This beautiful region is bursting with things to do – including outdoor adventures, wine tasting, and must-try foodie experiences...
Portland is surrounded by great cycling areas and Sandy Ridge, designed for mountain bikers, is an hour from town and among the most popular city biker-paths, with a fun, flowing 15-mile ride of single-track, drops and switchbacks through the Cascade foothills and lush woodlands.
Following an abandoned logging road and railway between two peaceful towns of Scappoose and Vernonia in the foothills of Oregon’s Coastal range, the Crown Zellerback Trail offers mountain-bike riders an exhilarating, scenery-changing ride. The 34-mile out-and-back route over hard-packed and gravel double-track takes you through grass and dirt, as it climbs and descends its way through an old-growth fir forest and passing pretty countryside with rustic barns, grazing cows and horses.
Also making use of an abandoned railway is the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. This 21-mile tree-lined path pedals you past clear streams, clusters of brightly-coloured wildlflowers and flittering birds. Pause to learn about the history of the lumber industry; the logs were transported by train here over a century ago.
Head to the Willamette River, rent a kayak and glide along the river. Starting at West Linn’s Willamette Park, take the Tualatin River Trail, a 40-mile-stretch edged by cottonwood forests and wetland meadows that bends through the city. In the summer months, the slow-moving river is mellow enough for an upstream paddle or calming float. As you drift along, you may spot otters, beavers and waterbirds like egrets and great blue herons along its shore. Tualatin Riverkeepers at Cook Park offers kayak, canoe and stand-up paddle rentals, as well as guided paddled options for beginners.
Another placid place to paddle is Scappoose Bay. You can hire a stand-up paddleboard, canoe or kayak from Next Adventure, or join one of their many classes.
Homemade donuts and great brews are Portland staples. Try Blue Star Donuts coffee pairings with their brioche-donuts ranging from old-fashioned glazes and sprinkles to imaginative combos like blueberry-bourbon-basil and crème-brulee-and-cointreau. Hipster haven Voodoo Doughnut has locals and visitors lining up for its fluffy, lightly glazed and colourful creations, including its signature Voodoo doll-shaped donut. Trailhead Coffee Roasters and Ranger Chocolate Company created Cup & Bar, Portland’s first coffee-and-chocolate tasting room in a factory-cum-café in a renovated warehouse, where you can do side-by-side tastings. Portland’s most exotic café on a red double-decker bus Trov Coffee & Tea pours everything from flat whites and fair-trade brews to Turkish coffees and rose mochas. Pip's Original Doughnuts makes the sweet treats in minature and pairs them deliciously with chai tea.
The Tualatin Valley is overflowing with wine, but don't just come to taste it - see the vineyards for yourself, meet the people behind the award-winning bottles and listen to stories about the history of this wine-making region. Start in Forest Grove at David Hill's Vineyard and Winery to take part in the vineyard hike and see some of the oldest vines in the whole of the Willamette Valley. From here, it's a thirty minute drive to the Montinore Estate, where you're welcome to bring a picnic and make yourself at home among the grapes, before heading into the homey tasting room, where you can sip on the different pinot noirs produced on site. Just up the road in Gaston, Plum Hill Vineyards, a humble winery in a converted dairy farm, modest but with plenty of charm, is a must-stop for its small lots of handcrafted pinots and chardonnays.
Love shopping? You’ll love Portland city. Design lovers will swoon over one-of-kind gems at MadeHere PDX. The split-level space doubles as an eclectic boutique-and-gallery, showcasing a carefully-curated mix of locally made goods, art and homeware from indie artisans. Queen Bee functions as a buzzy boutique and working studio, where visitors can snap up handmade bags with beautiful appliqués and jewellery or learn to create their own. Fun and funky MapleXO creates hip, handcrafted jewelry and accessories from recycled skateboards. Another ethical, independently-owned brand, KEEN, manufactures and stocks sustainably made footwear and gear for outdoor adventures in a beautiful wood-clad industrial warehouse.
