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A guide to the Portland Region – Oregon’s adventure playground

It’s an adventurer’s paradise, a city-tripper’s delight, and a feast for food-loving travellers. Here’s how to get the best out of your Portland adventure – both inside the city and beyond...

Portland Region, Oregon Travel guide
Cycling the Banks Vernonia State Trail (Banks Vernonia State Trail/ Jim Shea)

Cycling the Banks Vernonia State Trail (Banks Vernonia State Trail/ Jim Shea)

With the Columbia River on its fringes, the Willamette River cutting through the city’s heart, and Mount Hood looming large, the natural outdoors is an evergreen presence in the Portland Region – making it ideal for hikers, mountain bikers, adventure-seekers and more. 

The city itself contains 113km of walking trails in Forest Park, while the nearby Portland Japanese Garden is perfect for finding your zen away from the city buzz. And you don’t have to travel far from the region’s titular capital to find wilder escapes. 

A little north, Scappoose Bay offers the chance to birdwatch from a kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the Columbia River. More wildlife encounters can be enjoyed in the Tualatin Valley, where you can spot bald eagles, blue herons and red-tailed hawks. For more exhilarating winter escapes, Mount Hood’s historic Timberline Lodge provides a great base for alpine and Nordic skiing or snowshoeing through spectacular old-growth forest.

Here’s how to plan your own Portland region holiday – including where to stay, Portland’s best festivals, and the restaurants and wineries you must visit...

When is the best time to visit Portland? 

Portland is beautiful and lively year-round. Summer can be hot and sunny and stretching into perfect warm, balmy evenings. Winter can be rainy and bring snow, but is generally mild. Spring and autumn weather are unpredictable, so pack warm clothing for layered dressing, rain gear and walking shoes for a comfortable stay.

How to get to Portland and around

PDX International Airport is very accessible, welcoming many different international carriers daily – including Delta Air Lines, which now operates daily direct flights from London Heathrow from May through to October. For more details, visit delta.com.

Max Light Rail trains are the cheapest and easiest way to get into the city, and run from PDX (Portland International Airport) to downtown and beyond. The single ticket costs $2.50 or $5 for an all-day pass, good on all forms of public mass transport. An airport taxi ride takes half the time but runs $40-50. The Portland streetcar (portlandstreetcar.org) runs a north-south line and another from the Pearl District to the Central Eastside. 

Getting around Portland is easy – you can take the light rail train or hop on a streetcar, bus or bike. A bike gets you everywhere easily and is a great way to explore the city. Portland’s bike share program, Biketown, compliments the many bicycle rental and tour companies’ offerings. MAX light rail trains are affordable, bike-friendly and covers most areas of the city and surrounding suburbs. If you want to take day trips, you’ll need a car to get to wine country, the Coast, Mount Hood or up the Columbia River Gorge.

Where to stay in the Portland Region

The Jupiter NEXT Hotel, Portland

One of the stylish rooms in the Jupiter NEXT Hotel (Jupiter NEXT Hotel)

One of the stylish rooms in the Jupiter NEXT Hotel (Jupiter NEXT Hotel)

With sweeping views of the historic Central Eastside to the glittering West Hills down to the glowing Tilikum Bridge up to the arch of the Fremont, upscale rooms at the NEXT offer unedited, unparalleled views of Portland. Each boutique hotel room offers spectacular city views, 60 inch flat screen tv, mini refrigerator, and high speed wifi. Your comfort zone in the middle of it all.

 

McMenamins’ Grand Lodge, Forest Grove 

McMenamins’ Grand Lodge, Forest Grove (McMenamins)

McMenamins’ Grand Lodge, Forest Grove (McMenamins)

This unique hotel offers both rooms and personality in abundance. Situated 25 miles west of Portland city, surrounded by green countryside, the Grand Lodge houses 90 artistic rooms, five restaurants, a luxurious spa and a beautiful outdoor pool. Ten miles outside of the hotel walls you'll find the Hagg Lake, where you can rent a boat or hike and bike on the surrounding trails. 

Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood

Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood (Mthoodterritory.com)

Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood (Mthoodterritory.com)

Perched on the south side of Mt Hood, 60 miles east of Portland, Timberline Lodge served as a location in Kubrick’s The Shining. The historic ski lodge has a rustic feel, with a stone fireplace, exposed wood beams and breathtaking views of the mountains and the stunning national forest. Add its pub, restaurant and resident St. Bernards, Bruno and Heidi, it’s the perfect winter (or anytime) bolthole for miles.

4 wild ways to explore Portland's great outdoors

1. By bike

Cycling in Willamette Valley (Mthoodterritory.com)

Cycling in Willamette Valley (Mthoodterritory.com)

For a backcountry cycling adventure, follow the Northwest Skyline Boulevard to Sauvie Island starting from Wallace Park along wild, wooded trails into the stretches of countryside to this rural sanctuary, where you’ll see pumpkin patches and peach orchards. For a mellow ride, opt for the six-mile path along the Willamette Greenway Bike Trail.

The Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is also a great option. starting at Rood Bridge Park - just half an hour's drive from the city - the 50-mile trail will zip you past historical and agricultural sites on both sides of the road, including a school house from the 1800s. You'll also pedal past the Fernhill Wetlands, where you can slow down to watch the plethora of birds.

2. By foot 

Hiking around Mt Hood (MthoodTerritory.com)

Hiking around Mt Hood (MthoodTerritory.com)

You’ll find wild walking aplenty around Mt Hood, the Tualatin Valley and Killin Wetlands. The Banks-Vernonia State Trail makes for an epic 21-mile hike or bike ride – or a series of smaller jaunts – weaving through the forested foothills of Northwest Oregon’s Coast Range on the tracks of an old railroad. Just minutes from downtown Portland, the Powell Butte Loop offers over six miles of gorgeous hiking, biking and horse trails.

3. By boat 

See Portland by boat (Shutterstock)

See Portland by boat (Shutterstock)

Catch a yacht from downtown Portland with Scovare to see the city from the water with the breeze in your hair. Simply sit back, relax and enjoy the view on board, or for a more hands-on experience, learn the ropes yourself with an on-board sailing lesson. 

If you want something a bit more fast-paced, opt to see Portland's waterfront with Willamette Jetboat Excursions. Once onboard, you will zip past 32 miles of historic bridges, fine architecture, wildlife and Willamette Falls. 

In spring, wildlife lovers should head straight to the Oregon coast – where the annual gray whale migration is taking place. You can watch this incredible spectacle from late March, as up to 20,000 gray whales pass along the Pacific coast on their journey towards Alaska.

4. By kayak, raft or paddleboard

Kayak the Tualatin River (Washington County Visitors Association/ Scott Spiker)

Kayak the Tualatin River (Washington County Visitors Association/ Scott Spiker)

Kayak the Tualatin River Trail, a 40-mile-stretch edged by cottonwood forests and wetland meadows that bends through the city. You’ll pick up a rental kayak in Willamette Park, for a day of picturesque paddling on the slow-moving river, heading serenely downstream. Or enjoy a peaceful paddle in Scappoose Bay with Next Adventure

For something more thrilling opt for some white water rafting on the Clackamas River with Blue Sky Rafting. Alternatively, head over to Willamette Falls to enjoy the thunderous sight by kayak or stand-up paddleboard with eNERG Kayaking. 

6 of the Portland Region's best wineries 

1. Ponzi Vineyards

Spilling across the Willamette Valley, the 130-acres of family-owned vineyards produce stellar varieties of pinot noirs and chardonnay. Ponzi offer tasting sessions as well as tours of the winery. 

2. David Hill Winery

 

Situated in Forest Grove, David Hill Winery is home to some of the oldest vines in the whole of the Willamette Valley. Take part in the guided vineyard tour to learn about the rich history of the site, before snuggling up in the tasting room to sip some of the estate's best produce. 

3. Boedecker Cellars

An urban winery started by husband-and-wife team in northwest Portland, Boedecker Cellars craft artisanal, sustainably-farmed pinot noirs, chardonnays and rosés from some of the Willamette Valley’s best vineyards.

5. Southeast Wine Collective

Southeast Wine Collective, a shared-space Portland winery-cum-restaurant, is home to dozens of local and international labels, perfectly combining flights with seasonal farm-to-fork small plates.

