The time was May 2019,
when we went on a family vacation through tsunami zones, over sand dunes, walked underneath large trees, played in a canyon, tiptoed around a sleeping volcano, witnessed snowy peaks kiss the sky, and observed water diving over the edge to meet the earth.
This is our adventure in Oregon and Northern California.
I will be honest with you, this trip was meticulously planned. Almost every detail about each day was spelled out in a schedule. There were a few times when we knew what direction to head but did not have plans. On these days, we just let the adventure guide us. I will share our itinerary at the bottom if you want to see how it was planned. Over the course of 8 days, we drove 1094 miles, walked 53 miles, and witnessed just a small sliver of beauty our country offers. I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes road trips, coastlines, forests, and beautiful scenery.
Since it was a long trek from the east coast, two of us decided to fly into Portland the day before the others. We landed at 9:30 pm and Uber’d to our hotel in downtown. We quickly put our stuff in the hotel room and went out for a late late night dinner. We ate at Deschutes Brewing. While we were at the brewery, we got to witness the end of the thrilling 4-overtime game where the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets. It was fun to be in the middle of all the Portlanders celebrating that victory. We called it a night after eating because we knew we had a long week of traveling ahead of us.
The two of us had the morning to explore Portland before the other family members flew in from Arizona. We got ready for the day and headed across the street to a cute little place called St. Honoré Bakery, where we got coffee and croissants. Next, we headed east to the waterfront for the Portland Saturday Market. We arrived about 30 minutes before they opened, so we decided to walk the park to see some of the bridges that cross the Willamette River in Portland. After walking the waterfront and shopping the Saturday Market, we were hungry. We stumbled across Charlie’s Bagels, behind Voodoo Doughnuts. They make amazing bagels and even better bagel-sandwiches. Still wondering if they can ship bagels to the east coast. After eating, we still had a few hours before the rest of the family arrived, sooo, we headed to Lucky Labrador Brewing. We knew we had to go there since we have a chocolate lab at home. It was kind of far to walk, so we found some Lime Scooters and scooted across a bridge to the brewery. We played corn hole and enjoyed some pints until the family came to pick us up.
Once they picked us up and we picked up our luggage from the hotel, we were off to Cannon Beach! The ride was about an hour and thirty minutes. Once we got to Cannon Beach, we ate an early dinner at Driftwood Restaurant and Lounge and then walked around the town. The weekend we were visiting, it was the 19th Annual Spring Unveiling Arts Festival so there was a lot of beautiful art pieces to look at. After enjoying a few galleries, we settled into our hotel. Although we didn’t stay settled long because we pretty much got right back up and walked to Haystack Rock. What a beautiful sight to see as the sun is starting to set! After seeing the beautiful rock, we stopped at Pelican Brewery for a drink and an evening snack. Afterward, the boys walked to the hotel and the girls stopped in a small convenience store to pick up breakfast items for the morning… we also treated ourselves to ice cream. Once we were all back at the hotel, we played cards until we were too tired to think.
First of all, there is no sleeping in on vacations. We have places to go and things to see! I think my sister-in-law would disagree with me on this but she handles our go-go attitudes well. We ate our breakfast in the hotel room and then launched into a full day.
Our first stop of the day was just a few minutes south of Cannon Beach, Hug Point State Park. It is better to go here at low-tide so you can walk around the northern rock face to see the waterfall and cave. After spending 30-45 minutes here, we headed south to Oswald State Park. We hiked on the S. Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain Trail, went for about an hour, then turned around and walked back to the car. We didn’t go to the end of the trail, which was fine because we enjoyed the seeing the forest and the few views we did get. Our next location was a bit further, so we settled in the car and headed to the Tillamook Cheese Factory! Anytime someone says cheese, the entire Martin clan will be there with our appetites. This was our lunch spot and I must say… YUM. Everything we ordered was delicious – beer and bacon mac ‘n cheese, a GF pizza, burger, a pepperolli, and ice cream. After we stuffed ourselves, we walked upstairs to see the story of how their cheese is made and to get a glimpse into the working factory. Now Tillamook cheese products and ice cream are sold in our local stores so we can get their deliciousness here in NC! Next, we drove to Cape Meares to see the lighthouse. This was an unplanned stop but it was worth it! The views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean from here were beautiful! Then we headed to Newport, Oregon. We made a quick stop to see the Devil’s Punch Bowl just outside Newport. It was a quick stop because the wind coming off the ocean was cold! Our stopping point for the night was in Newport, Oregon at The Sylvia Beach Hotel. The cutest bed and breakfast! Each room is designed after a different book. The rooms we had were JK Rowling, Mark Twain, and Speakspeare. After unloading our luggage into the hotel, we were off again to Newport’s Historic Bayfront. We ate very delicious sushi at Asiatico and then we went over to Sea Lion Docks to watch sea lions bicker for 20 minutes. They are some funny creatures! After a few good laughs with the sea lions, we got a beer at Rogue Ales Bayfront. This was our last stop before returning to our literacy-themed B&B. Once we were back, we enjoyed sitting by the fireplace in the Mark Twain room for a bit before turning in.
