Beyond the Bridges

Great Weekend Getaways Near Portland

1 tank of gas. 14 Destinations. From Crater Lake to Whidbey Island, fossil beds to quiet beach towns, here are 48-hour trips made (really) easy.

By Anna Hirsh and Leslie Heilbrunn May 19, 2009 Published in the September 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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Take a tour of Oregon’s fall bounty by visiting the pear and apple orchards around Hood River.

Image: Dennis Frates

John Day Fossil Beds

Volcanic landscapes, dinosaur fossils, and a 1920 hotel: Welcome to Oregon’s Old West.

WHEN YOU ARRIVE at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument—which appears on maps as a near-empty swath—you may feel like you’ve landed on another planet. Bluish heaps of clay have weathered over time until they resemble giant sand castles, and volcanic ash in shades of red, yellow, purple, and green stripe the aptly named Painted Hills. Adding to the otherworldliness are the bizarre fossils that archaeologists have found here: relics of four-toed horses, short-faced bears, and meat-eating creodonts (a now-extinct, wolflike mammal) that once inhabited the area. (You can see some of those fossils, dating back as far as 48 million years, at the park’s Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.) Spend the weekend ambling along any one of the park’s 15 trails and you’ll be privy to a landscape where time, quite literally, stands still. —Anna Hirsh

Friday, 7 p.m.
Check-In: Hotel Condon

Ten years ago, this 1920 hotel was poised to go the way of the creodont. But in 2007, a $3 million renovation by Rick and Marlene Stanley—a Portland couple who moved to nearby Fossil in 1999—transformed the three-story structure into an 18-room boutique hotel complete with flat-screen TVs, overstuffed chairs, and fireplaces in each floor’s common area. Many guests prefer the third-floor rooms (90-year-old floors tend to be creaky), but only Room 201, on the second floor, has both a claw-foot tub and a window seat, perfect for curling up in the hotel’s cozy bathrobes and planning tomorrow’s journey through the past. $100–$199; 541-384-4624;

Saturday, 8 a.m.
John Day Fossil Beds

The national monument’s 14,000-acre fossil beds are divided into three sections, called “units.” Start your trip at the easternmost Sheep Rock Unit, where several short trails decorated with interpretive signs wind through volcanic formations. Ambitious hikers might opt for the Blue Basin Overlook loop trail, a rigorous three-mile climb to the top of a butte, where you can peer down at the valley. From here, you’ll be able to make out the blue-green ribbon of the John Day River cutting through the dusty landscape toward your next stop, the Painted Hills.

Saturday, noon
Painted Hills

Think of the Painted Hills (pictured above) as a kind of geological fall foliage. The landscape gets its striking hues from oxidated mineral deposits—the result of ash expelled from erupting volcanoes. Of course, that’s the scientific explanation. When you reach the top of the 1.5-mile Carroll Rim Trail and take a seat on the bench overlooking the jewel-toned hills, you might prefer to think of the landscape simply as a natural canvas, one smeared with the same kinds of hues that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe to pick up her brushes in New Mexico.

Saturday, 5 p.m.
Dinner at the Sage Restaurant

There may be only four restaurants in Condon, but fortunately for you, the very best one is a mere elevator ride away. Located inside the Hotel Condon, the Sage Restaurant is all about steak. Choose from the likes of Kobe beef top sirloin, elk tenderloin, or slow-roasted prime rib, and pair your selection with one of the nearly 40 Oregon and Washington wines on offer. If you’re feeling indulgent (and since you’re on vacation, you should), order some chocolate-peanut butter pie for dessert.

Sunday, 6:30 a.m.
Fishing the John Day River

When you book a guided fishing trip with Mah-Hah Outfitters, you’ll start your day as every fisherman should—with a big ol’ breakfast. Guide Steve Fleming has been fishing the John Day since 1968, and he insists you meet him at his house at 6:30 a.m. for a proper morning meal. And when he finally takes you out? You’ll be on one of the best small-mouth bass-fishing rivers in the country. Mah-Hah also offers a “fish-on” guarantee: If you don’t hook anything at all, you’ll get another day trip for free. 888-624-9424;

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Sakura Ridge

Hood River Valley

Fruit farmers, vintners, and brewmasters are turning this outdoors hub into a gourmet destination.

