Oregon Coast & Portland
I recently tackled a tough but very necessary mom thing. I left Oliver and Mauricio home and went on a trip. Just me. Well technically me and my best friend. It was her spring break and she needed/deserved a getaway and I got to tag along. She had decided on visiting Portland and the Oregon Coast, and I was just happy to go anywhere. Typically Mauricio and I will do a vacation at least once a year. But we don’t have anything major planned for this year, so when I had this opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. I booked my flights and was all excited to go. Then I realized I would be leaving Oliver for 5 whole days, and I got nervous. While I was super excited to go on a trip, I had never left Oliver even overnight. But he was about to turn one and I figured I’d have to do it at some point right? I made plans to have him stay with my parents for a few days while Mauricio would be working, then he would go pick him up for the weekend. I knew everything would be just fine, and that my baby was in good hands. But I was still a mess when the time came to actually leave him. My mom came and picked Oliver up from me in the evening so that I could travel to Salt Lake for my flight early the next morning. I’m proud to say I only cried for about 5 minutes after she drove off. Then I went and said goodbye to Mauricio at work. I rarely go on trips without Mauricio, actually I think this is only the third one since we’ve been together. So leaving him was just as hard. I didn’t cry as much though. Everything went fine with my baby while I was gone. My parents absolutely loved having him and Mauricio even took him on a pretty major hike over the weekend. I got to video chat with Oliver every day, even though he didn’t really understand it. Now, on to the actual trip.
Cynthia and I live about 6 hours away from each other, so we took different flights and met up in Portland. I got in a few hours before her so I had some time to wake up a bit from my 5 am flight once I landed. Once she got in, we took the MAX train from the airport to downtown Portland to pick up our rental car. We rented a car downtown for two main reasons; it was cheaper and we’d be coming back to stay in Portland a few days later and didn’t really need the car in the city nor did we need to go out to the airport 2 days before our flights home. The MAX line worked great for us and our stop was just a few blocks from the car rental location so just about 2 hours after Cynthia landed we were driving to Multnomah Falls.
We decided to do Multnomah Falls on our first day and then head over to the coast. If you know Portland at all, or look at a map, that plan might not make much sense. Multnomah Falls sit to the east of Portland and the coast is to the west. But we literally had all day to get to our AirBnB in Cannon Beach and it was only about a 2 ½ hour drive from Portland. So we went the wrong way, on purpose. The drive to Multnomah Falls is beautiful and green, which had us desert girls in awe the whole way. We love a good waterfall, and Multnomah delivered. It’s an obvious tourist attraction, but midday on a Thursday it wasn’t too crowded. There is a 2 mile hike that goes all the way above the waterfall and around to another, but we just went up the trail a little way to get some different views of the falls and the river. We absolutely loved the greenery and the moss growing on all the trees. Yeah, we were the tourists gawking at moss on trees. It’s just so different from what we’re used to. We grew up in a tourist town, making fun of people who were amazed at the red rocks. And there we were amazed at green moss.
Multnomah to Cannon Beach
After we got done gawking at waterfalls and moss, we started our way back through Portland to the coast. It was only about a three hour drive from the falls, but we took our time and stopped at interesting places along the way.
We took a southern route and went through Tillamook and then up the coast to Cannon Beach. If you read Tillamook and thought it sounded familiar, you probably are like me and love cheese and/or ice cream. We stopped at the Tillamook creamery and did their self guided tour where you can see the cheese being packaged and have some cheese samples. It was basically cheese heaven. They also, obviously, had ice cream. So we had to get some of that as well, and it was delicious! Pretty much if I lived in Tillamook I’d be obese.
After cheese and ice cream we made our way up the coast to Cannon Beach. We stopped at a few beaches and viewpoints along the way and took in the real beauty of the Oregon Coast. I have been to plenty of beaches before, but the Oregon coast beaches are different than any other I have visited. Our first stop was Rockaway Beach, followed by a few more viewpoints and beach towns before we got to Cannon Beach.
Shortly before Cannon Beach is Hug Point. It was on our list to see in the area so we pulled off and saw it since the tide was right. To be honest, we never really figured out when high tide or low tide was. But when we got to Hug Point, the tide was right that we were able to get to a little waterfall and some caves. They have signs up warning you need to keep an eye on the tide, and it makes sense because you could definitely get trapped on the wrong side of the point if the tide came in quick. We played around there for a while, checking the pools for starfish, which we didn’t find, and checking out some of the little caves. If you’re in the area and the tide is right, it’s worth a stop for sure.
Our first day in Oregon was very busy. We actually did more than half of the things on our list for the coast. Everything was just going so smoothly! We got to Cannon Beach and found our AirBnb, which was in the Sandcastle Inn condos. It was super cute and just a block off the beach. We got all checked in and went down to the beach just in time to see the sunset. Cannon Beach’s main attraction is Haystack Rock. Which is literally a giant rock on the coast. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve realized we as people love looking at giant rocks. So it’s pretty amazing. Also, Puffins nest on the rock in the summer months, but unfortunately we were a few weeks early to see any. For our first night there we went down to the beach and watched the sunset. Romantic right? Then we walked down the road a bit to Pelican Brewery for some local beer.