The Portland region is sheer hiking heaven. With the Columbia River wandering on its fringes, the Willamette River cutting through the city’s heart, and Mount Hood looming large, the natural outdoors is an evergreen presence – whether you’re inside the city, or exploring the wilderness nearby. The Powell Butte Loop is minutes from downtown Portland, yet feels a world away with over six miles of gorgeous hiking, biking and horse trails – while Forest Park offers hikers 5,100 acres with more than 80 miles of paths. In the wider Portland region, look to the likes of Mt Hood, the Killin Wetlands, and Tualatin Valley for wild walks through beautiful terrain. In the latter, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail (21 miles) is a particular highlight, weaving through the forested foothills of Northwest Oregon’s Coast Range on the tracks of an old railroad.
In Portland city, take your pick of the tastiest global eats-to-go from hundreds of street-food carts on multi-block stretches. Hit Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Bamboo Sushi or Wolf & Bear’s Israeli pita-wraps at Northeast 28th Avenue. At OUI! Wine Bar + Restaurant at the SE Wine Collective, Portland’s pioneering urban winery, sip organic wines alongside dishes such as sweet-corn risotto and sheep’s cheese with edible flowers. Spend Saturday morning browsing fresh produce from local farmers, chefs and artisans at the Portland’s Farmers Market at Portland State University. Or, graze your way around this culinary haven on The Big Foody walking tour, sampling artisanal gems such as charcuterie, chocolate, coffee and small-batch spirits.
Portland prides itself on being America’s most vegan-friendly city and of-the-moment upscale eatery Farm Spirit is redefining meat-free meals with a wildly inventive 15-course tasting menu in a bright, intimate space with retro-indie tunes. Farm Spirit’s offshoot casual diner Fermenter offers a tasty, wholesome brunch that includes handmade misos and Black-bean tempeh. Homegrown Smoker dishes up Southern-inspired classics including faux-ribs and chicken drumsticks and mac-no-cheese. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the best non-dairy ice cream you’ve ever tasted at the posh Little Bean parlour with decadent scoops of blackberry basil and cherry chai from house-made chickpea milk.
Drop by the now-iconic Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent new and used bookstore filled with over a million books and frequent author readings. Catch a flick at the Bagdad Theatre, an opulent art-deco movie palace, and grab a pizza and handcrafted ales on its leafy patio, or live music at the Crystal Ballroom, a century-old crystal-chandeliered hotspot that’s hosted luminaries like James Brown and Tina Turner. For creative inspiration or a rainy-day escape, see some local and indigenous art or a film screening at the Portland Art Museum, housed in a renovated Masonic temple. Take a street-culture tour with The Portland Street Art Alliance through the city’s vibrant street art blazing on buildings and alleyways.
Music lovers should plan to see a performance from the outstanding Oregon Symphony or plan to visit in February, when the Portland Jazz Festival brings artists from all over the world together. The Roseland Theatre, housed in an old church, is a unique place to catch a show while the largest theatre company in Portland, the Portland Center Stage at the Armory, puts on a diverse array of shows.
With over 115 breweries in the Portland region, you’re never far from a watering hole. The Tap Trail spotlights more than a dozen breweries and handful of cideries located in the heart of Oregon City, a former lumber town and the original capital of the Oregon Territory south of Portland. Hit Coin Toss Brewing and sample their smoky brews and pale malts on the patio. Across the road, swing by The HiVe Taphouse, a collective of two brewers and a food-cart, where you can try German-inspired lagers at Shattered Oak Brewing and grab some beer soup and flat-bread pizza at the Perky Pantry. To get a beer-and-food discount at participating breweries, download the mobile pass: mthoodterritory.com/taptrail.
How to get there
Delta Air Lines now operates daily summer seasonal direct flights between London Heathrow and Portland International Airport. For more details, visit delta.com.
When to go?
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.
Where to stay
If you want to stay in the city itself, Jupiter, Jupiter NEXT, Lucia, Sentinel, Deluxe and Hoxton are all good options. If you’re planning on hiking around Mt Hood, choose between Timberline Lodge and the Mt Hood Oregon Resort. McMenamins Grand Lodge makes a great base in the Tualatin Valley. Or, head to one of Ruby Vineyards’ two cottages nearby for a unique farmstay. Clatskanie River Inn is another good option in Columbia County.
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