The Pacific Northwest is a truly special place. Varied natural beauty, growing urban centers, and diverse populations all lend to a unique experience that can be tailored to all interests. My family’s 5-day summer road trip in Oregon and Washington included the cities of Portland and Seattle, as well as natural parks like Cannon Beach, Silver Falls State Park, and Ecola State Park.
When traveling as a family, it can be exhausting to change hotels/Airbnbs every night, so instead, we structured the trip to maximize sights while minimizing the time spent packing and unpacking. Read on for all the details (and photos)!
Road Trip Overview:
Day 1: Portland
Day 2: Silver Falls State Park and Portland (night in Portland)
Day 3: Oregon Coast (night in Portland)
Day 4: Portland and Seattle (night in Seattle)
Day 5: Seattle (night in Seattle)
Detailed Trip Breakdown:
We kicked off our trip with an afternoon visit to the Portland Farmers Market. This was a great introduction to Portland’s thriving food scene and an easy way for us to see (and more importantly try) some local items! Some notable bites included Dosa Portland, Pine State Biscuits, and Verde Cocina.
With our appetites sated, we headed into downtown to explore the city’s hub. We eventually arrived at the famed Powell’s Books, which takes up an entire block. Self-proclaimed as the largest independent bookstore, even non-bibliophiles can have an enjoyable experience in the store.
All this time spent on our feet reignited our appetites so we headed to Bollywood Theater for dinner. This campy restaurant serves Indian street food in a distinct atmosphere of Indian paraphernalia and classic Bollywood movies airing on the walls. The food is fine but it’s definitely the environment that elevates the restaurant.
Although the city of Portland is enjoyable to explore, we were eager to take a brief break from the urban jungle and experience some of Oregon’s natural beauty. So, we hopped in our rental car and drove to Silver Falls State Park, an easy 70-minute drive from the city. As the name suggests, Silver Falls State Park is most known for its numerous waterfalls, including four that you can walk behind! We opted to explore the park by embarking on the Winter Falls Loop, a hike allowing us to see seven waterfalls. This park was truly stunning and a must see in Oregon!
After spending a few hours in the park, we made our way back towards Portland. On the way, we stopped in Silverton for lunch at Gather. This was a perfect stop as we were able to see a historic small-town downtown as well as regain some of those calories from the extensive hiking! Back on the road towards Portland, we came upon an alpaca farm. So, of course, we had to make an unscheduled stop! Marquam Hill Ranch allows visitors to meet their alpacas and shop from their farm store. The friendly owners were also more than happy to answer all our questions about alpaca raising in the Pacific Northwest.
Back in Portland, we continued the nature theme with a visit to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. The garden boasts over 500 varieties of roses (who knew there were so many?) and it is lovely to visit in the early evening. The park is elevated and the changing light provides an interesting perspective on the garden.
Our third day was a true ‘road trip’ style adventure as we headed to the iconic Oregon coast. We began with the 90-minute drive from Portland to Ecola State Park where we had a breezy picnic overlooking miles of coastline. From here, you can see the classic Oregon postcard view. We then wandered to Indian Beach, the park’s other main attraction. Here you’ll find access to undisturbed coastline.
We next headed into Cannon Beach (the town) and enjoyed quick snacks at Seasons Cafe before heading to Cannon Beach (the beach) and the famed Haystack Rock. This is a fairly busy beach in the summer, but the expansive, sandy shoreline ensures that it doesn’t feel crowded.
We then got back in the car to conquer the Three Capes Scenic Drive – a 40-mile detour on the 101 that winds through several lookout points and natural attractions such as Octopus Tree.
After a very full day along the coast, we make it back to Portland in time for an Indian dinner at Maruti, a family-run restaurant with tasty, health-conscious fare.
This day marked our last bit of time spent in Portland. In the morning, we made the 30-minute drive to Mulmonath Falls. Although mighty, the falls are extremely accessible! A short, paved walk from the parking lot takes you right to the falls.
Back in Portland, we enjoyed lunch at Virtuous Pie, an airy vegan pizza place that non-vegans would also love! Next, we visited the Portland Japanese Garden, which is not only a beautiful park, but a great way to learn the history behind Japanese immigration and the sociopolitical environment which greatly affected their experience. We were able to do a guided tour (included with admission) and also splurged on tea and snacks in the tea house, a tree house like structure overlooking the park.
After a satisfying few days, it was time to say goodbye to Oregon and make our way to Seattle. Despite the three-hour drive, we were able to make it to the city in time for dinner at Wayward Vegan Cafe, a diner-like place with a large menu.
With one full day in Seattle, we decided to focus on some classic hotspots. First up was Pike Place Market, the sprawling market with every type of food and drink imaginable. We each grabbed different food items to share and found a quiet space overlooking the water to enjoy it. While at the market, we also visited the infamous Gum Wall. I don’t get it, but it’s right there and a quick stop.
Next up was the Olympic Sculpture Park, a free sculpture park operated by the Seattle Art Museum. With nice views of the city and water, this is a great spot to relax on a warm summer day.
After enjoying some art, we continued to Pioneer Square, the historic neighborhood with great architecture. There’s plenty of shops and food options in the area, but we opted to just walk around.
As evening neared, we drove up to Kerry Park to experience the sunset. With a perfect view of Central City and the bay, this is an ideal place to watch the changing lights. It was definitely crowded, but arriving a little before sunset allowed us to claim an unobstructed view.
That concludes our trip! Ideally, another day in Seattle/Washington would have been a smart addition, but with our time-constraints, this ended up being a great itinerary to do a lot but still enjoy each and every experience. What should we see the next time we’re in the Pacific Northwest?