Rightly so – the Portlanders know how to take life from its playful side. The greatest attraction is not so much the traditional attractions such as museums, but the more casual neighborhoods and their friendly, quirky inhabitants.
No matter where you order a hand-brewed coffee here or pick up a gourmet specialty from a food truck: high quality and satisfaction are practically guaranteed. Still, when asked, many of Portland’s 600,000 residents state that the best thing about Portland is the beautiful nature just outside the city.
Only 25 km east, the Columbia River Gorge forms a dramatic border between the states of Oregon and Washington. Serpentine roads lead you to waterfalls like Multnomah Falls. And about 120 km further west, winding roads take you to the state’s coastline, known for its cliffs and dunes.
Starting point: Portland
Compared to the metropolis Seattle, Washington, 280 km further north, Portland is quite manageable. The winding Willamette River divides the city into an eastern and a western part.
The best place to start your city tour in the western part. Against the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains, there are not only the business center but also historic districts like the Pearl District or Chinatown to discover.
It’s also home to Forest Park – one of the country’s most extensive urban forests with an almost 130km network of hiking trails, firebreaks and roads – and the Portland Japanese Garden, a shady oasis with beautiful views of the snow-capped Mount Hood volcano to the east.
Not to be missed: Powell’s Books downtown. The independent bookstore, the size of a block of the street, is one of Portland’s most famous landmarks.
However, Portland’s daily life pulsates east of the river. Southeast of the city, you can learn all about the different ways to make coffee at Portland’s most popular coffee roaster, Stumptown’s Tasting Bar, or order a bacon doughnut or fruit loop breakfast cereal at Voodoo Doughnut.
Bars in neighborhoods like Hawthorne and the Alberta Arts District regularly offer live music, art, and other independent activities.
To the waterfalls
Beyond Portland, Interstate Highway 84 follows the course of the Columbia River, forcing its way through the narrow canyon. You can drive your car, but we recommend you take the shuttle bus – or take a guided hike.
From the city, you can walk dozens of shorter trails in about half an hour, including the less than 4km loop trails to the spray fountains of Latourell Falls or the picnic areas along the banks of Elowah Falls.
Then head to the riverside town of Hood River, famous for its windsurfing spots and self-picking berry plantations along the Fruit Loop. For a more substantial meal, we recommend the pFriem. Besides Belgian-style beers and dishes from local ingredients, you can expect beautiful views of the Columbia River and the White Salmon River.
Oregon Wine Country
The fertile Willamette River Valley south of Portland is home to over 500 wineries. Signposts lead you between the vines on rural country roads to the Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Árdiri, and other wineries. Tastings are available almost everywhere – often with outdoor seating and fantastic views of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains.
To reach small towns like McMinnville, 64 km from downtown Portland, take Interstate Highway 5 south and then Highway 99W from Tigard.
Walk on Oregon beaches.
The Oregon coast is one of the state’s most significant natural resources – and it’s just a 1.5-hour drive from Portland. Most visitors are confined to coastal towns like Seaside and Cannon Beach, which have seafood restaurants and beachfront vacation bungalows. To avoid the crowds, head to the beaches south of Cannon Beach.
A highlight, which is definitely worth the entrance fee of 5 USD per car, is the Ecola State Park. A hiking trail through a forest of Sitka spruces leads you to a beach framed by cliffs with small bays and tide pools. Since there are only a few parking lots, you should arrive early at the weekends in the summer.
We recommend that you have your car to get around. Alternatively, NorthWest Point buses run to Cannon Beach or Seaside.
About the climate
Portland receives an average of 89 cm of rainfall – and only 68 rain-free days – per year. But don’t worry: Even in winter, there are days when there is no rain. The best time to stay dry is from June through September. The average maximum temperatures during these months are between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius.
And if it does rain, take a cue from the locals: Because in Oregon, a little rain won’t keep anybody out.