We would be remiss if we pinned any one adjective on the vast, varied state of Oregon. From its thick, old-growth forests to its oceanside sand dunes, from hip urban centers to the high desert, there is no shortage of beautiful landscapes and awe-inspiring natural attractions in Oregon.
In pristine national forests, you can hike, bike, camp, fish and stand atop a volcanic cinder cone. You can venture deep into underground caves, ride an ATV over sand dunes, experience a world-famous Japanese garden and hike a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail.
In weird and wonderful Portland, you can browse for books for days in the world’s largest independent bookshop, sniff world-famous roses in a huge city park and eat doughnuts laden with your favorite childhood cereal.
There are plenty of things to do in Oregon, ranging from rafting, rock climbing to breathtaking glimpses of Mount Hood. Plus, there are countless museums for those rainier days, ranging from aviation to science, maritime history, to local forestry.
When you’re considering where to go first, we suggest some of these must-see tourist attractions in Oregon.
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Crater Lake National Park is one of the top tourist attractions in Oregon. As the name suggests, Crater Lake developed in a crater caused by an extinct volcanic caldera. The almost circular lake is fed by rainwater, resulting in a stunningly clear lake bed.
The intensely blue water is a photographer's dream, and it is a beautiful place to camp, hike, or relax during a hot summer.
The lake is surrounded by towering peaks of Mount Mazama and lava cliffs that create a panoramic backdrop and two tiny islands located right in the middle of the sapphire-blue waters.
For a better view, tourists are encouraged to drive around the lake on the circular Rim Drive road that surrounds the lake and provides an overview of the beautiful lake.
Address: Crater Lake National Park, OR 97604
The Columbia River meanders through the Cascade Mountain Range, and its surrounding area is truly gorgeous. This area is referred to as the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and it is truly spectacular as it showcases several natural waterfalls and gorges.
The 292,500-acre area runs from the mouth of the Sandy River right up to the Deschutes River. The area offers hiking, biking, camping, and several outdoor sports for locals and tourists.
The area is also famous for the beautiful Multnomah Falls. Waterfalls are always gorgeous, but the Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River is truly stunning.
The waterfalls split into two different falls spread out over two levels, making it the tallest waterfall in Oregon.
The waterfall is traversed by a footbridge that is popular with photographers as a backdrop for special events.
It is one of the dramatic landscapes in Oregon visited by tourists in all seasons, though summer is the best time to visit this scenic attraction.
Address: Hood River, OR 97031
Mount Hood is one of the highest mountains in Oregon, reaching an impressive 11,239 feet in height. The Mount is surrounded by verdant forest extending from Columbia River Gorge to the Olallie Scenic Area.
The forest is more than 1,067,043 acres in size and is one of the most beautiful places in the USA.
More than four million visitors traipse the 170 recreation sites inside the forest. The most popular areas include Timberline Lodge, Trillium Lake, Rock Creek Reservoir, and the Old Oregon Trail.
The forest also has eight official designated wilderness areas that are a must-visit for their unique biodiversity, natural scenery, flora, and fauna.
If you love the outdoors, then a visit to Mount Hood is all it takes to realize why it’s one of the best places to go in Oregon.
Address: Mt Hood, OR 97055
Beaches are standard in appearance, with sand and water, but Cannon Beach has to be seen to be believed. The beach is truly stunning, with powder sand beaches and looming coastal rocks located near the beach.
Water sports are offered on the beach and the resorts located close to the beach also offer a range of activities.
One of the coastal rocks is called the Haystack Rock and is protected under the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge as it is a marine sanctuary for several unique sea creatures.
The beach is surrounded by resorts and the closest town is Seaside, a popular tourist town. The town of Astoria is also located close by and is historically significant for being the location of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Park.
Cannon Beach is among the best places to visit in Oregon for a relaxing beach vacation and some fun in the sun.
Address: Cannon Beach, OR
Running for over 65 miles through central Oregon, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway has become known for its outstanding beauty and diverse scenery as well as the host of recreational opportunities that it offers.
You will be awe-struck by the surroundings as you head across this route, with volcanic scenery and stunning alpine lakes.
When it comes to recreational activities, there is no shortage of things to do. This area has become hugely popular for activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, and boating, amongst other things.
If you want to get really up close and personal with nature, this is an experience that is not to be missed.
Address: Bend, Oregon, 97701
The small coastal city in Lincoln County, Oregon, is a delightful place to visit, as it has so much to offer.
Once named one of the top ten coolest small towns in America, this is a place where you will find plenty to do as well as beautiful surroundings and scenery to take in.