The next day we wandered into the little downtown area for some breakfast. We are pretty early risers, Cynthia is naturally and I have become that way in the last year for some reason. *Ahem* Oliver. Since we were looking for breakfast right at 8, which is early for Oregon apparently, we were some of the first people in at Lazy Susan Cafe. If you’re in Cannon Beach for breakfast I definitely recommend it. Its a cute little cafe tucked behind some shops and it only takes cash, but the food is good and the people are so nice.
Seaside & Astoria
After our breakfast in Cannon Beach, we decided to drive north to explore. We stopped in Seaside first. Seaside is definitely a tourist spot. The coast is lined with high rise hotels situated to give the most rooms an ocean view as possible. Even though it was less than thirty minutes from Cannon Beach we were very happy with our choice to pay a little more and stay where we were. I’m not saying that Seaside was bad, Cannon Beach was just much more cozy and relaxing. I think Seaside is more family friendly than Cannon Beach is though, so it really depends on the kind of stay you are looking for on which would be more desirable.
After our brief stop in Seaside we went to Gearhart Beach for some sand dollar hunting. Pinterest had told us that this beach was great for finding sand dollars, especially earlier in the day, so we figured it was at least worth a stop. We got there around 10 and thought for a while that maybe we were too late. But after walking a ways down the beach we were finding sand dollars left and right. I had never experienced anything like that, especially since we were the only ones on the beach.
Here’s some fun facts about sand dollars that I never knew. Sand dollars are actually living creatures. So the star-like shape you see on them is actually how they breathe. If you find a sand dollar that has lots of little spines and is dark colored, it’s still alive. So while you can look at it and see how its little spines bring food to its “mouth”, you should probably leave it where you found it because it is still alive. This might have been something we learned too late. They are also referred to as sea cookies, which I honestly like better. We found about 15 sea cookies and called it a success. I also found a whole crab shell, but unfortunately it didn’t make it back home with me.
It started raining while we were sea cookie hunting, but we were in Oregon so we weren’t surprised or deterred by it. We continued on our way to Astoria, which a few different people had recommended to us. The drive was pretty and the bridge spanning across the river to Washington was pretty cool, but overall Astoria was a little underwhelming for me. We didn’t do much research about it before we got there so while we were driving I looked up things to do and found a museum of peculiar things that we decided would be interesting and very Oregony. It was still raining when we got to Astoria, so we decided to do the museum and then wander around the downtown in the hopes that the rain would die down. However, the museum was still on winter hours, and thus, not open. So we wandered the strange antique shops and still got quite a bit of peculiar sights in.
Then we decided to see the Astoria Column, because it was something to see in Astoria according to TripAdvisor. The steep and winding road up to the column was kind of fun and the entrance fee was only $5 for a year pass. It was still raining while we were there but we made our way up the 164 spiral steps to the top of the column. And let me tell you, it was COLD up on top of that thing! The wind was coming from every direction and it was, of course, still raining.
After all the climbing, we spent about one minute looking around and snapping pictures before we went back inside and made our way down. Since we didn’t have any other ideas for what to do in Astoria, we snapped some more pictures and made our way back to Cannon Beach. Maybe there was something awesome we missed in Astoria, but I don’t know that I’d go back.
Back to Cannon Beach
We spent the rest of our time on the coast in Cannon Beach, which I think was easily our favorite of the coast. Of course once we got back, it had stopped raining. So we wandered downtown and had some crepes from Crepe Neptune for lunch. I love a good crepe, especially a savory one, so I got a salmon one and it was delicious! We wandered around the little boutique shops, which were all stocked with clothes that were out of our price range for sure, and spent some more time enjoying the beach and Haystack Rock. We definitely started our trip on an amazing note with Cannon Beach and I would put the Oregon Coast pretty high on my places to go back to list.
Saturday morning we loaded up and made our way into the city. This was easily the most stressful part of our entire trip. We had to get our rental car back by 1 o’clock because that’s when the rental place closed and if we were late we would have to keep our car until Monday when they were open again. Aside from having the extra fees from the rental place, it also meant we would have to pay to park our car in the city for the weekend. Basically it would end up costing us a lot of extra money. But we were only about an hour and a half from Portland. We were planning on leaving by 10, which left us more than enough time to get into the city by 1. We got going right on time and everything was beautiful and green and nice.
