Portland/Northern Coast

Old Jan 14th, 2023, 08:22 AM
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Portland/Northern Coast

We have never been to the Portland area and want to know what the must do's are in that city....also, planning a few days on the coast...where is the best place to serve as our 'hub' and what are some great day trip and attractions on the northern part of the coast? We are older, not very athletic but have grown children that can do things on their own during the day and they are outdoorsy. Best time to visit?..Appreciate any advice.
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Old Jan 14th, 2023, 10:15 AM
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Hello Janet and welcome to Fodor's! I do live in Oregon but not near the coast. My favorite place in Portland when it is raining (often does) is Powell's World of Books. Getting around the city is made easy by using the TriMet system. If you come in on a flight to PDX, the end of the red line light rail is right outside the baggage claim area. Other things to see are the zoo and the International Rose Test gardens.
Driving to the coast from Portland is easier using US 26 instead of US 30 IMO. My favorites from north to south are Astoria, Seaside (prom), Cannon Beach (Haystack Rock), Tillamook (cheese factory and Cape Meares), Lincoln City (world's shortest river and a casino) and Newport. Just south of Newport visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Inland from the coast visit the Evergreen Aircraft and Space museum in McMinnville.
My sport is geocaching. It is a great way to find places that you might never discover on your own. In 2006 I found at least one geocache in each of the 36 counties of Oregon in a contest. My favorite season for Portland and the coast is late spring and early summer.
Portland does have a bad homeless problem and I hope that our new governor will improve the problem. I'm sure others will give you more ideas on what to see in Oregon.
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Old Jan 14th, 2023, 02:24 PM
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Portland. When in Portland, hike in Forest Park and check out Lan Su Chinese Garden. I enjoyed an excursion to the coast to Cannon Beach and Astoria. Also recommended is the Zigzag Canyon Trail, a spectacular alpine hike on Mt. Hood.

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area @ Yachats. This is the most popular tourist destination in Oregon. Towering 800 feet over the Pacific Ocean, the Cape Perpetua headland is the highest viewpoint accessible by car on the Oregon Coast. A great overlook with wonderful views of the Pacific. Over 2,700 acres of unique coastal habitat and 26 miles of trails through the lush temperate rainforest.

Cannon Beach. Scenic coastal resort with Haystack Rock. South of town is Oswald West State Park which has lovely deserted beaches. Named one of America’s 100 best art towns it is is home to over 15 art galleries. Hike in Ecola State Park in the coastal rainforest.

Astoria. Many colorful houses and older longtime residents speak with a Finnish accent. Lewis and Clark National Historic Park with the recreated Fort Clatsop. Visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Stroll on the Astoria Riverwalk. The Cathedral Tree Trail takes you to a Sitka spruce which you can walk into. Eat seafood.

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Old Jan 14th, 2023, 09:26 PM
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Check out the Travel Portland website. Idea on dining, lodging , day trips. Cannon Beach would be a good coastal place for a hub. It does get very busy though. I like to stay further south in Newport or Yachats. I like visiting the coast in the fall the best. The summers can be cold and windy.
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Old Jan 15th, 2023, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by janetoborowski7608
Best time to visit?.
How many would be in your party and how many days would you likely have available altogether? This is an important consideration given the wide variety of options in the region, plus the very different climate/weather conditions that prevail at various times of the year. Also, where are you be coming from?

Let me talk about the geographic areas that you could/should experience, and talk about them in terms of seasonal differences. With really no idea of your personal tastes or interests, we're sort of shooting in the dark, but maybe something will register.

Portland city: Portland has plenty of urban diversions - lovely parks, fascinating history, terrific restaurants and pubs... it's quite a foodie destination nowadays. It's a year-round destination; its reputation for being rainy is true to an extent, but the overall climate is pretty benign compared to many other US cities. It has decent public transportation and is fairly walkable. Like other western cities Portland has a large-ish homeless population, but overall it's quite a safe destination.

Northern Willamette Valley. Portland sits on the Wilamette River, not far from its confluence with the Columbia River. The Willamette Valley is where a big percentage of Oregon's population resides, and it's noted more recently for the terrific wines that come from the northwestern part of the valley, a little southwest of Portland. If you're interested in wine, the area, say centered on the pleasant town of McMinnville, is a great destination from spring to autumn. Farther south, the valley offers some pleasant small towns, beautiful countryside with covered bridges, and other rural delights. This was the end of the Oregon Trail and there's a lot of history in the area. This region is awesome in the spring and autumn.

Columbia River Gorge, Hood River Valley and Mount Hood. Starting just east of Portland and extending 100 or more miles to the east, the Columbia River flows through a gorge carved over the millennia. Closest to Portland, the "waterfall zone" along the south bank of the gorge offers a string of majestic waterfalls, most of them easily accessed off the "Historic Columbia River Highway," one of the most scenic roads in the country. Multnomah Falls is the best known, but there are several others worth a stop. Because of the popularity of this area and its proximity to the city, the State of Oregon has instituted a "controlled entry" system for access to the Historic Highway with timed access requiring permits - Multnomah Falls and Waterfall Corridor Timed Use Permits - Recreation.gov . Note this system is in effect from - roughly - the Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, and not applicable the rest of the year.

