Drive 12 miles Northwest from Portland along the Willamette River, past the St. Johns Bridge and Forest Park, and you’ll come to Sauvie Island. The island is 26,000 acres of fertile farm land and wildlife habitat at the intersection of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, and it’s home to multitude of family farms, pumpkin patches, wildlife refuges, and beaches.
A trip to Sauvie Island is one of the most quintessential Portland traditions, and it’s also one of the best places to get a break from the grind of city life. People drive, bike, and bus out to the island in droves to get a breath of fresh air and to see the natural world put in center stage. It’s the type of place you go when you need to put a little more life in your work-life balance. We headed out there for a quick day trip this month because we wanted to share our favorite things to do on Sauvie Island.
Find the Right Transportation
Sauvie Island has some of the most beautiful, pastoral landscape you’ll find anywhere, so finding the right transportation makes the trip that much better. Many people bike around Sauvie Island, but cyclists should consider that most of the roads don’t have shoulders and traffic can get very busy on the weekends. (In general, it’s best to beat the crowds by going to Sauvie Island during the week.) Motorcycle is another great way to see the island, but we chose this beautiful MG MGB convertible loaned to us by a friend for our day of adventure and island sightseeing (thanks Trevor!).
Go Berry Picking
This time of year is perfect for berry picking, when the berries are plump, juicy and totally irresistible. We went to Columbia Farms U-Pick this time, although Kruger Farms is a friend of Schoolhouse and another classic U-Pick farm (it’s an especially popular pumpkin patch). On our trip, the blueberries were just coming into ripeness while the strawberries and raspberries were at their peak deliciousness. It’s always a challenge to make sure more berries end up in your basket than your belly, but you end up a winner no matter the outcome.
Have a Picnic on the Beach
While the ocean is only an hour and change from Portland, the sandy shores of Sauvie Island make for a good replacement when you want to be back in town by dinner time. On our trip, the wind blew the clouds around high above—wind is an ever-present part of Sauvie Island. But the weather was still warm and pleasant as we laid out our picnic spread, so we didn’t mind. Our basket was full of baguettes from Grand Central Bakery (a neighbor of ours), as well as charcuterie and the berries we picked at Columbia Farms. There is nothing more relaxing than a midday lunch out near the water. Summer just isn't complete without a picnic or two and the Sauvie Island beaches make you feel like your on vacation almost instantly.
Peruse a Nursery
Because Sauvie Island has such amazing soil, it’s the perfect place to put a nursery. Cistus Nursery is a purveyor of beautiful greenery for inside and outside the home. (You may have seen some of them around Portland since their founder Sean Hogan is also one of the area’s leading landscape designers.) Stepping into a greenhouse at Cistus feels like walking in a tropical forest or even in some dreamy new ecosystem you’ve never heard of before. While the Pacific Northwest’s cold, wet winters can be hard on many varieties of plants, the team at Cistus has worked hard to find unique plants from all over the world that can tolerate and thrive in our environment. This spectacular oasis of flora is a must-visit on the island.
Pick Your Own Flowers
The long growing season means there is almost always something in bloom if the weather is warm enough to be outside, and some of these places will allow you to take flowers home with you. We saw gorgeous fields of flowers at Sauvie Island Farms, and while it wasn’t on our original itinerary, we couldn’t help but stop to pick a few for ourselves. Our final stop was in the seemingly endless fields of lavender at the Sauvie Island Lavender Farm. Honey bees floated plumply around and small birds swooped briskly about. The smell of lavender and the sight of acre after acre in beautiful purple bloom sets your head right with the world.
There’s only one Sauvie Island, and its proximity to Portland is part of what makes the city unique. Every Portland resident should try to visit it at some point—it would just feel wrong not to! Regardless of where you live though, getting out of the city (or even just away from the stress of day-to-day life) and into nature is an energizing and restorative experience that everyone should pursue.