You can look forward to the attractions and activities to suit all ages when you come to this destination. The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is a must for those who love natural beauty, while the Wave Gallery and the Earthworks Gallery are excellent choices for art lovers.
There are many wonderful places to relax and soak up this place's natural beauty, including Devil’s Churn, Yachats State Park, and Smelt Sands State Park.
Yachats is one of the coolest places in Oregon, especially if you’re looking for an escape.
Address: Yachats, OR
Located in Clatsop County, Oregon, Astoria is a naturally beautiful destination that sits at the mouth of the Columbia River.
When you visit this town, you will find plenty to keep you busy, which means that you can enjoy a combination of natural beauty and relaxation along with fun, adventure and excitement.
When you come to Astoria, you should definitely pay a visit to the fascinating Columbia River Maritime Museum and the historical Fort Clatsop National Memorial.
You can explore history at the Flavel House Museum or enjoy spending time with the kids at the Lightship Columbia.
There are some great open areas to relax in here too, such as Fort Stevens State Park or the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Parks.
Address: Astoria, OR
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is located in Newport and this busy tourist town brings a huge amount of visitors to the aquarium.
The 23-acre facility is one of the best aquariums in North America, with four main exhibits spread out over the facility.
The Aquarium is open throughout the year, and it hosts special tours and encounters, visitor trips, field trips, and even private events on the premises.
The private tours are particularly impressive as visitors are guided by an aquarium employee in up-close and personal interactions with octopi, seals, and sea lions.
However, events and tours do change regularly, and visitors are advised to check the website and book in advance.
If you are looking for a wonderful vacation with your family, this is one of the best attractions in Oregon to add to your itinerary.
Address: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR 97365
Also Read: 25 Best Aquariums in the United States
Fish, swim, boat and camp year-round at Wallowa Lake, one of the most beautiful attractions in Oregon. A state park is tucked away at the southern end of this 3.7-mile long glacial lake, with the towering Wallowa Mountains as a scenic backdrop.
Several day-use areas dot the lake’s edge, including the Riverside Day-Use Area, Little Alps Day-Use Area Wallowa Lake County Park. Venture into the nearby Eagle Cap Wilderness, starting from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead to access the Chief Mountain Trail, the Fork Wallowa Trail and the West Wallowa Trail.
Within this pristine wilderness, hikers of all levels can access beautiful vistas, colorful wildflower-strewn meadows and high alpine lakes.
At the Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, learn about the conservation efforts on behalf of native populations that led to the protection of the wilderness.
Address: 72214 Marina Ln, Joseph, OR 97846
Deemed by His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, as “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” Portland Japanese Garden should be high on your list of Oregon attractions to visit.
The park is situated in Washington Park and provides an urban oasis within its 12 acres and eight garden styles. Within the grounds, find an authentic Japanese tea house, quiet streams, hidden walkways – and an outstanding view of Mount Hood on clear days.
Stop by the Cultural Village, a setting for traditional Japanese arts through activities and performances. Don’t miss the cultural demonstrations at the Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center, where you might hear the sounds of a Japanese harp or flute, learn about the Way of Tea or discover the art of flower arranging.
Address: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions Portland, Oregon
If you’re a rock climber, hiker or mountain biker, Smith Rock State Park is one of the top places to visit in Oregon.
Deep in the high desert, the park boasts deep river canyons, more than a thousand bolted climbing routes on ancient rock faces and miles of hiking and biking trails, including the scenic River Trail and Summit Trail.
Wildlife enthusiasts love the park for the opportunity to see golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otters and beavers.
One of the park’s most prominent features is the Smith Rock Tuff, soaring 550 feet into the sky on the western rim of the Crooked River Caldera.
The park is open year-round, but be aware of scorching summer temperatures. The Bivy Campground is first-come, first-served.
Address: Terrebonne, OR 97760
One of the prettiest things to do in Oregon is to drive the oceanside Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
For 12 gorgeous miles, you’ll have stunning views of craggy bluffs, quiet beaches and monolithic rock formations just offshore. At the various point, drivers can pull over to take advantage of picnic areas, viewpoints and trailheads.
Some like to pick a trailhead and spend the day hiking a section of the Oregon Coast Trail, while others want to stop at each parking area and explore.
Highlights of the corridor include Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint, an excellent whale-watching spot in spring or fall; the Natural Bridge site with its seven arch rocks and blowholes; House Rock Viewpoint, a four-mile trail with many side trails to secluded beaches; and Arch Rock, where a short path leads you to an overlook where you can see offshore sea stacks and islands.
Address: U.S. 101, Brookings, OR 97415
At Silver Falls State Park, you can walk behind a waterfall, go hiking or mountain biking along 35 miles of backcountry trails or set out on horseback through one of the most scenic attractions in Oregon.