PERHAPS IT’S Hood River’s enviable position on the banks of the Columbia River that causes so many visitors to ignore the colorful swatches of farmland to the south. But this month, when the pear and apple harvests get into full swing, the Hood River Valley eclipses the river as the top reason to visit the area. Thanks to the Hood River County Fruit Loop Map, which provides directions to 36 orchards, lavender farms, roadside produce stands, and even alpaca farms, navigating the area’s 15,000 or so acres of agricultural land is a cinch. Our recommendation? Reacquaint yourself with your favorite recipes for poached pears, pear tarts, and apple strudels. Because when you get back home, trunk loaded with fruit plucked right from the tree, you’ll have no choice but to channel Martha Stewart and bake yourself into a frenzy—a fitting way to stave off the cold, dark days ahead. —Leslie Heilbrunn

Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: Sakura Ridge

Book a room at Sakura Ridge, a Zen-like bed-and-breakfast located on a working 44-acre organic farm about six miles from Hood River. Unlike many B&Bs, which outfit their rooms with lace and crocheted pillows, the suites here are simply appointed with wool blankets and perhaps a dresser or two. Our favorite is the Orchard Room, which boasts a killer view of Mount Hood from the deck—but all are mere feet from the farm’s pumpkins, berries, and pears, ripe for the picking. $150–$225; 877-472-5872;

Friday, 7 p.m.
Brew Tour

Not all of Hood River’s bounty is sweet—consider its beer. Full Sail is the town’s biggest brewery (it turns out 120,000-plus barrels per year), but hops fans would be remiss not to amble down Fourth Street in search of Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom. Brewmaster Matt Swihart turns out some of the best pilsners and IPAs to be had this side of the Columbia: The Hop Lava IPA is packed with the heady grain, but the brew’s meaner older brother, the Molten Lava, has twice the bite. Yikes! While finer meals can be had in town, the pub’s pizzas—like the Jersey Pie, topped with hot capicola, provolone, and marinated peppers—are a perfect accompaniment to a pint, or three. 541-387-0042;

Saturday, 10 a.m.
The Fruit Loop

Before heading out on the 35-mile Fruit Loop, you’ll want to carefully consider who should do the driving. If your weekend companion has a tendency to gawk and veer when faced with stunning views, assign him the job of navigator—otherwise, the orchards and in-your-face Mount Hood vistas could make for a dangerous distraction. Given that Hood River County produces more pears than any other county in the country, stocking up on varieties like D’Anjou, Imperial Asian, and Forelle is a must. And should you be one of those who thinks apples fall into only two categories—red or green—school your palate at Kiyokawa Family Orchards in Parkdale, which grows no fewer than 70 varieties. In fact, you may never settle for a Red Delicious again. The Fruit Loop map is essential for the journey.

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Dinner at Celilo

Feeling over-countrified after a day of frolicking in the fields? Make a reservation at Celilo restaurant, which will quickly snap you back to an urban state of mind. Wood beams, blue blown-glass fixtures, and contemporary art made Celilo an anomaly in Hood River when it arrived on the food scene in 2005. Not that country fare isn’t represented here: Ingredients from the Pacific Northwest drive the menu, whether it’s the Yakima Valley sweet corn soup or the Cascade hanger steak with Prairie Creek Farm organic potato purée and Windflower Farms pattypan squash. Service can be spotty (blame it on the laid-back Hood River vibe), but after a day down on the farm (and a glass of locally made Syncline wine), odds are you’ll already have mellowed a bit yourself and won’t mind the wait one bit. 541-386-5710;

