Oregon Itinerary: two-week Oregon road trip
By Helen Wright
I have always been curious about doing an Oregon road trip. The quiet west coast USA road trip destination sits just above California, a state which seems to command all the attention. So, what are we missing by not venturing north of the border? Something that had been on my bucket list for a while was a US west coast road trip in an RV campervan and, with a little research, I discovered Oregon was the perfect place to finally tick that off. The promise of scenic drives, open roads and a diverse landscape waiting for us had me very excited. Plus, hiking, living the outdoor life and Oregon coast camping is really popular for locals and tourists, so I knew we would have our pick of great (and safe) places to stay overnight and the best campgrounds in Oregon to experience the state for ourselves.
Planning an Oregon Road trip
We had originally planned a 14-day Oregon road trip but I wanted to spend a long weekend in Portland, so the Oregon itinerary we ended up completing took 16 days in total. I do recommend taking as much time to do the trip as you can. So much of the positive experience of our Oregon road trip was the opportunity to relax without any stress of where we had to be next and moving on to our next stop. You could easily do this trip in two weeks, but a couple of cheeky extra nights could make all the difference. We rented a Cruise America RV for this trip and the full review and experience of day-to-day life in a rented motorhome can be found here. The post below details our entire West Coast USA Road Trip to Oregon , including everywhere we stayed, Oregon coast camping suggestions, our pick of the best Oregon RV parks and recommended activities, driving distances and details.
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Find out more about travel journalist and content creator, Helen, and passportstamps.uk here.
16-DAY OREGON ROAD TRIP
DAYS 1-3: PORTLAND
Where we stayed:
Jupiter Hotel, Portland
This hotel sums up Portland to me. Cool, understated, friendly and fun. The motel-style lodge has an iconic 50s vibe with modern rooms that cater to the hip, millennial guest, while managing not to alienate a more conservative traveller. The bright, spacious bedrooms were ideal for us, staying with our two-year old, as there was space for our luggage, a crib and a sofa area to relax and stretch out. Being a busy city, campgrounds near Portland, Oregon, aren’t as convenient as a hotel, so we opted to stay at The Jupiter and then start our camping in Oregon adventure when we left the city.
The Jupiter hotel is in southeast Portland, across the river from downtown, and it quickly became apparent that this area was going to be our favourite part of the city. Surrounded by excellent restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, tap rooms and bars, we felt safe wandering around this, largely residential, area. As well as a base for out-of-towners, the Jupiter Hotel also seemed to be a popular hangout for locals too. There is a Mad Men-esque bar and restaurant (the Doug Fir Lounge) with an outside terrace and an underground gig venue with live entertainment almost every night. There were live acts on during our stay but the hotel remained remarkably quiet and serene throughout, so they are obviously doing something right. The only disappointment was that there was a band that Simon really wanted to see billed to appear a few days after we checked out… oops.
You can take a short cab ride into downtown Portland for around $10 (five minutes), walk (25 mins) and cycle (10 mins). The hotel actually has bikes that guests can use free of charge, subject to availability, and there are plenty of cycle shops or BikeTown (public rental) bikes available nearby too. We actually ended up taking the public bus into town (the regular route 20 leaves from right outside, is accessible for prams and wheelchairs and costs only $5 (£4) for 2.5 hours and includes as many changes as you need). To get from The Jupiter to the middle of downtown Portland by bus takes about 20 minutes.
What we did:
Portland is just a cool place to wander and soak up the scene. The city is easily walkable and we felt safe in the busy areas (there is a typical city homelessness problem, but we were not approached or affected by any of the street community). The main streets of the city are closely surrounded by relaxed suburbs with pretty houses, gardens and parks – a juxtaposition to the urban cool that greets you when you first arrive into town. One of the highlights was the International Rose Test Garden, a beautiful spot located at the top of Washington Park, with stunning colours and views across Portland.
We loved Portland. It’s a quirky city with a young vibe and some cool spots to check out. The area around our hotel, (East Burnside) was our favourite place to explore. Since we were visiting with our two-year-old son, we enjoyed just wandering around in the sun, checking out the area for ourselves, appreciating the street art and doing a spot of shopping in the independent stores. Knowing we were going to spend a lot of time on the road over the next few weeks, it was the perfect place to start our trip, stretch our legs and introduce us to the laid-back Oregon life.
Since virtually all the tips and advice I had been given for Portland before we arrived involved food, I have to ‘fess up, we mainly did a lot of eating… This included some cool rooftop restaurants and bars, street food, coffee, ice cream and, of course, doughnuts!
Want to know more about what we did in Portland? Read our full Portland post here.
