It’s no secret that Oregon has some of the most beautiful and spectacular sites in the States. There are so many unique places to visit in Oregon ranging from natural wonders to just flat-out weird attractions. You can even go skiing and swimming in the Pacific Ocean all on the same day!
There are countless ways to enjoy the beauty of the Beaver State. You can take a dip in the ocean, hike to hidden waterfalls, hop from winery to winery, marvel at the mountains, and so much more! Whether you’re in Oregon for just a weekend getaway or you’re there for a longer period of time, you won’t be disappointed.
I teamed up with several other travel bloggers to put together this list of the most unique places to visit in Oregon. Add these places to your Oregon bucket list and prepare to be blown away by the magic of Oregon!
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In This Post:
14 Unique Places to Visit in Oregon
1. Alvord Desert
By Erika of Erika’s Travels
The Alvord Desert lies near Steens Mountain in the remote southeastern corner of Oregon. Located nearly four hours away from the nearest airport, it is an off-the-beaten-path adventure destination where solitude abounds.
At first glance, the desert appears to be an empty wasteland. Upon closer examination, however, the area offers a treasure trove of unmissable highlights. Its seemingly lifeless expanse contains mountains, hot springs, wildlife-rich marshlands, and brilliant night skies.
The Alvord Desert is one of Oregon’s unsung highlights. Its main feature is a dried out lake bed—called a playa—that covers an area of 84 square miles.
Driving out onto the playa is one of the top things to do in Eastern Oregon. From the center of the lakebed, mirages extend in all directions. The stark landscape invites photoshoots that mess with perspective. At night, it boasts incredible skies that are free of light pollution.
The Alvord Hot Spring sits at the edge of the desert playa near the base of Steens Mountain. It is an unforgettable place to watch the sunset and appreciate the stillness of Oregon’s most remote corner.
2. Willamette Valley Wine Region
By Megan of Packing up the Pieces
The beautiful Willamette Valley is Oregon’s premier wine-producing region. This 150-mile valley is a dream with rolling hills, incredible views of distant mountains, and yields a wide range of different grape varietals. With over 600 wineries, this lush valley is separated into smaller and more specific regions recognized by AVA (American Viticultural Area).
A visit to the Dundee Hills AVA is a must for those looking to sample a glass of top-notch Pinot Noir. The grapes were first planted in the Dundee Hills region in the ’60s. Today, some say the wines produced here rival those in France.
One of the best ways to experience the region is to hop on a bike and pedal from vineyard to vineyard. Dundee Hills alone has nearly 100 vineyards, many of which offer lovely outdoor sampling space with Mt. Hood looming in the backdrop.
For those who don’t want to tackle the steep hills by bike, don’t worry! There are over 30 tasting rooms to enjoy and learn about the Pinot Noir epicenter of Oregon. The adorable little towns that dot the Dundee Hills region are a joy to stroll and boast a plethora of farm to table restaurants. Many of these local spots offer up seasonal menus that pair nicely with a glass of wine that you may just have sampled earlier.
3. Silver Falls State Park
By Michelle of Intentional Travelers
At Silver Falls State Park, the 9,000-acre forest boasts 10 waterfalls that can be seen via a single 9-mile trail. Shorter hikes are also possible and still just as scenic. Even a short and easy walk from the parking lot takes you to an overhead view of the spectacular South Falls, one of two falls where hikers can actually walk behind the cascade.
In addition to hiking, there is also a nice campground and picnic facilities along the creek. The nearest towns are Stayton and Silverton, Oregon. Try the Creekside Grill in Silverton for lunch, or stay overnight and dine at the Oregon Garden Resort nearby.
For waterfall lovers, Silver Falls is definitely worth the drive from Salem or Portland (2+ hours). The rural landscape on the way to the park is quite nice in itself. In our opinion, the Trail of 10 Falls is Oregon’s best-kept secret!
By John Paul of The Hangry Backpacker
The tiny town of Joseph is one of the most unique places to visit in Oregon. Seemingly out of the way in a highly rural area, Joseph is a surprise to many visitors.
In Northeast Oregon, Joseph sits at the base of the beautiful Wallowa Mountains, which provide a stunning natural backdrop for the town. The Wallowas are an excellent source of outdoor activity, attracting campers, backcountry hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts. The nearby wilderness, the Eagle Cap Wilderness, is Oregon’s largest protected natural area.
Within the town of Joseph, tourists can find a unique scene of Old West meets New American. Main Street in Joseph is well preserved and has plenty of shops and restaurants. Of particular note, Joseph has become a haven for bronze artwork, as is notable in the numerous bronze statues and other artworks around town.
Whether you’re in the area for the outdoor attractions and activities or searching for a unique, remote, and culture-filled small town, Joseph is an easy choice. There are ample things to do in and around Joseph, and it is one of the best and most interesting small towns in Oregon.
