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Two Days to Sightsee, Eat, and Drink Our Way from SF to Vancouver

We are so excited: Oregon and Washington are virgin territory as far as DH and I are concerned, though we've been up the California coast and flown to Vancouver several times. I've tried searching this board, but most inquiries have been pretty focused on restaurants in specific towns or cities, or the hounds in question have had more time--or just enough time to grab a quick bite along I-5. We want to see (and eat) as much as possible of the Pacific Northwest in the couple of days we have to and from Vancouver.

We are hoping to arrive in the Medford area from SF late Friday night, and leave Saturday morning in time to arrive in Vancouver for dinner on Sunday. What is the best way to spend the time (and the meals!) between the those two places? We'd love to see the coast and eat some fresh seafood along the way--picturesque lighthouses serving freshly caught seafood would be ideal, though they probably only exist in my imagination. But we've loved the few wines we've tried from the Willamette Valley, too, and would enjoy seeing how it differs from Napa and the Anderson Valley.

Since we will be staying two days in Tofino in Vancouver Island, should we skip the Olympic National Park and spend the time exploring Seattle instead? Would Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Rainier be worth the detour from a food and scenery perspective?

Sorry if I sound giddy, but the prospect of interesting new food in a beautiful new region has that effect on me.

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  1. Have you given thought to the mileage you will be covering in 2 days? I'm not sure how you will have time to eat! Medford to Vancouver BC is a LONG way, especially if you do some sight seeing.

    Mt St Helens and Mt Ranier are good sights, but not from a foodie point of view. The Willamette Valley wineries are a good stop. Touring Oregon wineries is much different than Napa Valley, and well worth a stop, but I don't see how you will make it to Vancouver if you make a stop in Oregon, especially since you want to explore the coast.

    Are you sure you want to do all this in 2 days?

    1. Have a great drive. If you do make it to Ashland/Medford on your first night I recommend the Black Sheep in Ashland for a late night bite. http://www.theblacksheep.com/enter.html They are open until at least 1 am and have excellent food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PaqpIn

        Thank you, Paqpin! That's the sort thing we (and all traveling hounds) need to know: where to get good food late at night, after a long drive.

      2. Jane is right, of course. A lot of territory in very little time. So I tried to focus my needs and wants and, after a lot more time on the computer, we may have a workable route, which I see as more of a "sampler plate" of Oregonian delights.

        Please let me know if this plan is a good idea, or how best to modify it, giving a premium to food and scenery not available in the SF Bay Area. (Googlemaps shows my driving time between Ashland and Florence as 4 hours, and between Florence and Dundee as just over 3 hours, plus 46 minutes to Portland. Portland to Seattle, under 3 hours, Seattle to Vancouver, 2 1/2 hours. Total driving time: 13 hours, 6 minutes.)

        Arrive in Ashland late Friday night. Dinner at the Black Sheep.
        Saturday mid-morning head for Florence and drive along the coast to see the lighthouses. In the afternoon, head inland at Lincoln City passing through McMinville and Dundee, perhaps having dinner at the Dundee Bistro?
        Spend the night in or around Portland.
        Sunday morning, head for Seattle, visit Pike's Place, dessert at Pix, and on to Richmond in Vancouver for dinner!

        Any suggestions for where to have lunch along the coast between Florence and Lincoln would be very much appreciated!

        3 Replies
        1. re: pilinut

          Here are some recommendations between Florence and Lincoln City. I have not been to all of them, but they are on my list of places to eat.

          Yachats River Inn
          Saffron Salmon Newport
          Local Ocean Seafood Newport
          Blackfish Cafe Lincoln City

          1. re: pilinut

            These drive times reflect best conditions. You aren't likely to make it from Seattle to Vancouver in 2.5 hours when you include traffic and border wait times. I live in Bellingham, which is almost at the BC border and we would allow 2 hours to get into Vancouver if we had to arrive at a specific time. You never know about the border wait and the Vancouver traffic. Make sure you have your passport to get across the border! Also, be aware that the traffic between Portland and Seattle can be slow. It can be done, you'll just spend more time in your car than you will eating or sightseeing.

            1. re: laurachow

              Thank you for the warning. We'll try to make allowances, which (in my case anyway) means bringing plenty of stuff to munch on while waiting in traffic, or at the border. It's really helpful to have people who know the area give me a reality check!

          2. I personally would get up early and drive to Eugene from SF. Not that far, have done it many times. Get a reservation at nice B&B Campbell House in Eugene by Skinners Butte. Two blocks from good restaurants (Marche', Belly or Lucky Noodle), also Steelehead Brewery. You can walk, no worry about drinking and driving!!!!