Setting off on our Oregon road trip – two week Oregon road trip itinerary
Why to go camping in Oregon
The decision to plan a trip camping in Oregon and renting an RV for this trip, as opposed to a car, was that a motorhome road trip in the USA was something I had always wanted to do. Plus, as a family, we love camping and over the two-week period, the RV Camping Oregon Coast campgrounds with the motorhome rental worked out cheaper than the car + hotel equivalent. As well as travelling on a road trip with a toddler, I was also six-months-pregnant during this trip, so being able to unpack our bags at the beginning and have our home comforts on the road appealed to me. Simon and I have done a few camper van road trips before (including across New Zealand and Italy) but this was the first time with our son. We were apprehensive, but excited and as it turned out, a road trip camping in Oregon was the perfect place for us to take our family on the road.
Disclosure: This was not a sponsored trip but we did receive a small discount from Cruise America for our rental of the RV. Costing mentioned in this post are based on the regular costs for renting a Cruise America RV. Read our detailed post on renting a motorhome from Cruise America here
Columbia Gorge and Cascade Locks (along the Hood River)
Drive to Cascade Locks: 1 hour
Where we stayed:
KOA Campground, Cascade Locks ($38 per night, full hook up)
One of the closest campgrounds to Portland, Oregon on the Hood River Trail, this simple, small campsite was really quiet and hidden in the trees. There are cabins for rental as well as RV camping, but we really only used it as a base as we arrived late and left shortly after breakfast. Large freight trains pass regularly along the railway line that borders the bottom section of the camp but we didn’t find it at all disruptive as camped a good distance from the passing trains (check out a site map before booking). The location is good for a day trip from Portland, taking in the Columbia Gorge and Hood River.
To maximise our time in Portland, we left late and arrived in Cascade Locks just in time to settle in for dinner and the evening. We had planned to stay at the Bridge of the Gods Motel and RV Park but they were incredibly rude (and the site looked a bit ropey), so we left and opted to stay at the KOA instead.
What we did:
The journey from Portland was really easy. You leave the city on the I-84 and this is a great time to stop at a big supermarket, like Walmart, to stock up on camping supplies, food and fuel before you travel east on the scenic route through the Columbia Gorge. Even though it was late afternoon we still had time to take in the views from Vista House and Portland Women’s Forum of the Bonneville Lock and Dam. These are the best lookout points along the route to take in the stunning scenery.
Multnomah Falls and Hood River
Drive to Multnomah Falls: 30 mins
Where we stayed:
Memaloose State Park Campground ($31 per night, full hook up) oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com
This friendly and picturesque campsite is one of the best campgrounds in Oregon and one of our favourites from the whole trip. Set on a hill, surrounded by trees and overlooking the Hood River, you couldn’t ask for a better setting. It was the first chance we’d had to unpack properly in the RV and start to enjoy life camping in Oregon and we had a great spot (number 41) that looked down through the campground and towards the water. We were really impressed with the tidiness and cleanliness of the facilities – the showers were free and perfectly hot. There was also a children’s playground and a mini amphitheater where they show outdoor movies in the summer months.
Find out more about camping in Oregon State Parks here.
What we did:
Multnomah Falls is one of the most popular and best day trips from Portland and for good reason. The 620ft waterfall is one of 77 waterfalls in Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge. Taking the historic Columbia River Highway, you will pass two or three eye-catching waterfalls before reaching Multnomah Falls, which is the tallest and most impressive of the cascades. For this reason, this is the most popular spot for tourists visiting from Portland and can get very busy. When we first arrived, the car park was full and it was impossible to park our RV, so we were forced to carry on until we found a quiet spot next to Horsetail Falls. It was a bit too far to walk back and so we sat in the serene camping area and had lunch before heading back to Multnomah Falls later in the day.
The falls are spectacular with a lookup point at the base of the falls and a vista (Benson Bridge) around half way up. You used to be able to continue on the trail to the top of the falls but due to landslides, the trail has been closed for safety. At six-months pregnant during our trip, the mid-point was plenty high enough for me. At the base there is also a café, restaurant and visitor information centre.
Dining in downtown Hood River
Drive from Multnomah Falls to Hood River Waterfront Park: 40 mins
Hood River Waterfront Park is a recently redeveloped beach area, idea for families, picnics and dipping a toe in the water. After a play on the sand, we took a recommendation given to us by staff at the Jupiter Hotel in Portland and had dinner at the Double Mountain Brewery.
