Central Oregon is a treasure of towns with endless good times and secret spots that are not to be missed. Take Madras, Oregon, with its population of 7,000 people and convergence of two canyons from the Crooked River and the Deschutes River. It’s a magical setting with lots of wildlife, interesting sights you won’t find anywhere, and views for days. Make this a season to remember by stopping in for great food, a lake adventure, and a frolic through lavender fields. Take a drive, find a hike, and escape the city, if only for a weekend. There’s no better time to hit the road. Ready to plan a Madras getaway? Click your pens and open that calendar.
GRAB A BITE
Madras, Oregon is brimming with good eats and lots of variety. Here are the can’t miss spots to dine, drink, and feast, including insider tips on delicious fare for your stay.
For caffeine & healthy options: Look no further than Great Earth Cafe market in downtown Madras. They have it all: smoothies, specialty sandwiches, new outdoor seating, and they pride themselves on their clean ingredients. Expect fast service and tasty bites to fuel your adventures! (PS: for lunch, the New Yorker and Chicken Peanut Wrap are amazing).
Diner vibes for breakfast & lunch: Get ready for a classic, slightly rustic Americana eatery at its best. Black Bear Diner is homey and fun, with top-notch service and generous portions. Go for the handmade shakes, stay for the veggie hash and great atmosphere.
An authentic Mexican experience: For delicious food and an experience to remember, don’t forget to stop at Rio restaurant. This gem of Central Oregon is known for its incredible mole, friendly service, and fresh tableside guacamole. The vegetarian options are unique and packed with flavor, and margaritas are reason enough to stop in. Best of luck deciding what to order (it’s all too good)!
Chinese food, anyone? Look no further than the Ding Ho Family Restaurant. Great service and prices, flavorful classics, and lunch specials for a quick pass-through. PS: General Tso’s and orange chicken fans will be pleased with the big portions.
For the adults: Get ready for a fun, curated tasting experience with plenty of learning while you sip. New Basin Distilling Company is an innovative, locally-sourced producer of fine liquors like whiskey, gin, and vodka. In addition to what they bottle, they serve specialty cocktails using their own products (that Madras Mule, though…) and give the best tours. Don’t miss the inventive selection of gift items, too. Check it out Wed – Sat from 11am-6pm.
STAY THE NIGHT
A summer night under the stars is tough to beat. Whether you’re within walking distance of a paddle-worthy lake, are tucked away in the deep desert, or in town next to all the amenities, it’s a lush time to plan an overnight. No matter if you’re passing through or desire a full weekend getaway, Madras has it all, and then some.
Cove Palisades State Park
In the heart of Central Oregon, Cove Palisades State Park is a hot spot year-round for camping and water sports. Like, they book out months in advance! But, there are still some first-come, first-serve spots. Look for either the Deschutes River Campground, Crooked River Campground, or rent out a deluxe cabin. Traveling with furry friends? Keep in mind that only one cabin is pet-friendly!
Lake Simtustus Resort
Want to stay in a luxury tiny home in a peaceful and relaxing environment? Of course you do. We’ve got you. Whatever you’re looking for, you can easily spend all your time at Lake Simtustus Resort. From wellness retreat activities to a traditional lake getaway complete with waterskiing, wakeboarding, kayaking & stand-up paddle boards, Lake Simtustus is a gorgeous spot that feels like an oasis. Check out their special offers and comprehensive website for more.
The Inn at Cross Keys Station
Want a convenient stay with views of the entire town? Set up on the hill, this family-friendly hotel is a neat stop-off on your Madras visit for a hot shower, wifi, air conditioning, complimentary breakfast, and quiet relaxation. They even have an indoor pool and hot tub – so pack that swimsuit!
GEAR UP AND GET OUT
See the sights at Round Butte Overlook Park:
Get your picnic on and enjoy spectacular views of the Deschutes River Canyon. Offering views of the entire town of Madras & Cascades, Round Butte Overlook Park above Lake Billy Chinook serves serious memories. It offers 360-degree views of the entire area, snow-capped mountains a-plenty, and even an Interpretive Center. Best part? It’s kind of elusive. You won’t find too many people there. The plants and wildlife are in their full glory this time of year, so don’t forget your camera.
