Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, are the pillars of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Although they may be considered rival cities, they're a lot like siblings, boasting more similarities than they care to admit. Still, though, each has its own personality and attractions. The two are connected by the famous I-5 highway that stretches the entirety of the West Coast, from Mexico to Canada. Because they're only 174 miles (280 kilometers) apart, driving is the most common transportation option. Alternatively, you can travel by bus, train, or plane.
|Bus||3 hours to 4 hours, 30 minutes||from $10||Minding a budget|
|Plane||45 minutes||from $75||Arriving on a time crunch|
|Train||3 hours, 30 minutes||from $18||A scenic and reliable public transportation option|
|Car||3 hours in mild traffic||174 miles (280 kilometers)||Exploring the local area|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Seattle to Portland?
If budget is a priority and time is not a worry, then taking the bus is probably the best option. There are three bus lines that run this route—Greyhound, Boltbus, and Flixbus—each offering departures several times per day. The trip takes between three hours and four and a half hours (depending on traffic and the number of stops) and one-way tickets start at $10. Flixbus tends to be the fastest and the cheapest.
All buses depart from the Greyhound Station in Seattle (503 South Royal Brougham Way) and arrive at a curbside stop located at 1090 Northwest Station Way in Portland. Because Greyhound sold its bus station in Portland's Chinatown in 2019, all buses now drop off just a few blocks away from it.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Seattle to Portland?
The fastest way to get to Portland from Seattle is to fly. According to Skyscanner, the flight takes only 45 minutes and costs as little as $75, but be prepared to spend upwards of $100 during peak travel times. There are six airlines that offer direct flights between the two, including American, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, and Alaska Airlines, which is the most popular. Altogether, they make more than 200 trips per week.
Flights depart from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac, as the locals call it), 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the center, and arrive at Portland International Airport (PDX), about 10 miles from downtown.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
The second fastest way to get to Portland from Seattle—and arguably the most fun—is to drive. With two very busy city centers on either side, this 174-mile (280-kilometer) route can get pretty backed up, especially during rush hour. In the best conditions, it takes two hours, 40 minutes. In the worst, it's more like four hours. Plan your travel times accordingly.
You can rent a car from Seattle for as little as $16 per day (prices vary greatly), but be prepared to pay $4 per hour to park in downtown Portland. The most direct route is to take I-5 South, a straight shot through Tacoma and Olympia; however, you might be inclined to break up the journey with stops along the way.
How Long Is the Train Ride?
Besides driving, flying, or taking the bus, the Amtrak train is also an option. This route—named the Cascades, after the mountain range it runs alongside—is slightly less scenic than driving, but still offers views of the Tacoma waterfront and Mt. Rainier on a clear day. It takes about three and a half hours to get from Seattle King Street Station to Portland Union Station and costs $18 or more for a one-way ticket. Trains depart every few hours between 8:20 a.m. and 7:20 p.m. The last train arrives in Portland at 10:50 p.m.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Portland?
People are constantly traveling between these two cities for business, both by ground and by air, so it's best to plan your travel around busy rush hour times. As far as seasons go, Portland's fall, winter, and spring are generally very wet. The rainy season starts in October and doesn't end until May, but that doesn't stop the locals from getting out to explore and it shouldn't stop you, either. You'll find the cheapest flights and accommodation during this time, too. If you'd rather go during nice weather, then summertime is pretty much your only option, but be prepared for the city to be packed with tourists.
What’s the Most Scenic Route to Portland?
The drive from Seattle to Portland is just as fun as the destination. Cruising the I-5—that famous highway that goes from Mexico to Canada—is a bucket list adventure in itself. Many like to stop off in Tacoma, 40 minutes south of Seattle, to pop into a museum (the Tacoma Art Museum, the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, or the LeMay America’s Car Museum), or pass the city entirely and go straight for the wetlands of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge instead.
Washington State’s Capitol, located off Exit 105 in Olympia, is a lovely place to stretch the legs, especially during spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming. Further on down the road, you'll get a glimpse of towering metal sculptures of Jesus and Mother Teresa (the Gospodor Monuments).
If you really want to make a road trip of it, take Exit 49 and follow Highway 504 to Mount St. Helens, an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington. Make your way up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, where you'll get a spectacular view of the mountain and its massive crater.
Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?
If you choose to save some money and take public transportation instead of a taxi into the center from Portland International Airport, then you can board the MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) Light Rail for just $2.50. These trains travel between the MAX station (on the lower level, next to the south baggage claim area) from 4:45 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. It takes about 35 minutes to get to the Pioneer Square North MAX Station downtown. After that, it hits residential areas outside of the center and ends at Beaverton.
What Is There to Do in Portland?
Portland is a hipster haven flanked by lush forests and mountains. The people here are generally very liberal, outdoorsy, and environmentally friendly, and the city is a reflection of that demographic. Craft breweries and coffee roasteries are the preferred hangouts and the donuts are famous, thanks to mega-popular Voodoo Doughnuts. Between eating sweets and drinking beer or coffee, tourists can take a walk through the 12-acre traditional Japanese Garden, complete with a serene waterfall, or visit the Pittock Mansion, a French Renaissance-style château, both located in the West Hills. As far as outdoor spaces go, Portland has no shortage of them: Washington Park and its International Rose Test Garden, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and the Hoyt Arboretum. Kids will love the hands-on science and technology exhibits at OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), which has a planetarium, too.