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Are there flower fields not too far off Interstate 5?

You’re in luck — there are a lot of gorgeous flower farms in the Willamette Valley, and most are not more than 20 minutes east or west of Interstate 5, the main north-south route through Oregon. Depending on what time of spring or summer you’re driving through, there will be different flowers in season. Also, some of these farms are small, family-run operations, so it’s good to call and check to verify they’ll be open on the day you’re traveling through.

Here are several good ones to check out. I’ve listed them in the order you’d pass them if you’re driving south to north.

Hendricks Park is less than two miles east of Interstate 5 in Eugene. It’s an 80-acre city park, so it’s open year-round, but probably best to visit this time of year (March-May), because it’s famous for its rhododendron garden. Thousands of rhododendrons are in bloom there every spring, some of them as early as February and some into June.

Japanese Garden at Boulder Falls Inn is another garden that’s open any time and looks gorgeous in all seasons. This Japanese-inspired garden at Boulder Falls Inn is located in Lebanon, eight miles west of Interstate 5. This garden is adjacent to the Boulder Falls Inn in Lebanon, but you don’t have to be a guest there to visit the garden. It’s small, but worth a mention because it’s just so pretty and is open year-round. It was designed by Hoichi Kurisu, the same internationally known designer behind Portland’s Japanese Garden. There’s a nice restaurant called 1847 right next to the garden, so it’s a great place to stop, get off the freeway, have lunch or dinner and take a walk around the garden.

The Oregon Garden is 13 miles west of Salem in the little town of Silverton. The Oregon Garden isn’t just one type of garden — it’s an 80-acre botanical garden with dozens of different types of gardens within the main garden. This is another great one to add to your trip because it’s open 365 days a year and there is always something in bloom no matter what time of year you visit. Rhododendrons and tulips are fantastic there right now; irises and peonies usually start blooming in May; rose season is late spring to summer.

Schreiner’s Iris Garden is super-close to I-5; from exit 263 (a few miles north of Salem) it’s just 2.5 miles southwest of the freeway. The garden’s “bloom season” is May 6-31 this year.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm is nine miles east of Interstate 5, just outside the town of Woodburn. It has GORGEOUS fields of tulips and lots of fun activities during their spring tulip festival (which lasts until May 1 this year) like wine tasting, wagon rides, a kids’ play area and even tethered hot air balloon rides.

Swan Island Dahlias is about 10 miles west of I-5 near Canby. It has more than 35 acres of dahlias open to the public August-September.

There are also a number of different farms in the valley that specialize in lavender, particularly in the Mt. Hood Territory, which is in the northwest part of the Willamette Valley. These are part of that region’s “farm loops” — scenic driving routes of farms you can visit. Check on current operating hours before you visit: June and July tend to be when lavender is in bloom.

Where are the best golf courses and resorts in Oregon?

I recommend starting in Central Oregon and making your way to the Southern Oregon Coast. Central Oregon is the home of more than 23 golf courses at all levels of difficulty and price points.  And Central Oregon is ranked as the 23rd most robust golf destination in the United States per the editors of Golf Digest. If you are with family (kids or folks that do not play golf), I recommend Sunriver Resort as this property has many, many activities to enjoy in addition to golf. Sunriver has four courses, but I recommend playing at at Crosswater, which was ranked as one of the best golf courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest. Accommodations at Sunriver range from hotel rooms to multiple bedroom homes. Nineteen miles of paved bike paths and the Deschutes River roaming through the property make this a great place to stay.

As an alternative, you can stay in downtown Bend where Tetherow resort is a super, full service destination.  The course itself is like playing Bandon Dunes (with mountain views instead of ocean views) and the accommodations are solid — plus you are five minutes driving distance to restaurants, shopping, etc.

From Bend, I would take the Highway 20 down toward Eugene. In the McKenzie River Valley, you should play play at a “public course, privately owned gem” called Totakee. Surrounded by the Cascade mountains, Totakee is very walkable and a pure, old-fashioned golf course with small greens and towering trees. You can probably play it in three and a half hours.

From the Engene area, I would head toward the ocean to Florence, where Sandpines should be your next round of golf. Take Highway 126 toward to Oregon Coast. Sandpines is a real treat, with an award-winning design and celebrated as one of the best public courses by the Golf Digest.  I suggest you stay overnight where you can add another quick round playing Ocean Dunes. It’s right next door to Sandpines and is a fun track, modestly priced. It is owned by Three Rivers Resort and Casino that is an option for lodging or there is Riverhouse Inn and Driftwood Shores that are right on the coast line as hotel options in Florence.

From Florence, your final premium golf stop would be to drive down to Bandon Dunes.  The drive itself is beautiful, ocean-filled with lots of bridges and sand dunes and everything one might anticipate for our rugged Oregon Coast. Bandon Dunes is beyond fantastic. When you set up your golf, for sure play the Preserve after one of your rounds.  I personally love Bandon Trails the most because of the diversity of holes and the walk itself reminds me of the movie, Jurassic Park. In addition to the five courses at Bandon Dunes, there is a great, public play course, family owned called Bandon Crossings.

Answered by Noel Lucky, Ask Oregon Golf Expert on April 25th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

Where should we visit after Crater Lake?

Glad to hear you have time to explore more of Oregon after visiting Crater Lake! I suggest driving from Crater Lake National Park north on Highway 97 to Highway 138 toward Roseburg (known as the Waterfall Highway). There are many places to stop road-side to take short hikes to waterfalls in this area. From Roseburg, I’d get on I-5 and either head south to Grants Pass to either raft on the Rogue River (stopping at Abacela Winery in Roseburg) or to access Highway 199 to the Coast.