5. St Josef's Winery 

A pioneer in Oregon wine making, St Josef's Winery have been growing grapes for over forty years. To this day, they still plant the vines by hand and have always adopted a sustainable approach to producing wine. 

 

6. Patton Valley Vineyards

In July, Drink Pink festival brings together some of the Valley’s finest vintners at Patton Valley Vineyards to celebrate all-things rosé – with new-release wine samplings, food pairings and live music. 

5 must-try restaurants in the Portland Region

Sample Portland's diverse and delicious cuisine (Karen Martwick)

Sample Portland's diverse and delicious cuisine (Karen Martwick)

1. Departure

Departure, the retro-chic rooftop restaurant and bar on the top floor of The Nines Hotel, serves show-stopping Pan-Asian sea-food-focused dishes, created by super-star chef Gregory Gourdet.

2. Bites


A rustic bistro in the city of Forest Grove, west of Portland, that looks like an Alpine lodge, Bites dishes up an experimental meze of small-plate classics like tacos, dumplings and Kimchi Fries and crafted microbrews and cocktails.

3. Allium Bistro 

All the food served up in the French-inspired Allium Bistro in West Linn comes straight from local farmers and purveyors, so you can't get much fresher than this. Don't miss the restaurant's Field & Vine Dinners events, which bring people together for alfresco feasts in fields or vineyards with six-to-seven-course creations using ingredients sourced straight from the host and surrounding farms. Tickets sold in advance.

4. Tusk

In a bright and breezy whitewashed space, Tusk serves Mediterranean-inflected fare and craft cocktails and regularly tops best restaurants lists, probably because the man behind the creations is Joshua Mcfadden, chef royalty in Portland. 

5. Coquine

Located at the top of Mt. Tabor, family-run French-style restaurant Coquine serves polished farm-to-table New American bistro fare paired with wines from local small-batch producers.

A festival for all seasons

Portland and its neighbouring towns boast a year-round calendar of events – here’s our pick of the best… 

January 

Mt. Hood Skibowl: This skiing and snowboarding destination just outside Portland boasts extensive night-ski terrain in Mt. Hood National Forest. Nearby Timberline Lodge features the only ski-in ski-out facilities on Mt. Hood

February

February is the time for the annual Portland Winter Light Festival, when neon-lit art installations set the downtown area abuzz, while dancers and fire sculptures pulse through the city. 

March 

Portland Dining Month: More than one hundred restaurants across the city offer special discounted three-course menus throughout March to give Portlanders (and visitors) a taste of the city.

April 

Portland Design Week: A gathering of Portland creators and tastemakers from fashion, graphic design, art and architecture – with shows and open studios galore.

May 

Portland Rose Festival: Portland’s biggest summertime celebration kicks off on Memorial Day week. Expect dragon-boat races, live music, two parades, a carnival and fireworks.

June

Portland Beer Week: Billed as a “celebration of beer in the greatest beer city on earth”, the 10-day event kicks off Portland’s summer season.

July 

Waterfront Blues Festival: Celebrate Independence Day at one of the biggest blues festivals this side of the Mississippi. The music and fireworks display at Waterfront Park is always dazzling.

August 

Pickathon: This four-day Happy Valley shindig offers a well-curated line-up of indie-rock, folk and bluegrass acts playing on six stages.

September 

Feast Portland: Almost 20,000 people descend on Portland for one of America’s hottest food festivals drawing some of the country’s top chefs and bartenders.

October 

West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta: Among the most-anticipated Halloween events in the Pacific Northwest, where you’ll find country crooning, pie-eating and artistic carvings.

November 

Thanksgiving Wine Weekend:

Thanksgiving Wine Weekend sees over 30 wineries throughout the Tualatin Valley host open houses, where guests can go along to enjoy special tastings, entertainment and light bites.

December 

Christmas Light Displays: Get in the festival spirit and check out the glittery holiday lights at Oregon Zoo’s spectacular ZooLights running for the entire month.

More information

Portland city: travelportland.com

Columbia County: discovercolumbiacounty.com

Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory: mthoodterritory.com

Tualatin Valley: tualatinvalley.org

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