Travel is our way of acquiring our own stories to tell—extending and enriching our autobiographies. From the stately peaks of the Wallowa Mountains to Oregon’s free-spirited coast, Oregon holds a tome’s worth of chapters to make your own. But as any seasoned traveler knows, where you stay is as much a part of the experience as the sites you see and the people you meet.
That’s where these storied hotels, lodges and inns come in.
Some of these properties, such as the Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge or Black Walnut Inn, indulge guests with world-class hospitality in out-of-this-world locations. The Timberline Lodge and the Ashland Springs Hotel ooze Oregon history, while the Cannery Pier Hotel and McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School offer top-notch lodging in novel locations. One thing that you’re guaranteed with these 12 hotels is a unique, comfortable experience that promises to set the scene for your next Oregon adventure.
Architect and Astoria native Robert “Jake” Jacob spent 14 years designing and building this 46-room boutique hotel on a 100-year-old pier that was once the site of the Union Fish Cannery (where Jacob’s father worked in the 1970s). The hotel, which opened in 2005, pays tribute to that heritage with rich photographical history of Astoria’s unsung heroes of the gillnet fishing industry. (A thin volume that tells the history of the area and of the cannery, Fins, Finns and Astorians by Greg Jacob, is well worth picking up in the gift shop if it’s not already in your room.) Guests of the Cannery Pier enjoy such amenities as en-suite fireplaces, claw-foot bath tubs and private balconies offering some of the best views of the four-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge and the massive tankers huffing up the mouth of the Columbia channel. Most rooms in the hotel hover directly over the Pacific inlet waters, giving guests the feeling of being in the quarters of a luxury liner sans seasickness. Although downtown Astoria is an easy walk, the trip is more fun on one of the hotel’s cruiser bikes, or in a chauffeured ride in its 1939 Buick or 1946 Cadillac. Info: 888.325.4996/cannerypierhotel.com
Snoozing in class is encouraged in this 1936 Catholic schoolhouse turned destination hotel, pub, brewery and movie theater in downtown Bend. Its parochial past is widely displayed in photographs, murals and memorabilia. Overnight guests bunk down in one of 19 cozy guestrooms–most of which were once classrooms–or rent one of four peripheral cottages. Be sure to pack your bathing suit. Father Luke wouldn’t approve of skinny dipping in the indoor soaking pool. Info:877.661.4228/mcmenamins.com
Rustic luxury is the name of the game at FivePine Lodge, a 35-acre retreat straddling the town of Sisters and the Deschutes National Forest. The two-year-old lodge is the brainchild of Bill and Zoe Willits and their son, Greg, who set out to build a “sustainable campus” that promotes health, balance and adventure. Stay in one of the eight cozy rooms in the main lodge or opt for one of the 24 detached cottage suites tucked among towering Ponderosa pines. Handmade Mission-style furniture, fireplaces, waterfall tubs and plush pillowtop beds come standard in every room. Walk to downtown Sisters to explore shops and restaurants or hop on the Peterson Ridge Trail for 17 miles of single-track mountain biking, hiking or trail running. Guests have full access to the Sisters Athletic Club, which includes an indoor lap pool, hot tub and full workout facilities. The lodge’s Shibui Spa is a destination of its own. The 6,000-square-foot sanctuary houses nine treatment rooms, a thermal soaking tub, a Swedish sauna and a 120-year-old Buddha. Info: 866.974.5900/fivepinelodge.com
Opened in 2008, this 174-room hotel near Portland’s historic South Park Blocks is a case study in urban renewal. What was once a run-down Days Inn is now a Mid-Century Modern boutique hotel that is as hospitable as it is hip. Guest provisions include plush linens, Italian toiletries and cozy bathrobes. One of the property’s best features is its outdoor zen-like courtyard with a 63-foot-long leafy living wall tucked between the lobby and the new Nel Centro restaurant. Info: 877.484.1084/hotelmodera.com
When it was built in 1925, the nine-story Lithia Springs Hotel, as it was called then, was the tallest building between Portland and San Francisco and a popular stopping point for well-heeled travelers. The hotel, which is just steps from the renown Oregon Shakespeare Festival, changed hands many times over the next 70 years and was shuttered in 1997. Then in 1998, Ashland residents Doug and Becky Neuman bought the building and spent two years restoring the Oregon landmark to its original grandeur- with some modern additions. While all of the historic features, such as the original terrazzo floors and Mica chandeliers, put the hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel’s 70 rooms are continuously updated and stocked with such creature comforts as Italy’s fine Frette linens, flatscreen televisions, and Gilchrist & Soames bath products. The hotel’s Larks-Home Kitchen Cuisine specializes in “farm to table” comfort food including homemade meatloaf and maple-glazed pork chops. Info: 888.795.4545/ashlandspringshotel.com