By Allison of She Dreams of Alpine
If you’re looking for outdoor adventures in Oregon, you absolutely can’t beat a visit to Bend. From hiking to mountain biking to rock climbing – and even surfing! – you can find it all in this mountain town in central Oregon. Plus, there are plenty of places to fill up on delicious food and beer once you’ve worked up an appetite.
You can’t visit Bend without checking out Smith Rock State Park, which is just a half-hour drive from downtown. This park is a mecca for rock climbers, but if that’s not your thing, the miles of hiking trails are worth exploring (and they are dog-friendly). More hiking in Bend can be found at Mount Bachelor, which also has a mountain bike park. And, if you want a unique surfing experience, you can catch the man-made wave on the Deschutes River.
When you need a break from exploring all the things to do in Bend, Oregon, visit one of the many excellent breweries. Deschutes Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing both have awesome brewpubs, and Crux Fermentation Project features beers made by non-traditional methods. Also, be sure to stop at Sparrow Bakery to grab a signature Ocean Roll before you go!
6. Mount Hood
By Julie of Family Travel Lifestyle
Located just a few hours east of Portland, Mount Hood is a terrific spot for a quick day trip or a longer getaway. The Timberline Lodge, an elegant historic hotel at the base of the mountain, makes a perfect starting point for exploring the area.
Even if you don’t intend to stay at the hotel, this is a good spot for skiing, having lunch, taking a walk up the mountain trails, or just relaxing on the patio. This national historic landmark also has historical exhibits with everything from famous visitors of the 1940s to movie memorabilia (the hotel served as the exterior for The Shining!)
The area around Mount Hood is largely made up of national forest, which provides skiing, hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor adventures. Nature lovers can stroll around Trillium Lake or hike out to Little Zigzag Falls. There are several campgrounds in the area, including RV sites. But if you’re short on time, driving the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway offers stunning views of Oregon’s tallest peak and all its surrounding beauty.
By Disha of Disha Discovers
Yachats is a small coastal town and it’s truly an underrated gem. It’s the perfect home base and there are so many other places around the area that you can explore for the day such as Florence and Newport. It’s referred to as the “Gem of the Oregon Coast” for a reason.
The best part about visiting Yachats is that you can be as adventurous or laid back as you want. There are several hiking trails that you can explore or you can spend the day enjoying locally caught fresh seafood and a drink at the pub.
When visiting Yachats, make sure you go to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. You’ll catch epic views for miles along the jagged coastline. You also can’t miss a visit to Thor’s Well. It’s a sinkhole that looks like it’s draining water from the ocean. In reality, it’s only approximately 20 feet deep. It’s especially beautiful at high tide.
8. Smith Rock State Park
By Nick of Wandering Wheatleys
Located 26 miles north of Bend, Oregon, Smith Rock State Park has been named as one of the 7 wonders of the state and it’s easy to see why. Famous for its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt rising out of the central Oregon desert, Smith Rock is a top destination for rock climbers and the state park has over 1,800 climbing routes.
The park is also characterized by the Crooked River which winds its way around the base of the cliffs. Even if you’re not a rock climber, you’ll find plenty to do at Smith Rock. With 640 acres of high desert encompassed by the park, there are opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
The most popular trails in the park are the Summit Trail and Misery Ridge. Don’t be scared off by the name. The Misery Ridge trail isn’t actually that difficult and you’ll have excellent panoramic views for the summit at 3,360′!
9. Hood River
By Kay of The Awkward Traveller
Hood River is directly between Portland and Mount Hood along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. It is a perfect weekend destination or even a pit stop along your Oregon road trip. Because it is nestled within the Gorge, there are countless hikes and trails easily accessible for any and every activity level, including trails that are wheelchair-friendly.
For adventurous travelers, it is also one of the best locations for windsurfing in the world or you can hit the woods for mountain biking. Depending on the season you visit, you may see Oregon’s famed amber hills in autumn when the entire landscape transforms as the leaves change. However in the spring, expansive lavender and flower fields take over; it is so popular that you can see all of them along the “Fruit Loop Trail,” a collection of stands in the area offering fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, jams, syrups, and local artisan gifts.
Restaurants in Hood River pride themselves on serving up fresh farm-to-table dishes for every meal and countless family-owned boutiques and stores along the downtown streets for ample window shopping. However, if you’re really looking to get away, you can book a stay at a getaway cabin, just a short drive from the city, where you can camp in comfort and reconnect with nature. You’ll see why this one of the most unique places to visit in Oregon!
10. Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
By Emily of The Mandagies
Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor is the most southwestern park in Oregon located in the very corner of the state. Covering 12 miles of coastline, you can easily drive this area of the Oregon Coast (on Highway 101) between Brookings, OR and Gold Beach, OR. If you like hiking and photography, consider this the perfect destination for you!