The Double Mountain Brewery is a taproom in downtown Hood River with home crafted beers and live music. The real highlight is the magnificent brick oven pizza – Simon said it might have been the best he’d ever had! If you must know – we had the pie named ‘The Buffy’. (Plus, we never do this, but we loved it so much we went back again the following day for lunch. Don’t judge!)
Mount Hood Railroad
The Mt. Hood Railroad Parkdale Excursion ($35 + $12 for a boxed lunch), is a historic railway that travels through some of Oregon’s farms, forests, orchards and vinyards and follows the edge of the Hood River, eventually showcasing the stunning Mt. Hood with a stop in the small town of Parkdale. The scenic ride, which has a guided commentary, takes 4.5 hours, with a chance to stop and wander around Parkdale and take in the view midway through. Simon and I loved the ride (wine tasting is available on board too) and it was a chilled out way to spend the afternoon. Finn was excited by the train but eventually started to get fidgety on the long journey, so it’s a good idea to pack games, colouring books and extra snacks if you are planning a trip with a toddler.
Hood River Fruit Loop
After lunch (back at Double Mountain Brewery), we set off to sample the Hood River Fruit Loop. This 35-mile round trip is a self-driven tour of the area’s local farms and a chance to sample some fresh home-grown fruit and veg just yards from where they are planted and picked. The working farms, which are all so rustic and pretty, may also offer homemade wines, ciders, jams and chutneys, making it the most lovely shopping trip ever. Produce is seasonal, but you may also have to opportunity to pick your own strawberries, blueberries and wild berries.
Our favourite was the Draper Girls Family Farm, which had goats that Finn was able to feed and a perfectly photogenic swing with a view of Mt. Hood as the backdrop. Once you’re done taking snaps, be sure to snap up a bottle of their homemade cider.
The best views on our Oregon road trip were through the window
If you are planning a stateside road trip, read our post on everything you need to know about driving in the USA
John Day River Territory
Drive to Cottonwood Canyon State Park: 1hr 10min
The main attraction on our Oregon road trip was the spectacular scenery as we made our way from place to place. Oregon is a beautiful state, often overlooked by UK visitors, but we fell in love right from the beginning. It’s made up of gorgeous green forests, wide roads, lots of lakes, rivers and beaches and cute, authentic small towns. Driving the RV was fun – we had never rented a vehicle so big before and it felt like such an adventure. Finn also adored every minute and he is still talking about RV life months after we got home. None of our drives were stressful and we didn’t meet one traffic jam – even leaving Portland! Oregon is a large state (it’s bigger than the whole of the UK) but each of the places we stopped on our two-week Oregon road trip were, on average, never more than two hours’ drive from each other. We ended up covering 2000 miles but it always felt leisurely – having our home (and all our home comforts) with us really helped with that as we could stop anywhere we wanted for a rest, food or the toilet!
Two-year-old Finn was smitten with the RV from day one. Every day he would help Simon with the hook up connection, insist on sitting in the cab and if he was lucky (and it was safe to do so), Simon would take him for a drive around the campground. This wasn’t the first road trip we had done with Finn but it was definitely his favourite. He loved the camping aspect, the freedom of so much outside space and the natural beauty spots he got to explore (it was his first time experiencing waterfalls and he was fascinated). At the campgrounds he got to play with other children, dogs and interact with friendly people. Many people might shy away from doing such a substantial road trip with a toddler but it was so easy and so rewarding – as a family it is definitely a trip we will always treasure.
Read about day-to day-life in our Cruise America RV here
Cottonwood Canyon State Park
Cottonwood Canyon is Oregon’s second largest state park, spanning 8000 acres. There is primitive camping available here on a first-come-first-served basis, but no electric or water hookup. Running water is available from communal taps (but not for showers). Beginning to travel inland, the desert landscape was quite a surprise after so much forest and greenery. There is a huge choice of hiking trails and for those willing to sweat it out, a hike to the top of the cliffs will reward you with a stunning view of the oxbow bend in the John Day river. We had planned to camp here but it was so hot during our visit and the site offers very limited shade. Instead, we parked up for a few hours, explored the original barn that was left by the Murtha family who once owned the land and used it as a cattle ranch, went for a river walk and cooled off next to the water before heading off to our next stop – Fossil.
TOP TIP: Somewhere we had planned to stop enroute from Hood River, but ended up missing because we didn’t have quite enough time was the The National Neon Sign Museum and I was gutted to miss it. Tours of the museum, which is in The Dalles, offer a very different view from the rest of the trip because the historic Elks Building is now home to the largest Neon collection in the USA.
Drive from Cottonwood Canyon to Fossil: 1hr.
