Oregon’s rocky and pristine northern coast makes for an easy day trip from Portland; the drive takes about 90 minutes and passes over the jagged peaks of the Coast Range. Base your explorations in the artsy, laid-back towns of Cannon Beach and Manzanita, which are separated by 15 miles of absolutely eye-popping scenery. Smaller and a bit more remote, Manzanita has a handful of compelling art galleries and cafés; we like Osborne Studio & Gallery (641 Manzanita Avenue; 503-368-7518; www.osbornestudio.com) for its works depicting Northwest flora and fauna. In Cannon Beach, you’ll find nearly four miles of smooth beach punctuated by dramatic volcanic rock formations, plus some lovely inns and restaurants—for dinner, try Gower Street Bistro (1116 S. Hemlock Street; 503-436-2729; www.gowerstbistro.com), serving creatively prepared seafood and exquisite cheese and charcuterie plates.
Tip: For an eagle-eye view up and down the coastline, make the 2.5-mile hike to the 1,634-foot summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. It’s part of Oswald West State Park, midway between Cannon Beach and Manzanita.