Portland is a fun city with plenty of things to see and do, but if you dig deeper and explore the surrounding area you’ll find an array of exciting destinations nearby. If you’re looking for something to do within a reasonable distance of Portland, check out our list of places you should put at the top of your Oregon itinerary.
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Just 45 minutes from Portland on the Columbia River Gorge you’ll find Oregon’s most photographed waterfall, and one of the most impressive in the world. It also holds the distinction of being the tallest waterfall in the state, cascading 620 feet into a pool below. Fed by rainwater and snowmelt, the steady stream of water runs throughout the year, with the highest volume in wintertime and springtime – at the height of winter, the falls sometimes freeze. Located just 30 miles east of downtown Portland along the Historic Columbia River Highway, it’s easy to reach and there are plenty of accommodation options nearby if you want to stay overnight. While most come from around the world simply to view the falls from its base, locals know that by hiking just another mile from the bridge to the top, they’ll get to enjoy the very best views – and sometimes, even all to themselves.
Astoria is located just an hour and a half west of Portland and is one of the state’s most historic cities, full of family-friendly attractions. While it’s renowned for its magnificent architecture and opportunity for a wide range of outdoor activities, located along the Columbia River, it may best be known, at least among film buffs, as the setting of the popular 1985 film, “The Goonies.” Visitors see the building where Mikey’s dad worked, which was actually the Flavel House Museum, set within a breathtaking Queen Anne-style home. The County Jail, where Ma and Francs Fratelli break Jake out of lockup is there too, but it’s now the Oregon Film Museum. Be sure to take a drive to the Astoria Column to soak up one of the best vistas in the region, with the Pacific, Columbia River and snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Mountains coming into view.
Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park is a 60-mile drive south of Portland, and certainly well worth the trip. Take a hike on the Trail of Ten Falls, the park’s centerpiece, which provides close-up encounters with 10 awe-inspiring waterfalls, half of which are at least 100 feet tall, and four offer the chance to walk behind the cascade of water. In between, you’ll enjoy passing scenic forests, crystal clear streams and stunning canyon viewpoints. Afterwards, you can enjoy tasting and touring the multiple Willamette Valley wineries that surround the park.
An hour and a half’s drive will bring you to Tillamook, where you’ll find a host of things to do, from spending time on the beach, and hiking while watching for whales, to touring the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. Take the 5-mile Cape Lookout trail for the chance to spot humpback whales from the soaring cliffs, working up an appetite for your tour at the cheese factory. Open daily to the public, visitors can watch the workers in action, viewing the cheese-making process during the self-guided tour on an enclosed walkway just above factory level. Displays explain exactly what you’ll see, like master cheesemakers creating their delicious works of art and workers packaging blocks of that tasty Pepper Jack or sharp cheddar as it makes its way down the conveyor belt. Of course, the best part of all may be those free cheese samples. The factory also includes a gift shop with cheese and other dairy products along with gourmet treats, as well as a café serving up items like mac and cheese, cheeseburgers and grilled cheese.
Bend is known for its long list of outdoor adventures on offer, located on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range, tucked between snow-covered peaks and Central Oregon’s high-desert plateau, and while it is a bit of a long drive at a little over three hours, if you leave early in the morning it makes a great day trip. Not only does the city and the surrounding region receive an abundance of sunshine, but the area’s mountains also offer renowned rock climbing, hiking and biking in addition to the myriad of trout streams providing blue-ribbon fly fishing. The town itself has a vibrant energy of a cosmopolitan mountain town with a startling number of world-class breweries, more per-capita than any other city in the state.
Mount Hood offers lots to do all year round, during the winter, you can ski or snowboard one of six areas near the mountain, and during the warmer months of the year, outstanding hiking and mountain biking can be enjoyed. Be sure to check out the historic Timberline Lodge, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977, and is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. Considered an architectural wonder, 1980’s “The Shining,” used aerial shots of the lodge as part of its opening scene as well as some exterior footage. Today, it’s still being used for its original intent – as an impressive ski lodge and mountain retreat.
Cannon Beach truly offers something for everyone, renowned around the world as one of the most scenic coastal spots, though it’s especially popular with romance-seekers. In town, the main street is lined with world-class art galleries, elegant eateries and unique shops. And,just outside of town at Ecola State Park, visitors can enjoy hiking the breathtakingly lush trails that wind the through ancient, old-growth forest at the edge of the ocean, including one that offers jaw-dropping views of the abandoned Tillamook Rock Lighthouse; beach combing, and exploring tide pools filled with a myriad of colorful sea creatures.
Seaside is just north of Cannon Beach along the coast and is ideal for a day out with the family. Enjoy walking or biking the nearly three-mile stretch of beach along the promenade, which offers spectacular ocean views and easy access to all of the city’s attractions. Feed the sea lions at the Seaside Aquarium and play at the Funland Arcade which features bumper cars, pinball, video games, skee ball and numerous carnival-type amusements.