Cheeky camping and breaking the rules
Any big adventure will come with a few hiccups along the way. Moments after picking up the motorhome, we took a wrong turn and drove straight into a restricted Boeing airport hanger, Simon had to do a three-point-turn with the 30ft campervan and I accidentally nearly knocked myself out on the huge wing mirrors. It was all quite comical and we eventually got our ‘RV legs’ but after making the decision not to camp at Cottonwood, we drove aimlessly to our next stop of Fossil without a plan and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal, GPS or clue where we were going. Safe to say, we got a bit lost and struggled to find a suitable RV site. When you are planning your Oregon road trip, it’s wise to print out or buy a paper map as cell signal in the forest areas is intermittent.
We were starting to get desperate when we came across a little beauty spot called Donnelly Service Creek River Access Park. It was a little grassy area, with a car park, next to the river, surrounded by rolling hills. People had set up tents on the riverbank and had campfires but it didn’t seem to be a proper campsite. As it was getting dark, we parked up and paid the recreation park fee ($5) but couldn’t work out whether we were allowed to stay overnight in the RV or not. Finn had to go to bed so we decided to take the risk. We kept as quiet as possible and didn’t run our generator and, even though I was paranoid a park ranger was going to give us a ticket, we ended up staying all night with no problems. In the morning, we chatted to some of the campers and they said that RVs probably aren’t allowed to park there, but they weren’t 100% sure either! No-one seemed to mind and they were so friendly, they even offered to cook us breakfast in the morning on their campfire.
When we imagined camping in Oregon, this idyllic spot was exactly what we’d dreamed of – totally peaceful, no artificial light and so pretty by the stream as the sun came up. We definitely got lucky with location and getting away without a slap on the wrists! There was a chance that we would have been driving in the wrong direction for hours to find somewhere, so stopping almost ended up being a necessity. As well as saving money on campground fees, our night here ended up being our most memorable and authentic camping experiences so we’re glad we took the risk!
DAYs 8 & 9
Wilson Ranches Retreat – unique places to stay in Oregon
Where we stayed:
Wilson Ranches Retreat (Rooms from $119 per night, including breakfast), RV parking $75 per night)
We were almost half way through our Oregon road trip and for something different we checked into Wilson Ranches Retreat, a dude ranch and Bed and Breakfast. The town of Fossil is tiny (with only one grocey store and one café on the high street) and Wilson Ranches is set on a 9,000 acre working cattle and hay ranch, nestled in the beautiful Butte Creek Valley. So if you are really looking for unique places to stay in Oregon and somewhere to get away from it all, this is the place.
Checking into Wilson Ranches really feels like you are special guests in someone’s family home. The guesthouse is decked out with traditional furnishings and cute, western touches like a boot rack, family photos and patchwork quilts. The ranch is owned and operated by three generations of the Wilson family and headed up by Kara Wilson, the inspirational and ridiculously friendly ranch ‘mom’. Kara uses an electronic wheelchair but that doesn’t stop her managing the farm and the B&B, moving around freely and, being a real life cowgirl since childhood, saddling up to ride horses around the ranch and valley.
What we did:
Once checked in, guests are free to wander the ranch at leisure. There are well-maintained gardens with hammocks and chairs to relax in or you can watch the ranch hands at work, tending cattle and going about their work on the farm. During our stay, the team were branding cattle ready for the new season, which was exciting and fun to watch.
Guided ranch rides are available ($55/£44pp for one hour & $90/£72pp for two-hour) for guests four and older. I love riding horses, especially in the Western saddle, but since I was six-months pregnant and Finn was only two, we weren’t able to ride. Finn enjoyed meeting the horses and watching the other guests saddle up. He even got a chance to sit on one of the smaller horses ‘blueberry’ and he often mentions her now we are at home. Not long before I can get him in the saddle!
Breakfast is provided by the ranch but lunch and dinner is self-catering. We took advantage of the gorgeous alfresco BBQ area and cooked some delicious steak as we watched the sunset. Then, of course, enjoyed a comfortable sleep in a huge bed (a little break from the RV!) before leaving the following day for our next stop. Read our detailed review of Wilson Ranches Retreat here
Drive from Fossil to Mitchell: 1 hour
Painted Hills Overlook
Known as one of the ‘seven wonders of Oregon’, the Painted Hills is a spot you certainly don’t want to miss on your Oregon road trip. The Painted Hills are part of the John Day Fossil Beds and the striking rainbow colours make them the most striking part of the area and one of the most beautiful places in Oregon. Similar to the famous ‘Rainbow Mountain’ in Peru, the unique colourings of red, brown, yellow, gold and black are a result of climate change over 32 million years ago (this area actually used to be a rainforest back then, can you believe?). The nearby Thomas Condon Paleontology Center has a collection of 40,000 fossils including some estimated to be over 50 million-years-old.