Start by hiking the 7.2-mile Trail of Ten Falls, a nationally recognized trail through dense forest and past cascading waterfalls.
Go beyond the 177-foot sheet of water at South Falls for a behind-the-scenes view. Head to South Falls day-use area for a picnic or to hang out by the creek.
Guided horseback rides are available at the nearby stables. If you are visiting with young children, don’t miss the “nature play” area near the North Falls Group Camp parking lot. A short pathway leads to three play areas intended for different ages.
Address: 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385
One cannot list Oregon attractions without mentioning the vast Willamette National Forest. In a state where the natural environment reigns supreme, this 1.6-million-acre region is among the top contenders for most impressive.
The forest covers eight wilderness areas, including the famous Three Sisters Wilderness and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The opportunities are endless for backpacking and hiking, mountain biking and boating, swimming, rafting and more.
Check out Iron Mountain, home to more than 300 species of flowering plants, explore the Opal Creek Wilderness and the emerald-green Opal Pool, camp at one of the more than 70 developed campgrounds and hike to hidden alpine lakes in the Cascade Mountains.
Address: Blue River, OR 97413
Stand atop the summit of the 500-foot Lava Butte, a cinder cone that is more than 7,000 years old, at Newberry National Volcanic National Monument.
This is one of the enticing destinations in Oregon located south of Bend and covers more than 54,000 acres of lakes, lava flows and interesting geological features. The Lava Butte is a highlight – you can climb the cone or take a shuttle bus to the lookout tower at the summit.
From the highest point – Paulina Peak, at 7,985 feet – one can see the Newberry Caldera into the High Desert region and the three volcanoes to the north in the Cascade Mountains – Mount Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters.
Hike on more than 110 miles of trails and feel the spray of countless waterfalls. Don’t miss the Trail of Molten Lands, through a lava field where NASA astronauts are trained before the moon's walk.
Address: Bend, OR 97702
Play all day in the shifting sands of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, one of the most magical places to visit in Oregon.
The juxtaposition of the coastal sand dunes, the misty forests and the frothy ocean is mesmerizing. Explore the area on an off-highway vehicle, go hiking, paddle in the waves, look for wildlife and birdlife, camp next to the ocean, picnic and play.
At South Jetty, visitors are offered day access to the beach and dunes, with separate areas of off-highway vehicles (OHV), while at the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area, you can explore on foot far from OHV recreation.
Traditional campgrounds are found along the Siltcoos River and at Tahkenitch. The entire recreation area extends 40 miles along the Oregon coastline from Florence to Coos Bay.
Address: 855 US-101, Reedsport, OR 97467
The Columbia River Maritime Museum is one of the fascinating Oregon attractions popular for its comprehensive displays of marine transportation from the time of dugout canoes to sailing ships to present-day boat travel.
Start with the 12-minute film introducing you to the history and precarious nature of the mighty Columbia River. Head outside and sail a radio-controlled boat on the Model Boat Pond in The Warnock Commons.
Walk the bridge of a World War II warship. Read about the US Coast Guard and the Columbia River Bar Pilots.
Take a guided tour of the floating lighthouse, the Lightship Columbia, a National Historic Landmark that was once moored at the mouth of the Columbia River to safely guide ships in the waterway. And participate in hands-on exhibits, including the chance to steer a tugboat.
Address: 1792 Marine Dr, Astoria, OR 97103
At the High Desert Museum's "Dam It! Beavers and Us" exhibit, wildlife enthusiasts can learn all about a Pleistocene-era mammal that was up to eight feet long and 220 pounds and used to roan the High Desert area.
The museum is among the best vacation spots in Oregon, with interesting exhibits ranging from the death-defying daredevils, such as Evel Knievel, who jumped their motorcycles across the desert's salt flats and canyons, to art collections celebrating area flora and fauna.
At the Autzen Otter indoor/outdoor exhibit, follow the bubble trails of the resident otters, and in the Desertarium, glimpse the native wildlife of the High Desert up close, including turtles, snakes, lizards and more.
Finally, stop at the Birds of Prey Center, where owls, hawks, eagles, falcons and vultures are cared for by museum staff, who also offer twice-daily shows that give you an up-close look at the birds.
Address: 59800 US-97, Bend, OR 97702
Go deep beneath the Siskiyou Mountains of the Pacific Northwest at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
One of the fascinating attractions in Oregon, these labyrinthian marble caves are home to one of the most pristine and complete segments of old oceanic crust in Western America.
A variety of tours are available that take curious souls through the “Marble Halls of Oregon” on foot, into a huge room 220 feet beneath the earth’s surface and past shiny flowstones.