We were awake and at breakfast by 8:00 am. The resturant in the literacy-themed hotel was named the Table of Contents. So cute! I love a good pun, especially those that are food related. This was a long travel day. We needed to cover 230 miles, which would be about 5 hours without stops.
Our first stop was at Sand Dunes Frontier, where we took a 30-minute tour of the Central Oregon Coast dunes. This ride was exhilarating! It was like a roller-coaster with wheels and on the sand. Our driver was very good at what he does and I never once felt like we were going to tumble down a dune. The expansive landscape view you got at the top of the dunes were incredible. I would recommend this adeventure to anyone. One tip though is to bundle up because it is a chilly ride. After our tour of the dunes, we continued our journey south. We drove for about an hour before stopping for lunch. We stopped in Coos Bay at SharkBites Seafood Cafe. This restaurant had good fish tacos, great fries, and yummy popcorn shrimp. Our next destination wasn’t really a stop but more of a viewpoint to see Humbug Mountain and it’s surrounding coast. We stopped to see the mountain because it is one of the tallest mountains to rise directly from the ocean. We were approaching from the north, so we pulled over on the right shoulder., which was also next to the beach. The drive through Humbug Mountain State Park, on hwy 101, was beautiful. The road snakes away from the coastline into the park and as you are driving there is a wide variety of foliage to look at. We continued driving south until we reached Crescent City, California. This is where we were spending the next two nights, at Best Western Plus Northwoods Inn. Once we settled into our rooms, we were off again! We walked down the street to dinner at Fisherman’s Restaurant and Lounge. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and watched the most recently aired Game of Thrones episode. Because who wouldn’t watch GoT on vacation!? Afterward, we played cards until we were too exhausted to continue.
I will admit this day was not planned like the past two days. We knew the general direction we wanted to go but did not have “official” stops scheduled. I think not having plans turned out better than we could have expected!
While we were eating breakfast, we were trying to google some places to go. We weren’t having luck making a plan, so we decided to seek professional advice. Once we were ready to go, we visited the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park Visitors Center that was a few minutes away from our hotel. The woman behind to counter was enthusiastic about the nearby parks and what they offered. After a few minutes with her, we had our course set. We were going to explore Prairie Creek Redwood State Park! Once we reached the park, we drove the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the park. Our first stop was the side of the road. haha! We parked at a small pull-off where we could walk to the Corkscrew Tree, three trees that look like they wrap around each other. Instead of walking the short corkscrew tree trail, we walked on the prairie creek trail from mile marker 129. It was about a 1.2 miles round trip. After our walk, we drove a few miles down the road and stopped at Big Tree. It is not the biggest tree but the 15th biggest. This was a popular stopping destination. Next, we went to Fern Canyon. This was probably one of my favorite stops during the trip. It was like being surrounded by living fern wallpaper that creates miniature waterfalls. There was a creek that ran through the canyon that you need to cross to go further. We were not prepared for this; one of us had waterproof hiking boots, two of us took our socks and shoes off, and the other two just committed to wet socks and shoes. It is 100% worth it to go further in the canyon. After the canyon, it was time for lunch. We had a picnic packed because I don’t think we would have found a restaurant nearby. We ate in the Elk Prairie Campground surrounded by redwoods. Our lunch was simple, yet satisfying – packaged tuna, deli turkey, club crackers, Tillamook cheese, and Tillamook fudge. After lunch, we drove north on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway back through the park. You notice different things going north versus going south. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a beach access to walk on the beach and then we stopped at the Crescent Beach Overlook off Enderts Beach Rd. This overlook provided views of Crescent Beach (to the north) and the California Coast (to the south). The drive to Fern Canyon and back was 2.5 hours if you don’t make any stops, so this was an all day excursion from Crescent City, Ca. Once we got back to town, we ate dinner at SeaQuake Brewery. The food was great, the beer was good, and the service was even better. Our waiter had us laughing the entire time. We still talk about this dinner to this day! Afterward, we just relaxed at the hotel. It was another great day of exploring.
