TravelQ: Road Trip in the Pacific Northwest, Part I: Oregon!

Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Caroline and Erin, web designers, freelance photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville.

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) has always been a place of magic and wonder for me. I remember first learning about it from my grandparents, who traveled cross-country in their Winnebago six or seven times. They told me stories about their adventures along the Oregon coast, pointed to their route on a dog-eared atlas and told me tales of gorgeous beaches and lush forests. It inspired me to follow in their footsteps. Rather than cover Portland (though we LOVE it there), Caroline and I decided to seek out lesser known spots in the PNW. Below are three areas that you might not know about: Florence, Eugene and Salem. We spent two days in each city and already can’t wait to return. Below are some of our favorite things to see, do and eat as well as recommendations on where to stay.

FLORENCE

Florence is a small coastal fishing village that’s situated at the confluence of the Siuslaw River and the Pacific Ocean and is the perfect place home-base for exploring the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway (Route 101).

WHERE WE STAYED

Driftwood Shores Resort + Conference Center | www.driftwoodshores.com | 88416 1st Avenue Florence, Oregon 97439

From the back patio of our first floor room, the beach is only about 50 feet away. It’s an incredible view. Waking up to the sight and sound of the Pacific ocean is something we won’t soon forget. The room itself is clean, has a really comfortable bed (we slept soooo good here), a fridge and free wi-fi. (There’s also coin-operated laundry facilities for those of you who may be on the road for a while!) We went for a run along the beach the first afternoon we arrived and couldn’t believe our good fortune. As the saying goes, “location is everything” and it couldn’t be more true for this hotel.

WHERE WE ATE

Yachats Brewing | www.yachatsbrewing.com | 348 Hwy 101 N, Yachats, OR 97498

We ordered the Rainforest Maitake (alder wood smoked Maitake mushrooms served with sauteed organic vegetables and rice pilaf) and the Butternut Squash and Greens Risotto (a velvety, rich, white-wine risotto topped with caramelized butternut squash, greens, toasted walnuts and feta cheese.) We paired each meal with the Perpetua Xtra, a Pale Ale, and the Thor’s Well, an easy-drinking, delicious, IPA!

River Roasters | www.coffeeoregon.com | 1240 Bay St, Florence, OR

You know how we love our coffee…this place is cozy and has a sweet patio out back that looks out over the water.

 

BJ’s Ice Cream Parlor | www.facebook.com/BJs-Ice-Cream-Parlor-111334262233988 |2930 Highway 101, Florence, OR

Their ice cream is home-made and had more than a dozen flavors to choose from. Grab a scoop and sit on their big porch that has a nice waterfront view. If that’s not your thing, no worries, they also have a ton of saltwater taffy to choose from.

 

THINGS TO DO

Heceta Head Lighthouse | www.hecetalighthouse.com | 92072 Hwy 101 South, Yachats, OR

The view of the lighthouse from Highway 101 South is incredible. It looks just like a postcard! You will want to take your camera out and capture the way it sits way out on jagged rock overlooking the water. If you want more adventure, drive to the lighthouse and hike up to it. The parking lot sits next to a small beach and the walk to the lighthouse (about 1 mile up an easy incline) gives you ocean views the entire way. The tour times change seasonally, so be sure to check on that if you want to see the inside of the lighthouse.

Old Town Park | www.ci.florence.or.us/publicworks/old-town-park | Bay and Laurel, Florence, OR

This park is small but it has a dock for fishing and crabbing, so bring your fishing pole! There’s also a gazebo that offers a little shelter from the elements. If the weather is nice, consider picking up some food at a nearby restaurant and eating here.

From Florence, if you head east about 60 miles along Route 126, you’ll run right into Eugene. The drive is beautiful so try to leave a little extra time in your schedule so that you can make multiple stops for photographs and exploration along the way.

EUGENE

This is more than just a college town. It’s the third largest city in the state of Oregon (behind Portland and Salem) and has its own symphony, ballet and orchestra as well as tons of outdoor activities and lots of amazing places to eat and drink. Keep your eye on Eugene – it’s gaining in popularity and shows no signs of stopping.

