From Portland to VanCouver

Aug 5th, 2009, 06:00 AM
  #1  
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From Portland to VanCouver

I'm new to this site, so not sure if I have looked in "all the right places"..
I wanted to plan a trip for my husband and me that would last about a week.-give or take.. I'd like to see the best of the Oregon Coast, natural beauty, etc. and end up in Victoria/Vancouver area. (Is it worth seeing "Whistler" in mid September?) I'm trying to fly in by Southwest Airlines and then rent a car? I had thought that starting in Portland would be good,-a day or two there...then traveling coastline, and then heading to Victoria etc. (one person said skipping Seattle and take a car ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria BC, then another ferry from Victoria to Vancouver?) What's the best travel path for something like this? Does anyone have a week long itinerary of "best of the best" sights/enjoyment for this type of trip . We are 50 ish "youngtimers" who still enjoy the beach and fun (not big "party-ers"..just like to smile at new adventures)
Still, I get overwhelmed because I'm "the planner" and my husband is the spontaneous one...somewhere in between works best...has anyone posted this specific trek before? In glancing over some postings, it seems that Portland/Columbia River Gorge/Cannon Beach/Olympic Penninsula/Victoria seem to keep popping up...can we do all that in a week and if it were you what route would you take to make this happen? I'm also seeing conflicting things about renting a car and taking it over on the ferry to Canada...expense?..If we rented in Portland, and want to see sights but also get to Victoria/VanCouver should we keep the car the whole way or drop off before getting to Vancouver? thanks for your help!
Judianne is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 06:41 AM
  #2  
 
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Last month, my spouse and I took the trip you're presently planning out, but we took two weeks to do -- and, at every site we visited, wished we had more time. There's no way you can see everything worth seeing between Portland and Vancouver BC in a week. To add the Oregon Coast (which is south of Portland) AND Victoria in this week makes it even more impossible. You're going to have to pick either Oregon OR Seattle OR BC / North Washington -- and leave the other two for another trip.

Which you pick will depend on what you're hoping to see. It seems natural beauty is important to you, which is in abundance in the area. So now you'll have to decide between coastal scenery (Oregon) or mountain beauty (Washington), between uncluttered scenery (Washington NPs) or scenery with facilities (Columbia Gorge, Vancouver). ANY choice you make will end up being a great vacation, but you have to choose. Trying to see too much in too short a time guarantees you won't enjoy any of it.

Renting a car in the U.S. and returning it in Canada is not an option -- it's either prohibited or prohibitively expensive. Your best bet is to pick up and drop off the car in one place. Since you'll be limited to the area around one city, this should not be a problem. Calculate the cost of round-trip airfare to and a one-week rental in, each of these cities, and this allow you to compare costs.

You can take a rental car onto a ferry to Vancouver Island, and the city of Victoria most definitely is a place to visit. But you can also do this by passenger ferry at Port Angeles, and save a ton of money.

I can't pick any one area as a favorite -- all of them have their wonder and charm. Just pick one, enjoy it, then start planning your return visit.
PaulRabe is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 07:18 AM
  #3  
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Wow! Thanks so much for your response, yet I was never good at "picking/choosing", even in school! Since you've seen it all, what would you do FIRST if you had aprox.8 days? (We don't take lots of vacations, so this may be a one time effort for a while) If we want the "take your breath away" sights and animal sightings etc.? I don't care much about "city" feel, but I do enjoy quaint towns...trade marts, artsy shops etc. and my husband is an "outdoorsman" but not really a "climber/hiker".. Thanks for the tips about the car too...Guess I've gotta pick Seattle or Portland to fly in by southwest (we have credits) ..thanks for maybe responding once more? and wherever you say for "first choice" trek..got any specific places/restaurants that visited and loved?..thanks again!
Judianne is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 07:54 AM
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To see the whole Oregon Coast would take a couple of days (at least!), but you can get a great sampling of coast scenery within a couple hours of Portland, by heading west on US 26 and going south on US 101 and driving south from Cannon Beach to Manzanita or Tillamook and heading back to Portland. This could even be done in a quick day trip in a pinch (we are talking about maybe 4-5 hours driving tops) but you might want at least one night to really enjoy the Oregon Coast a bit. It's fun to walk on the beach at night or in the morning...

