For years, I’ve been seeing beautiful photos of the Oregon coast, filled with the famous stacks of rocks along the shoreline and long stretches of sandy beaches. Cannon Beach is one of the most well-known, featuring prominently in the 1980s movie The Goonies. I knew it would it be impossible for me to ever see it as a solo power wheelchair traveler, but as soon as I had somebody who could travel with me and drive an accessible rental van, I knew I had to try to go! I was thrilled when Travel Oregon agreed to host me to write about the wheelchair accessibility of the region, and it turned out to be a life-changing experience. Here are the details of my 4-day wheelchair accessible adventure in Portland and the Oregon coast!
Day 1 – Portland
Check-In/Breakfast at the Heathman Hotel. One of Portland’s most recognizable landmarks, the iconic Heathman Hotel blends rich history with a reverent appreciation for the arts. A cultural fixture since the day it opened in 1927, the hotel balances its vibrant past with modern sensibility. My accessible room was very spacious, the bed was low enough for me to transfer into by myself, and there was room under the bed for a hoist. They did not have a room with a roll in shower available, but the accessible tub had a fold down bench and several grab bars.
Before starting the day, we had a delicious breakfast at The Tavern, the restaurant located inside the Heathman hotel. The Tavern celebrates collaboration, innovation, and the spirit of culinary artistry, allowing you to experience a symphony of tastes, leaving a lasting impression. In collaboration with Oregon’s most celebrated artisans and makers, farmers, and fishers, the restaurant is connecting their place to the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest. Their culinary offerings are designed to represent the people, produce, farms, and fisheries that distinguish the region.
The Oregon Historical Society. The Oregon Historical Society is dedicated to making Oregon’s long, rich history visible and accessible to all. For more than a century, the Society has served as the state’s collective memory, gathering and preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, films, manuscripts, books, and oral histories. Researchers from around the world travel to the library, unearthing information that challenges conventional thinking. Curious individuals come to explore their family trees or discover the history of their homes or neighborhoods. Archaeologists, environmentalists, filmmakers, architects, novelists, artists, and others visit, asking questions, making discoveries, creating knowledge. They share the vast collection through thought-provoking museum exhibits and robust digital platforms. The wheelchair accessibility is fantastic, with plenty of space to maneuver between exhibits, an elevator to all three floors, and wheelchair accessible bathrooms.
Portland Museum of Art. This beautiful museum in downtown Portland is internationally renowned for its own experiences in the heart of the city’s cultural district on the beautiful South Park blocks. The museum presents exhibitions ranging from single artist retrospectives to historical surveys to major touring exhibitions from museums around the globe. Exhibitions feature works of art from the museum’s collections, as well as masterpieces on loan from museums and private collections worldwide. The wheelchair accessibility is fantastic with huge elevators, wide spaces for maneuvering, and accessible bathrooms.
Portland Farmers Market. The Portland Farmers Market is a nonprofit organization operating five different markets in the city. The markets provide a direct connection to more than 200 vendors with deep roots in Oregon and Southwest Washington, including farms, nurseries, bakeries, meat and seafood providers, cheese makers, and specialty food producers. The flagship market, which is the one downtown, is on the campus of Portland State University in South Park Blocks between Southwest College and Montgomery streets. The hours are every Saturday from 9 AM to 2 PM. Some bathrooms in the PSU buildings are open and available for use to shoppers.
Portland Japanese Garden. When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed the Garden to be “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.” The Garden sits nestled in the hills of Portland, Oregon’s iconic Washington Park, overlooking the city and providing a tranquil, urban oasis for locals and travelers alike. Designed in 1963, it encompasses 12 acres with eight separate garden styles, and includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. Most of the paths are paved, but others are packed gravel that should be easy for power wheelchair users. Manual chair users might need a little bit of assistance to get through the thicker gravel. Some parts of the paved paths are steep, so care should be taken going downhill. The shuttle that goes from between the ticket kiosk and visitors center to the gardens is accessible and comes by every 5 to 10 minutes.
Lunch at the Chart House. From its vantage point at the top of historic Terwilliger Boulevard, the Chart House seafood restaurant boasts some of the best seafood in Portland, as well as some of the city’s best views. I actually ate here during a business trip in 2007, and I was so happy to see that the views of Mount Hood from my table are just as majestic! In addition to unrivaled scenic dining, the Chart House also offers some of the most unique culinary creations you’re likely to find anywhere. Combining local ingredients with creative takes on steak and seafood, it’s no wonder that diners consider it to be among Portland’s best restaurants.
Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Tour. This stunning tour through the Columbia River Gorge takes advantage of the golden hours before sunset, giving you plenty of time to explore the area and capture stunning photos. The comfortable 14-passenger accessible van features large windows, offering unobstructed views of six stunning waterfalls, including Horsetail Falls, Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Shepperds Dell, and Latourell Falls. In addition, you’ll stop at the Crown Point Vista House and Oneonta Gorge for even more views. Your local guide is knowledgable and loves to share stories about the area while answering any questions you may have. Most of the 3 hour tour is spent exploring the waterfalls and learning about the area. You’ll have time for your own exploring as well as hearing from your guide what makes that place special.
The waterfall tour is family-friendly and suitable for people of all ages and abilities. They welcome families with children and elderly people. They do not have child seats, but do have a wheel chair ramp. Please notify them ahead of time at (541) 224-6717 if there is a need for the wheelchair ramp.
Day 2 – Cannon Beach and the Oregon Coast
Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is a famous, picturesque small-town village by the sea. It’s been recognized as the “best overall beach in Oregon,” one of America’s best art towns, and one of the world’s most beautiful places. Named after a naval cannon that washed up after a shipwreck in the 1840’s, Cannon Beach has a ton of character. Haystack Rock is a massive towering rock formation off the coast, with adjacent stone “needles,” vibrant tide pools, and flocks of seabirds adorning the landmark.
Nearby Ecola State Park is perched dramatically on the edge of a headland and offers panoramic coastal views, easy walking paths to scenic picnic areas, and extensive hiking trails. Known as one of the Northwest’s top art towns, Cannon Beach is replete with art galleries, specialty shops, cafes, and fine dining restaurants. Visitors can watch glass blowers at work in their studio or attend year-round live theater performances. This creative edge can be seen in everything from the sensibility of the town’s residents to the annual sandcastle building competition that spotlights stunning works of art adorning the sandy beach. The best view of Cannon Beach is from an overlook inside the state park. The gravel is relatively loose close to the fence along the cliffs edge, so it’s best for wheelchair users to stay on the paved path.
Pacific City Beach with David’s Chair. David’s Chair is a 501 C (3) nonprofit that allows people with mobility challenges to use their track chairs and Para Golfers for free. They do not manufacture chairs or help people purchase these outdoor mobility chairs, but rather own a fleet of track chairs and Para Golfers that they maintain for people to use free of charge. David’s Chair also hosts events called excursions at various locations throughout the year. The excursions are designed to allow a person with mobility challenges to go to one of our excursion locations to use our Track Chairs and not have to worry about transporting it. They also have the Tow and Go option for those that wish to tow one of their trailers paired with a track chair on their adventure.
At Pacific City Beach, I used a very special model of track chair that allowed me to stand fully upright, and still maneuver the chair around the sand! They allow you to use the chair for free for up to two hours, and you’d better believe that I milked that experience for every last minute. It was absolutely life-changing to trek across Pacific city beach at sunset!
Lunch at the Wayfarer Restaurant. The Wayfarer showcases its classic coastal seafood roots, with a menu focused on high quality, local, and seasonal ingredients: troll-caught salmon out of nearby Astoria, Dungeness crab with wild chanterelles, and fresh, local oysters. Grilled steaks and pan-iron chicken balance surf with the turf. Craft cocktails, Northwest beers on tap, and a whiskey bar accompany the beautiful ocean view. Breakfast and lunch are perfect for families, with favorites like cinnamon roll French toast, eggs Benedict four ways, a children’s menu, and a relaxed, sunny vibe.
Check-In at the Hallmark Resort. Located on the oceanfront, this beautiful Oregon coast resort features a salt water pool and spa. An ocean view and free Wi-Fi are provided in every room. A restaurant is onsite and the Oregon Coast Aquarium is 5 minutes’ drive away. Featuring a patio or balcony with an ocean view, each room provides free toiletries in the private bathroom at Hallmark Resort. Some rooms are also pet friendly, and room service is also available. Guests can enjoy on-site dining at Georgie’s Beachside Grill, where authentic northwest coast cuisine is offered for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I only got photos of one of the regular rooms, but aside from the hot tub, the layout is the same for the accessible room I stayed in. The bathroom had a roll in shower with a standalone seat, grab bars around the toilet, and I was able to self transfer into the bed. The accessible room I stayed in is on the ground floor, and while I was able to get out to the small patio slab outside the sliding doors, I wasn’t able to get past the concrete slab because the ground level patio area was loose gravel. In case you are temperature sensitive like me, please be aware that the resort does not have central air conditioning. However, they can provide a portable AC unit if necessary.
Day 3 – Newport and Nye Beach
Breakfast at Georgie’s. Waves crashing against the shore just outside a wall of windows. Steamer clams steeped in white wine, butter and garlic with freshly baked garlic bread on the table in front of you. Service that is relaxed, upscale, and family-friendly. That’s Georgie’s—with a distinctly modern atmosphere that mirrors the calm of the ocean and an eclectic menu featuring Northwest fare and a variety of favorites for every age and every palate. The breakfast portions we had were generous, and I was a particular fan of their pancakes!
