36 Hours in Portland & Seattle

This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.

36 hours in Portland and Seattle, USA

Being so close to the US border in Vancouver, it was a no-brainer that at some point we’d like to check out our American neighbours to the south. One fine weekend we took the chance to visit Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, so we picked up a little rental car and headed south. After a tense two-hour wait at the border we were finally let into America.

I say tense because technically you’re only allowed six months out of every twelve in the US on the B2 visa, and we had used up that six months already and we’d left the States only seven weeks beforehand. I was stressing as we didn’t want to be refused entry to the US – if that happens it’s seriously difficult to get back in at any point in the future.

But it was our lucky day, and we got a friendly border control officer who granted us another six months on the visa! I wish we could stay that long, but alas, finances do not permit – we’ll have to come back another day to cover the western part of the country.

36 hours in portland and seattle

Seattle at sunset



The drive south was long. After our long wait at the border we lost pretty much the whole day to driving, as we had decided to head to Portland first so that we could work our way back north over the following days. With winter approaching the sun sets early, and it happened as we were passing through Seattle – at only 3pm!

Portland, Oregon

Hipsters? What hipsters? We’d heard Portland was full of hipsters. Maybe it was the cold weather, but we couldn’t find any! We couldn’t actually find many people at all on this bitingly cold Sunday morning. But hipsters or no hipsters, their legacy of good coffee and food makes Portland a seriously wonderful place to whet your appetite. After visiting Stumptown for an obligatory latte (Stumptown was our coffee saviour in New York City), we found where all the people in Portland were – in the line for Voodoo Doughnuts (1501 NE Davis Street).

36 hours in portland and seattle

Voodoo Doughnuts

These were tourists, not locals – we were later informed that locals don’t visit Voodoo. I can’t think why they wouldn’t as the donuts were spectacular (and most of them were cheap at only $1.75 each!), although the half hour wait in the line was pretty lame – but at least it wasn’t raining.

Once we got inside it was like dreamland. Pink sparkly walls with rotating displays with 50 different kinds of donuts, and WHAT do you choose?! I was thankful for the ten minutes we had to wait inside to make my decision (those of you who know me know that I am the most terrible decision maker when it comes to food!).We chose a Portland cream (kind of like a Boston cream with a chocolate glaze and custard on the inside), and a maple bar (a plain donut with maple glaze on the top). So damn good – we both felt a little sick afterwards but it was a happy donuty sick feeling!

36 hours in portland and seattle

Voodoo Doughnuts

We checked out the Saturday and Sunday Market on the riverfront, but as there was a mean wind whipping up off the water we didn’t stay long, and the crafts there weren’t to our tastes anyway. Wandering around downtown Portland was delightful, with its offbeat vibe, old buildings, charming grunginess, cute old cars, and food trucks. EVERYWHERE. Holy crap, I don’t know how many food trucks are in Portland, but it must be a few hundred – every car park in the downtown area was full of them! Unfortunately as we were there on a Sunday they were mostly closed (but this was probably good for both the wallet and the waistline). They looked amazing though!

36 hours portland seattle

36 hours portland seattle

Portland foodtrucks

Portland foodtrucks

Portland, Oregon

Portland street

 

Portland rain!

Portland rain!

Later in the day we stumbled across Deschutes Brewery, one of many breweries in Portland. Portland actually has the most breweries out of ANY city in the world, with the figure sitting over 60. Hell, that’s impressive. Shaun wanted to try them all but with only one night in the city we didn’t want to become too obliterated, so we chose two. We stayed at Deschutes for a delicious dinner and a couple of beers: paprika fries with manchego cheese, rosemary oil, and aioli, and pizza with hazelnuts, pork belly bacon, goat’s cheese, arugula, and pear slices (all local of course). Phenomenal. After Deschutes we went to Rogue Public House, and while Shaun had a beer I tried a homemade lemonade with mint – delish!

Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery (apologies for the half-eaten meals, we dug in before I remembered to take a photo, it was so good!)

port-sea-12

After a couple of beers we headed to our accommodation for the night, a lovely room that we found through Airbnb. Tom’s place was only five minutes from downtown but being right next to a big park made it feel much further out of the city! It was great. Part of the deal was that we got breakfast, and Tom makes a wicked quiche – mine had smoked salmon in it that Tom had bought on the coast near Portland and a buddy had smoked it for him, and the mushrooms in Shaun’s had been gathered by Tom himself! If you’re interested, here is Tom’s place – we totally recommend staying there! Click here to get $45 NZD off your first stay with Airbnb.

Historic Columbia River Highway (Route 30)

Early the next morning we headed off from Portland, with the aim to get to Seattle that afternoon. With a suggestion from Tom we followed the I-84 east of the city, and hopped on Historical Route 30 at the Corbett exit. What a great little drive! Route 30 (the Historic Columbia River Highway) climbs up the side of the gorge and winds its way above the river, away from the Interstate. There are some lovely viewpoints over the river, and numerous waterfalls along the way which have hikes of varying lengths that you can do. We stopped at Latourell Waterfall and Multnomah Falls, and were seriously impressed. We even saw a bald eagle!