Take a candlelight cave tour to see the caverns as the first explorers did. Delve into the darker, more rugged areas off-trail with a trained off-trail caver who can teach caving techniques and etiquette.
There are also kid- and family-friendly tours with age-appropriate content. The caves are seasonal, open from late March through the end of November. Expect comfortable summer temperatures, with lower temperatures in the caves themselves.
Address: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523
It’s easy to get lost in the stacks of Powell’s City of Books. Ranked high in must-visit Oregon attractions, this paradise for book lovers is the world's largest independent bookstore.
Centrally located in downtown Portland's Pearl District on an entire city block, the store holds more than a million new and used books, divided into nine color-coded rooms and 3,500 different sections – pick up Powell's map to navigate to your favorite genre.
There is truly something for every interest and every age, as well as a vast collection of out-of-print and hard-to-find titles.
Bibliophiles can check out the Rare Book Room to view autographed first editions and collectible volumes. And keep an eye on the calendar for the chance to attend readings by acclaimed writers.
Address: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209
Where else can you get a gargantuan apple fritter, a bacon maple bar or a fruity puff-laden doughnut? If you consider yourself a connoisseur of these delectably sweet pastries, make sure Voodoo Doughnut is one of the first things to do in Oregon.
The doughnut shop, which is a true Portland institution, has been hailed far and wide on television and in print. Visit the funky shop in Northeast Portland and choose from more than 50 eclectic, creative doughnuts, including vegan varieties and the ever-popular Portland Cream.
The Voodoo doughnut artists can even take requests if you have an idea in mind. Love doughnuts so much you would marry them, or at least be married near them? Weddings performed by ordained ministers are available at the Portland location!
Address: 22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204
The centerpiece of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum beckons as you drive up to the museum. Through the glass windows of the massive hangar, you see the gigantic 747, the original Spruce Goose, and from there, even the least aviation-minded of us are intrigued.
First things first: get a good look at the entirely wooden Hughes Flying Boat H-4 Spruce Goose, as it's officially known. It remains the largest wooden plane ever constructed and was flown once to move troops and materials across the ocean during World War II.
Move through the museum to view Vietnam-era aircraft, World War I and II aircraft and artifacts, as well as planes from the early 1900s.
From a Wright Flyer replica to an SR-71 Blackbird, there’s much to see. Don’t miss the space area of the museum, where you’ll find a Titan II SLV booster rocket, miniature rockets and the robotic spacecraft of today.
Address: 500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, McMinnville, OR 97128
Washington Park is a beautiful setting, to be sure, but look beyond its grassy lawns and tall trees to find several world-class attractions, making it one of the top places to visit in Portland (and one of the favorite things to do in Oregon).
Within its 5,100 acres, find one of the world’s most authentic Japanese gardens, the 4.5-acre, multi-tiered International Rose Test Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the Hoyt Arboretum, the Portland Children’s Museum, the World Forestry Center and more.
There are several solemn memorials to visit, including the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Oregon Memorial and the Sacajawea Memorial.
Activities include walking, biking, picnicking, tennis and even archery. Parking is extremely limited within the park, so it is best to use Portland’s excellent light rail, bus and free shuttle service to get there.
Address: 4033 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221
Witness the living layers of our earth at the John Day Fossil Beds, an interesting geologic attraction in Oregon.
These colorful rock formations bear evidence of plant and animal evolution through climate change and ecosystems from the past 40 million years.
Spend a day or more exploring the Thomas Condon Paleontology and Visitor Center and take scenic drives in hikes through all three units of the park.
The most popular unit for hiking is Painted Hills, recognizable by its red, tan, orange and black stripes, located north of the town of Mitchell. Look for leaf fossils up to 39 million years old and animal fossils from up to 30 million years old.
Beyond the Painted Hills, there are exciting hikes found in the Clarno Unit, with its notable Palisades landforms, and Sheep Rock, where the rocks date back from 95 million years ago.
Address: 32651 OR-19, Kimberly, OR 97848
Complete your Oregon itinerary by adding the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry into it.
A vast and educational destination, the museum boasts five huge halls full of interactive exhibits and displays.
In the Natural Sciences Hall, you can explore reptiles and insects, view dinosaur fossils and learn about volcanoes and climate change.
Outside, you can venture into the belly of the USS Blueback submarine, half-submerged in the Willamette River, and see how a crew of 85 once lived and worked on the sub.
Catch a documentary in Empirical Theater or learn about the night sky in the planetarium. In the Turbine Hall, visitors of all ages can dive into interactive physics and chemistry exhibits. Parking is free.
Address: 1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214