Pack your luggage, load the kids in the car, and let FTF tell you how best to enjoy a scenic road trip though Oregon.
There’s probably no better state for scenic touring than Oregon, and no better place to begin than its gorgeous coast. From Brookings in the south, to Astoria, on the banks of the Columbia River opposite Washington state, Oregon hosts a 360-mile length of US Highway 101, the celebrated West Coast route better known for its California scenery.
Let the journey begin…
From Shakespeare to Skiing
Before you hit the coast, spend a few days in sophisticated Ashland, a small southern town nestled in the Rogue River Valley. (The Riverside Inn is recommended, but you can contact the Ashland Chamber of Commerce at 541/482-3486 for information about other motels and B&Bs.) The cultural highlight here is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (541/482-4331), whose backstage tours and fun Shakespeare Festival Museum are as anticipated as its annual productions, where children are welcome.
Head north the next day to the Crater Lake National Park ( 541/594-3000) for picnicking, boating, and a hike (for the hardy) along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Take a leisurely car tour around the lake, actually a caldera formed by a collapsed volcano; the islands you see are broken slabs from the original mountain. When your family has recovered, head west to explore the striking Oregon Caves National Monument (541/592-2100). Winding roads through forest and foothills will bring you to Brookings, a seaside town at the foot of the Klamath Mountains, right at the head of Highway 101.
Those traveling with older children may prefer a detour northeast into Bend, where mountain bikers, hikers and rock climbers venture into the Cascade Mountains, and windsurfers rule the lakes. Luxe “rustic” cabins sleeping 8-10 people can be rented at the Sunriver Resort (800/801-8765), a huge parcel of wilderness, including 600 acres of carefully preserved wetlands, punctuated by hiking/biking trails and the nearby Deschutes River. The crisp, dry air of Bend and the scenic vistas provided by the volcanic Mt. Bachelor, Three Sisters and Broken Top peaks lure regional tourists all summer. With the Sage Spring Club & Spa for parents and Fort Funnigan for kids, Sunriver Resort is a great time for the whole family.
Cabin-hating non-skiers should contact the Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau (877/245-8484) for accommodations information.
From Eugene North
Eugene, almost halfway between Bend and the Oregon coast, and about halfway up the coast route, is another fine place to break your trip. Another few hours of driving back to the coast brings you to Newport, within 90 minutes of Portland.
Keiko Slept Here
You’ve got to stop at the Oregon Coast Aquarium (541/867-3474), the small facility once chosen by the Free Willy Keiko Foundation to house the retired movie star. The young orphan Keiko was captured by a fishing boat off Iceland in 1979, sold to Marineland in Ontario, and sold again to Reino Aventura in Mexico City. There he became a movie star (remember “Free Willy”?) and fell ill. In 1996, he was rescued by public pressure on Warner Brothers to fund his move and rehabilitation at Newport. Because he flourished in Oregon, in the fall of 1998 he was pronounced ready to return home to Rekjavik, Iceland. In 2002, Keiko decided to move on to Norway, but sadly Keiko died from pneumonia in 2003, ending his heroic journey back from captivity.
Meanwhile, try to book a B&B in this pretty coastal town- the Moolack Shores B&B (541/265-2326) on Beverly Beach or The Vikings (541/265-2477), with condos at nearby Pacific Crest (541/265-2477). As along most of the coast, the thundering surf and high winds make the beach more suitable for challenging sand play than for a swim. Book lovers with quiet kids (or book-loving kids) should consider the unique Sylvia Beach Hotel (888/795-8499), where rooms are literary themed and family-style meals are greatly appreciated. The Newport Chamber of Commerce(541/265-8801) is the best source for alternate lodgings and recreation information.
The region around sleepy Florence comes to life with RVs, dune buggies, ATVs and dirt bikes, as visitors throng to its stunning sand dunes, many over 100-feet-tall. More than 40 miles of the central coastline, from Florence south to Coos Bay, comprise the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Whether you drop in for the day or stay longer, dont miss the chance to take out your own buggy, or join a large guided buggy truck, for a memorable ride.
Summer visitors will find Cannon Beach another good stop. It’s a small, quaint town many shops and restaurants, a beautiful beach, and the highly regarded Evergreen Aircraft Museum, resting place of “The Aviator’s” Spruce Goose. In addition to the popular beach, there is the Ecola State Park for hiking, and Haystack Rock, a big rock outcropping, for dramatic picture taking. Locals come from throughout the area to dine at JP’s Bistro (503/436-0908). North of it is Seaside, an even busier beach resort where you may be surprised by the highrise, ocean front developments. Surfing lessons have become the rage, so if you didn’t do it in Hawaii, this may be your chance. The town’s funky Million Dollar Walk on Broadway Street boasts arcades, games, shops, and snackbars. There is a small Seaside Aquarium when you want to head indoors.
The Columbia River Gorge
Even before the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, which focused so much on this region, you could tour the Columbia River, the state’s scenic highlight, as a daytrip from funky, casual Portland or, even better, by staying in one of the small hotels on the Hood River. The bustling Hood River area boasts several popular B&Bs on the Washington state shore, including the celebrated, antique-filled Inn at White Salmon (800/972-5226 or 509/493-2335), better suited for older children. On the opposite side, the Edgefield Hotel (800/669-8610) has its own restaurant, movie theatre and winery, a casual B&B ambiance, and family rooms sleeping six! The Vagabond Lodge (541/386-2992) is a popular motel that overlooks the Columbia River. While you’re here, pause long enough to watch the windsurfers tearing across the river, enjoy a tour on the Mt. Hood Scenic Railway (800/872-4661, 541/386-3556) and visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum (503/325-2323).
Portland’s upscale Hotel Monaco (888/207-2201, 503/222-0001) is a renovated c.1912 department store, with a health spa but no pool. The restored turn-of-the-century, moderately priced Hotel Lucia (503/225-1717 ) downtown is another popular choice. We have also had families recommend the Mark Spencer (800/548-3934), where rooms with kitchenettes rise above a small courtyard with fountain, as a good family housing
Ready for Big City life? Residents of Portland, Oregon, have enjoyed the annual Farmers Market for years. It moves around the city on Wednesdays, Thursday evenings, and Saturday and Sunday mornings, with 150 local vendors selling seafood, breads, nuts, produce, and flowers. For market locations, hours, and other details, call 503/241-0032. Nearly 80 miles northwest of Portland is the misty coast town of Cannon Beach. A great place to spend the night, this beachy town offers a variety of year-round activites, such as beachcombing, surfing, storm watching, extreme sand castle building, fishing, as well as hiking and biking trails. Of course, all of the activities will leave you exhausted so make sure you stop by the Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters (503/436-2796). You can sit on the porch or in the Tasting Room and enjoy hot steamy freshly brewed coffee. Specializing in organic brews, vistors can choose between over 20 choices of coffees and four orginal teas.
If time permits, other recommended outings include a visit to seaside Port Townsend, Washington for antique store browsing, or head west to Port Angeles and explore the Olympic National Park. And if you’ve come only for the scenery, and budget is a consideration, be sure to ask about Oregon’s many camping facilities. But don’t forget your umbrella!
You can order the free Travel Oregon Magazine from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (800/547-7842) to guide you on the thrilling, if somewhat drizzly, ride.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.