Sunday, 10 a.m.
Wine Country

If you’ve sipped your way through the Willamette Valley and know your Dundee AVA from your Ribbon Ridge AVA, then the time has come to learn about Oregon’s smaller, lesser-known wine regions. Bottlings from a few talented vintners in the Columbia River Gorge and Columbia Valley AVAs (where winemakers display the same renegade spirit that helped turn the Willamette Valley into the celebrated region it is today) have been gaining recognition in the national wine press. Best bets for tasting include Cathedral Ridge, which Wine Press Northwest named 2007 Oregon Winery of Year; Phelps Creek, whose chardonnay and gewürztraminer have received accolades in magazines like Wine & Spirits; and Syncline, which is located on the hotter, Washington side of the Gorge and is known for its syrahs and bold reds. 

Tacoma, Washington

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You can watch artists work at the Hot Shop Amphitheater, a glassblowing studio at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.

Image: Randy Kosek

With a growing glass-arts scene and a thriving waterfront, Tacoma adds a bit of glam to its gritty reputation.

WHEN THE NORTHERN Pacific Railway selected Tacoma as the site of its western terminus in 1873, the metropolis acquired the nickname “The City of Destiny.” The destiny it embraced, however, was of the industrial variety. Today the city’s waterfront, once lined with pulp mills and copper-smelting plants, is being transformed into a bohemian district dotted with art galleries, boutiques, museums, and marinas. Not to be missed is the city’s Museum of Glass, one of only three of its kind in the country. Here you’ll find glass installations by native Tacoman Dale Chihuly, arguably the country’s most famous glass artist, among other works. All of this makes Tacoma more than just a place that’s fulfilling its destiny; it’s now a destination itself. —AH

Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: Hotel Murano

You’ve only got to step into the ultra-mod lobby of Hotel Murano (named after the tiny island near Venice where glassblowing has been a tradition for more than 800 years) to see evidence that Tacoma is home to a burgeoning glass scene. The spindly arms of the Massimo Micheluzzi chandelier that’s suspended from the ceiling resemble the tentacles of a giant octopus. But that glinting marvel is just the beginning: Each floor in this boutique hotel (created by the same people who brought the Hotel Lucía and Hotel deLuxe to Portland) features sculptures by a different glass artist, like the pieces by Australia’s Cobi Cockburn on the 12th floor and those by Tacoma’s own Dante Marioni on the 14th. Pony up for one of the rooms on the 24th or 25th floors (dedicated to the works of Peter Bremers and William Morris, respectively), and you can compare notes with other guests during the free wine hour held each evening for those who bunk on the very top. $169–$469; 877-986-8083;

Saturday, 10 a.m.
Museum of Glass

Linked with the downtown arts district via the Chihuly Bridge of Glass (a 500-foot-long, rainbow-colored pedestrian tunnel of glass and light) this 13,000-square-foot museum features exhibits like a 40-year retrospective of works by the Italian maestro Lino Tagliapietra. After exploring the museum’s galleries, you can watch world-renowned artists work at the Hot Shop Amphitheater, an in-house glassblowing studio. 253-284-4750;

Saturday, 5 p.m.
Dinner at the Lobster Shop

Seafood’s the thing at this restaurant on the shores of Puget Sound. The New York Times has crooned about the hot lobster dip, a gooey blend of artichoke hearts, onions, Parmesan, and mayonnaise. (Really, how can you go wrong with that?) But you’ll be pleased with any of the simply prepared entrées, like Australian rock lobster tail basted with sweet cream butter. Afterward, take a glass of Fonseca 20-year port on the outside deck and watch the twilight roll in across the water. Finish the evening with a walk along Ruston Way, a two-mile-long, Pacific Northwest version of Venice Beach, where strollers, skateboarders, and cyclists all share a paved path along the shore. 253-759-2165;

Sunday, 9 a.m.
Point Defiance Park

That quintessential Sunday drive? Forget about it. Instead, slip on your walking shoes and head to the trails that wend around the peninsula of this 702-acre park, one of the country’s largest urban parks and home to one of the biggest madrona trees in the country (it’s 23 feet around). Start at Vashon Island Viewpoint, where, as the name suggests, you’ll have a prime shot of the island a mile and a half across the water. Then follow the Outside Perimeter Trail to the northwest, through old-growth fir, hemlock, and cedar. Here, you may well feel like you’re on a familiar hike in Forest Park—until you pop out at the Dalco Passage Viewpoint, where the sting of salty, whipping winds and vistas of the Tacoma Narrows and the town of Gig Harbor remind you that you’re not in Portland anymore.