Definitely check out the Columbia River Gorge (waterfalls, etc.) Only a half hour east of Portland. Search the Fodors forums for the numerous past posts about the Gorge. I've recommended the McMenamins Edgefield hotel in Troutdale a few times to people - a unique place to visit whether you stay overnight or not, right on the edge of the Gorge.

Other great natural sites include Crater Lake (about 5 hours drive south of Portland) and of course the Cascades: Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and others.

In Portland, you can see some fun sites like the International Rose Test Garden - a "must see" during the summer/early fall when all the roses are still in bloom, plus you might enjoy the adjacent Japanese Garden or perhaps the Chinese Classical Garden down near downtown.

You could spend a couple of days driving up to Port Angeles, taking the ferry over as Paul suggests, and checking out Victoria - which you can do without a car, if you park your car in Port Angeles. Or you can drive about six hours from Portland to Vancouver, BC. But I'm not sure you want to do both Vancouver and Victoria with only a week.

You could also fly into Portland and out of Seattle. Southwest serves both cities.
Andrew is online now  
Aug 5th, 2009, 08:02 AM
  #5  
 
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> what would you do FIRST if you had aprox.8 days?

The problem with that question is that what *I* may or may not have any connection with what YOU would enjoy. Fortunately, you've given some clues on what you're looking for, so I'll do my best.

The sites that "took my breath away" were the snow-covered peaks. This means the national parks of Washington: Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, Olympic, and North Cascades. You could fly into Seattle and spend eight days visiting each of these in turn. Add the Olympic Peninsula for its small-town charms and you'll have a great eight-day trip.

OR you could fly into Portland and see Columbia Gorge, the Oregon Coast (lighthouses, sand dunes, whales, sheer cliffs, sea lions), the I-5 corridor (covered bridges, quaint towns), and the Cascades. Again, another great eight days, with less solitude, more infrastructure.

> I was never good at "picking/choosing"

This time you'll have to do so. Quiet solitude in the mountains (Seattle) or more bustle on the coast (Oregon)?

Best wishes for a great trip no matter what you choose.
PaulRabe is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 09:44 AM
  #6  
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Thanks Again Paul and Andrew. I'm getting a "clearer" picture now of what my real choices are. I'd love to hear a little more of what you both think about Victoria, VanCouver,Whistler, etc. also before deciding. (Paul, were they not mentioned because they are more "quaint" vs. breathtaking?) I read somewhere about "whale watching" in Tofino..has anyone done that? So before closing on this subject, guess my question is: would it be possible to fly into Seattle and only do only half the National parks you mentioned so we could head to Victoria/Vancouver from there? Thanks again and I must say I'm impressed with this new site discovery, it's helped me so much in 2 hours!
Judianne is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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Yes, I've done whale watching in Tofino but I wouldn't go to Tofino just for that as there are many other (IMO) more interesting things to do there and better places for whale watching (depending of course on the type of whales you want to see and the time of year).

But in any event Tofino is 5 hours from either Victoria or Vancouver--too much traveling unless you can stay at least 3 nights IMO. As I suggested on the Canada board, I recommend that you pick no more than 3 places to visit with only 8 days and plan to come back.
NWWanderer is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:11 AM
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I've lived in Oregon for most of my life, so have a clear bias, but of all the sights in the Pacific Northwest, Crater Lake never fails to take my breath away. And it fits nicely into a western Oregon loop itinerary that would include the most scenic areas of the coast, plus a dip into northern California for some redwoods.