WHERE WE STAYED

The Oval Door Bed & Breakfast | www.ovaldoor.com | 988 Lawrence Street, Eugene, OR 97401

Nate and Brian, the owners of The Oval Door are everything that you want in hosts. They’re warm and kind, super friendly and very knowledgeable about the area they live in. The parking is off-street, easy and safe, their home is very clean and the room we stayed in, Florence, was spacious and private. The bed is one of the most comfortable beds we’ve ever slept in and I will be finding the exact same pillow online when we get back home. Help yourself to the homemade cookies and complimentary wine and beer and do your best to wake up hungry because the food coming out of the kitchen is top notch! We were treated to a table that was lovingly set in the window and ate tender, sweet cornbread with cheddar and corn in it, nutty granola with fresh berries, strong, locally roasted coffee, and a wonderful eggs Benedict served over a toasted English muffin with tomato gastrique, sauteed mushrooms and asparagus. As for location, The Oval Door is located in the heart of downtown Eugene (but nestled inside a cool neighborhood) and within walking distance to several great spots.

WHERE WE ATE

Rye on 3rd | www.ryeon3rd.com | 444 E. 3rd Ave, Eugene, OR

If you work up an appetite walking or running around Eugene, head on over to Rye on 3rd. Located downtown but with ample parking, this restaurant hit the spot. Try the poutine (fries with cheese curds, duck confit and duck demi) and save room for dessert (individual house made chocolate morsels that are thoughtfully paired with liqueurs.) Oh and for what it’s worth, my steak was cooked perfectly and I ate the entire thing.

 

SweetWaters on the River | www.valleyriverinn.com/dining.htm | 1000 Valley River Way, Eugene, Oregon

This is where the locals go to get a great meal. The crab cocktail was excellent and the prime rib soooo juicy and tender. We happened to be there over the Thanksgiving holiday and had the pleasure of indulging in their all-you-can-eat buffet and it was outstanding. Pro Tip: Order their signature SweetWaters cocktail (it’s not too sweet, not too sour, perfectly strong.)

 

WHERE WE DRANK

Oakshire Brewing | www.oakbrew.com | 207 Madison Street, Eugene, OR

Beer is a big deal in this part of the world and Eugene is doing their part to uphold the reputation of craft breweries.

Thinking Tree Spirits | www.thinkingtreespirits.com | 88 Jackson Street, Eugene, OR

A new small distillery in the fermentation district with exceptional mini cocktails made at the tasting bar. We tried two, the sage gimlet and rum old fashioned. They were so delicious we coaxed every last drop out of our glasses.

THINGS TO DO

Explore the Eugene Ale Trail (plus the Distillery Trail)! Thinking Tree Spirits, named above, is on the list, as is Oakshire Brewing.

Go for a run!

Nicknamed Track Town, USA, Eugene is nothing if not a running town. Nike got started here and the city itself has a big hand in a lot of the major events in the running world, hosting major events such as the 2015 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland and the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. —In 2021, the city will host the IAAF World Track & Field Championships. Jog on by Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon and be sure to get a few miles in on Pre’s Trail, a 4 mile path that runs through Alton Baker Park.

 

Skinner’s Butte Park | www.eugene-or.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Skinner-Butte-Park-55 | 248 Cheshire Ave, Eugene, OR

This park gives you some great views of the city! In addition to having numerous trails and veiws, Skinner’s Butte also has some cool rock formations that unfortunately are closed for rock climbing but are still worth seeing.

WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza | www.eugene-or.gov/1733/WJ-Skatepark-Urban-Plaza | Between Washington St. and Jefferson St at 1st Ave. beneath the I-105 bridge

If you like to skateboard, head on over to this place. It might be pouring out but since it’s located under the bridge, at least you’ll stay dry. This 23,000 square foot park is free and open from 6am to 1am.

Check out the murals! | www.20x21eug.com

Eugene is host to lots of great street art. In fact, the city has started what’s called The 20x21EUG Mural Project whose goal is to create 20 or more world-class outdoor murals in Eugene between now and the 2021 IAAF World Championships. If you like to Instagram, check out some of our favorites:

  • Emerald City mural by Youth Mural Collective | Lincoln Street between 7th and 8th
  • Bee mural on the Wildcraft Cider Press House by Steven Lopez | 232 Lincoln Street
  • Geometric Woman on the silo by Ila Rose | 348 W 3rd Ave

From Eugene, to get to Salem, you’ll head due north for about 66 miles along Interstate 5. It’s not the most scenic of routes so if you’re not worried about time, consider backtracking west towards Florence, driving the coast north along Route 101 and then cutting east again along Highway 18.