There are a choice of hikes that leave from the large parking area and we took a relatively easy one, just up to the Painted Hills Overlook, which took only ten minutes. It was a great position to take in the vast landscape and admire the stunning colours. We were there around 11am but apparently the best time to see the Painted Hills is late afternoon, where the setting sun bounces off the hills, making the colours appear to change in front of your eyes. Impressive.
Drive from Painted Hills to Bend: 2hrs
camping at WALMART
So if you read our post on renting an RV in the USA, you will know that we took advantage of an opportunity to camp for FREE at Walmart (yes, the supermarket). It was slightly random, but safe and quite fun! We got to save a bit of cash on the usual fees at Oregon RV parks, which do add up over two weeks. Plus, we stocked up on our food and essentials and the store is open 24-hours serving freshly brewed coffee in the café – so I couldn’t complain about that. We stopped in Bend to break up the long journey to Crater Lake National Park, so didn’t explore much. But this is also a good place to indulge in some shopping (they have a large outlet mall), as the rest of the trip only passes rural areas and small towns so if you were planning on stocking up on tax free goodies (Oregon doesn’t have any sales tax), now is the time.
Crater Lake National Park
Drive to Crater Lake (north entrance): 1hr 45 mins
I really wanted to go to Crater Lake. In my Oregon road trip research, this stunning place came up every time and it looked idyllic. Simon and I had talked excitably about how close we might be able to camp to the lake and what it would look like in real life. Would our photos do it justice? Crater Lake National Park is Orgeon’s only National Park and the lake is the deepest in the the whole of the USA. The result of a collapsed volcano, around 4000 years ago, Crater Lake contains 4.6 trillion gallons of pure, blue alpine water, giving it a striking, majestic experience. This area is generally regarded as one of the best places to go camping in Oregon and one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.
However, let’s just say we didn’t really do our research and it turns out Crater Lake National Park in winter is quite a different beast altogether…
For starters, the north gate wasn’t open (although, we did know this in advance), adding an hour on to our journey each way. After a sunny few days in Fossil, it was hard to believe the pass was closed because of snow. It’s safe to say we were expecting a light scattering of powder on the trees. However, as soon as we entered the park it was clear we had arrived in full-on Winterfell and the snowfall was increasing heavily the closer we got to the lake. At the rim, there was at least 10ft of snow and visibility of Crater Lake was literally zero. That’s right, we could not see it at all. Nada. Not a thing! It goes without saying, that all the campsites in the park were also closed, so we also had nowhere to stay.
The decision to drive to Crater Lake was such a bad one, we had to laugh at our terrible error in judgement! The visitor centre was open, and you could go snow-shoeing if you fancied, but other than that we were faced with blanket of snow and mist, no lake to see and nowhere to stay. And, it was freezing. At least we had our trusty RV in which to take shelter and regroup. It was disappointing, especially after so much anticipation. If you are planning to visit Crater Lake, always check with the official National Park Service website to determine the park conditions and limits. We decided to make some lunch and then head back to the warmer climate in search of lodgings but not before Finn (unfazed by the cold and thrilled at the chance to play in the snow) had a chance to explore.
Where we stayed:
LaPine State Park Campground ($28 Full Hookup)
We stumbled across this clean, quiet campground alongside the twisting Upper Deschutes River around half way between Crater Lake and Bend. It turned out to be a lovely place to spend the night (with no snow!). The state campground has RV parking and log cabins and is surrounded by forest and a nature trail that follows the river edge. We also discovered the State Park is home to Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine tree, which is over 500 years old, so it turned out to be a bonus stop on our Oregon road trip.
Where we stayed:
Indian Ford Campground ($14 primitive camping)
This campsite was rustic with small plots in the forest, surrounded by running water creeks. It was pretty quiet but there were still enough campers dotted around (most were there for fly fishing) to feel safe.
At this point of our Oregon road trip, we were ready for a rest and an opportunity to take a little break without too many plans. The historic western town of Sisters, just 5-10 minutes from the campground is quaint, with some cute cafes and restaurants and an oddly high proportion of charity / goodwill shops. With the weather pretty wet and windy, we didn’t do much except wander around, grab a bite to eat before retreating to the cosy RV for board games and a chance to relax.