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Historic Columbia River Highway

Historic Columbia River Highway

It was so lovely to get off the Interstate and see some beautiful scenery – thanks to Tom for the suggestion (one of the huge benefits of staying in someone’s home rather than a faceless hotel)! We then headed three hours north to Seattle on the I-5, and checked in at our next Airbnb accommodation – a very reasonably priced self-contained flat.

Seattle, Washington

Sleepless in Seattle? More like Freezing in Seattle. God, even though it was sunny, we froze our butts off (thanks, Arctic Bomb Cyclone Astro). Trying to warm up with a hot chocolate, we explored the Pike Place Farmers Market for much of the day. It’s a quirky place with lots of little alleyways, fresh produce, fresh fish being thrown around, bakeries, vintage stores, a bronze pig, a gum wall, and craft stalls. Oh and the original Starbucks. Pike Place Market is America’s longest continuously operating farmers market, having started in 1907. Impressive!

Seattle Pike Place Public Market

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

We were half intrigued, half grossed out by the famous ‘gum wall’ and all the little messages stuck to the gum. You wouldn’t want to get too close!

Gum wall, Pike Place Public Market

Gum wall, Pike Place Public Market

There were lots of quirky little scenes that made for fun photographing:

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

port-sea-39

Pike Place Public Market, Seattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ate lunch at Pike Place Brewery, and had the obligatory beer tasting. Yum!

Pike Place Brewery

Pike Place Brewery

After a wander along the waterfront we walked around the city streets for a while, and when we didn’t find anything too interesting (and also because it was too freakin’ cold!), we got back in our car, turned on the heater, and headed three hours north to Vancouver. While waiting at the border, we were treated to this stunner of a sunset:

Sunset

It was such fun to visit America again, and to see some new cities and landscapes. We really, really liked Portland and wished we had been able to stay longer. But it’s ok – we’re saving the rest for next time!

Check out this great list of things to do in Portland – we’ve got heaps to do next time we go.

What should we put on the list to see next time we’re down in Portland and Seattle? Leave your comments below!


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37 comments

    • Petra
      Author

      OMG sooo good! Quite glad it’s all the way in Portland though otherwise I’d find myself there all the time. Thanks! It’s such a fun city, it would be so amazing to live there!

  1. This post made me realize how much I miss living in Portland! Your photos have captured it all: great food, great beer, and great scenery. There aren’t many places in the world where you can drive thirty minutes away from a city and see an impressive waterfall. They say Voodoo is for tourists only, but I sure visited their other location across the bridge (which hardly ever had a wait, by the way) quite often. But that’s probably because I worked next door. ha!

    • Petra
      Author

      Oh lucky you having lived in Portland! It’s such a cool city. I agree, it’s so great the waterfalls are so close to the city – I wish we’d had enough time to do one of the longer hikes! Yum, Voodoo was so amazing 🙂 I see you’re living in Wellington, hope you’re enjoying it! It’s a great city – quite like Portland in a lot of ways!

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  6. I loved this post! I just moved to Portland last month, and there’s still so much to explore in the Pacific NW. Seriously, great pictures. I still need to get over to try Voodoo Donuts at some point!

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Mimi! Glad you liked the post. There’s so much to do there, I agree. I wish we had had more time to explore! Oh man, Voodoo Donuts are SO good! Well worth the wait 🙂

  7. Jennie

    Thanks for the post! We moved to Washington last August and are having fun exploring! We live on Vashon Island which is 20 minutes by ferry from West Seattle- and is a great day trip 🙂

  8. Moriah

    36 hours in either of these towns alone is not nearly enough but I feel a severe injustice has been done on both as a Seattle local and Portland regular. If you go to either again in the future I hope you stray from the tourist traps, mediocre donuts and bad breweries and dig in deep to the local scenes. Both towns have so many incredible things to offer that can easily be seen in such a short time frame, I did it myself as a tourist before moving. The key to success is remembering that the neighborhoods of each city are the gold mines. Don’t waste time in the downtowns and certainly don’t dismiss a city as uninteresting when there was little effort made to see the interesting things.

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks for your comment Moriah. We appreciate you sharing your opinion but we think we are entitled to our own opinion on our own blog! We actually really liked Voodoo Donuts too. We hope to visit Portland and Seattle again sometime and see more of what the cities have to offer. 🙂

    • Kellie

      Moriah, do you have any suggestions of places to see in and around Portland? I think the passion for travel is just about getting out and exploring what you can with the time you have.

  9. Alexandria Hayman

    Two words:Moonstruck Chocolates! There are several locations in Portland. Truffles are their specialty, but their hot chocolate is the best! And the peanut butter shakes are to die for.