Crater Lake

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Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake is a classic road-trip destination.

Image: Larry Geddis

A grand old lodge and a lake of cerulean blue make this trip an all-time classic.

AFTER THE MAD RUSH of visitors who flock to Crater Lake in the summer (filling up its campgrounds and clogging the lookouts along its famous Rim Drive), autumn signals a more peaceful time for Oregon’s iconic national park—which makes it the best time to visit. You probably know that the lake (actually the crater of an extinct volcano) is the country’s deepest, at 1,943 feet, but you may not know that surrounding this blue gem are 90 miles of hiking trails, most of which receive hardly any foot traffic at all—especially now. Pick the right path, like Watchman Peak Trail, and you’ll be surrounded by evidence of the area’s volcanic past—black lava rock, slopes of cream-colored pumice, and red cinder cones that tower up to 900 feet overhead. —LH

Friday, 6 p.m.
Check-In: Crater Lake Lodge

For the most dramatic introduction to the park, opt to arrive through the north entrance, via Route 138: The road passes through lonesome high-desert scenery before climbing onto the rim, where you’ll have a perfect shot of the lake. You’ll find the 94-year-old Crater Lake Lodge on the water’s edge, and though the 73 rooms are small (and telephone-free), those on the north side boast lake views. We suggest an evening spent on the veranda, dining on small plates of wild salmon satay. $143–$260; 888-774-2728;

Saturday, 9 a.m.
Rim Drive

The 33-mile Rim Drive is really less about driving than it is about gawking. More than 30 pullouts along the route let you get out of your car and do exactly what you should do: Stare at that cool blue lake, mouth agape. At an elevation of 7,700 feet, Cloudcap Overlook, on the eastern side, is the highest viewpoint. While you’re on the east rim, take a quick seven-mile side excursion to the Pinnacles, a canyon filled with hundreds of volcanic, fossilized spires. Made of ash and pumice, the bizarre formations are between 50 and 100 feet high, giving the landscape a distinctly Planet of the Apes feel.

Saturday, 2 p.m.
Garfield Peak Trail

Ditch the car and hit this 1.7-mile hike that starts east of the lodge and is named after Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior, James Rudolph Garfield, who visited the park in 1902. The steep incline keeps many tourists away—which means you may be able to enjoy some of the park’s best scenery largely by yourself, including a perfect view of the rock formation known as “Phantom Ship” that sits near the southeast shoreline of the lake.

Saturday, 7 p.m.
Dinner at Crater Lake Lodge

Before you head south, make a reservation for dinner at Crater Lake Lodge. As is the case at most national park lodges these days, which are typically run by large corporations—Xanterra Parks & Resorts, in this case—the food may not be memorable (think seafood fettuccini alfredo). But that hardly matters when there’s that lake right outside the window, and, on chilly eves, a fire roaring in the great stone fireplace.

Sunday, 9 a.m.
Volcano Boat Tour

Owing to the steep walls that form the caldera of Crater Lake, the National Park Service has managed to carve just one trail that leads to the water’s edge. That makes the Cleetwood Cove Trail, a 1.1-mile hike through a forest of mountain hemlock and Shasta red fir, a must. (Note, however, that the 700-foot elevation change means the return trek is a beast.) If you can handle the 50-degree water, you can swim in the cove. Just don’t disturb the fishermen going after rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. This is also the place to catch the Volcano Boat Tour, a two- to four-hour lake excursion that will drop you off at Wizard Island—which is actually the top of a cinder cone. Boat tours run through Sept 14; $36 with a Wizard Island stop, $26 without; purchase a day in advance at Crater Lake Lodge;

North Umpqua River

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The North Umpqua River, where the steelhead are plentiful (and notoriously hard to catch).