Drive Sisters to Belknap Hot Springs: 55 min
Where we stayed:
Belknap Hot Springs Lodge & Gardens ($42 full hookup)
Mixing up the types of campground we stayed in kept our Oregon road trip interesting and varied, and Belknap Hot Springs was something different again. One of the best places to camp in Oregon, the lodge is situated in central Oregon atop an area of mineral hot springs, which the resort uses to heat their swimming pool naturally. There are hotel rooms available but we opted for a cliff edge RV plot that overlooked the McKenzie River. Despite the lodge being relatively simple, it definitely felt like an upgrade to some of the more rustic camping we had been doing. The grounds and gardens were beautiful and use of the pool was a huge perk.
It was a beautiful setting and we took full advantage, spending time just hanging out at the RV and embracing the full camping experience. I turned out to be a dab hand at bonfire making, and once Finn was asleep, Simon and I sat around the fire chatting and toasting marshmallows until nightfall.
What we did:
Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls
Along the road from the lodge is another place to enjoy Oregon’s beautiful outdoors. This easy 2.6 mile hike takes you between two waterfalls, Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River Trail. The ground is uneven and there are some steps but two-year-old Finn managed the whole thing unaided so it’s very much a leisurely walk for adults. As well as the treat of two stunning waterfalls, there were lots of curiosities along the way for Finn to experience and create games around.
I realised here, that despite almost two weeks on our intrepid road trip across Oregon, we’d hardly spent any money on activities, with the state’s beauty and natural opportunity for adventure taking centre stage. It was a refreshing change from tourist destinations set up with constant opportunities to spend cash and helped offset the rental cost of the RV and flights. Something to think about when planning a family U.S. road trip.
Eugene Cascades and Coast
Drive from Belknap to Eugene: 2hr 30min
Eugene and Springfield
Shaking up your Oregon itinerary, these two areas may not have been on your travel agenda before now but, indirectly, you will almost certainly know of their legacy. The clue is in the name for Springfield, which was the inspiration for the longest-running animated TV show in history – The Simpsons, of course! Creator, Matt Groening, who grew up in Portland, confirmed that Springfield, Oregon, was the inspiration behind the fictional home of Bart and co (after some dispute with Springfield, Massachusetts). You can take yourself on a little tour of some ‘Simpsons’ landmarks, including a 30ft mural of the cast and Mo’s Tavern (which was actually built after the show). However, the actual inspiration for Mo’s Tavern, ‘Max’s Tavern’ can be found in nearby Eugene. Fans will spot references to Moe’s Tavern, right down to the jar of pickled eggs on the counter and the exterior which bears a strong resemblance to the animation.
Eugene itself places its claim to fame on the sports field as the home to the first ever Nike shoe (developed in 1972 at the University of Oregon). The city isn’t as quirky as colourful Portland but has a laid back vibe and some cool spots to check out, including for sports fans, ‘track town’ and the atmospheric stadium, Hayward Field. The Eugene Ale Trail comprises of 21 breweries and cideries, including the Viking Braggot Company (known for its honey-based beer) and small, independent breweries like What’cha Brewin (which is slightly out of town). Download a designated app to tick off as many as you like and collect stamps from each stop to take home a souvenir pitcher.
If beer (or wine) drinking, is on the agenda – the Willemette area is also known for its fragrant wineries – the best place to line your stomach is lunch at the Fifth Street Public Market. This trendy food court has a wide selection of dine-in restaurants (such as NorthWest Burgers which have enormous portions!) and a canteen area with choices of large salad bowls, sushi, pizza and desserts. There is also a stylish supermarket stocking independent brands of food, wine and gifts.
Oregon coast camping and Oregon coast RV parks
Drive to Florence: 1hr 20 mins
Where we stayed:
Honeyman State Park Campground / Oregon Dunes ($33 Full Hookup)
Florence, Oregon, camping is really popular but we opted for the Honeyman State Oregon coast RV campground. It’s well-organised campground with a playground, beach access and an activity centre. Obviously, a popular area, it was very crowded with plots close to each other and so slightly noisier than we had been used to. The site we had been given was also quite baron with a lack of green, but I did notice that other areas were more foresty and attractive so we just got unlucky. That’s not to say the site didn’t have a lot going for it. Proximity to the dunes makes it ideal for Oregon beach camping and exploring the town and the showers were super hot and powerful.
As we had started inland, at Portland, and explored the state forests and mountainous areas, this the first part of our Oregon coast road trip and our first glimpse at the famed Oregon coastline. The stunning coast is made up of rugged cliffs and rustic beaches. The beaches in the south celebrate wild, natural beauty while the northern beaches (Seaside, Cannon Beach and Lincoln) are more traditional, tourist-friendly beach towns. We really wanted to fit in more of the northern coast on this trip but there just wasn’t time to do everything – and we always like a reason to come back!