After spending two nights in Crescent City, it was time to begin our journey north. Our first destination of the day was Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. This lighthouse is only accessible at low tide because it sits on a little island. We parked in the lot and walked across the rocky beach to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, we arrived before the museum opened so we did not see inside. We walked around the outside of the cape-cod style lighthouse and took in the scenery of the Pacific Ocean, Crescent City Harbor, the beach, and the town.
Next, it was time to drive towards Grants Pass, Oregon. Our drive included Howland Hill Road, which is a 6-mile, narrow and unpaved, road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It was originally a stagecoach route to Oregon. If you don’t stop, it would take you ~45-minutes from beginning to end. It took hours for us because we stopped for many pictures, a 2-hour hike, and a 20-minute walk. Our first stop was just south of the car bridge over Mill Creek, where we took a 2 hour hike. The name of the trail was Mill Creek Trail, and it had up and down elevations but was not difficult. This trail goes past the Grove of Titans, which are some of the largest trees measured. But unless you are an expert, you can’t tell which trees are a part of the grove because they all look massive when looking up at them. haha! We stood on the trail for 20 minutes trying to decipher which trees were Titans. I believe we saw them. Eventually, we gave up trying to pick out which ones were the Titans and just continued hiking until we reached a creek crossing, then we turned around. We didn’t measure how long we walked, I think it was 2-3 miles roundtrip. Our final stop off Howland Hill Rd. was Stout Grove, which is at the northern end of the road. Actually, Stout Grove was an extraterrestrial setting for the Ewok scene in the Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi. Kinda cool. This is a short loop walk from a paved parking lot. The trees here are massive and sadly a lot of them have fallen. Also, you can get a glimpse of the Smith River on this walk.
After our adventure on Howland Hill Road, we hopped on Highway 199 towards Grants Pass, Oregon. After an hour of driving, we stopped for lunch at Wild River Brewing and Pizza in Cave Junction. We didn’t plan to stop here, it’s just kind of where we ended up once we got hungry. After lunch, our next stop was Deer Creek Vineyards and Winery. We enjoyed their wine so much, we had two cases shipped back east!
Once we got into Grants Pass in Oregon, we checked into The Lodge at Riverside. We unloaded the car and then a few of us walked to a nearby bottle shop to check out the local beer selection. Once we got back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit, we walked across the street to dinner at the Taprock Northwest Grill. After dinner, we just played a card game on the patio of the hotel room that was overlooking the Rogue River. We did not stay up late because we were all exhausted from our adventurous day!
Once we got up and around, we quickly got on the road. Our first destination of the day was Crater Lake, which was a 2-hour from our hotel in Grants Pass. We entered from the south entrance. We first stopped at the Steel Visitor Center to get information about the park and postcards to send to our grandparents. The rim drive was close because of snow, but we were still able to see the lake from the Rim Village and Discovery Point, a viewing area on the W. Rim Drive. Two of us walked on the closed road for a bit to see what we could find, but all we found was really high snow banks and no other views of the lake. It is hard to describe the beauty of Crater Lake, it is one of those places you should see in person because pictures don’t do it justice. Once we were done absorbing the beauty, we were off to Bend. The drive from Crater Lake to Bend was about 2-hours.
Our first stop once we got into Bend was lunch at Bend Brewing Company. We sat outside during lunch because the weather was perfect. Also, they have a great backyard that overlooks the Deschutes River at Mirror Pond. Once we finished lunch, we walked around downtown Bend for an hour or two. Bend has a lot of cute little stores to pop in to! Once our feet started to ache, we went and checked into our hotel for the night. We were staying at the McMenamins Old St. Francis School hotel. This hotel was built in 1936 as a Catholic Schoolhouse and converted to a hotel in 2004. The lodging rooms are old classrooms! We stayed in the family suite, located in the Ed House. The history of the school is in their decor so you imagine what it was like when it was a school. We relaxed in our hotel room for a while before walking to dinner. We ate at Noi Thai Cuisine and it was delicious! After dinner, we just hung out in the suite, watched some TV, and called it an early night. I think we all were exhausted from our long day.
