Of course, the iconic 235-foot Haystack Rock is one of the main draws here (and it is very impressive), but the entire area is spectacular. Everything you want in a coastal town is pretty much here: stunning sunsets, pristine shorelines, dramatic rock formations, charming boutiques and bookstores, wonderful restaurants and coffee shops, and a relaxed, laid-back vibe. The Inn at Cannon Beach made for a cozy and delightful stay and was conveniently located. Highly recommend!
Day 4: COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
Beginning just thirty minutes outside of Portland, the Columbia River Gorge makes for a wonderful day trip. The extensive gorge protects the canyon where the Columbia River winds through the Cascade Mountain Range. This nature paradise is comprised of extraordinary landscapes, impressive vistas, and numerous waterfalls. Crown Point State Park offers dazzling vistas of the Gorge and is very easy to get to.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest and most famous falls, is widely recognized for its two-drop cascade. We made the short hike to the Benson Bridge, which stretches over the Falls’ second drop, where we were rewarded with sensational views. Once on the bridge, you can feel the power and the roar of the falls, all while surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery.
Keep staying gorgeous, Oregon (and liberal–we need the latter now more than ever). Muah.
Two Adoring East Coast Fans
For more about our love affair with the Pacific Northwest, read more here.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Willamette Valley Wine Region
The Oregon Coast
Columbia River Gorge
*We traveled to Oregon in 2006.
Originally published at dcglobejotters.org on February 16, 2017.