Things to do on the Oregon coast
What we did:
SEA LION CAVES, FLORENCE
In Florence, the weather had started to threaten rain but we were not deterred. Our first stop was to get a glimpse at the resident seal colony in America’s largest accessible sea cave. The coastal road here is around 300ft above sea level and below is a series of caves that are home to hundreds of Stellar Sea Lions. The Sea Lion Caves (Adults $14, Kids $8, free for children under four), provides access to a viewing gallery in the cave, via a lift, where you can see the sea lions swimming, chilling out on the rocks and searching for food. There is also a small information centre and a lookout point where it isn’t unusual to spot whales and dolphins splashing around in the pacific.
Heceta Head Lighthouse trail
Further up the coast is the historic Heceta Head Lighthouse, which was built in 1894. You can park close to the lighthouse, with a short walk up to the base. From here, you get stunning views of the coast and beaches and volunteer guides are on hand to answer any questions about the history and story of the lighthouse itself. You can also park a little bit further away and climb to Heceta Head on the Hobbit Trail, an easy and picturesque 1.5 mile hike, which also has some great lookout points for whale spotting. Grey whales are known to swim really close to the shore in May (when we visited) but we sadly didn’t spot any.
By midday, the weather had taken a turn, so we opted to grab some lunch in Florence Old Town at the much talked-about Mo’s Seafood, a Florence institution famed for its Clam Chowder. It’s a classic, seaside café with harbour-front views, friendly staff and a no-fuss approach. Perfect for a quick stop. Notable mention for the nearby restaurant and taproom, Homegrown (where we ate dinner later that evening), for serving, quite possibly, one of the most delicious fried-chicken burgers I have ever had. I love it when you stop somewhere for a quick bite and it ends up a taste sensation! I wish I had taken more photos, as this place comes highly recommended by us! For dessert, head to Milk and Cookies on Bay Street for an indulgent ice cream sandwich.
Sweet Creek Falls
For the afternoon, the sun was threatening to come back out so we took the chance and headed a short way inland to attempt the hike to Sweet Creek Falls. Even though the trail is relatively flat along the stream, with uneven trails, a rocky, mossy landscape and wet ground, it was our most challenging hike yet but we had such a fun afternoon. The bright green forest was stunning and we could hear the falling water getting closer and closer, so it felt like really intrepid adventure (even though it was probably only a mile from where we parked). We also had the whole trail to ourselves, not passing anyone else so it felt like we’d discovered a hidden paradise.
Hooray! We woke up to the sunniest day, just in time to have some fun on the Oregon dunes. I was surprised to learn that this area of coastal sand dunes is among the largest in the world. You can do so much on the dunes, from quad bike riding, horseriding, kiting and camping but we opted to do nothing at all except hang out as a family, running around and making sand castles. Better still, the dunes were easily walkable from our RV camping at Honeymoon State Park, so we were able to pop back to the campervan for lunch and an afternoon nap.
Drive from Florence to Bandon: 1hr 30min
The last stop on our Oregon road trip was in the beach town of Bandon. For a pretty small town, there is actually a lot to do in Bandon including a fishing village with independent shops and restaurants, art galleries and a large beach and recreation area for camping, outdoor activities and hiking.
Where we stayed:
Bullards Beach State Park
This is a really big campsite, with lots of space, an activity programme and a series of nature trails and paths which lead to the beach. Even though it was quite busy when we were there, it never felt crowded at all and felt much more spacious than Honeyman State Park that we had stayed in previously.
what to do in Bandon
What we did:
Bandon Old Town is small and walkable, with plenty of parking and an eccentric selection of independent shops including a premium chocolatier, a whiskey distillery tasting room and a cranberry sweet shop (cranberries grow in abundance in this area). There is also a waterfront fishing harbour where you can pick up small boat excursions and walk along the water to the historic Coquille River Lighthouse, built in the 1800s.
Washed Ashore Gallery
One place I urge you to visit is the, free, Washed Ashore – Art To Save The Sea gallery, a not-for-profit organization that turns plastic pollution dragged from the Pacific Ocean and produces thought-provoking art and sculptures. The exhibits change frequently and are often loaned to respected museums and galleries across the UK and Canada. We got to see the famous life-sized whale ribcage made entirely from plastic bottles and several smaller sculptures made from other rubbish dumped in the sea including flip flops, batteries, polystyrene and plastic bags. The gallery is run by passionate volunteers and also hosts workshops for children to create their own artwork in support of the cause. It’s a tragic eye-opener and an incredible project to showcase the tangible damage litter causes to our seas and oceans. It’s free to enter but I urge you to make a donation where possible to support the exhibit.
