The Pacific Northwest state of Oregon is an undiscovered gem. The sheer variety of scenery is staggering; cascading waterfalls, dense forests, wild mountains ranges, deep canyons, uncrowded beaches and quaint towns.
Mother Nature has a few of her greatest hits here too: Hells Canyon - North America's deepest river gorge; Crater Lake - America’s deepest lake and Mount Hood - a stunning backdrop and active volcano.
Add in a picturesque wine region and some hip urban spaces and you've got some incredible ground to explore.
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Laid-back, friendly and wonderfully eclectic – you're bound to adore Portland. Known as the ‘City of Roses,’ with 92,000 acres of green space, they are proud of their eco-friendly status and of the city's endless biking and walking trails.
Be sure to head for Washington Park and the International Rose Test Gardens, Japanese Garden, and the Forest Discovery Centre. This bohemian city has many unique, colourful neighbourhoods, all of which you can enjoy via public transportation. The Portland Streetcar and MAX train will take you to Nob Hill - around NW 23rd Street chock full of boutique shops and Victorian villas. Portland is also known for its bridges. The Willamette River, which divides the city into east and west sides, features a dozen distinct crossings that hint at the city’s eclectic personality. Most bridges are accessible by bike, so it makes a great way to see the city.
Want to extend your stay in Portland? Check out the pre-bookable excursions that are available in the city.
Distance: 80 miles
It’s off next to the rugged Pacific Coast and the seaside cities of Cannon Beach and Astoria. The ex-salmon mining town of Astoria occupies a spectacular setting at the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Take the 164 steps to the observation deck of the historic Astoria Column and enjoy the view, followed by a craft brew in Buoy Beer Company. The brewery sits on the pier and you can spy on sea lions through the glass floor! Cannon Beach is perfect for long, leisurely strolls and you won't miss the imposing 100 meter high landmark, Haystack Rock.
Distance: 156 miles
You’ll discover one stunning viewpoint after another as you journey south along Oregon's Pacific Coast All American Road, scenic HWY 101. Drive through bustling seaside communities, uncrowded beaches and quaint coves. Be sure to hop on a boat at Depoe Bay for a spot of whale-watching and a lunch stop in one of the seafood eateries on the boardwalk in Newport. Take the whole day to savour this drive as there’s an abundance of pull-over opportunities to stop and gaze out over the ocean.
Set at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, you’ll adore Florence’s historic downtown area and artsy vibe. Be sure to visit the nearby vast Sea Lion Caves, home to the Stellar sea lions. You could also head off on a hiking trail to the restored 19th-century Heceta Head Lighthouse. Travel across the river and you’ll encounter Oregon Dunes Recreational Area. The dunes are so magnificent it inspired novelist Frank Herbert to pen his epic novel “Dune”. Explore the area by dune buggy or try your hand at sand surfing.
Distance: 265 miles
Continue along Oregon's Pacific Coast All American Road before heading inland to the Wild Rogue Wilderness area and the charming town of Grant’s Pass. Enjoy a rafting or kayaking trip along the river - rugged and remote, the Rogue delivers post-card-perfect views as it carves a dramatic canyon through the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon. Plan to arrive in Klamath Falls, perched on the edge of Upper Klamath Falls, in time for dinner by the lake.
Distance: 176 miles
From Klamath falls, it’s a short jaunt along part of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway to North America’s deepest and clearest lake - Crater Lake National Park. Choose to drive the 33-mile rim of this dormant volcano and gaze over the sapphire-blue waters. If time allows, hop on the boat cruise to Wizard island, or enjoy a hot chocolate on the veranda of historic Crater Lake Lodge perched on the edge of the crater.
Travel on to Bend and learn more about the volcanic activity in this region. Pop into the Lava Lands Visitor Centre and take the shuttle bus to the top of Lava Butte for spectacular views. Or take an interpretive walk at the still-active Newberry Crater and discover the crazy lava formations by flashlight.
The area around southeast Bend is sometimes referred to as the “Oregon Outback” and is one of the most sparsely populated areas of the contiguous USA. This is a true wilderness region which offers a myriad of activities for you to enjoy from mountain biking to horse-back riding. For the less energetic, visit Smith Rock State Park to view the jaw-dropping rock formations made of compressed volcanic ash.
Distance: 232 miles
Journey into eastern Oregon to a land shaped by volcanoes, carved by glaciers and steeped in Old West history. Be sure to stop at the Painted Hills, part of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Here you’ll view spectacular colours that appear to have been hand-painted by Mother Nature herself.
The legendary figures who passed through or lived in Eastern Oregon, including Chief Joseph, Lewis and Clark and the Oregon Trail pioneers, provide a window into the region's rich history. Today, you’ll still see wagon ruts of these early residents. Interpretive centers bring bygone days to life, as do the historic hotels and bed and breakfasts sprinkled throughout the region. The small frontier towns of Baker City, Joseph and Pendleton are all joined by the incredibly scenic Hells Canyon Highway, a 208-mile horseshoe route through the state’s rich ancestral homeland of the Nez Perce tribe. Without a doubt, the main attractions on this route are America’s deepest river gorge, Hells Canyon, and “Little Switzerland,” of the USA, the Wallowa Mountains.
Step back in time in Baker City to the gold rush era and the historic downtown area. Your overnight stay at the Geiser Grand Hotel is a Victorian dream.
Distance: 113 miles
For a different view of Hells Canyon take a jet-boat tour along the Snake River and gaze at the dramatic steep canyons walls, be sure to keep an eye out for bears and bighorn sheep along the river.
In Joseph you’ll enjoy a mix of art and outdoor adventure. Hike along the granite peaks, or stroll through the lush alpine meadows. In nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness you’ll discover over 50 pristine lakes just begging to be explored. A mile south of Joseph lies Wallowa Lake, a deep-blue alpine beauty formed by glaciers and wedged between high peaks.
From mid-May through September, the Wallowa Lake Tramway whisks passengers toward the summit of 8,200-foot Mt. Howard for easy access to high-altitude hikes.
Distance: 238 miles
You’ll find yourself in the heart of prime cowboy country as you travel through the ranch lands of the upper region of Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to the Columbia River Gorge. Stop at the historic western town of Pendleton and delve into the region’s rich Native American heritage at the living culture village within Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. Designated a National Scenic Area in 1986, the gorge divides Oregon and Washington State and was carved out some 15,000 years ago by glaciers and near biblical floods.
Drive along the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway and you’ll be gazing out over high, cascading waterfalls and nearly vertical mountain walls, all the while paralleling the mighty Columbia. It truly is a sight to behold.
Spend your time in this wonderful region on gentle hikes through wildflower meadows or checking out lush canyons filled with ferns and raging rivers. You might want to also consider a leisurely bike-ride around the ‘Fruit Loop’, the quiet country highways of Hood River Valley, which abounds with more than 25 fruit stands, a handful of U-pick berry farms and about 10 wineries. Here too, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the first federal dam to span the Columbia in 1937. Its generators are visible from a balcony on a self-guided tour or up close during free guided tours offered daily in summer.
Distance: 107 miles
Continue along the Historic Columbia River Highway today and into the ‘Land of Plenty’ - what the Oregon Trail pioneers called the fertile Willamette Valley. Home to two-thirds of Oregon's wineries and vineyards, this verdant valley is known as one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world.
Be sure to carve out some time for the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, a collection of military and civilian aircraft, including the famous Howard Hughes “Spruce Goose.” Your final night of your Oregon tour will be spent in a characterful wine country inn.