Finance Magazine

2 Frugal Day Trips from Portland

By Kathleen O'Malley @frugalportland

There is nothing better in the Northwest than taking off in any direction and finding unique spots that you can get to in a matter of minutes, or maybe an hour or two. This town is adjacent to adventure, and I make it a point to get out and explore every chance I get. Whether you’re craving a day in the woods, a night at the beach, a hike, a pub hidden along the Gorge, museums, bird-watching, a delicious meal, or spa; the areas surrounding the Rose City offer something for everyone.

Oregon is the ninth largest state in the U.S. Aside from Mt Hood towering over the city, Oregon boasts over 28 lakes and reservoirs; most of which are within a day’s drive. Rivers, waterfalls, hatcheries and wildlife are all within reach of our beautiful city. And let’s not forget the miles and miles of the stunning Oregon Coast.

Here are two frugal day trips you can take with your family, buddies or crew.

The Gorge, Cascade Locks, Bridge of the Gods, a Hike, and a Great Little Pub

Columbia River Gorge Best day trips from Portland

If you head out Interstate 84, you will be driving along the magnificent Columbia River Gorge. Take Exit 40 and hang a right. Parking is $5.00, and the hike is priceless. It’s an easy walk to the first waterfall, along a bubbly creek, and the ground is flat. If you continue the hike goes up about 300 feet and leads to more falls. Inside a towering canyon, this trail along Tanner Creek is dappled with wildflowers and some sweet small swimming holes. The views are fantastic.

Afterwards, take your stroll back along the creek and to your car. Next, continue down the highway to Exit 44, and follow the road beyond The Bridge of the Gods, into the small town of Cascade Locks.

As you head down the road, on your left will be a sign for the “Sternwheeler” steamboat tour.

Follow it, and hang another sharp left…go all the way down passing up the trailer park and some old government buildings on your right. As you get nearly to the end, hang a right and park your vehicle near the picnic tables. You should be now standing at the edge of the gorge, overlooking the locks. Before you is a sweet little pub called Thunder Island Brewing Company. Grab a brew or some cider and a bite to eat, and sit outside with an incredible view of the Bridge of the Gods, The Locks and the Gorge. You can also get out and walk on the locks or have a picnic there should you so desire. There are lots of great spaces, open and hardly anyone there at any given time. It’s very peaceful and a great place for meditation, or just hanging out. On your way out if you want to cross The Bridge of the Gods, it will cost you a buck in either direction. Well worth it.

Thunder Island Brewing Company
515 Portage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014
(971) 231-4599

Cascade Locks Marine Park
Exit 44 off I-84

Antiquing and Fresh Fish Dining in Wheeler, Oregon


Wheeler, Oregon is one of those beach towns that is a tiny dot on the map.

It’s not Cannon Beach or Depot Bay or Newport by any means.

The biggest attraction to this town is at the main intersection.

You could miss it in the blink of an eye if you are not paying attention.

Wheeler consists of a few antique stores, a hotel and the best little restaurant on the Coast called “Rising Star Cafe”. Ron and Pepi, are a husband and wife team cooking up delicious seaside fare from Pastas to Cioppino. The Cioppino is my favorite as it usually has 3 or 4 different types of fish, (Fresh Caught!) and is made to order. Everything you can order at this café is as delightful as the owners, but it has been some of the best fish I have eaten anywhere on the coast.

The Oregon Coast Crawler also stops in Wheeler. It starts in Garibaldi then goes to Wheeler, Batterson, Salmonberry, Rockaway and back to Garibaldi. The views of the dramatic Northern Oregon Coastline are spectacular, including Tillamook and Nehalem Bays. The train stops in Wheeler for a waterside lunch.

The Oregon coast is only about 1.5 hours outside of Portland, only 50 minutes from Astoria, and only 30 minutes north of Tillamook.

From Portland take HWY 26 west to 53 for the shortest route or all the way down to 101 for the scenic route.


Rising Star Cafe 

92 Rorvik St, Wheeler, OR 97147

(503) 368-3990

Old Wheeler Antiques – Art Deco Lighting

Day trips from Portland are easy and affordable. There is so much to explore in nature and the surrounding cities. Stay tuned to Frugal Portland for more adventures and make sure to get out and about! See you on the road!

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