The Loft Restaurant
A tasty incentive to sample local food and support local businesses in Oregon is the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail. This collection of farms and markets, restaurants and craft breweries along the coast features fresh and sustainable local produce and seafood and the results are delicious. You can find out more about what businesses are included at but we opted for The Loft on Bandon’s waterfront. This casual restaurant has a refreshing menu with twists on the classics (we had a delicious beetroot hummus), reasonable prices and friendly staff.
Tony’s Crab Shack
Another Bandon institution is Tony’s Crab Shack, another outlet on the Wild Rivers Trail. This fisherman’s hut serves freshly caught seafood, such as oysters, crab and fish and chips to eat in, as well as fresh catch to take home. We opted for some fresh prawns and cooked them on the BBQ back at the campground.
Drive from Bandon to California: 5hr 20 min
Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
That’s almost it! Our brilliant Oregon road trip was coming to an end and we were headed to San Francisco to drop off our Cruise America RV, flying home to London on Norwegian Air (£130 one way).
We still had a long way to go (including an overnight stop in California) and plenty to see, including the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. This state park is 12 miles long, stretching along the coast amid thick forests and rugged coastline. Thanks to this blog, which has really helpful advice with accurate mile markers, we stopped at a few spots along the way to play on the beach, stretch our legs and take in the view. This moody cove was the Lone Ranch Picnic Area (mile marker 352.6) and had ample parking for cars and RVs as well as Kate Bush-esque album cover photo opportunities.
CALIFORNIA, AVENUE OF THE GIANTS
We had heard so much about the stunning Redwood forest, we definitely wanted to check it out on the way to California. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile scenic highway that parallels the faster Highway 101, and runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It was certainly impressive and one of the most beautiful roads we’d driven on in the USA. Lucky for us, the sun came out just in time to illuminate the orange tones in the wood and the emerald tree tops, some over 300ft high.
Chandelier Tree in Drive-Thru Tree Park
A fun place to stop is in Leggett, California, at Drive Thru Tree Park ($10 per vehicle to enter). Deep in the forest, the area is a pleasant place to spend time anyway, but the main attraction is the giant 276ft Chandelier tree that has a 6ft wide gap in the base, large enough to allow a car to drive through. There are only three trees that you can drive through left in California (all privately-owned and so require a fee to see them). There isn’t much more to it than that, but I wanted to see one for myself and it was fun. Obviously our 30ft RV had no chance of passing through, but a fellow tourist took me for a ride under the arch in his convertible so I got to experience it. Simon also had some other ideas on how to amuse himself…
From here, it was homeward bound!
Drive-Thru Tree Park to San Francisco International airport: 3hr 11 min
WHY TO DO A ROADTRIP AROUND OREGON
Oregon really lived up to expectations and everything I had been told about the state was accurate. The beautiful green landscape of trees, dramatic coastline, glorious waterfalls and laid back vibe really provides the perfect backdrop for a road trip. I would definitely recommend doing Oregon in an RV, breaking the drive up with a few hotel or lodge stays to enjoy some home comforts. Having the motorhome gave us freedom and helped keep costs down overall. Read more about renting a Cruise America RV here.
Generally, I found Oregon (a sales tax-free state) very inexpensive. In fact, there was a noticeable difference in how much we spent on fuel after crossing the California border – another plus for planning a road trip in Oregon. We cooked a lot in our campervan, only dining out occasionally, but when we did eat out we found almost everywhere we ate to have great food at unpretentious prices, with a lot of emphasis on farm (or sea)–to-table and local suppliers.
I would definitely return to Oregon, not least because hopefully next time I won’t be pregnant and so can enjoy the abundant wine regions that play a huge part of tourism here that we didn’t really indulge in this time. For a family road trip, Oregon was the perfect place to base our adventures. Finn absolutely adored all the time he got to spend outdoors and all the space and freedom available to him. It does rain pretty often in Oregon, but the state wouldn’t be blessed with all that beautiful forestland if it didn’t. We experienced a few days of wet weather but it didn’t impact on our experience. Just be prepared – pack waterproofs and hiking boots and power on, despite the rain. We did, and we didn’t miss out on anything!
Thank you to Travel Oregon for helping us plan our itinerary and pointing us in the right direction to see the very best of your beautiful state. If you have any questions of queries, traveloregon.com is a fantastic resource. If you would like to hear more from us about our trip, find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and hit me with any questions you may have. And, if you are planning an Oregon road trip, we hope you loved it as much as we did.
FLY HOME FROM SAN FRANCISCO.
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