Image: Tom Dempsey

Steelhead, waterfalls, and a 79-mile trail: In a state full of rivers, this one has it all.

AMONG THE 50 or so Oregon rivers with stretches designated as “wild and scenic” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the North Umpqua is arguably the one most worthy of a road trip. Not only do its waters shift between shades of turquoise and emerald green for much of its length, but they host one of the longest summer steelhead seasons of any river in the world (lasting from June well into November). With its slick bottom and swift currents, the 31-mile stretch set aside exclusively for fly-fishing (meaning kayaks and rafts are allowed only from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is often considered “finishing school” for anglers, since catching the Umpqua’s notoriously elusive fish requires mastery of fly-rod techniques. Even if fishing isn’t your thing, the area’s many waterfalls, which plummet down the slopes of the Western Cascades, and its big-leaf maples, which turn red and gold this season, will lure you into the woods one last time before winter coats the valley in white. —AH

Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: The Steamboat Inn

Don’t let this riverside inn’s quaint history fool you (it began as a small lunch counter and fishing supply store in the 1950s). Ever since Jim and Sharon Van Loan took over in 1975, the inn has gained national acclaim—especially among anglers—for its streamside cabins, cottages, and gourmet meals, served family-style at long, wooden tables in the dining room. We like the river suites, where soaking tubs and fireplaces offer just the kind of decompression you’ll need before curling up in a king-size bed and letting the lullaby of the North Umpqua sing you to sleep. $170–$295; 541-498-2230;

Saturday, 6 a.m.
Fly-fish the North Umpqua River

In the summertime, real fishermen nurse their coffee on the river by 4:30 a.m., because that’s when the fish start biting, says Sharon Van Loan. But in the fall, you can thank the fish for an extra hour or two of sleep, since they don’t go after an insect breakfast until sunrise, which comes a little later this time of year. Still, don’t hit the snooze button too many times: Full- and half-day trips with Tony Wratney’s Summer Run Guide Service, the area’s longest-running fly-fishing outfit, start at 6 a.m. A native Californian, Wratney’s been fishing the North Umpqua since 1967 (he hooked his first steelhead 10 years later), which makes him the perfect person to help you land a 10-pounder and really earn tonight’s dinner. 541-496-3037;

Saturday, 8 p.m.
Dinner at the Steamboat Inn

In accordance with a tradition established in 1957, guests at the Steamboat Inn gather in the library at dusk (so that fishermen get a full day in). The warm, wood-beamed nook is a fine place to swap tales from the river, wine in hand, before relocating to the adjoining dining room for a feast the inn calls “The Evening Dinner.” Seated at long, sugar-pine tables, guests might savor a first course of, say, corn soufflé before tucking into juniper- and thyme-dusted duck breast served with marionberry ketchup, or bone-in chicken stuffed with shiitakes, onion, and spinach. The meal may have gained a bit of elegance since its humble beginnings, when the inn served pork chops with sour cream, but it’s certainly retained all of its original conviviality.

Sunday, 8 a.m.
Hike the North Umpqua Trail

Too much pumpkin flan at last night’s meal? Work it off by hitting a stretch of the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail, which extends from Rock Creek east along the river to the Cascades. Obviously, unless you’re a masochistic Iron Man type, you won’t be able to tackle the whole thing in a day. But you could hit the 15.7-mile trek that passes two waterfalls and meanders through old-growth forest on the Tioga Segment, the trail’s westernmost stretch. Still too much trail for your legs to handle? Try the 3.5-mile Hot Springs Segment. A short trek from the Tokatee Lake Trailhead will deliver you to the base of Surprise and Columnar Falls, which plunge over a sheer wall of basalt. From here, it’s only 0.3 miles up a steep side trail to Umpqua Hot Springs, where a 108-degree pool perched at the cliff’s edge offers an exceptional view of the North Umpqua, and a chance to soak your muscles before the car ride home.

