The coast’s best deal isn’t a cheap hotel room or fish dinner. It’s a NW Connector visitor pass: your public transit ticket from Portland to Astoria to Yachats, plus I-5 connections with Longview, Salem, and Albany/Corvallis ($25 for three days, $30 for a week, paid in cash when you board). A partnership of five agencies, the pass gets you to Astoria’s Riverwalk, the Salmonberry Saloon, and the Tillamook Creamery.
Here’s how it works: daily buses depart Portland’s Union Station for Astoria at 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; others leave for Tillamook at 11:20 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. (Also hop the Tillamook route from Beaverton’s Sunset Transit Center.)From the coast, map out a multiday adventure from the gaps between buses—which, in vacation mode, become opportunities to explore small towns like Nehalem, Wheeler, or Garibaldi. One perk: no need for parking on Seaside’s main drag. And with a designated (bus) driver, why not check out the Merry Time Bar opposite the Astoria Transit Center, or de Garde Brewing a block from the Tillamook library bus stop?
The pass, established in 2013, has yet to attract many tourists. That means you’re mostly sharing a 28-seat bus with locals as you sail down Highway 101—Seaside-Astoria commuters, folks headed to work (or shop) at Warrenton’s new Walmart, clinic-bound Willie Nelson look-alikes—plus the occasional nomad-dog combo or foreigner on a global walkabout. On a recent jaunt, every driver seemed like a graduate of the Mr. Rogers School of Helping: watching for mobility-challenged riders near the Bay City post office, offering a bathroom break (or a cup of coffee) at the transit center in St. Helens, earnestly apologizing for running a few minutes late. That’s another perk of NW Connector: you’re definitely not riding TriMet.