Harried city dwellers and nature lovers find sanctuary in this Portland suburb.
Low green hills, oak trees, and tidy hazelnut orchards surround the Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, Ore., in a scene reminiscent of the French countryside. It’s an ideal place to show up with some cheese and fruit, purchase a bottle of pinot noir, then lay claim to one of the picnic tables outside. You’re only 30 minutes west of Portland on U.S. 26, which makes Hillsboro an easy-to-reach escape from city stresses.
The biggest town in the fertile Tualatin Valley, Hillsboro (population 84,445) sits at the center of the so-called Silicon Forest, where high-tech companies such as Intel and FEI have bloomed. But the area’s agricultural roots run deep, as evidenced by the nurseries, wineries, and berry and hazelnut farms just outside town. Some offer tours that let you sample the bounty. From May to October you can also make tracks to the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market. Vendors set up on Main Street and Second Avenue on Saturdays and at Orenco Station on Sundays.
At the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, you can follow 4.5 miles of trails through 725 acres of marshland teeming with wildlife. The barnlike education center is a good first stop before you visit one of the lookout huts to watch for otters, beavers, bald eagles, great blue herons, and other creatures.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve may be the only place in the country where you can see a bald eagle’s nest—weighing 1,500 pounds—on display.
For natural wonders with a bit more sparkle, head across town to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. The shimmering specimens include agate from Argentina, turquoise from Mexico, and the Alma Rose, a grouping of five cherry-red rhodochrosite crystals from Colorado.
At the Stratford House Tea Parlour in downtown Hillsboro, you can browse for antiques and then sit down to a steaming cup of tea, choosing from 40 varieties. The nearby Hillsboro Pharmacy, in business since 1873, serves up thick milk shakes from its original soda fountain.
If you’re a bit more culinarily adventurous, consider the Syun Izakaya Japanese Restaurant & Sake Club. This eatery, located in the basement of the old Hillsboro Public Library, entices patrons with some 70 appetizers, creative sushi rolls, and more than 50 kinds of sake. Sup on one of the house favorites: char-grilled squid with horseradish or steamed clams in sake. Leave room for the rich but surprisingly refreshing Earl Grey pudding. It’s the perfect finish to a day in the country.
Photography by Bruce Forster
This article was first published in March 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.