Nickel Driving Tour of Oregon

Nickel Driving Tour of Oregon

I wrote this in response to an inquiry from some visitors to Oregon. They’re spending a couple of weeks in Oregon and wanted to know the best way to see the most of the state in the time they have.

“Yeah, your itinerary is a bit backwards up in my opinion.

I would fly into Portland, drive to the Coast to Astoria, then drive south. Stay the night in Newport, Tillamook or Lincoln City. Tillamook has the Cheese Factory and the Air Museum. Newport has a couple of light houses, an awesome bridge, and an old town shopping district that has gone too touristy in my opinion.

Lincoln City and Newport both have nice beaches, I think that Lincoln City has slightly better food overall (Puerto Vallarta Mexican is our choice.) They also have a Casino, a couple of kite shops, and lots of antique stores. One of my favorite hotels is there (Dog Friendly) the Looking Glass Inn. It’s right on the bay, right across from Mo’s Seafood (local chain up and down the coast that supposedly serves great clam chowder) and right across the bay within viewing distance lives a group of sea lions who like to sleep on the beach.

Keep driving south until Florence, Reedsport, or Coos Bay/North Bend and stay the night. Florence has Sea Lion Caves and a historic Down Town area with several great places to eat. I recommend the Lighthouse Inn on the south side of town. It’s a historic hotel that has been taken care of quite well. The hotel also has a cafe that is vegan/vegetarian/natural food friendly and is quite good even for us meat eaters.

I can not comment much on Reedsport for the simple fact that I have relatives just outside Coos Bay and have only driven through or stopped to eat. I like Winchester Bay though. The beach is usually fairly deserted, and it’s fun to watch the fishing boats.

Coos Bay/North Bend are nice towns, but they’re lumber towns that depended heavily on being a shipping port. Both have suffered greatly in the last twenty years. In Coos Bay one of the old lumber mills has been turned into a casino. Near by Bandon has a nice light house, an animal park and a bunch of tourist shops in the old town. There is also near the animal park a local company that sells home made jams and jellies that I will drive out of my way to visit.

Drive east from one of these towns towards I-5, then head to Medford. I’ve driven east from each and they’re all very scenic drives. If you end up near Roseburg, go to Wildlife Safari.

From Medford take 62 (Crater Lake Highway) directly to Crater Lake, or 140 – Lake of the Woods Highway to Klamath Falls.

You can find a place to stay in Klamath Falls, but there are limited camping spots at Crater Lake and even fewer rooms. Klamath Falls has a nice historic downtown area. There is a bakery/cafe near the history museum and the train station which is great for breakfast.

From either place you’ll want to head North to Bend.

In Bend you’ve got the Oregon High Desert Museum and Petersen’s Rock Garden. I highly recommend both, although the Rock Garden has seen better days it’s still worth the small detour. Newberry Crater is interesting, as are the multitude of lava caves, the Lava Cast Forest, and the general high desert ambiance. Bend has seen a huge population explosion in the last ten years which has brought a lot of new money in to town. There are several fine dining establishments, dance clubs and upscale bars in the “old downtown” area, and in the newer westside.

Go North from Bend then take highway 126 (Ochoco Highway) at Redmond east towards Prineville. Keep heading east towards Mitchel and be sure to stop at the painted hills. Keep heading east towards Dayville/John Day. Stay in either town, but Dayville has a decent cheap hotel on the left. There are two small cafes in town, and a couple more in John Day.

This leg of the trip will be a bit long, but I think worth the scenery. Mitchell is a nice very small old historic frontier town. Last time I drove through it was about midnight, so I was not able to see what might have weathered the economy, but there use to be a couple of antique shops, a historic hotel, a historic saloon and a bear in a cage on the edge of town.

John Day has a few history museums, including one dedicated to the Chinese Laborers which I highly recommend. From Mt. Vernon (in between John Day and Mitchell, drive north to Pendleton on Highway 395. That will put you back on the Columbia River.

I would love to visit Pendleton longer. There is a new history museum that I’ve been wanting to go to, and there is an actual underground city built by the Chinese during the late 1800’s that has recently been opened to the public.

From there, head west back towards Portland. Stop at the Maryhill Art Museum and “Stonghenge”. Spend the night in The Dalles, visit the Dam and the Fort Dalles museum.

Keep heading west, if you’re here in September-November, I’d take the Fruit Loop Tour in Hood River, and/or see if you can take the dinner train on the<a href=""]Mt Hood Rail Way.

From there, be sure to take the Old Columbia River Highway and visit Multnomah Falls. If you’re into hiking the view from the top is very nice. While on the old highway, you’ll come across the historic Vista House which is worth the stop.

At this point you’re only 20 miles from Portland. This whole trip should be about 10-14 days and roughly 1200 miles if I’m adding right.”

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