            Then you are about almost two hours from Florence from Eugene, no great eats at the coast, you can find something to eat in Old Town Florence or up the highway. Drive to Lincoln City and then head west to the Valley, you can hit 2-3 wineries and dinner at Dundee Bistro or head into Portland and get great eats there. check Portlandfood.org for specifics. I love staying in Hotel Monaco or Vintage downtown (both Kimpton Hotels). Lots of good eats in the Pearl or just across the river.

            Seattle will be about three hours from Portland so time your visit for lunch at the market.

            1 Reply
            1. re: duck833

              Agree Duck833. Drive to Eugene. I once did Eugene to Vallejo in 8 hours, with just quick pitstops for gas/bathroom. (Someone mentioned they have a limit of 65 in Oregon? I probably was doing 70, no faster.) Traffic from SF going north on I5 shouldn't be bad early in the AM, and Eugene not only has better eating options than Medford, it is closer to your destinations. I don't think it takes 2 hours to get to Florence on the coast. Isn't it only about an hour? It's been a while since I did that. Anyway, the rest of your plan will work out much better if you make it to Eugene the first night!

            2. I think you'll have a great trip if you don't need to sleep. Someone once said, in a poem, that it's next to impossible to have a career, a family, and good friends, and meet the needs of them all. So riffing on that, I say it's next to impossible to do SF to Vancouver BC, in 48 hours, driving, eating&drinking, sightseeing, and sleeping! Then again, maybe that's just me!

              1. It is possible but they need to get going and put some miles on in day 1, that is why I suggested hitting I-5 and ending up in Eugene on night #1. Getting up and hitting the coast from Eugene will put them in Dundee maybe at lunchtime or after depending on their stops. Will have time to hit DD, Archery Sumitt, DS. I personally would do dinner in downtown Portland where they are going to be staying.

                The next day hitting Pikes Street, Nordstrom Rack etc is nice midday stop. Then need to watch traffic and get out of town before it hits. Then north to Vancouver. Piece of cake!!!

                6 Replies
                1. re: duck833

                  Factor in two things, pilinut. 1) Traffic in Seattle along the I-5 2) the wait at the US-Canada border, particularly as you are entering Canada on a Sunday afternoon and will have to compete with all of the Canadians who are returning home after the weekend. The wait at the border can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours+.

                  1. re: anewton

                    And summer driving on 101up the coast can be slooooow - don't know if Google has factored in winnebagos going 40mph on the 2 lane highway.

                    There will NOT be time to go through Olympic Nat'l Park, trust me. SF to Van on I-5 will be at least 16 to 18 hours driving (Seatlle to Davis is alnost exactly 900 miles/around 14 hours) and getting off 5 will only slow you down. The coast is pretty, an extra day is worth it if you want to see it.

                    On the coast, there is Tillamook and the blue cheese place, otherwise I think visions of quaint lighthouses serving fresh fish are fantasy, unless you like it battered & fried.

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      I suspected as much. . . I mean about the battered, fried fish. But never mind, as long as the fish and the oil are fresh, my weakness for fried food will make it all ok, The slow-going Winnebago may pose a problem: will have to psyche DH into calm resignation. (A good bowl of chowder should help his mood, though. Thanks for the warning!

                      1. re: pilinut

                        Am I understanding that you will be making this trip in an RV? If so, it might limit your ability to drive and park anywhere near the Market in Seattle, particularly on a weekend.

                        Keep in mind that the max speed through OR is only 65mph. Also, I can't remember the cutoff date, but sometime in June you will need a passport to get back into the US from Canada, even by car.

                        1. re: Jane917

                          We'll be in a car, probably trying to overtake the RVs on the road. And I'll be sure to pack my passport--I need it to get into Canada. If I forget it, we'll just stay in Washington and Oregon instead. You Northwest hounds have been so generous with suggestions, we'll have more than enough to enjoy for a week!

                      2. re: babette feasts

                        Near Tillamook, Bay City, Pacific Seafoods is great. Nothing fancy, watch them shuck and pack oysters, wonderful fresh fish. The best, and richest, oyster stew I've ever tasted. Outstanding chowder. Get a quart to go, with the RV and all. Have fun.

                  2. If you want a taste of Oregon coast. I'd make sure you find a good clam chowder.

                    If you start your day in Medford, you'd be hitting Newport around noon. Although I haven't been there, Sharks in Newport and Chowder Bowl at Nye Beach (Newport) are both recommended.

