When planning our Portland vacation, our goal was to enjoy all of the food and shopping that Portland has to offer, while spending as much time as possible at Oregon’s beautiful outdoor destinations. All of our sightseeing was within a 1.5 hour radius of Portland so that each day we could brunch, spend the day sightseeing, and make it back to Portland for dinner. Here’s a look at some of the places that we chose to visit!
If you’re looking for good coffee in Portland check out this post, and visit this post to check out my favorite Portland food.
The Portland Saturday Market has a little bit of everything… local art, handmade jewelry, and home goods, along with food and live music. Located along the river front, there are also plenty of places to take a seat and people watch. The market is open every Saturday and Sunday, March – December.
2. International Rose Test Garden
The rose garden sits on 4.5 acres and features 7,000 rose plants in 550 different varieties. It’s such a pretty place to walk around and enjoy. Check out the gift shop for local products like bars of soap and bath salts that have flower petals from the Rose Garden inside.
3. Elowah Falls
Hoping to avoid the masses, we chose a weekday afternoon for our waterfall hikes. We first hiked to Latourell Falls and then traveled to Multnomah Falls. Both of these falls are beautiful, making them very popular tourist destinations… and a little too crowded for my liking.
Elowah Falls was our third (and favorite) waterfall excursion. The falls are less accessible, with a narrow trail that first winds upward around the side of a hill and then back down, to the base of the falls. We passed a few people on the trail but, after arriving at the falls, we basically had the place to ourselves. Because the falls are more secluded, it’s a much more peaceful place to visit. We spent quite a bit of time here, taking photos, sitting to enjoy a mini picnic, and adventuring around the rocks at the base of the falls (Drew is in the very bottom photo, showing just how huge this area really is).4. Cathedral Park
Two popular Portland destinations are the many different bridges and parks in the city… Cathedral Park is the perfect spot to experience both! We visited on Saturday evening and there was a large jazz festival being held in the park, on a hillside overlooking the river. We found a place to sit on the riverfront and watch the sunset, kids were playing on the beach and dogs were swimming at the edge of the river… this is a fun spot to visit whether you’re a tourist or a local.5. Cannon Beach
It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Portland to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast, but the view is well worth the trip. We were able to time it just right and arrive at the coast just as the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean. It was such a perfect time to visit, with calm waves coming ashore, the clouds over the ocean in vibrant shades of pink and orange, and mist hanging over the hills along the coast. The evening air was chilly and people were lighting campfires along the beach. I hope we get a chance to explore more of the PNW in the future and I would love to be able to spend a few days in one of the cute rental homes along Cannon Beach!6. Kayak the Santiam River
There are multiple tours in and around Portland if you’d like to explore one of Oregon’s rivers on a kayaking trip. We drove an hour outside of Portland to take a 2.5 hour ride on the Santiam River’s class I-III rapids. It was definitely the most exciting of our experiences, with rocky rapids to traverse, but there were also plenty of calmer sections along the way.
Even though it was mid-July (with daily highs in the 80°s) the water was in the 50°s and the spray from the rapids felt ice cold. Water inevitably ends up in the seats of the kayak and I don’t think this would have been such a fun trip during a cooler season. Also, the length of the two seater kayak made it difficult to navigate, especially when we would get caught up in the rapids. Next time we’d probably choose solo kayaks (for the sake of our marriage).
This is the only excursion that we scheduled before our vacation. I’d recommend making your own reservation in advance, if you’re planning a kayaking trip during the summer tourist season.Do you have a favorite Oregon attraction? Share it in the comment section below!