Sea Lion Docks. Hear, see and smell the sea lions! The wooden sea lion docks at Port Dock One on Newport’s Bay Front have provided a haul-out for sea lions for over 18 years. They provide a unique opportunity for the public to observe these amusing and interesting animals close up. For many, this is the quintessential Newport experience. While it’s a completely flat entry to the dock, just be aware that it’s a bit of a bumpy ride. The wooden railing is pretty high, but you can easily see the sea lions through the wooden slats. You may want to bring some earplugs because they are pretty loud!
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area extends out from the Oregon coast, one mile into the Pacific Ocean. Standing 93 feet tall at the westernmost point of the basalt headland, the lighthouse has been a bright beacon of the night, guiding ships and their supplies along the west coast since the light was first lit on August 20, 1873. The interpretive center features exhibits on seabirds and marine life as well as human history from the headland. You can see the wheelhouse of an historic ship, check out recreated rocky island and its inhabitants, and witness a full scale replica of the lighthouse lantern. All BLM exhibits and interpretive specialists deliver the rich history of Yaquina Head.
Oregon Coast Aquarium. Exhibits at the Oregon Coast Aquarium range from those you can touch and hear to those you can see and explore, and models its habitats to mirror the natural environments found along Oregon’s shores. Indoor galleries allow you to peer into the wonders of the underwater world, complete with sea stars, jellies, and many other fish and invertebrates. It’s so fun to watch the underwater antics of seals, sea lions, and sea otters! Encounter denizens of the deep in Passages of the Deep, which features an underwater tunnel that snakes through three ocean habitats, complete with near 360-degree views of wolf eels, rockfishes, sturgeon, skates, bat rays and a variety of sharks. Find yourself surrounded by seabirds in our outdoor aviary, the largest of its kind in North America, featuring deep pools and rocky cliff sides that mimic Oregon’s coastline. The aquarium is relatively small and you should be able to see the entire thing in an hour or less. Just note that the outdoor areas are all packed gravel, and it’s hilly in some spots.
Nye Beach with David’s Chair. I had a similar experience to Pacific City in Nye Beach, just outside of Newport, with David’s chair, and it was totally amazing! Just like my other experience, I was transferred from my personal chair into the track chair in the parking lot, then rolled down a ramp onto the sand. This chair did not rise up, but I was able to go a few inches into the water along a very wide and flat beach during a stunning sunset.
Dinner at Local Oceans Seafoods. When Local Ocean’s doors first opened in 2005, owners Laura Anderson and fisherman Al Pazar envisioned “a fish market with a little restaurant attached.” People the world-over demand Oregon’s wild seafood for its superior quality and flavor. Every dish they create features sustainably caught seafood, which helps to ensure the long-term health of the oceans and local fishing industry. I absolutely could not get enough of the halibut ceviche! Parking might be a challenge on the street, especially during busy evenings, so plan for that. Space is a little cramped indoors, but the staff will do everything they can to help you out.
Day 4 – Seal Rock and Portland
Adaptive Kayaking with Adventures Without Limits. This incredible nonprofit believes that everyone has the right to enjoy the mental, physical, and social benefits of time spent outdoors. Unfortunately, outdoor recreation is not always accessible, affordable, or a safe and welcoming space for all people. This is where Adventures Without Limits comes in! Their adaptive programs are led by a skilled team of guides that have experience working with folks from diverse life experiences and are a wiz of adaptive outdoor recreation equipment. Their vision is simple – to bring people of all ability levels and backgrounds together to enjoy the great outdoors. It was a life-changing experience to go adaptive kayaking for the first time in my life, and they had every possible piece of adaptive equipment you can imagine to help people with a wide variety of disabilities get on the water!
Check-In at Hyatt Centric. This was a perfectly located hotel from which to end our Portland adventure! It has 220 boutique rooms and suites with eclectic touches inspired by the local surroundings. Opt for a chic corner room with city views or get more space in a stylish one-bedroom suite. My ADA accessible room was spacious and very comfortable with a very nice roll-in shower Once you’ve dropped your bags, step outside and begin to explore the Pearl District and beyond! We stayed here to be close to the stadium for a major league soccer game, and it was a very easy 10 minute roll to get there. There are also tons of restaurants and shops nearby.
Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Prior to visiting Portland, I had never been to a major league soccer game, and I’m so glad this is the city where I was able to do it for the first time! The energy was absolutely crazy, the general admission fan section was cheering and yelling for the entire duration of the game, and fans were more than happy to explain everything that was going on. We had wonderful seats in the ADA section, and the entire stadium was very easy to navigate in my wheelchair. The Timbers defeated the Los Angeles Football Club, so there was green smoke and happiness all around at the end of the night!
If this sounds like a type of wheelchair accessible adventure you’d like to embark upon, please reach out to Travel Oregon for assistance with crafting the itinerary of a lifetime!