Portland, Oregon, is a popular destination for fun activities that range from the Portland Art Museum to the 189-acre Hoyt Arboretum and everything in between. With impeccable food, a stellar beer and wine scene, scenic views and outdoor adventures around every corner, Portland is a perfect place to visit for every lifestyle. Whether you're taking a vacation of many West Coast highlights, or you're a San Francisco native looking for a scenic road trip, you'll find the route from San Francisco to Portland on US-101 is both beautiful and intriguing. Pack up the family in a reliable, rugged vehicle and take on the fanciful forests, breathtaking coast, and quaint towns along this route. For a quicker, more direct route, you can take I-5 the entire way. Before you head out make sure you are prepared for the open road with our checklist of road trip essentials.
Drive Time from San Francisco to Portland: approximately 14 hours
Distance from San Francisco to Portland: approximately 715 miles
Best car for this road trip: SUV
If you're not a native, you'll want to take a tour of quintessential San Francisco highlights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, the Ferry Building at Pier 41, Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square before you leave. Residents and visitors alike can appreciate a good sing-along evening to their favorite musicals at The Castro Theater. Showing movie musicals on the big screen with subtitles, Sing-Along nights encourage audience members to belt out lyrics together; like a group karaoke night. Disney favorites, Grease, The Sound of Music and much more are some of the sing-along entertainment audiences can enjoy.
Before you leave town, swing by Tartine Manufactury, from the owners of the famous Tartine Bakery. Breakfast is served daily, and you can grab pastries for an on-the-go meal or sit down to delicious, plated meal. Just don't leave without a Pain au Chocolat for your road trip snack.
From San Francisco, take U.S. Route 101 North to your first road trip destination. Get off at exit 489, after roughly an hour on the road. With the first 55 miles of the trip taken care of, you can stop off to enjoy the highlights of Santa Rosa.
From Santa Rosa, it's slightly over two hours and about 100 miles northwest to Mendocino. Situated along the coast, this destination offers stunning ocean views and peaceful Pacific beaches. Visit Mendocino Headlands State Park for spring wildflowers or winter whale watching.
The visitor center for the park is in the Historic Ford House, which displays a scale diorama of the city as it was in 1890 along with gray whale bones, wildflower displays, and local art.
If your time in town covers lunchtime, swing by the Trillium Cafe & Inn for farm-to-table cuisine with ocean views and a culinary flower garden. Try the caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich or the locally-caught, peppered albacore tuna.
Settle in for about four hours on the road to knock out the next 200 miles of your trip. This is the last stretch of driving for the day.
After marveling at the natural beauty that abounds in Olympic National Park, make your way to Olympia. About an hour south of the park on U.S. 101, Olympia is the ideal stopping point on this road trip. Not only does Washington's capital city have plenty to do and see, but it's also the midpoint between Seattle and Portland.
While you're in town, be sure to stop by Percival Landing Park. Located in the heart of Olympia and on the shores of Puget Sound, this is a great place to stretch your legs, get the best views of the city, and catch an event or two. For dinner, swing by Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar for a satisfying meal of fresh seafood. If you feel like branching out from seafood, try their braised rabbit fried rice.
Stay in one of the hotels in South Capitol. Once you've rested up and gotten a great night's sleep, make your way over to the Olympia Farmers Market to peruse the local wares. This is a great place to grab a cup of coffee, sample the seasonal produce, and pick up a few baked goods for the road.
Eugene, Oregon, offers a selection of distinctive museums for a delightful diversion from the road. If you have children in your party, stop at the Adventure! Children's Museum for highlights such as a Shakespearian theater, archaeological dig site, and creative art lab. If you're interested in the area's history, consider visiting the Applegate Pioneer Museum or Bohemia Gold Mining Museum.
One of the more popular aspects of Eugene is the surrounding wineries. Check out King Estate, Noble Estate, and Capitello for some of the best wine the state has to offer along with serene backdrops and engaging tours.
It takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes to cover the 110 miles from Eugene to Portland on Interstate 5 North.
In this major metropolis, you'll find a wealth of attractions. Outdoor enthusiasts will find biking, hiking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, camping, and more in the surrounding woodlands. If you’re looking for similar activities but don’t want to leave the confines of the city, go on a kayak tour of downtown. Rent a kayak from the Portland Kayak Company, and take part in one of their guided tours along the Willamette River.
Visit the Oregon Zoo where you can explore an African rainforest, African savanna, Amazon flooded forest, and more. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry houses five halls with more than 200 exhibits covering everything from the first foods of indigenous peoples to the future of modern renewable energy.
If you've spent the day expending lots of energy, be sure to replace those burned calories with a sandwich from Lardo. Chow down on a pork belly Reuben or Pho'Rench Dip for unique takes on iconic sandwiches. It’s hard to visit Portland without grabbing a bite to eat at one of the city’s premier food trucks and carts. The Alder Street Food Cart Pod in downtown is the place to be. It’s a cornucopia of world cuisines. Split up, divide, and conquer as many carts as your family can handle.
Portland offers so much to do, staying for a few days is a necessity to truly get a taste of the city. You'll have no shortage of attractions to explore when you reach the end of your San Francisco to Portland journey.