Our first destination of the day was Mt. Hood! It was a 2-hour drive north of Bend. The original plan was to go to Trillium Lake, where there is suppose to be a great view of the mountain. When we got to the entrance, the gate was closed! Closed until the spring snow melted. We could have walked to the lake, but we chose to drive up the mountain. I am so glad we did because the lodge was beautiful! The Timberline Lodge was built in 1937 and it is exactly what you would imagine a northwest ski lodge to look like. While we were exploring the lodge, we stopped by the help desk to inquire about booking during ski season. They said their rooms usually get booked a year in advance. Snowboarding on Mt. Hood is now on my bucket list.
It was time for lunch so we headed down the mountain and ate at Mt. Hood Brewery. Next, we continued our adventure north towards Hood River, Oregon. On our journey to Hood River, we stopped by two wineries: Hood Crest Winery and Marchesi Vineyards and Winery. They were delightful. After our wine stops, we drove into the town of Hood River and had nibbles at Full Sail Brewing Company. We sat by a window where we had a beautiful view of the Columbia River and ate some wonderful fried brussel sprouts and sweet potato fries. Next, it was time to head to our hotel in Cascade Locks. Leaving Hood River, we decided to cross the Columbia River to the Washington State side. We drove west for 30 minutes to the Bridge of the Gods. We crossed the bridge, entering into Cascade Locks. Our hotel was next to the bridge, Best Western Inn Plus Columbia River Inn. Once we unloaded the car, a few of us decided to walk from our hotel to the historic locks, which was 1.2-miles round trip. The locks were originally built to help boats get around large rocks and impassable rapids safely. A 30-minute walk allowed us to stretch our legs before settling in for the evening. We did not eat dinner but just snacked on things in the hotel room. It was not a late night. A full day of exploring makes for tired travelers.
Before getting back on the road for our last full day, we ate breakfast at Bridgeside. After eating, we headed west towards Portland, Oregon. The drive is less than an hour but we had stops planned along the way. We were only in the car for 15 minutes before we stopped. Our first stop was not planned but it was just one of those things you stumble across. It was the Bonneville Dam located in Cascade Locks. It was the first federal dam and lock system on the Columbia River, built-in 1938, and it produces hydroelectricity for the surrounding area. We are glad we made this stop. It was interesting and cool to learn about it.
Next, we continued west. There were several waterfalls along our route. We stopped at Horsetail Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls was extremely busy and there was nowhere to park. So, we walked from Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls. There is a trail (named trail #442) along the mountain that connects the two. It is 1-mile roundtrip, ~ 15-20 minutes. After the waterfalls, we went into downtown Portland for lunch. We ate at 10 Barrel Brewing Company. Their pizza was amazing! Kind of wishing I had some right now. After lunch, we walked to Powell’s City of Books. If you like books, plan to spend hours here! It is the largest new and used book store in the world. There are 9 rooms with 3,500+ sections. It was overwhelming in a good way! Once we finished at the bookstore, we headed to our hotel. We stayed at a hotel near the airport because we all had early flights the next morning. We unloaded the car completely into our hotel rooms, and then returned the rental car. We did this the night before, so no one would need to deal with it in the wee morning hours. Plus the hotel had a shuttle to the airport which made it easy. For dinner, we walked to the closest restaurant to the hotel. After dinner, we played a few rounds of cards in the hotel room before calling it a night.
Time to go home. This was the earliest morning of the entire trip since our flights departed at 6:00 am and 8:00 am. It was a long travel day to get back home to the East Coast but we were so ready to see our pets and sleep in our beds.
If you read this entire post, you can see we pretty much ate and drank our way through Oregon and Northern California. There were some sights and activities involved. haha. On vacations, it always seems to be “time to eat again.” We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
In my opinion, having the trip meticulously planned allowed us to stay on a schedule so we could see a lot more things. I don’t think we could have covered 1,094 miles in 8 days without an itinerary. I am sure we missed things along the way but that’s why we just need to go back one day!
Here is a snapshot of our itinerary. We didn’t abide by the times usually but I used them to help plan out how much we could see in a day realistically. We used the comment section to put any notes we needed for that destination. Also, we made sure to have any addresses and phone numbers we may have needed.
– The Martin’s Kitchen –
*The links in this post are just for you, the reader, if you like to see more about the destination. I do not receive compensation when you click on the links.