A recommended itinerary from the Andrew Harper Travel Office. Originally published in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2011 Harper Traveler Magazine.
Oddly enough, the Andrew Harper Travel Office receives only infrequent requests for one of North America’s most beautiful destinations: Oregon. Andrew Harper calls Portland, the state’s largest city, “a compact, accessible city that positively buzzes with energy … a lovely, cultured city with easy access to coast and mountains and a vibrant food scene.”
Along Oregon’s coast, Highway 101 “offers glorious views of the Pacific around nearly every bend, dozens of state parks with broad, sandy beaches and rugged headlands, and small towns with a sprinkling of galleries and curiosity shops and waterfront diners that serve wonderful fresh-caught seafood.” And then, of course, there’s the wine country, where Pinot Noir is king.
Here’s an ideal 10-day itinerary recommended by the Andrew Harper Travel Office showcasing some of the best of this surprising state:
Arrive in Portland and check into your hotel. Relax, have a beer in one of the many excellent brewpubs, browse the upscale boutiques in Nob Hill and stroll through the hip Pearl District.
Spend some time enjoying Portland’s impressive gardens. The Japanese Garden is one of the best anywhere; the adjacent International Rose Test Garden showcases about 400 varieties of roses across five colorful acres; and the traditional Lan Su Chinese Garden is the largest of its kind outside of China. If you visit on a weekend, don’t miss the Portland Saturday Market (also held on Sunday), a perfect place to find unique gifts and delectable treats.
Pick up a rental car and drive two hours to Cannon Beach, “the trendiest town on the coast,” according to Mr. Harper. Wander the main street, lined with shops and galleries, and stroll the broad, sandy beach, overlooked by immense Haystack Rock, rising dramatically from the ocean a quarter-mile offshore.
Spend the day in Astoria, about 25 miles to the north. Recently spruced up in celebration of its bicentennial, this city of 10,000 features steep hillsides dotted with Victorian-style houses, a revitalized 1920s-era downtown and sprawling former waterfront canneries converted into galleries, offices and restaurants. Tour the fascinating Columbia River Maritime Museum and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park before lunch at the Bridgewater Bistro. After some shopping, return to Cannon Beach.
Take some time to beachcomb and relax. If the weather is clear, take in the views from nearby Ecola State Park. Captain Clark called them “the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed.”
One hundred miles south of Cannon Beach, once-gritty Depoe Bay now also offers an array of galleries and good restaurants, as well as a new whale-watching center. Dine tonight at the superb Restaurant Beck in the Whale Cove Inn, with glorious views from every table.
Explore the coast south of Depoe Bay. Mr. Harper notes that within an hour and a half, you can reach “three attractive lighthouses, the world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium, spectacular Cape Perpetua with perhaps the best view on the coast, and the charming towns of Newport, Yachats and Florence.”
Less than two hours away, Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley makes a perfect last stop. “The wineries are mostly small and family-owned ventures offering unpretentious but carefully crafted wines … even the tiniest hamlet seems to have at least one fine chef-owned restaurant with a wine-friendly menu featuring local produce.”
Spend a day meandering through the valley, wine-tasting along the way. Some of the better-known producers include Eyrie, Sokol Blosser, Erath, Ponzi, Argyle and Adelsheim, and Mr. Harper also recommends Panther Creek and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.
Make your way back to the Portland airport, about two hours away, depending on traffic.