Then I remembered I had seen an airplane house that was kind of on our way. A guy literally bought an old 727 and trucked it into the forest outside of Portland to live in. On top of that, he actively encourages people to stop by and see it unannounced, he has a website and everything. It was the perfect, weird little stop to make on our way in to the city. It only added about a half hour to our trip, plus any time we spent roaming around this guys property. Even with that we were still on track to be in Portland around 1230, so we decided to make the detour. So we drove south of Portland just a bit to Hillsboro, through the vineyards to the airplane house. It was a little weird just walking up to someone’s house without any notice. I assume he was home since there was a car there but I honestly don’t know. We didn’t spend too much time at the airplane house, but it was a cool little stop for sure!
Then the real stress set in. When we left the airplane house our GPS said we would get to the rental place at 12:45. Cutting it close, but still before 1. We made our to Beaverton, where the traffic hit a dead stop. I’m talking lights turning green and no one moving stop. It took us about 30 minutes to get a few miles. It was painful. Our GPS had updated that we would be to the rental place at 1:05, and we were still barely moving. Eventually, we got past the “crash” that was stopping traffic. It was on the other side of the road and literally just a cop car out there directed traffic. I have no idea why we sat, unmoving, for so long. But we were past it and had 5 minutes to make up in our 15 minute drive into downtown Portland. That was seriously the most stressful 15 minutes of the whole trip. We knew we could not be late, and we anxiously watched the clock tick on as we made our way closer. Now something you should know, Cynthia and I both are pretty anxious people, so I was doing my best to not freak out so that I didn’t freak her out because she was driving. But inside I was exploding! Miraculously, we pulled in to that parking garage at exactly 1:00. We practically flew out of the car rushed upstairs to return the car. We cut it so close, but we made it! We could finally take a deep breath and relax, well almost. We still had to navigate to the hotel on foot and get checked in, which was much less stressful than the drive. When we finally got to the room, we took a while to decompress and relax before venturing back out into the city.
We had two and a half days to spend in Portland, and only a few real plans. We mostly figured it was a popular city and we would find things to do. We were a bit wrong in that assumption. The first day we were there though we were able to check out the Portland Saturday Market. We browsed the hundreds of booths filled with jewelry, shirts and Oregon oddities. Then we walked down the waterfront parkway to the world’s smallest park, which is literally in the middle of the road and very obviously touristy to take a picture of. We wandered the expensive downtown Portland shops and eventually made our way back to our room.
The next day we were started to see an unexpected way that Portland is weird. I had heard that Portlanders loved brunch. But as we were up early and wandering around we realized that the whole city seems to run on an 11-5 timeline. Powell’s Bookstore was the only thing open at 9, so it was our first stop of the day. If you’re in Portland and like books, it’s worth a stop even if you don’t get anything. Powell’s is full city block of bookstore. It’s so easy to get sucked in and lost in the three, four, five(?) stories of books.
We spent the next 2 days wandering the city streets, exploring the boutique shops (when they were open) and eating doughnuts. There’s a bit of a doughnut battle in Portland; Voodoo versus Blue Star. One morning we went to Voodoo Donut. It’s funky and fun and the doughnuts are covered in cereal and fun designs. The doughnuts themselves though are just doughnuts.
Blue Star is totally different. It’s simplistic and uncluttered and the doughnuts are cleanly glazed. But the doughnuts are something special. They combine unique flavors to create amazing doughnuts. My breakdown of the doughnut battle? If I had both options, I’d 100% choose Blue Star for my daily doughnut. But I’d also make sure to take out-of-towners to Voodoo if I had people visit me in this hypothetical world where I live in Portland. Voodoo and Blue star are very different, but both are worth a stop but I’d spend a bit more at Blue Star and get some delicious doughnuts.
Aside from the doughnut world, I don’t have many restaurant advice for Portland. There are plenty of lists online about the best restaurants in Portland, but we didn’t visit any of them. Most of the restaurants on those lists were more expensive than we wanted to pay, so we mostly found places nearby and decent priced. Everything we had was good, but none of it was amazing enough to write about here.
Overall with Portland we were a bit surprised how soon we ran out of things to do in the city. All the shops were closed by 7 at the latest, and it seemed like everyone just went home and the city shut down for the night. Our final day we found a tram that boasted views of the city for a cheap price. We figured it was worth the train ride for something to do before we had to catch our flights home. We got to the lower tram terminal and got right in line to go up the hill. We had seen that it went to the Oregon Health & Science University, but we were really surprised when we got to the upper terminal. The 2 or 3 minutes tram ride led right in to a waiting room and ER of a hospital. All of a sudden we were right there with nurses on break and people waiting to hear about their loved ones instead of on a touristy tram ride above the city. It was incredibly awkward standing there with our luggage, so we quickly went back outside. There was a small outside area with tables that we were able to see some of the city skyline, although it was mostly covered by trees. After our awkward experience on the tram, we went back in to the city for some lunch and then made our way to the airport early.
I had such a great time exploring somewhere new with my best friend. It was a great mom vacation and while I enjoyed every moment of our trip I was so excited to get back home to my family. Coming home after a vacation always feels good, but this homecoming was probably the sweetest I’ve ever had.