                    However, whenever I go to Newport, I always visit Rogue Ale Public House. There are a lot of great craft beers in the PNW, and Rogue (IMO) is one of the better ones. I go there for the beer, but the food is excellent too. (http://www.rogue.com/locations/pdfs/M...).

                    Depoe Bay is beautiful, but not great for food. A few miles up the road, make a stop at the Devil's Punchbowl. No food, but worth the 15-20 minute stop.

                    Further up North, Blackfish Cafe is good in Lincoln City. I like your plan to drive through McMinnville and Dundee and wine country on your way to Portland. Great wineries along the way. Although, I have my doubt about how much wine tasting you can do on your schedule. Starting the day in Medford, and eating on the coast, it will be late afternoon or early evening by the time you get to wine country.

                    Portland to Vancouver, with a short stop in Seattle is doable. However, as others have commented, be prepared for a long delay at the border.

                    Here are some links that might help:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/13623
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/15906
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/11730

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thomco

                      Thank you for the suggestions and the links! I've saved this page and a few links as PDFs to consult on the road.

                    2. If you have time between Seattle and Vancouver, you can get off I-5 just north of Mount Vernon and take Chuckanut Drive (Route 11) north to Bellingham. Very scenic drive and two great restaurants along the way. But, the drive is slow going because of all the curves in the road and the gawking that you'll be doing.

                      The Oyster Bar: Amazing view and excellent seafood.
                      http://www.theoysterbaronchuckanutdri...

                      Rhododendron Cafe: so charming and delicious!
                      http://rhodycafe.com/

                      Both are excellent, neither is cheap!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: laurachow

                        This sounds like something we could do on the drive back--thanks!

                        1. re: pilinut

                          Actually the Chuckanut Drive is even better going north to south. You are on the right side of the road for all the spectacular views. I second the Oyster Bar and Rhododendron Cafe. Please let us know how your trip goes.

                      2. Halfway between Portland and Seattle on I-5, in Centralia, is La Tarasca, a wonderful Michoacano restaurant. In Seattle, Jack's Fish and Chips is good in the Pike Place Market (and the Apple Fritters at Three sisters bakery directly next to that are great, too). In Vancouver, Sun Sui Wah is pretty great, but there are so many options, it;s tough to even narrow them down. For a great downscale meal (a second breakfast, midafternoon snack) Hon's Noodle house is good. Get the cooked lettuce, they will try to talk you out of it, but don't be scared away!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dnamj

                          (VBG) How did you guess that Sun Sui Wah is what is driving me to get into Vancouver in time for Sunday dinner?

                        2. The trip you are describing is 4-6 days minimum, not possible in 2. Guys we are talking about summer traffic everywhere you go! You wont have time to stop and eat, let alone explore anywhere.

                          Medford to Seattle direct is an easy 8 to 12 hours on any sunny weekend day -- 5 hours to Portland, and 4 - 5 hours to get through traffic to Seattle, barring accidents. Portland to Seattle is no less than 3.5 hours and likely to be closer to 5 in any traffic after 9:00AM. 7 hours is *not* impossible if you encounter roadwork or accidents, of which there are likely to be many. This website will be your salvation:
                          http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/
                          http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/traff...
                          http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/construction/

                          Then, Sea-Tac area to Vancouver BC anytime after 10AM will hit 30 - 120 mins of traffic through Downtown, another 30 - 120mins through Everett, and another 2+ hours wait time at the Canadian border, plus 2 hours actual driving time.

                          Medford - Portland over the coast route hitting any of the areas mentioned will take 10 - 15 hours including traffic. Medford to Lincoln City is an easy 6 or 7 hours with coast traffic, which only gets heavier the farther north up the coast towards portland you go.

                          Forget Olympic Peninsula on this , you cant even do the loop in less than 12 hours in summer traffic, including ferries, and thats without actually stopping for sightseeing.

                          What you are proposing is a lot like when tourists want to see Alaska in a fourday weekend -- here you want to tour across an area roughly the size of England, by car, in summer traffic, in just under 48 hours. Its not going to be a happy experience.

                          A coast drive from Medford to Portland is lovely if you start early enough... and dont have a deadline. Take some time and rethink what you really want to see, and what can wait for another time. Even two stops for any kind of touring this side of Vancouver itself is going to be a terrible stretch on your schedule.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: koan_001

                            Thank you very much for the warning and the links, koan! I've bookmarked the website and will doubtless make much use of it. We'll also bring one of those Magellan thingamjigs (which I don't like, but which may help us find detours around traffic.

                            We'll do our best to make good time, and try to travel during off hours. But if all else fails, we'll stop and look for consolation in good food!