Here, you can find a little bit of everything that makes the Oregon coast so special! You’ll understand why the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor made it on this list of the most unique places to visit in Oregon. Scenic hiking trails, expansive beaches, and stunning vistas scatter every inch of the shoreline at Samuel H Boardman.
Some of the coolest hiking trails here include the 1.1-mile loop to Indian Sands and the China Beach trail to the North Island Viewpoint. Both of these routes provide spectacular views of the sea stacks offshore, and dramatic cliff edges right next to the ocean!
If you are simply passing through on your trip, make sure to stop by Arch Rock, The Natural Arches overlook near the parking lot, and Whaleshead beach. There are all beautiful areas, with short and accessible trails fit for the whole family.
11. Pacific City
By Marcie of Marcie in Mommyland
One of the most unique places to visit in Oregon is the majestic Oregon Coast. There are plenty of adorable small towns along the ocean that are great for weekend getaways, staycations, or an Oregon road trip. Pacific City is a quiet town that makes a perfect escape from crowds.
In fact, it’s one of the best romantic getaways from Seattle or Portland. It’s right on a huge beach with sandy dunes. Grab takeout from a nearby restaurant or pack a picnic to enjoy at the beach for the ultimate view. Pacific City is also a great jumping-off point to explore the Oregon Coast.
Take a drive up to Tillamook and check out the Tillamook Creamery. They have an awesome visitors center and the most incredible food court you’ll ever experience. There’s also a cute Oregon Coast scenic train ride that’s a hit with families. Or drive to Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rock. Whatever you choose, Pacific City is a top Oregon Coast getaway.
12. Crater Lake National Park
By Agnes of The Van Escape
Crater Lake is the only national park in Oregon and it definitely is one of the most unique places to visit in Oregon. The place is especially unique because it is the deepest lake in the United States. The lake is 1,949 feet deep at its deepest point. The park embraces Crater Lake’s caldera, a remnant of Mount Mazama, and a destroyed volcano with the surrounding hills and forests, which makes the views breathtaking. The scenery of the deep blue water is unforgettable so it’s a perfect destination for a weekend trip.
The season is short due to snowfalls. The caldera rim ranges in elevation from 7,000 to 8,000 feet. So, from November to May/June, the national park area is covered by snow, and most of the park’s roads remain closed through late spring. The best months for a visit are from late May through October.
The most interesting park activity is taking Rim Drive, the most popular road in the park. The scenic route around the caldera rim is 33 miles long and offers the best overlooks. The best idea is to wait for sunrise and sunset, which are spectacular. It’s also possible to take the boat tour to Wizard Island. Furthermore, the park offers amazing hiking trails at different levels of difficulties.
By Moshe of The Top Ten Traveler
Portland is the largest city in Oregon with a population of about 660,000. Founded in 1845 and named after Portland, Maine, Portland is one of the special cities in the US. It is known for being open-minded, which attracts people from all around the country. It’s even considered a vegan paradise in the States. Visiting Portland is a chill experience. The city is easy-going, with great food, and fun vibes.
The streets of downtown Portland are not as busy as you would expect from a big city, and you can stroll calmly between cafes, restaurants, and other stores. This is also the location of the famous Powell’s City of Books – the largest bookstore in the world. Any topic and probably any title you would search for, you can find here.
The city is also known for its food-truck scene, which offers an interesting variation of world-cuisines. If you want something sweet, go to Voodoo Doughnuts and try one of their specials, like the maple and bacon or a Voodoo-doll-shaped doughnut.
Nature lovers can hike and bike in Forest Park or visit the Japanese Gardens in Washington Park and admire the aesthetics and charm of the Japanese style.
Visiting Portland is a chill experience. The city is easy-going, with great food, and fun vibes.
14. Cannon Beach
By Katie of Two Wandering Soles
With charming cedar shake houses, an expansive beach with sea stacks just offshore, and a laidback vibe, Cannon Beach is arguably one of the best towns to visit on the Oregon Coast. It’s the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate, but there’s also plenty of things to do to stay busy. No matter what type of trip you’re on, you’ll find something to love about this coastal town.
Start your day with a coffee and pastry from one of the many cute coffee shops in town. Walk along the beach, and if the tide is low check out the tide pools and search for colorful starfish and anemones. Drive to nearby Ecola State Park for some scenic drives, and if you’re up for it, hike to the remote Indian Beach for a picnic lunch.
Catch the sunset on the beach and watch the sky turn shades of orange as the sun sinks into the horizon. You can build a bonfire on the sand and stay on the beach as dusk turns into night. If you’re lucky and it’s a clear night, you may be able to enjoy a sky full of stars.
If you’re a seafood lover, you’re in luck because there are plenty of places to enjoy fish and chips, a steaming bowl of clam chowder, or a grilled catch of the day. Wash it down with a craft brew at a local favorite, Pelican Brewing Company for the perfect end to your day on the Oregon Coast.
Do you have anything to add to this list of the most unique places to visit in Oregon? Let me know in the comments below!
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Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.