Coupeville, Whidbey Island

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Looking to embrace an island vibe? Head to Coupeville’s waterfront.

The views are spectacular—but the Penn Cove mussels steamed in wine? Divine.

FORMING THE NORTHERN boundary of Puget Sound, 58-mile-long Whidbey Island, only a 20-minute ferry ride from Mukilteo (a suburb of Seattle), is one of the most accessible island escapes for Portlanders. But that’s only part of what makes it a great weekend destination. Whidbey’s pebble-covered beaches, quaint towns, and limitless ocean views manage to transport you (mentally, at least) out of the Northwest. (Indeed, the island stood in for Massachusetts during the filming of the 1998 witch-flick Practical Magic.) From the island’s “waistline,” a narrow neck of sand near the town of Greenbank, to the frothy waters churning beneath Deception Pass Bridge, which overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Whidbey is a place where you can choose to do a lot or choose to do nothing but stare at the sea. No matter how you spend your days, the historic port village of Coupeville (Washington’s second-oldest town, after Steilacoom) makes the best home base, since its central location puts you within easy striking distance of the island’s northern and southern sights. —AH

Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: The Captain Whidbey Inn

Torn between a B&B perfumed by Whidbey’s spruce forests or one with a view of the sea? Have it both ways by staying at the Captain Whidbey Inn. The 101-year-old inn sits on the shores of Penn Cove, nestled in the heart of the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve—a swath of agricultural land that Congress set aside to protect the area’s rural heritage. Whether you book a wood-paneled room in the inn itself or one of the rustic cabins that encircle an open-air hot tub, you’ll have a view of the cove. And if, perchance, the sight of the sun dropping into the sea keeps you rooted to your spot on the outdoor deck a little longer than you’d planned, the roaring fire inside the lodge’s main room is just the thing to chase away that coastal chill. $95–$240; 800-366-4097;

Friday, 7 p.m.
Dinner at Toby’s Tavern

By this time the salt air probably has your stomach screaming, “Deep-fried halibut. Now!” Look no further than Toby’s Tavern. The fish-and-chips at this small, shorefront pub housed in an 1890 mercantile building have been consistently voted the best in Whidbey by the local press. Which might explain why you’ll find so many islanders here, toasting pints of Toby’s Parrot Red Ale, the tavern’s celebrated house-made microbrew. In fact, this place is so popular that the pool table is used for additional place settings on busy nights, so you may have to forgo plans for that post-meal game. 360-678-4222;

Saturday, 10 a.m.
Explore the Arts Scene

If last night’s sunset awakened your inner artist (and those hues most definitely will), you won’t want to miss the chance to see what might happen when inspiration meets canvas. Spend the day touring the handful of galleries along Coupeville’s Front Street. (You can also watch Whidbey’s artists in their element during the tour of 75 open artists’ studios, from September 25 to 27.) Still jonesing to wield a brush of your own? Sign up for a stint with Coupeville Arts Center, a nationally recognized art school that hosts weekend-long workshops with renowned artists like Gerald Bromer (advance reservations required). 866-678-3396; www.coupeville

Saturday, 6 p.m.
Dinner at the Oystercatcher

A trip to Whidbey isn’t complete without savoring a steaming heap of Penn Cove mussels. Get yours at this newly remodeled restaurant a block from the water in Coupeville. Originally opened by Susan Vanderbeek, the first chef at Seattle’s lauded Campagne restaurant, the Oystercatcher was purchased in 2007 by chefs Joe and Jamie Scott, who remain committed to continuing its tradition of serving “simply good food.” Dishes prepared with locally grown ingredients, like steak with braised fennel and Cougar Gold cheese, feature prominently on the menu—though the Penn Cove mussels steamed in white wine, herbs, lemon, and butter are arguably the most delicious. 360-678-0683;

Sunday, 10 a.m.
Fort Ebey State Park

In 1942, Fort Ebey protected Whidbey Island from potential maritime invasions; now, Fort Ebey State Park helps protect the island’s natural beauty. Fourteen miles of inland trails crisscross the 645-acre park, including a three-mile loop to Lake Pondilla, where a spruce forest hugs the banks of the lily-pad-covered lake. The views are even more dramatic from the three-mile-long shoreline, which is strewn with driftwood—and from the bluffs, where you can spy Vancouver Island across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Woodinville, Washington

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The entrance to the tasting room at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville.

