We aren’t surprised that Wine Enthusiast recently named Southern Oregon one of the top 10 wine destinations in the world. The state’s southernmost wine region is not only home to 150 wineries and tasting rooms, but offers a unique combination of world-class theater and music, a noteworthy restaurant scene, and miles of hiking trails, wild rivers and deep-water lakes for outdoor enthusiasts – all within a day’s drive from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.

Whether you visit for a long weekend or take more time to fully explore the region, consider mixing it up. You can stay at the historic Ashland Springs Hotel and take in a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival one night, then raft the Wild and Scenic Rogue River and camp out under the stars the next. If you’re a foodie, don’t miss the Rogue Valley Growers Markets or the Southern Oregon Cheese Trail


The ideal time to visit Southern Oregon is May 15-October 15, when its Mediterranean-like warm, dry days and cool evenings are most reliable. So pack your linen shorts and your favorite Patagonia, and plan a trip to this sophisticated natural paradise. Here are our top picks for the perfect visit:


The premier hotel in Southern Oregon is the historic Ashland Springs Hotel. Opened in 1925 and restored to its original grandeur in 1995, this beau arts landmark offers nine stories and 70 rooms of gentility and old-world elegance, all one block from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in downtown Ashland. The two-story lobby features a grand fireplace, terrazzo floors and a light-filled mezzanine. www.ashlandspringshotel.com

The red brick Peerless Hotel in Ashland, once a roadhouse for Southern Pacific railroad workers, is now a lovingly restored bed and breakfast on the National Register of Historic Places. Owner Crissy Barnett hand-picked handsome antiques and luxurious Italian linens for each room, and ordered hand-painted motifs for the walls and ceilings. Perfect for a romantic getaway. www.peerlesshotel.com

Another historic site in Ashland, the Winchester Inn Bed and Breakfast is just two blocks from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Visitors can choose from plush private rooms or suites in four different houses, all framed by a lovely perennial garden created by owner Laurie Gibbs. The main house is also the site of the Alchemy Restaurant and Bar, one of Ashland’s best. www.winchesterinn.com

For a spa-like retreat, try the Lithia Springs Resort, just three miles north of Ashland. The resort is built on warm springs rich in sulfur and other minerals, and offers a rejuvenating soak to all guests. The Waterstone Spa on site offers private soaks, facials, wraps and massage. Accommodations include bungalows, suites, studios and rooms, all set amidst four acres of English gardens. www.lithiaspringsresort.com

If you plan to tour the 18 wineries along the Applegate Valley Wine Trail or see a concert at the Britt Music Festival in Jacksonville, consider the Inn at the Commons in Medford. It’s a short drive to both, but also close to the wineries along the I5 corridor. The hotel is contemporary, and includes a breakfast buffet, parking and an outdoor heated pool. www.innatthecommons.com

Another superb option near the Applegate Valley is the Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville. This remnant from the town’s gold rush days was made from locally quarried sandstone, and specks of gold are visible in the mortar in the dining room walls. This highly acclaimed inn includes eight rooms and four cottages, all tastefully decorated with antiques and luxe bedding. President George W. and Laura Bush once stayed in the Honeymoon Cottage. The on-site restaurant offers three meals a day as well as picnics and late nite bites for Britt Music Festival goers. www.jacksonvilleinn.com

A two hour drive from Ashland, Crater Lake Lodge is perched perfectly on the southern edge of Crater Lake. Operated by the National Park Service and on the National Register for Historic Places, the 1915 lodge offers rustic comfort – no TVs or phones – and a picture-perfect veranda with awe-inspiring views of the lake. Even those in a hurry will want to slow down and find an empty rocking chair to take it all in.


A great spot for RV travelers and water lovers is the Lake of the Woods Mountain Lodge & Resort, one hour east of Medford. This older, high mountain complex includes 34 rustic cabins, 12 RV hookup sites and a marina with 36 boat slips available for short and long term rentals. www.lakeofthewoodsresort.com


Alchemy Restaurant and Bar, formerly known as the Winchester Restaurant, is at the Winchester Inn in Ashland. The restaurant serves traditional fine-dining fare – think filet mignon and lobster tail – and inventive cocktails in its handsome interior. Patio service is offered during the summer. Open Wednesday-Sunday evenings. www.alchemyashland.com