As Paul stated, except that you try to see too much, you really can't make a bad choice. However, since the real attraction of the northwest is its natural beauty, I'd encourage you to focus on that. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver are all great cities, but not particularly unique except for their proximity to the surrounding beauty.
beachbum is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:21 AM
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Oh, and regarding whale watching... It's all about being in the right place at the right time. My best whale sighting happened on a ferry crossing between San Juan Island and Sidney/Victoria, when the captain shut down the engines for almost 15 mintues while 10-12 orca swam and splashed in the waters around it. Waayyy better than any tour!! So, if a whale watching trip fits into your itinerary somewhere, okay, but don't plan an itinerary around an activity that may well end up being a disappointment.
beachbum is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:41 AM
  #10  
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Thanks Beachbum. I agree with your comment on cities. If we do Pacific Northwest.. I feel we should fly into Portland and spend our time heading east one day to Columbia River Gorge, coming back. Then another couple of days heading west, south to do the coast to enjoy that beauty. The hard part is "letting go" of the concept of then using the second half of those 8 days to drive North to Port Angeles and hopping the ferry to Victoria. I'm just hearing from everyone that is "too much" in my time restraints. Question for you: besides seeing Crater Lake, you mentioned "the most scenic areas of the coast". Being a resident there, specifically which areas should we make it to for a couple day jaunt?

Thanks NW Wanderer..I'll skip the thought of whale watching in Tofino if we choose the Victoria/Vancouver route. Question: Any other places for the odds of a whale/water adventure in mid/late Sept you'd suggest?
(I just posted a question for you on the Canada sight also)
I just may have to put the two suggestions above and Paul's other thought of Washington National parks in a jar and pick because they all sound so wonderful! I promise this is my last post, and I appreciate, in advance, all of your final responses!
Judianne is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:50 AM
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Mid-late September--you'd still have a chance of seeing orcas from the San Juans or Victoria although less of a chance than earlier in the summer (June is peak time), as the resident pods tend to range further afield the later in the summer it gets (in search of salmon to eat) so they are not always within range of where the boats can get to in the time they have.

And it's too early for the gray whale migration down the coast.

So I probably wouldn't plan your trip around seeing whales given your time frame and consider it a bonus if you do.

I responded to your question on the Canada board as well.
NWWanderer is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:58 AM
  #12  
 
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I personally think the central-southern Oregon Coast has a slight edge in scenic beauty over the northern coast, in part because there's a higher density of good scenery. (If you look on a map, 101 south of Tillamook goes inland for quite a while so you don't see much coast scenery in that part.) That's not to sell the northern part of the coast short at all - there is amazing stuff there too, and if you have limited time, you shouldn't feel shortchanged in limiting yourself to the northern coast scenery around Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park, and down south toward Tillamook, while you use your limited time to see other sites in the Pacific NW.
Andrew is online now  
Aug 5th, 2009, 11:13 AM
  #13  
 
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Don't make promises you can't keep! ;-) Besides, no reason to.

The most scenic, easily accessible sections of the coast are the stretches Newport - Florence, and Port Orford - Brookings. But, those are in the central and south coasts, so I hesitate to recommend either if it's just a "couple day jaunt". Same for Crater Lake, which is a 5 +/- hour drive from Portland. Views there are truly jaw-dropping, but unless it's part of a loop itinerary, drive time would be a big chunk out of your time.

None of that is to say the north coast doesn't have its own spectacular sights. You could easily spend a couple days just around Cannon Beach and be perfectly happy (check websites for Ecola State Park and Cape Disappointment State Park views). And your time estimates for the Columbia River Gorge are right; 1 day is plenty; 1/2-day would work too.

The thing with hopping the ferry to Victoria is that you're then committed to either backtracking to Port Angeles - a waste of valuable time - or continuing on to Vancouver or Anacortes, WA. Victoria is cute and quaint, but too much of a detour from your itinerary. Honestly, if you want to fit it in, I'd suggest taking a float plane from Seattle.
beachbum is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 12:19 PM
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Hi Beachbum,
Well, I guess you're right..reminds me of what my son tells me about promises ..You're very knowledgeable and I appreciate the extra input and I'll check those sites.. No one ever responded about Vancouver, whistler etc..since you know so much about Oregon/Washington...are you as knowledgable about that area too for mid September?..
Judianne is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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I've been to Whistler once and Vancouver several times, but not recent enough to be anything but dangerous (a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing...). Besides, I've already exposed my bias; I think you should come to Oregon! ;-)
beachbum is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 11:39 AM
  #16  
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Thanks Beachbum! I'm workin' on Oregon and Washington now...you talked me into it!
Ever been to Texas?..it's another great State!
Judianne is offline  
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