  10. Sam

    This is so great, guys! I live in Seattle! Definitely check out the neighborhoods next time. I love downtown Seattle (especially on a week day when everyone is at work… less crowded), but the Fremont, Ballard and the University District neighborhoods should definitely be on the list for a future visit. Fremont’s a little funky (and great for hipster spotting).

    Don’t miss the Fremont troll! It’s my favorite. I recently visited Vancouver and wished that someone had shared the hidden gems of the city with me!

    Portland is great, too! Try to catch the naked bike ride if you come back during the summer.

    Take care and keep sharing!

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Sam! We will definitely have to return to Seattle, it sounds like it has heaps more to offer. You should check out our 36 hours in Vancouver post for your next visit 🙂

  11. Carmen Honey

    Hi!

    Bit late to the party haha, but i was wondering if you can swim at the base of Multnomah Falls, its absolutely beautiful. Ive recently become a little obsessed with swimming round waterfalls (its strange i know, but what are ya gonna do right?!)
    I read your post on the Hunuas, really great without any of the pomp ive seen in other travel blogs, ive been on a travel blog kick lately.
    Strangely i live 15 minutes from the Hunuas and (im embarrassed to admit) ive never gone on a proper walk around more bushy areas, your article has inspired me.

    carmen

    • Petra
      Author

      Hey Carmen, thanks for your lovely comment! 🙂 I’m not sure if you can swim at the base of Multnomah, it didn’t look like it from memory but I can’t be 100% sure! Haha you should go for a wander in the Hunuas, it’s lovely!

  12. elaine

    i happened to stumble upon this on pintrest and wow it brought back so many memories … every year i visit the pacific nw… on your next visit you need to visit forks wa and la push wa .. amazing ocean views and mt view… i lost a piece of my heart to the pnw ??

  13. There is definitely more to do in Seattle with more time! It is a great city and the neighborhoods all have s different personality. Hopefully you can come back for a longer stay. And yes, Portland is great!

  14. Natalie

    Next time you are in Portland you will have to try my very favorite Mexican restaurant ¿ Por Qué Nos? It is on SE Hawthorne! You won’t regret it the food is fresh and flavorful. I recommend the fish tacos with a side of black beans and rice and wash it down with one of their many flavors of margeritas. I’m traditional so it’s always lime on the rocks for me. Go on a dry day because you will wait in line for some time but it is totally worth it. I have often had to convince myself that driving 6 hrs for lunch is just not resonable and you will too!

    Natalie from Blaine WA

    • Petra
      Author

      Ooh yum that sounds delicious – will have to go back to Portland some day and try it out! We love Mexican food. Thanks Natalie!

  15. Ashley

    Portland native here.
    There are some amazing donuts at blue star. It’s been featured on food network a few times. Also, salt and straw is an awesome ice cream shop. ( I recommend the sea salt and caramel ribbons flavor)

    So glad you got to see the historic Columbia River highway. I’m pretty sure you can’t swim at the base of multnomah falls because of the water pressure from above. But you can swim at a few of the others.

    The international rose test gardens is beautiful to view may-June. My favorite restaurants downtown are Nicholas (Mediterranean food) they bring you a flat bread to begin dinner that’s as big as the table. Apizza scholls, Le montage bistro is always fun, the atmosphere is nice and they have unique foods in the menu.

    And my favorite is the PSU farmers market on Saturdays.

  16. Kathleen

    Loved hearing about your trip and seeing such great photos of Seattle and Portland! Next time you’re in Portland (during the week & Saturday’s), please stop by at the Caspian Kabob food truck at SW Alder & 10th Avenue. Victor is the chef and he is so talented with making delicious kabobs with rice and salad, plus his mouthwatering HOMEMADE Doner Kabobs served on Mondays & Wednesdays only. One of the best food carts in Portland! For me, it IS the BEST food cart in Portland. Kathleen, NYC

  17. Natanya

    Hi! Love the info shared about Portland, but I wouldn’t really throw Seattle into this post seeing as how you guys couldn’t handle the true PNW cold! The moisture in the air from the ocean and sound is no joke in the winter. Don’t feel bad even Alaskans have said it can feel colder in Seattle. Next time, I definitely suggest you come dressed for our weather which is different than Portlands and try out all the quirky, funky, hipster, liberal neighborhoods in Seattle outside the downtown area around the piers and 4th Ave. Overall, it seems like you did your research for Portland and then just winged it with poor results while piddling around Seattle after going to the most touristy place possible. You missed an opportunity to head to N Seattle and you’d find a pub dedicated to Aussies and Kiwis…Better luck next time!

    • Petra
      Author

      We haven’t been to Vancouver for almost 4 years so I imagine there’s new things to do there… But here’s a couple: walk or cycle the Seawall around Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium, Capilano Suspension Bridge. Hope you have a good day there!

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