Having lived in Oregon for several years, I know that it is home to some of the most beautiful spectacles of nature the world has to offer. It seems that the entire western half of the state is full of lush greenery for at least 11 months of the year. Often when people think of the Pacific Northwest they associate it with rain. From some perspectives this is true, but the all-encompassing beauty of the state can also be attributed to the frequent rainfall. For those who hope to experience the wonders of Oregon without getting too wet, I recommend planning a trip in July, August, or September. These months are actually quite dry and warm.
In the years that I have lived in Oregon, I have visited some of the most beautiful places--the crème de la crème of natural tourist attractions--and I would like to share these wonders with you.
1. Portland, Oregon: Where Natural Beauty and Culture Are One
Let’s begin our journey through Oregon in its biggest city, Portland, which has the Columbia River as its northern border. This beautiful city, despite the fact that it has the largest population in Oregon is home to only a bit more than a half-million people. This city is known culturally for its artistic and creative freedom. Simply walking through the downtown streets is a great way to spend a day (or a week for that matter) and if you are a fan of ethnic food, you will love the many restaurants scattered through downtown Portland.
Portland is also home to two extremely beautiful gardens. The first is the Japanese Garden, which has many exotic plants. It has 5 different types of gardens within. One is the ‘Tea Garden’ and another is the ‘Strolling Pond Garden’, which has an impressive collection of Koi. Admission is $9.50 for adults.
The second garden in Portland is the Rose Garden. Both parking and admission are free. It is the oldest public garden of its type and is home to 500 varieties of roses (over 10,000 plantings total). There is often live music being played in the courtyard and you are free to walk amongst the roses as you please. This is a delightful experience.
*Note – I remember enjoying both of these gardens as a teenage boy, so this may not only be for couples without teenagers*
There is much more to travel in Portland and I hope to write an entire hub on this soon, but for now we must move on. Travelling north across the bridge of the Columbia River would land us in Washington, in which state I have lived as well, but that does not fit our topic for today, so instead we will travel a mere 40 miles south on Interstate 5.
2. Salem, Oregon: The Quiet Capital
The hour trip has now landed us on a short stop to the state’s capital. For those who are interested in history, I recommend visiting the capital building (during Christmas season there are many a-cappella concerts held in the capital’s rotunda, which has some of the most beautiful acoustics one can find) and the park surrounding it. The park surrounding the capital is full of cherry trees that bloom in March. If you find that yourself in Salem at this time be sure to not miss the beauty of the cherry blossoms that shade from above and carpet the floor below!
There are also many vineyards and wineries (which double as beautiful wedding venues) that speckle the countryside of Salem. I recommend a relaxing country drive, especially if you are visiting in the springtime.
Much more could be said for the quiet, beautiful capital of Oregon, but for now we will travel less than 2 hours west along highways 20W, 223S and 22W.
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3. The Oregon Coast: Rugged, yet Relaxing
This short drive brings us up close and personal with the great Oregon Coast. The Oregon Coast is vast and varies a significant amount as you traverse the westward-most portion of the United States (excluding, obviously, certain places like Alaska and Hawaii). Newport, the beach that I frequented most, is known largely for its mountainous dune and its rock faces. This dune will be a delight to children and young adults as they climb the hill and run, roll, jump or sand-board their way back down. Those who hope for a more relaxing time will love walking the trails along the cliff faces which look over the ocean. If the weather is right, there is no better experience than an evening bonfire at the beach.
Other attractions of the Oregon Coast include Haystack rock in Canon Beach, a very high reaching rock just off the coast that at low-tide can be walked near and often has many tidal-pools full of interesting creatures. Depot Bay (just a bit north of Newport) is known for its whale watching and the seals that gather around the fishermen as they filet their day’s catch. Many people can be found crabbing at the beach of Lincoln City (north of Depot Bay). This is the beach where you will most likely find a large gathering of seals or sea lions. If you come to this beach, I highly recommend trying Mo’s seafood restaurant – you can’t miss it, it is right on the beach.
The next trip is a bit longer drive, but it is well worth it. The 5-hour drive southeast will take you through hours of national forests that are thick with growth and beauty unlike anything many people have seen. The travel itself is amazing, but the destination outdoes itself!
4: Crater Lake National Park: Clear Blue and Beautiful
The first time I visited Crater Lake, I was filled with awe, the whole time we were there. If you are willing to make the drive you will find yourself driving to the top of a small mountain and when you reach the top you will find what appears to be a massive crater filled with the most beautiful water.
I hope to write a hub soon on how Crater Lake was formed, but I will give the quick and dry for the time being. This mountain that you now stand on was once a great volcano that rose quite a bit higher than it does now, after its last massive eruption though, it became a hollow shell, and that shell eventually collapsed upon itself leaving a great Crater that spreads for miles.
You will notice how blue the water is in Crater Lake. This is because the water that has accumulated over time has come solely from rain and snowfall (which is unlike most any other lake in the world), which means that it has an extremely low concentration of minerals in the water and is almost void of impurities (there are only trout and salmon in the water, these were introduced by man). On top of this, the lake is just less than 2,000 feet deep, which is the deepest lake in the United States. When I was there I was told that if you swim in the water and open your eyes you could see deeper than in almost any other water because of its purity. I tested this theory and it is in fact true. It is actually quite frightening to be in such a deep lake and to be able to see such a vast distance.
Crater Lake is perfect for everyone. For those who do not care for a hike can sit on the porch situated at the edge of the crater and enjoy the view of the lake and the surrounding evergreens (and maybe even witness some of the deer, bear and bobcat that make this place their home). Those who are up for a hike can follow the trail down the crater to the lake. This is a beautiful experience and I recommend it to anyone who is physically capable. Finally, for the young adults and the more adventurous, there are certain rock faces varying from 10-20 feet high that you can dive, flip or simply jump off of into this beautiful water.
I have tried all three of these experiences and loved them all. My favorite was actually swimming in this amazing lake, but we all have our preference.
For many, this would be the end of your stay in Oregon. All that is left is to enjoy the scenery on the way back to Portland. But for some, there is one more stop to be made. I would ask those of you who are more adventurous to follow me northeast three and a half hours.
5. Mt. Bachelor: A Winter Paradise
If you are a fan of snow, beautiful mountain scenery, skiing, snowboarding or just beautiful resorts and lodgings, you will love Sunriver Resort. This resort was voted number 1 of the top 50 ski resort hotels in North America.
This closes off our trip to the top 5 places to visit in Oregon. I hope you enjoyed and please come stop by for real! I am sure you will enjoy it!