A wine lover’s retreat that delivers decadence in a small-town setting

TRUE, THERE IS only one actual vineyard within its city limits, but Woodinville’s dearth of grapes hasn’t prevented this tiny town of 10,500 souls from hosting 40 wineries. In fact, it’s a favorite wine-country jaunt of Seattleites, who need drive but 25 minutes northeast to experience its many charms. Named for Ira and Susan Woodin, who, in 1861, were the first settlers to call the lush area home, Woodinville is set amid a soothing agrarian landscape—rolling green hills, working farms, winding country roads—that makes a fitting backdrop for a weekend spent sipping merlot, noshing on organic cuisine, taking in a riverside bike ride, or, better yet, soaking in the rare indulgence of doing nothing at all (wineglass in hand, of course). —LH

Friday, 5 p.m.
Check-In: Willows Lodge

After dropping your bags in your room, head promptly back downstairs through the lodge’s grand stone-and-wood-adorned lobby, and locate the Fireside Cellars. Here, starting at 4:30 p.m. every day, the lodge offers by-the-glass wine tastings of local bottlings—the perfect way to whet your palate for dinner at the lodge’s restaurant, the Barking Frog, whose extensive wine list has won the Washington State Wine Grand Award. $229–$699; 877-424-3930;

Saturday, 11 a.m.
Wine Tasting

There’s something almost too indulgent about being able to walk 500 feet from your hotel-room door to Columbia Winery, one of the state’s oldest wineries. Belly up to the wood bar to try the light, crisp Otis Vineyard chardonnay, winner of a Seattle Wine Award, among other bottlings. After this, walk directly across NE 145th Street to Chateau Ste. Michelle, the winery that put Woodinville on the map. (Its riesling made the winery a staple on lists of the best Northwest wine.) Then amble down the paved path that links Columbia and Chateau Ste. Michelle to two more standout Woodinville wineries—Januik and Novelty Hill, both just a couple minutes’ walk away.

Saturday, 7 p.m.
Dinner at the Herbfarm

The country-French décor and communal seating are nice touches. But they aren’t why people book reservations six months in advance to dine at this restaurant, where a meal is a five-hour exercise in the gastronomic arts. Overseen by executive chef Keith Luce, a veteran of Michelin three-star restaurants in France (and the former sous-chef of the Clinton-era White House), the Herbfarm’s whimsical nine-course prix fixe menu changes with the seasons. Highlights of previous lineups include pan-fried mussels on rosemary skewers, Montana paddlefish caviar on a wild-ginger flan, herb-marinated king salmon with a three-pea salad, and a simple serving of dark chocolate paired with a 1917 Madeira. Naturally, the restaurant’s fresh herbs—lovage and angelica, for example—are incorporated into all the dishes (Luce plucks them from the garden outside). Pity the next dinner you have in Portland, or anywhere, really, as dining at the Herbfarm will make every meal eaten thereafter seem less delicious in comparison. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of experiencing an evening here: Prices for dinner run $179 to $195 per person. 425-485-5300;

Sunday, 9 a.m.
Bike the Sammamish River Trail

Before heading home, rent a bike from Willows Lodge and hit the 11-mile Sammamish River Trail, which begins just north of Woodinville and runs south along the river’s banks to Marymoor Park in Redmond. (You can access the trail directly behind the lodge.) When you arrive at Marymoor Park, choose a square of grass from the 640 acres available, and take a breather before beginning the return trip. $10 for a bike rental;


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Pick a bench along one of Gearhart’s dune trails and take in the sea.