                            1. re: pilinut

                              I love your optimism, but there are no "detours" around the Seattle traffic. When I think of the best places to eat in the Market (or Salumi's), I always take in account that you don't just run in and get a bite to eat. There can be very long lines.

                          2. This has been a very interesting thread; we leave for a Road Trip from San Francisco to Portland OR to Seattle WA to Vancouver and Richmond B.C. to Spokane WA and Potlatch ID... 7/22 to 8/8 - Thank you for all the good advice.
                            Are there any other threads to read on eating/driving this route?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Cynsa

                              Hi, Cynsa, and all the other hounds who've contributed to this thread! I've been feeling pretty guilty about not having reported back on our trip, but Cynsa's inquiry finally got me to write down what I remember of the trip.

                              The drive from San Mateo to Ashland, Oregon took 7 1/2 hours because we left Friday afternoon before Memorial Day. (Googlemaps estimated less than 6 hours.) Traffic was awful all the way past Vacaville, and we tried to make up time by stopping only once along I-5 for a quick snack. I can't remember the name of the place, but it was widely advertised in I-5, had an Italian name, and featured a store, saloon, and a gelato and ice cream scooping station. They had "fresh" peach ice cream, which tasted like no peach, fresh or otherwise, that had ever seen daylight on a tree. After tasting six other flavors I did not like, I settled for a scoop of coffee, or mocha chip-- something innocuous and forgettable--out of embarrasment. I couldn't bring myself to finish the gloppy, gummy stuff and ditched it. Maybe I'm just spoiled, but a Drumstick would have been way better.

                              By the time we made it to Ashland close to 11pm, we were nearly crosseyed with exhaustion, and I got the Grey Goose confused with the Black Bear, and ended up having a merely passable meal of fried oysters at the Grey Goose, to the accompaniment of barely tolerable karaoke. Our somewhat overpriced hotel, the Village Suites, at least had freshly baked chocolate chip cookies which became dessert.

                              The next morning we drove along the gorgeous Oregon coast, from Reedsport to Lincoln City, stopping to look at a couple of lighthouses. Serendipity--and a free parking space--led us to Luna Sea in Yachats, where DH had an excellent basket of fish and chips (freshly cut-up ling cod) and I had 8 big, fat , crisp-outside-bursting-juicy-inside batter-fried oysters. We also followed the advice on this board and had some delicious clam chowder. No fish-and-chips joint in the Bay Area comes close!

                              We made it to Portland's North Shore (which I chose to avoid traffic leaving Portland in the morning) before dusk and managed to choke down something that resembled pizza at Pizza Mia. It had a thin crust, and I knew enough to be concerned when I saw it popped into the oven, where it sat for at least 15 minutes, only to emerge with barely a sunburn, a dense, unremarkable example of fodder. (Well, at least it was a short walk back to the hotel and the box of See's chocolates I always carry as gustatory insurance.)

                              Memorial Day weekend is not a good time to try to see Pike's Place. DH and I did a cursory squeeze through the crowds and landed at Cafe Campagne for a late brunch. I was very well pleased with my oeufs en meurette, "Two poached eggs served on garlic croutons with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in a red wine and foie gras sauce served with pommes frîtes 15." I sopped up every last unctuous drop of that dish, and DH did not spare a single perfectly crisp frite. We left Seattle well fortified for the drive to Vancouver and the 20-minute wait at the border, arriving in Vancouver in good time for dinner. (Thanks again to koan 001 for the links to wsdot!)

                              (The part of our trip dealing with Vancouver and BC will have to wait for another time and another board, but I will say we had two good meals at Sun Sui Wah, featuring plenty of spotted prawns.)

                              The trip back was much faster: leaving Vancouver after brunch, we drove through Washington and Oregon, dropping by Eugene to spend a few minutes with a friend. By the time we got to our hotel in Medford, it was sufficiently late at night that we had to settle for Applebee's--my first visit, and one I have no plans of repeating.

                              The next morning, we left the lushness of the Northwest to return to the relative aridity of California. Remembering our earlier food experience on I-5, we drove without stopping until we reached the SF peninsula 6 hours after leaving Medford.

                              http://www.lunaseafishhouse.com/

                              http://www.campagnerestaurant.com/caf...

                              1. re: pilinut

                                Thank you for posting about your trip. I have often thought if you actually made the trip in your time frame. When you originally posted, I did not get the impression that you would be traveling Memorial Weekend, which makes the likelihood of getting in and out of cities and foodie spots even more difficult. However, it sounds like you had a good time. Come back to the NW again when you can see it more leisurely.