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USA Radio
March 9, 2016

Highlights From our Pacific Northwest Road Trip


During our road trip through the Pacific Northwest, the region never failed to conjure a sense of wonder and adventure. From a bicycle tour of Portland’s famed craft breweries to the shining rivers of the Willamette Valley in Oregon and from the vibrant city streets of Seattle all the way up to the San Juan Islands in Washington state, we were met with beauty and excitement at every turn.

What impressed us the most? Here are seven highlights of our epic drive through the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

Exploring Powell’s Bookstore - Portland, Oregon

Powell’s calls itself a “City of Books,” which is an apt description. The store is so huge — spanning one whole city block and filled with more than 1 million new and used books for sale — that there’s even a map to navigate the place. We enjoyed wandering through the labyrinth-like corridors and across the creaky floors, the smell of books mingling with the scent of coffee. We got lost in there, but in a good way. It was like being engrossed in a great book.

Helicopter Tour of the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Portland is part of the Willamette Valley, a 193-kilometer-long plain famous for its wine and filled with lush, rolling countryside that’s surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges: the Oregon Coast and Cascade ranges and the Calapooya Mountains. Oregon’s state capital, Salem, is also in the valley. It was awe-inspiring to witness the glory of this diverse landscape from the air in a Corvallis Aero Service helicopter. It was also insightful to see the corridor where most of Oregon’s people live and grow many of their beloved products, including the hops for the beer made by the state’s numerous craft breweries.

Breakfast With a View – Youngberg Hill Inn, Oregon

The rustic but luxurious Youngberg Hill Inn made us feel so at home. Part of the Youngberg Hill Winery, the bed-and-breakfast is located only about 72 kilometers southwest of Portland, but it feels worlds away. We loved lounging on the decks that encircle the inn. From that vantage point we could overlook the vineyard and the Cascade Range, including Mount Hood. We couldn’t have found a better backdrop for breakfast.

Eating Fresh Fish - Pike Place Market, Seattle Washington

We could smell the fresh fish at the historic Pike Place Market before we arrived. There’s so much fresh seafood here, both at the market and in area restaurants that serve their catches of the day with views of Elliott Bay. The possibilities for seafood lovers seem endless here — salmon, halibut, swordfish, tuna, crab, shrimp, oysters and mussels are among the choices typically delivered to the market daily. We went with a classic Seattle seafood restaurant, Ivar’s. The fresh clam chowder was divine.

Riding the Ferry to the San Juan Islands – Washington

The morning after a busy day in Seattle, we headed about 165 kilometers away to the San Juan Islands, where the pace of life is a little bit slower than in the big city. There are 172 named islands and reefs in the archipelago, though only four are served by ferries. Just getting to the islands was a treat. We took one of the  Washington State Ferries to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. During the ride, we basked in the salty morning air while taking in stunning views of the tree-covered islands.

Seeing Seals on an Excursion out of Friday Harbor – San Juan Islands

Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is abundant, and the San Juan Islands were an amazing place to see a sampling. We took a whale-watching tour out of Friday Harbor, in which we saw killer whales swim, bald eagles soar overhead and seals frolic. The playful barks of the seals had us smiling from ear to ear.

Watching the Sunset from the Lime Kiln Lighthouse – San Juan Islands

Lime Kiln State Park is well known as a place to watch orcas (a k a killer whales) from land. Perhaps not as famous but also incredibly moving is the sunset view from the park’s lighthouse. The lighthouse, a red-roofed structure that dates to 1919, is on the western shore of the island, so you get views of the sunset, Haro Strait and the southern tip of Canada’s Vancouver Island. The trail to the lighthouse isn’t too bad either, and there are several other scenic spots along the way.


Want to dive deeper into the urban wonders of Seattle? Start your planning with this guide to the largest city in the Pacific Northwest.

Take a road trip through the West that focuses exclusively on craft beer. 


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