Image: Dan Klimke

You won’t feel like a tourist in this quiet beach town—which is of course the reason to visit. 

SAVE FOR A SINGLE ice-cream shop—Pop’s Sweet Shop, which serves 20-plus flavors of Tillamook ice cream—Gearhart is devoid of tourist trappings. And that’s precisely why this tiny beach town is so appealing. Long a second-home haven for wealthy Portlanders, some of whom built their mansions in the 1920s (cedar-shingled homes near the beach today start at around $1 million), Gearhart (pop. 1,095) is a genteel beach community, one where Mercedeses rank as the car of choice and lawns are primly manicured. What the town lacks in standard tourist attractions, however, it more than makes up for in natural surrounds: The four-mile beach is among the best on Oregon’s northern shores for its headland views and absence of crowds. And with no big souvenir stores to trigger a crazed shopping spree, relaxing is the only thing you’ll need—or want—to do. —LH

Friday, 6 p.m.
Check-In: Gearhart Ocean Inn

There are no ocean views at this inn. It’s in town, just across from the burg’s only restaurant. Nonetheless, the 1941 hotel is a worthy base: Its 14 suites got a face-lift last winter, which lent the place a Cape Cod feel (albeit with a motel twist). Plus, you can steam your own clams in the kitchenettes, an added bonus that explains why the sign regularly reads, “No vacancy.” $100–$165; 800-352-8034;

Saturday, 8 a.m.
Head for the Beach 

Before you can glimpse the Pacific, you’ll need to ford an expanse of dunes, which means finding one of the trails cut into the beach grass and trundling your way over the sandy hillocks. Far from being an inconvenience en route to beach bliss, the views of the sun-kissed dunes and Tillamook Head beyond may persuade you to take a little extra time finding your way. The locals apparently knew this would happen. They’ve installed benches along the paths where visitors can survey the seascape at their leisure. Once you do reach the shore, you’ll have ample beach-towel real estate to choose from: You’re standing at the south end of a four-mile stretch that’s uninterrupted by impassable headlands or coves. Pull out a book and lose yourself for a chapter—or the entire thing.

Saturday, 3 p.m.
Necanicum River Estuary 

At the south end of town, in a pullout near a cul-de-sac on Wellington Street, you’ll find an unmarked trailhead that only locals know about (until now). Here, a short spur through the trees delivers you to the the Necanicum River estuary, where, depending on the tide, you’ll spot shore birds aplenty feasting on critters they pull from the mudflats. Keep trekking over the western dunes to reach the point where the river spills into the sea, and you might spot a flock of pelicans that tend to hang out on a shallow sandbar off shore, seemingly enjoying the view of the horizon just as much as you are.

Saturday, 6 p.m.
Dinner at Pacific Way Bakery & Café 

The Pacific Way Bakery & Café chefs may not take culinary risks (the menu leans toward beef tenderloin and French dip), but the dining room is still packed most weekend nights. Perhaps that’s because the restaurant makes up for any lack of experimentation with charm. The farm tables are hand-built, and the café retains the cozy architecture of the 1929 boardinghouse it once was. Go ahead and have that extra glass of Archery Summit wine: Your hotel is just across the street. No one will cite you for walking tipsily in the moonlight. 503-738-0245; closed Tue, Wed 

Sunday, 8 a.m.
Gearhart Golf Links

Even back in the 1890s, patrons of the (now-defunct) Hotel Gearhart played golf on the town’s modest green. One of the oldest courses on the West Coast, the Gearhart Golf Links got an update in 1999, but the course architect retained the former spirit of the place: The links-style course undulates with the landscape, and British-style pot bunkers are the hazards to avoid. The 1940s-era clubhouse, the Sand Trap, burned down in 1998, but the new Sand Trap, operated by McMenamins, features historic photographs of early Gearhart golfers on the walls. Play a round, then tipple a little on the deck or down in the Pot Bunker Bar, where you can relive your day, or, depending on how you fared, forget it altogether. $50–$60 per round; 503-738-3538