One of the most thorough guides we've found to Pacific Northwest travel is Hidden Pacific Northwest by Eric Lucas, published by Ulysses Press. The fact that the book is now in its ninth edition and first appeared in 1992 shows that it must be doing something right. At almost 700 pages and regularly updated, it's definitely a guide to think about buying to help you plan those trips and tours in the wonderful Pacific Northwest.
This comprehensive travel guide covers not only Oregon and Washington, which is of course its main interest to we Pacific Coast Highway fans, it also takes in Vancouver, Victoria, and coastal British Columbia.
The main author is Eric Lucas, who also wrote Hidden British Columbia and is a keen fisherman and backpacker, while the updater of this most recent 2009 edition is Richard Harris. As guidebook writers and updaters ourselves we know what a thankless, laborious but all-important task it is. Harris has written or co-written more than 35 other guidebooks, including many in this same 'Hidden' series, and has also worked for names like Fodor's and John Muir Publications.
The book opens with a 15-page color section, giving a page each to topics such as Northwest Indian Art, Hiking, Camping, Beaches, Ethnic Eateries, Bed & Breakfasts, and Boutique Hotels. It's followed by essays on other subjects including Geology, History, Flora and Fauna, and a Calendar of Events. There's then a practical section with advice for Traveling with Children, Women Traveling Alone, Senior Travelers, Disabled Travelers, and outdoors topics including Fishing, Biking, Camping, Boating, Windsurfing, and Kayaking & Canoeing.
All this is before you get to the meat of the book: about 600 pages of thorough and practical Pacific Northwest travel advice. Let's take a look at the Oregon Coast section, to check out the book's format and style. There are almost 60 pages, and the type is quite small which means you get a lot packed in, but it's not so small that you have trouble reading it, which definitely happens with some guidebooks we've seen. There's a map and almost three pages of introduction, telling the history of the area and giving an overview.
The Oregon coast is then sub-divided into North, Central, and South Coast regions. Each region starts with a mini-introduction, and a north-to-south listing of the main towns and sights. There are then two pages of Lodging and two pages of Dining recommendations, covering all price ranges with one-paragraph reviews and all the contact details you need. Finally there are a few pages of listings for Shopping, Nightlife, and Beaches and Parks. Each chapter then concludes with several pages on Outdoor Adventures, and Transportation options, including car rental and public transport choices.
It all sounds pretty straightforward stuff, but from checking the write-ups for places we know, I can see that the coverage is good and reliable. Most of the best hotels and restaurants seem to be covered – not everything in the book is 'Hidden', but there are some off-the-beaten-track places which are singled out for special mentions. One irritation for me was the fact that the entries aren't listed in alphabetical order but in geographical order, so that, for example, the Wheelhouse Seafood Grill in Bandon comes before Paula's Bistro in Port Orford, further south. But that is a very minor criticism in what is certainly one of the most detailed guides we've seen to Pacific Northwest travel.
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