SALEM

Clearly I didn’t pay attention in school when they were teaching state capitals because it was a surprise to me that Salem is the capital of Oregon. What I did know was that we were about to enter wine country. And let me tell you, this isn’t ordinary wine country. The Willamette Valley is home to some of the best wines in the world.

WHERE WE STAYED

Century House Bed and Breakfast | www.centuryhouseofsalembandb.com | 292 17th St. S.E. (At the corner of Trade & 17th Streets S.E.) Salem, Oregon

Jean runs this Bed and Breakfast and her place was exactly what we were looking for: clean, comfortable and welcoming. It’s conveniently located to downtown Salem and close enough that we were able to walk into town each night. If you like to ride bikes, Jean has a couple that guests can borrow. As for the breakfast, it’s made with love and often with local ingredients (she made us blueberry pancakes one morning from berries she gathered herself!)

 

WHAT WE ATE

Archive Coffee and Bar | www.archivecoffeeandbar.com | 102 Liberty Street NE, Suite 120, Salem, Oregon

This was hands-down our favorite place for a bite and drinks in Salem. (We went there three separate times!) The space not only feels great but the food, coffee and mixed drinks are excellent. As for what to get, we recommend the Revolver and the Paper Crane (both mixed drinks were out of this world) though you honestly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Say hey to the owner, Jesse, if you see him. He’s a breath of fresh air and we think he’s one of the fastest rising stars in the pacific northwest.

La Carreta De Mi Terra |www.facebook.com/pages/La-Carreta-de-Mi-Tierra/243209025728815 | 3728 Silverton Rd NE, Salem, OR

Because tacos. No, scratch that. Because these are no ordinary tacos. These are drive-out-of-your-way mouth watering tacos so full of flavor that if you’re headed anywhere near Salem, you need to check this place out. At $2 a piece, you can’t beat the price so come hungry and get your fill!

Taproot Lounge and Cafe | www.taprootloungeandcafe.com | 356 State Street, Salem, Oregon

Pop in here for a laid-back bite to eat. They have a great selection of local beers on tap and we left with full bellies (the Desert Bowl for me and the Spicy Bowl for Caroline). Be sure to check out their lounge area in the back of the place – it’s a cozy space with sofas, books and candles and is the perfect place to start or end the night.

THINGS TO DO

Tour the Willamette Valley Vineyards!

Walter Scott | walterscottwine.com | 6130 Bethel Heights Road NW, Salem, Oregon

There are numerous vineyards in the area. We spent one whole afternoon hopping from one to the other and it was pretty easy to do since they’re clustered pretty close to one another. Our personal favorite was Walter Scott. Their pinot noirs are some of the tastiest we’ve ever had and the owners are some of the nicest, most down to earth people you’ll meet. It’s a place that has incredible wine without the pretense.

Cristom Wines | www.cristomvineyards.com | 6905 Spring Valley Rd NW, Salem, OR

This was another one of our favorite wineries. Their newly remodeled tasting room is a beautiful space with large windows that offer sweeping panoramic views of the vineyard below. They take a lot of pride in their sustainable farming methods and have been LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certified since 2007.

 

 

Ranch Records | www.facebook.com/ranchrecordssalem | 237 High St NE, Salem, OR

If you collect vinyl, you’ll want to stop here. They have a bunch of signed albums as well as a sweet sale bin.

Book Bin | www.bookbin.com | 450 Court St NE, Salem, OR

Two floors of books, both new and used, with a large selection of titles. Not a bad place to spend a rainy afternoon.

If you get a chance to take a road trip, consider the Pacific Northwest. There is so much good food and drink in this part of the country and the number of things to do is seemingly endless. The landscape is absolutely beautiful and people’s attitudes (or lack thereof) related to our openly gay relationship was refreshing. We saw a lot of rainbow flags and equality posters and felt the acceptance in our interactions with people, so much so that we’ve had several discussions about moving out here. That said, it’s notorious for being rainy, especially in the winter, so come prepared with good rain gear and a positive attitude. And if you’re interested in fitting in like a local, leave the umbrella at home!

Check back for the second part of our Pacific Northwest adventure as we head north into Washington State!

About the authors: Caroline and Erin are freelance web designers, photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville. When they’re not on the road, they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina. Follow their adventures on Instagram at @e.mcgrady + @carolineperdue + @authenticasheville

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