TAKE A DRIVE, TAKE A BOAT RIDE
Family fun at Lake Billy Chinook:
Just west of Madras, three rivers: the Deschutes, the Crooked, and the Metolius, merge into a 7-mile, vast watery playground of Lake Billy Chinook. It’s amazing for a day trip or a multiple night getaway. There are picnic areas dotted around the lake with swimming zones, campgrounds, boat launches, rentals, and more. For a full experience, rent a cabin close to the water, camp, or hang out by the beach area for an afternoon with a book and some quiet time. It’s popular but never overcrowded, so there’s plenty of room to play!
Boating, swimming and even houseboat rentals are totally a thing. Make sure to visit the Lake Chinook Village Store in case you forgot any camping needs. The rock formations are a must-see as you travel along the road – take a nice slow ride and thank us later. This semi-arid landscape means the sun is plentiful, and shaded spots are hard to come by. So, don’t forget the sunscreen.
IN-TOWN & SHORT DRIVE
Check out a specialty museum: Ready for an experience? Easily invest an entire afternoon at The Erickson Aircraft Collection. This collection of mid-20th century aircraft is amazing to see and the displays are so well-done. The staff is passionate, informed, and encourages you to take your time walking around and admiring it all. Take a peek at the quality souvenirs on your way out. Fun fact: all but two aircrafts are still air-worthy!
Frolic in a calm environment: To feel like you’ve been transported to the south of France for an afternoon, check out Cascade Lavender Farm just outside of Madras. See five different mountain peaks from the property, an endless blue sky, and gorgeous farmland. Walk the grounds and enjoy the peaceful scents and colors of fresh lavender at this family-run operation. Owners Terry and Wayne are so friendly and knowledgeable, you’ll feel like one of the family. With approximately 4,000 lavender plants and over 100 different varieties, there’s a lot to see (and taste!) They distill their own lavender oil on site, too – don’t miss the charming shop where they sell their goodies. Grab a gift or three.
Get your geology on: Richardson’s Rock Ranch is a must-see in Madras. Although their digging is permanently closed, the rock shop is still open 9-5 daily in the summer. Known for thundereggs from their famous Priday Agate Beds, they offer a great selection of stone treasures from all over, and knickknacks and jewelry of every variety. Click here to learn more about rockhounding in Central Oregon.
A refreshing way to spend an afternoon: Hear us out: you may not think you need to visit Madras Aquatic Center when passing through Central Oregon, but trust us: it’s absolutely worth it, no matter your age. From the open architecture to the incredible views before sunset and a variety of fun, there’s something for everyone. From the pool to the lazy river, water slide, diving board, rope swing, hot tub, and sports like pickleball, it’s a time to remember for high-energy hype or relaxation. Don’t miss it!
The magic of Madras, Oregon is tough to beat. See for yourself on your next summer trip to this Central Oregon hot spot.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Your Guide to an Epic Lake Billy Chinook Day (plus time well spent in Culver)
Just 35 miles north of Bend and 10 miles south of Madras lies Culver, Oregon—the staging ground for adventures on sparkling Lake Billy Chinook and The Cove Palisades State Park. And while the options on the expansive lake are many, Culver, a sleepy town of less than 2,000, also sits surrounded by world-class golfing, quiet camping, jaw-dropping scenery and excellent wine tasting. Here’s what you need to know for enjoying a jam-packed day or thrilling weekend around Culver and Lake Billy Chinook.
Epic Central Oregon Day Trips: Madras and Warm Springs, Oregon
If you’re spending a weekend in Central Oregon and want to explore beyond Bend, look no further than the eclectic offerings in Madras and the community of Warm Springs. There you’ll find heart-pumping mountain bike trails, cafés dishing fresh fare, important museums and more.
Tour the Central Oregon Mural Trail
Take a scenic tour around Central Oregon, and among the lush forests, arid high desert landscapes and bright blue skies, you’ll start to notice stunning murals dotting the region. The murals, each with distinct symbols unique to the town, reflect the spirit of Central Oregon in animated colors and design. Artists Katie Daisy and Karen Eland began the “Greetings From…” series with inspiration from vintage postcards. Now, nearly every town in Central Oregon hosts a large hand painted mural with stunning details specifically designed for that town. Follow the Central Oregon Mural Trail and discover hidden treasures in each high desert town along the way.