The top nine floors of the historic Meier & Frank department store building across from Pioneer Square is an unlikely location for one of Portland’s most posh hotels, and that’s just the point. This 331-room hotel, which opened in late 2008 following a $115 million renovation, is full of surprises. Its lobby resides inside a sunny seven-story atrium sunk in the middle of this block-long building, giving guests of the interior rooms an ideal perch for people-watching. The rooms pair Louis XVI-inspired armchairs with modern faux-leather headboards and linens. And while no one would guess at first sight, the luxuriously appointed property may soon be one of only a handful of U.S. hotels to obtain a silver LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Even the art has a story to tell; no mass-produced prints on these walls. Nationally-renowned arts manager, Paige Powell, commissioned local artists to sculpt and paint original artwork displayed throughout the hotel. Info: 877.229.9995/starwoodhotels.com/thenines
In 2002, native Oregonians Karen and Neal Utz collaborated with their son, Portland Culinary Institute-trained chef Kris Utz, to build this Tuscan-style villa, which sits on 42 acres of private forest, orchards and vineyards in the Red Hills of Dundee. The nine-suite inn melds Old-World artistry with all the accoutrements of a modern boutique hotel and ambience of a working winery. (Next year marks the first release of the Black Walnut Inn & Vineyards’ Pinot noir.) Guests are treated to gourmet breakfasts, afternoon refreshments and awe-inspiring views. Despite its private setting, the inn is an ideal jumping-off point for touring Willamette Valley’s wine country. There are more than 100 wineries within a 20-minute drive. Info: 866.429.4114/blackwalnut-inn.com
Movie buffs know this National Historic Landmark as the exterior set for the 1980 thriller “The Shining,” and history buffs know it as one of the more ambitious projects to come out of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Yet, the 1930s-era lodge, with its rough-cut stones and exposed timbers, is impressive even without the back story. Set up base camp in a bunk room, enjoy a romantic getaway in a fireplace suite or invite the whole family for a weekend at the Silcox Hut, a 24-person cabin located above the lodge at 7,000 feet. Wednesdays throughout August, you can catch the free Timberline Mountain Music Series with some of the West’s best bluegrass and folk performers. Info: 503.272.3311/timberlinelodge.com
Innkeepers Heather Tyreman and Bill Finney like to say their 1925 Craftsman bungalow is a “no frills” bed and breakfast. The reason: no lace. While the inn may be short on chintz, it isn’t lacking in amenities. Its four suites are softened with down comforters and pillows, high-thread-count linens and soaking tubs. Napping, says Tyreman, is a favorite pastime among guests. That isn’t, however, for lack of other things to do. After a morning feast that might include farm-fresh eggs, onions sautéed with apples and caraway seeds, and tomatoes with herbes de Provence, visitors can wander Joseph’s art galleries and boutiques, hike to nearby Wallowa Lake or hop on the Wallowa Lake Tramway for a 3,700-foot climb up Mt. Howard. After a day out and about, refuel with the inn’s signature Guittard chocolate fudge brownies. Info: 866.520.9769/bronzeantler.com
Just steps from the beach and with up-close views of the 250-foot-high Haystack Rock, the Stephanie Inn has long been one of the places to stay on the Oregon coast. And a recent $5 million head-to-toe update makes this classic Cannon Beach getaway that much more compelling. All 41 of the inn’s rooms and suites have been revamped with new décor and fully-renovated bathrooms. Another notable addition: The hotel’s new spa includes two treatment rooms, each with steam shower, Finnish sauna and jetted soaking tub. A good place to curl up with a book and a glass of wine, the inn’s renowned reading room was renovated for comfort. Info: 800.633.3466/stephanie-inn.com
In 1993, Chef Maurizio Paparo revamped this circa 1912 University of Oregon sorority house into a European-style restaurant and inn. Paparo, who is a stickler for using local ingredients in his native Italian cuisine, also pulled in local artists to create the stained glass and iron work that add authenticity to the Excelsior’s Old World décor. The inn’s 14 rooms, meanwhile, are decked out with marble and tile bathrooms, cherry furniture and soft linens. The effect is classic yet comfortable, like a good home-cooked meal. Info: 800.321.6963/excelsiorinn.com
The Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge (pronounced too-TOOT-in) takes its name from the indigenous Tututni, known as the “people by the water.” And, no doubt, a visit to this retreat on Rogue River–where Chinook salmon run in the spring and fall, and steelhead run in the summer and winter–is all about the water. All of the lodge’s 16 rooms and two suites have river views, and many have fireplaces and outdoor soaking tubs. A hot breakfast du jour, as well as a hearty spread of homemade muffins, granola and local berries, awaits guests in the morning. In the evening, you can partake in the lodge’s own take on a Northwest Indian “potlatch,” which is likely to include a mesquite-grilled catch of the day and the inn’s signature hot lemon-cranberry popovers. There’s more to the lodge, of course, than eating and sleeping. Take one of the lodge’s sea kayaks to explore the Rogue on your own, or hire a guide and head upstream into the Wild and Scenic section of the river, which is not only home to some of the best fly-fishing in the country, it’s a great place to spy eagles, osprey, otters and the occasional bear. Info: 800.864.6357/tututun.com