Top Five Reasons to Visit Portland, Oregon

25 January 2017

Stumptown, PDX, the City of Roses or Brewvana - the city of Portland in Oregon has no shortage of nicknames, and it's definitely a hip and happening place to spend a few days. Improved flight options through Hawaii or the west coast of the United States means it's easy to reach for New Zealanders, and because Oregon has no state sales tax, it's one of the most affordable American destinations for Kiwi travellers.

Food Carts

Portland 1 Food carts, Portland. Photo: Brett Atkinson

More than 600 food carts dot Portland's streets, most announcing their daily location via tasty Twitter posts or colourful Instagram feeds. From Kim Jong Grillin' to The Frying Scotsman, many have puntastic names, but there's no trade off in flavour at famous stops like Thai chicken and rice at Nong's Khao Man Gai, or the comfort food perfection of the Grilled Cheese Grill. Korean-style tacos from Boolkogi and Malaysian potato curry dumplings at The Dump Truck are other sidewalk treats worth seeking out.

Craft Beer

Portland 2 Bike frames and craft beer list at Hopworks Urban Brewing. Photo: Brett Atkinson

Our very own craft beer hub of Wellington has been dubbed the 'Portland of the South Pacific', but with around 60 breweries in Portland, our national capital still has a way to go. The craft beer scene in the Pacific Northwest is spectacular, and many breweries in Portland have developed unique profiles in the local scene. Base Camp Brewing - with aluminum bottles easily cooled in mountain streams - targets hikers and climbers, while Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) is decked out in serious cycling style. It's worth considering a guided brewery tour to make the most of an afternoon sampling hoppy IPAs and surprising saisons and sour beers.

Coffee and doughnuts

Portland 3 Voodoo Donuts. Photo: Brett Atkinson

Yes it's true, Portland does get its fair share of rainy weather, but the upside is being able to hang out in cool spots around town. To get to know your Chemex from your cold brew, grab a seat at Stumptown Coffee and settle in with a soundtrack of local bands like The Shins or The Decemberists. Just a short stroll through downtown is Voodoo Doughnuts – motto, 'The Magic is in the Hole' – where the music of the day could range from Johnny Cash to Depeche Mode. Interesting flavours include lemon chiffon or banana, peanut butter and cinnamon, and you can also pick up flavoured beers made in conjunction with Oregon's Rogue Ales.

Powell's City of Books

Portland 4 One of the many, many aisles of books at Powell's City of Books. Photo: Kenny Louie / Creative Commons.

While a Kindle is a great addition to any holiday, we're also always keen to check out interesting books at local book shops. Dominating an entire block in Portland's up and coming Pearl District, Powell's City of Books is the world's biggest independent book store, and a brilliant place to pick up titles on Oregon's interesting food and beer scenes. The travel section is seemingly the size of a small European principality, and it's easy to get pleasantly lost as you go walkabout discovering hard to find books on hard to reach countries. Maybe pack a GPS.

Bicycling

Portland 5 The author and his wife Carol biking by the Willamette River, Portland. Photo: Brett Atkinson

With more than 350km of bike lanes, Portland is one of the planet's most bicycle-friendly cities, and cruising along the banks of the Willamette River or past the loft apartments, cafes and craft breweries of urban villages like the Pearl District is a great way to get to know the city. Bikes are available for self-hire to negotiate the various bridges crossing the river, but it's also a good idea to take a leisurely guided tour. That way you'll find out local information like the fact that Matt Groening, the Portland-born creator of The Simpsons, called characters in the show after city streets including Flanders, Burns and Lovejoy!

Brett Atkinson

Brett Atkinson is a full-time travel and food writer who specialises in adventure travel, unusual destinations, and surprising angles on more well-known destinations. He's based in Auckland but frequently on the road for Lonely Planet and other publishers in New Zealand and abroad. @travelwriterNZ