The Gorge continues past the waterfall zone, with the little towns of Cascade Locks and Hood River providing numerous options for accommodation and food. Along the way you'll pass Bonneville Dam, one of the hallmark monuments in the region; a visit to the fish hatchery at the dam is a marvelous (free) experience. The scenery along the historic highway, and also along the I-84 freeway at the river's edge, is fabulous the whole way. Then at Hood River (roughly an hour's drive east of Portland) you can head south into the glorious Hood River Valley. The valley is full of orchards and vineyards, producing various kinds of fruit - cherries, apples, pears - and grapes for a growing range of premium wines. There are also fields of lavender and other flowers, and all of it is overlooked by the Fuji-like peak of Mount Hood. An hour's drive south from Hood River will get you to Timberline Lodge set on the side of the big volcano. This iconic structure was featured in the film The Shining, but it's anything but menacing in person. One can stay overnight at Timberline, or use it as a base to explore the alpine areas of the mountain, as a ski base in season, or just as a place to have a meal in beautiful and historic surroundings.

Back on the Columbia, the gorge continues east, through country that becomes more arid and starker (the mountains block the rain) until one reaches the settlement of Maryhill on the Washington side of the river. Maryhill is home to a famous winery, and also to the remarkable Maryhill Museum of Art. The museum's eclectic collection includes numerous works by August Rodin, as well as world-class collections of Native American art and a fascinating exhibit of postwar miniature fashion mannequins from Paris. The museum's setting - on the clifftops overlooking the great river - is as remarkable as its contents. Then, as a capper on the whole area, a few miles farther east one encounters a weird replica of Stonehenge, built by the same man who built the museum's structure and dedicated as a war memorial for local soldiers killed in World War I.

When to visit the gorge, the Hood River area, Mount Hood, etc: Because of its proximity to Portland, this area can be visited as a day trip from the city, but there's so much to see that giving it just a day is a shame. In the spring, the waterfalls are phenomenal with runoff of melting mountain snow, and the Hood River Valley is astonishing with orchards in bloom. On Mount Hood they'll still be skiing, and clouds might obscure views of the mountain, and out at Maryhill the sagebrush will be in bloom. In the summer, say July through August and into September, the waterfalls will still have plenty of water in them, the valley will be full of flowers, and Mount Hood will be visible and accessible, even to high elevations using the "Magic Mile" chairlift from Timberline. There will also be a LOT of people in all these areas, particularly the waterfall zone. At Hood River there will be hundreds of windsurfers and kite boarders; the town is a worldwide draw for these sports. There will be whitewater rafting, fishing in numerous streams in the Hood National Forest around the base of the big mountain, and on and on. In the autumn, the Hood River Valley turns into a yellow, orange and red playground; the fruit and wine harvests are in full swing, and all the wineries and craft beer outlets in the towns (Portland too) are hopping.

If this sounds like I'm gushing, guilty as charged.

Lower Columbia and northern coast. Downstream from Portland, the Columbia River widens and slows a little as it approaches the Pacific. In my view, the northern bank (the Washington side) is far more scenic and interesting, particularly as it approaches the river's mouth at Cape Disappointment. There are several historic and interesting towns along the way, such as Cathlamet and Ilwaco on the Washington side, and St. Helens and Astoria on the Oregon side. (St. Helens stood in for Forks, WA for much of the Twilight film series.

When the river finally reaches the ocean, it's six miles wide. On the Washington side, Cape Disappointment (a state park) is a fabulous destination, with its Lewis and Clark interpretive center, lighthouses and waves-on-rocks scenery. Not far from Cape Disappointment is the Long Beach peninsula, featuring miles-long beaches, funky salt-water-taffy resort towns, historic Oysterville, and other enjoyable places. Inland from the peninsula is the Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where millions of migratory birds spend their days at all seasons.

Across the river's (awesome) mouth, crossed via an impressive toll bridge, is historic Astoria, home to an increasing number of nationally regarded restaurants, cinema tourism destinations (mainly from The Goonies) and other attractions. From Astoria, the northern coastal communities run the gamut from party-hardy destinations like Seaside to artsy Cannon Beach, as well as more staid places. Cannon Beach is famous for Haystack Rock, and also for its galleries and cafes. as well as magnificent and nearby Ecola State Park.

When to visit: Obviously mid-summer is a peak season in this area, and it's worth noting that many accommodations, particularly in places like Cannon Beach, may require multiple-night bookings, particularly over weekends. Winter can be stormy and quite spectacular, especially in places like Cape Disappointment, and spring and fall can be pleasant, or rainy and cloudy, or all of the above, separated by a couple of hours.

So that's the scoop on where and when. This post is way, way longer than I intended, but I hope it might be the basis for some research and discussions among your party. Happy planning!

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 15th, 2023 at 07:55 AM.
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Old Jan 15th, 2023, 09:28 AM
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You have gotten lots of good information. The public transportation in Portland is wonderful. When planning, I was a bit confused with all of the neighborhoods so I took the hop on hop off trolley. It was very helpful in understanding the area and of course they pointed out other things to see and do that I had not found in my research. The same company offered a trip to the Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately, just before we arrived there was a fire at the Gorge and we were not able to visit. I really enjoyed The Grotto, an outdoor "church" with a beautiful garden above. There is a Japanese Garden in Washington Park that is beautiful. It is just above the Rose Test Garden. One night we had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory. Sounds mundane but we had a table that overlooked the Columbia River. The food is not over the top but very good.
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Old Jan 15th, 2023, 09:35 AM
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Hi janetoborowski

I haven’t been to the coast but here are my thoughts from when I visited Portland and vicinity.

It’s been a few years but for the city itself, I enjoyed seeing the homes, parks, greenery and energy of some neighborhoods, especially the area I stayed in, the Alphabet District (nw of Downtown). The Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden were lovely.

This said, the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and views are probably my most treasured memories of the area, so I recommend planning to do that, even if it requires this timed entry (timed entry wasn’t a thing when I went). In this area, Vista House, Multnomah and Latourell Falls, as well as Herman the Sturgeon/ Bonneville Dam (last I checked he was still alive?) were what stand out as amazing and exceptional experiences to this day.

Happy travels. Daniel
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