If you’d rather not head north first, drive toward Medford from Crater Lake and stop in Prospect to see the lava tubes along the river at Natural Bridge Trail, and the waterfall at Mill Creek Falls. You’ll drop down into the Medford/Ashland area.

If you’re interested in rafting, many outfitters depart from Merlin, Oregon (north of Grants Pass), for either day trips or multi-day. There’s also hiking along the Rogue River, but it will be hot and exposed in summer.

For the best wineries in this area, I’d head to Ashland, Oregon, where you can enjoy the Shakespeare Festival or just enjoy the dining and shopping in town. Try Dana Campbell for good views while sipping Oregon wine! Then spend a day on the Applegate Wine Trail or Upper Rogue Wine Trail…either will combine beautiful scenery with great wine.

Where can we get the best view of the Wallowas?

There is a tramway at Wallowa Lake that goes up 3,700 feet to the summit of Mount Howard. The Wallowa Lake Tramway is the steepest tram in North America and ascends above the Wallowa Lake Village and Wallowa Lake. Taking the gondola gives you some of the most incredible views in Eastern Oregon. Back on the ground, you can extend your stay at some great campsites and cabins at Wallowa Lake.

Where can we go crabbing and boil our catch afterwards?

On the North Oregon Coast, one of the best places to go crabbing is Nehalem Bay. There, you will find Kelly’s Marina and Jetty Fishery, both of which offer crabbing gear rentals, crabbing docks or boat rentals and you can have your crab cooked just steps from where you caught it and enjoy the freshest crab ever.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on April 20th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

What are the rules on wild foraging in forests?

My very simple, condensed answer about foraging is: as long as you are picking small amounts of non-endangered species for personal use, it’s most likely going to be fine. (i.e. picking a few berries or mushrooms while you’re hiking) Regulations depend on what you want to pick, where you’re picking it and how much you want to pick. Small amounts for personal use are usually okay, but check to know how much “personal use” is. Here are some sites that might help:

I hope all the red tape doesn’t discourage you; every forest ranger I’ve ever met wants nothing more than to see people out enjoying the forest, and the Sweet Home ranger district even leads hikes where they teach people how to forage!

Where are the best places to fish for sturgeon?

Sturgeon are an excellent sport fish and relatively plentiful so you are sure to have action and catch some fish. It is catch and release. There are two areas I would suggest for sturgeon.

At the Oregon Coast, head to Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River in June and July. There is a lot of action with fish ranging from 30 inches to six feet and some larger.

Farther up the Columbia River in the Gorge, you can catch sturgeon near Troutdale/Portland and the Dalles from June through September. This fishery is mainly for the big females we call “oversize.”

My guide service takes fishing trips out of Astoria. For the Columbia River Gorge, you might want to contact Sky’s Guide Service or Sturgeon River Monsters.

Answered by David Johnson, Ask Oregon Fishing Expert on April 15th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

Are there really tree house hotels in Oregon?

Yes, here in Southern Oregon, we have the amazing Out ‘n About Treesort, filled with tree houses to stay overnight in. We had a wonderful experience there with kids, but of course it’s just as magical for adults. You’ll want to check the official website for up-to-date information on pricing.

The treesort is located outside of Cave Junction, Oregon, off Highway 199 (Redwood Highway). I would definitely suggest pairing a stay there with a visit to the nearby Oregon Caves National Monument or to the redwood groves on the Oregon Coast. Our favorite place is at Alfred Loab State Park on the Chetco River.

Astoria is a port of call for our cruise ship — can we walk into town from the dock?

It is a little over a mile from Astoria’s cruise ship dock to the heart of downtown Astoria. It is about 1.3 miles to the beginning of Astoria’s main downtown commercial district and about two miles to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria’s largest attraction on the riverfront.This can be a pleasant walk along Astoria’s paved Riverwalk that passes restaurants, brew pubs and working waterfront businesses. Another fun transportation option is Astoria’s historic riverfront trolley that runs parallel to the Riverwalk.

There is bus service from the Port of Astoria to downtown departing every 15 minutes (route 11). An all day pass is available for $7 that includes on and off privileges and is good for the trolley too. An all day pass for the trolley is only $2, but check the schedule to make sure it fits your needs (typically noon to 6 p.m. in spring and summer, but it’s weather dependent too).

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on April 12th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

Where are the best places to watch the sunset near Salem?

What a great question! Here are my ideas for good sunsets near Salem.

  1. Willamette Valley Vineyards is just south of Salem is on a hill facing west toward the Jory hills and the Coast range. The west facing views at Willamette Valley Vineyards are great any time of day, but when the sun is setting on a clear day  it’s really spectacular. Sitting on their patio with a bottle of wine watching the sun set…not a bad way to end the day.

 

  1. Minto-Brown Island Park is huge, full of trails and secluded spots, and it borders the Willamette River along the entire western boundary of the park. Take a trail down to the riverbank and you can get some nice sunset views with the colors reflecting on the river.

 

  1. Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge is located west of Salem (near Dallas) off of Highway 22. It’s great natural area with several trails, looking westward toward the Coast Range. I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve heard the hike to the Rich Guadnagno Observation Platform gives you nice sunset views from the top of Baskett Butte.

 

  1. Van Duzer Vineyard is very close to the Baskett Slough wildlife refuge and a great place to reward yourself with a glass of wine after a hike. Their tasting room is up on top of a hill with beautiful westward views.

 

Happy sunset watching! I hope you find some great views.

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