Opened in 2000 by Erik Brown and Jamie North, Amuse is one of Ashland’s most established fine dining spots. Open daily, the restaurant places an emphasis on organic and seasonal ingredients, in what it calls Northwest / French cuisine. The menu includes a cheese course, which recently included Rogue Creamery’s Crater Lake Blue, mostarda, walnuts and honey.www.amuserestaurant.com

Located in Ashland’s Railroad District, Coquina is the brainchild of Lynn and Daniel Flattley, who ran the Wild Rose Bistro in Bandon before moving inland. The chefs are often hailed for their creativity with local and seasonal ingredients, and the menu offers entrees for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Recent entrees included a Cedar River ribeye, fresh scallops with Dungeness crab and local mushrooms served with marscapone and kale rapini cannelloni. Open nightly except Mondays. www.coquinarestaurant.com

When you’re done visiting tasting rooms and antique shops in gold rush era Jacksonville, duck under the red awning at the Jacksonville Inn for a restorative meal. Locals will tell you it has one of the best patios in Southern Oregon, and it frequently wins awards for its wine list, which includes more than 2,000 wines. www.jacksonvilleinn.com/restaurant

Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine at the Ashland Springs Hotel is led by executive chef Damon Jones, who also oversees Larks at the Inn at the Commons in Medford. Jones is highly regarded for his emphasis on food grown or harvested in or near Southern Oregon, and he has a devoted following. He recently offered braised beef from Novy Ranches, in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, and often cooks with produce from nearby Blue Box Farm, Whistling Duck Farm, One eaf Micro Greens and seafood from Port Orford Sustainable Seafood. Pastry chef Terra Sharp’s creations will make you glad you saved room for desert.


Peerless Restaurant, inside the Peerless Inn, is now under the leadership of longtime Ashland chef David Taub. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Taub is well known locally for his 30+ years at Chateaulin Restaurant. At Peerless, he has created a menu with both fine dining and casual offerings, and the wine list recently received the Oregon Wine A-List from the Oregon Wine Board.


Shop for seasonal picnic fare or handmade crafts at one of the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Markets throughout the region. Farmers and artisans sell their wares 8:30-1:30 Tuesdays and Saturdays in Ashland, and 8:30-1:30 Thursdays and Saturdays in Medford. Locations vary each day.


Wineries aren’t the only foodie delight in the Rogue Valley. The Southern Oregon Cheese Trail boasts five cheese makers open to the public, including Pholia Farm, Rogue Creamery, Oak Leaf Creamery, By George Farm and Crushpad Creamery. Be sure to schedule a few visits on your winery tour. www.oregoncheeseguild.org/regions/southern-oregon


When you need to burn some calories, ride your bike up the Cascade Siskiyou Scenic Bikeway, a 54-mile route that showcases the region’s spectacular diversity. You’ll start in Ashland, and climb up out of the oak savannah into the tall pines and Douglas fir so characteristic of the Cascades. The total gain is more than 5,000 feet, so this isn’t a ride for novice cyclists. www.rideoregonride.com/road-routes/cascade-siskiyou-scenic-bikeway

There is no shortage of natural splendor in Southern Oregon, but the undeniable granddaddy of them all is Crater Lake. The site of Oregon’s only National Park and America’s deepest lake, Crater Lake is a beautiful blue wonder. Formed by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Mazama approximately 7,700 years ago, the lake is nearly 1,950 feet deep at its deepest point and has no inbound or outbound streams. Because the lake’s elevation is around 6,175 feet and snow covers it for most of the year, visitors typically have to wait until summer to drive its circumference, but the southern entrance to the park is open year-round. www.nps.gov/crla

Spelunkers and those of you who are simply ‘cave-curious’ can drive west to the Oregon Caves near Cave Junction. This National Monument nestled in Oregon’s Siskiyou Mountains is a fabulous place to learn about cave formation, fossils, and the unique flora and fauna that exist in subterranean caverns.  Visitors can choose from different tours that include scambling over boulders, belly crawling and navigating tight squeezes – some with candlelight. www.nps.gov/orca

White water rafting is one of the best ways to experience the rugged beauty of Southern Oregon close up, and there are expeditions and waterways for all levels. Thanks to Western writer Zane Grey who loved the Rogue River so much he bought a mining claim on its shores in 1926, the Rogue is the most popular of Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rivers to raft. But local guides will tell you that one of the most exciting four-day rides is on the Upper Klamath and that the Lower Klamath is great for inexperienced rafters. Another option is to raft the steep-walled canyons and thick forests on the North Umpqua. There are dozens of outfitters to choose from. www.southernoregon.org/find-your-thrill-in-raft