We’ve just come back from a 2.5 week trip through the PNW. I still had leftover leave time that I had postponed since cancelling our Scotland trip, and we already had to take off a week for my sister-in-law’s wedding anyway, so we decided to extend the trip and make the most out of it.
This trip wasn’t as dramatic as our Mexico City trip (no serious illnesses, just some minor colds). It has become increasingly difficult to travel with a toddler – so we just take our time and go slowly these days. Before, we would have traveled affordably, but these days convenience is more important. For example, we try to book a larger Airbnb so that S can crawl around, ideally one that is kid-friendly (i.e. has a tub, pack-n-play, etc.) This isn’t possible all the time since we were going to a lot of national parks with limited lodging options, but we tried as much as we could. Additionally, we booked a larger car with space for our luggage + stroller, and took more time at certain stops to chill / nap / explore playgrounds.
S did a great job between all of our drives – we had quite a few days of extensive driving to day-trips and between locations. Our general itinerary was as follows:
Portland – Columbia River Gorge – Oregon Coast – Olympic National Park – North Cascades National Park / Mt. Baker – San Juan Island – Seattle.
The city of Portland: our Airbnb, some food truck areas, and Powell’s Bookstore
We had a difficult flight to Portland (S had a hard time falling asleep), but eventually made it to our Airbnb in Portland. It was rainy / drizzly the whole time – thankfully we were prepared and had a raincover for the hiking carrier and stroller, as well as raincoats, but S didn’t have many opportunities to crawl and explore outside. The first two days we took it slow in the Portland area, and spent the first morning exploring Washington Park. While we didn’t go to the Japanese Tea Garden because admission was too expensive, we loved the International Rose Test Garden (free!). In Portland, we also checked out Powell’s Books (the largest bookstore in the US) and the Saturday markets. We ate out a few times at the famed food carts and had some donuts, but honestly the food scene felt a bit lacking for us for how hyped up it was.
The Rose Garden in Washington Park
One morning we drove to the Columbia River Gorge. The highlight here was the famed Multnomah Falls, which was an easy walk. We also enjoyed checking out Bridal Veil Falls, but did a lot of driving around and stopping at various viewpoints while S napped in the car. M’ s favorite stop was the fish dams on the river.
Columbia River Gorge: A few playground stops, waterfall views, and gorgeous gorges 🙂
For our last day in the Portland region, we did a day trip to the Oregon coast. We spent a good amount of time in Ecola State Park, which had a great view of Cannon Beach. While we were unimpressed by Haystack Rock, we were pleasantly surprised at the town of Cannon Beach itself. It felt like a great place to enjoy a family weekend away, and we were lucky enough to get some sunny weather.
Cannon Beach & Ecola State Park
We then drove through Seaview and Astoria, where we also visited the Lewis and Clark National Fort. I had some delicious fish and chips here – but was sad I couldn’t find fresh salmon anywhere!
Astoria and the Lewis & Clark National Historic Fort
Overall, I’m glad we finally visited Portland. While I’m a little sad we didn’t get to visit the Willamette Valley, we were both wine-d out from our recent Napa / Sonoma trip and didn’t feel the need to visit any more wineries. Overall, Portland may have been one of my least favorite cities in the US – but its proximity to some gorgeous nature made the trip worth it. But the Seattle area has some amazing hiking and rocky ocean coasts too, so my general impression is that Seattle is a much more superior city 🙂 Happily we have many close friends and family that live in Seattle so will have more chances to visit the area, but we did figure out quite quickly that we will never be west coast folk – it’s a great place to vacation, though!