I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and it is one of my favorite places to visit. The food is incredible and the area is stunning with its rivers, mountains and endless green trees. When I go, I visit my favorite haunts, see friends and family and manage to get in a bike ride or a hike. On a recent trip, I did things a little differently and approached my visit more like a tourist than a local.
Justin and I booked hotels and restaurant reservations throughout Oregon and Washington and made a road trip out of it. The region’s bounty of seafood was in season like salmon, spot prawns, halibut and Dungeness crab. The trip gave me a new appreciation for my home. The scenery and cuisine truly rivals countries like Scotland or France. Tourism is growing in the area, an estimated 28.4 million overnight visitors traveled to Oregon in 2016, and the number of visitors has increased each year since 2010. Whether you live there, or are interested in visiting, consider making this five to seven day itinerary one of your next vacations.
First Stop: Portland
This burgeoning city is an ideal place for launching a Pacific Northwest road trip. After arriving to PDX, beloved for its throwback carpet and good mix of local shops and restaurants, rent a car and drive to The Society Hotel in Old Town, an 1881 building that used to serve as a hotel for sailors who came into port. For dinner, travelers should head to the Flying Fish Oyster Bar in the new Providore Fine Foods marketplace in Northeast. The Flying Fish Company started in Sandpoint Idaho in 1979 and sources only the best sustainable seafood from local fishermen and women. At the oyster bar that opened earlier this year, diners can dig into Oregon Dungeness crab cakes, poke, ceviche and one of the deepest oysters selections in the country. Because of its expertise, Flying Fish carries oyster varieties that typically aren’t found in restaurants because they’re too difficult to shuck.
After a night or two in Portland, take I-5 to Eugene and turn onto the 126. The highway takes you along the gorgeous meandering McKenzie River on your way to the next stop, The Suttle Lodge.
Second Stop: Near Sisters
The Suttle Lodge reopened in late summer 2016 with a new look and a new team at the helm (it’s being run by the same people behind Portland’s Ace Hotel). In Deschutes National Forest on the edge of Suttle Lake, the location is absolutely gorgeous. Trails lead from the lodge to Black Butte, Round Lake, Cache Mountain and Camp Sherman. Accommodations range from rustic cabins to loft suites with lake views. The restaurant in the lodge serves delicious rustic fare, much of it seafood, like a fish & chip sandwich where trout is battered in potato chips, fried until golden brown and served on a fluffy potato bun with coleslaw, tartar sauce and pickles.
Third Stop: Seattle
James Beard award winning chef Renee Erickson combines industrial design, flawless technique and exceptional local and sustainable ingredients in her winning restaurants including her new wave steakhouse Bateau and doughnut shop General Porpoise. Squeeze in two of her celebrated spots by staying at the charming Ballard Inn in Ballard, a historically Scandinavian seafaring community. The boutique hotel in a former bank is just a few blocks from The Walrus & the Carpenter, a fishing pub that has an excellent happy hour from 4 to 6pm. Save room for dinner at The Whale Wins in nearby Fremont where the Hama Hama Clams with green garlic and white beans are so addictive, you’ll use the accompanying toast to soak up every last bit of tangy broth.
Fourth Stop: Lummi Island
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island should be on every seafood lover’s bucket list. The small hotel’s restaurant offers a 21 course tasting menu featuring dishes like sidestripe prawns, pink singing scallops, grilled geoduck clam and black cod steamed in current leaves. Guests this year can look forward to a revamped breakfast menu that changes daily and might include smoked salmon, buckwheat crêpes with rhubarb compote and farm fresh duck eggs. To get up close with the pristine waters that supply much of the menu travelers should book a Wild Foraging Educational Kayak Tour with Moondance Sea Kayak.
Fifth Stop: Astoria
This town situated where the Columbia River meats the Pacific Ocean is still very much a working port town and the seafood is delicious. At Buoy Beer Company in a former cannery, steamer clams and wild salmon can be enjoyed alongside an excellent German Lager or American Pale Ale. For fish and chips, Bowpicker in a converted gillnet boat, serves beer battered Albacore tuna with thick cut fries.
The Commodore Hotel makes a great home base and has cabin like rooms and quick events like record swaps in the 1926 building’s basement.
Do you have a favorite seafood or fish restaurant? Please let me know in the comments below.