Spending time in North Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood is like visiting a small town with oodles of charm. It’s a whimsical place with unique shops, pubs, cafes, and scenic urban parks, as well as Portland’s only steel suspension bridge, an unopened time capsule with volcanic ash from Mount St. Helens + an annual parade + “bizarre” (which will resume in 2023).
⛴️ The early days
St. Johns was once its own city. It was named after James Johns, though his last name may have also been John (that’s a debate for another time), who left Ohio in 1841 and struck out for California. He made his way north from there, eventually taking out a 320-acre donation land claim across the Willamette River from Linnton.
James — also known as “Saint John” + “Old Jimmy Johns” (no relation to the sandwich empire) — had a country store and a ferry service running by the 1850s, and filed a plat for his town in 1865. The city was incorporated just after the turn of the century, then annexed in 1915.
St. Johns still has its small-town charisma and is home to many locally-owned shops.
- Blue Moon Camera and Machine + International Camera Museum attracts visitors from around the world.
- The Salty Teacup sells unique handmade jewelry, soap, household goods + art.
- Pluck at your heartstrings by shopping for new + vintage guitars at 3 Tracks Music.
- Complete your throwback look with some pieces from Hound & Hare Vintage.
🍽️ Eat + drink
From pub crawls to retro eateries, the food + beverage scene in St. Johns is one of the best in Portland.
- Try a hot-pressed sandwich like the parmesan breaded eggplant + a Guinness float at Leisure Public House. Pro tip: Bring your dog.
- There’s no shortage of coffee shops in St. Johns — Cathedral Coffee is a local favorite, serving rotating baked goods and seasonal drinks.
- Hand-slung pies made inside a repurposed vintage gas station? That’s what you’ll find at Signal Station Pizza.
- If you’ve never been to a self-serve “kombucha speakeasy,” this is your sign to visit SOMA.
- Occidental Brewing found its niche in a city bubbling over with breweries, crafting award-winning lagers + ales.
- Get your chocolate fix right from the source at Moonstruck Chocolate Company’s factory + HQ. Pro tip: Watch the artisans in action via the factory viewing window.
Some of Portland’s most iconic views can be found in St. Johns.
- Snap your own Insta-worthy photos beneath the Gothic arches of the St. Johns Bridge at Cathedral Park + take a self-guided tour of the park’s special trees. Walk across the bridge to access Forest Park.
- Explore the lesser-known Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area, one of the largest protected wetlands within a US city.
- Go for a swim in the public outdoor pool, stroll the gardens, or shred the skatepark at Pier Park.
- A hop, skip + a jump across the river is Sauvie Island — aka Paradise for anyone who enjoys swimming, hiking, birding, and visiting local farms.
Round out a day of exploring this neighborhood (or getting to know it better if you already live there) with some fun, St. Johns style.
- Up your disc golf game by making a stop at Huk Lab for gear, supplies + art.
- Catch a first-run flick + order food and drinks during the movie at McMenamins St. John’s Theater and Pub or St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub.
- Mark your calendars for the 42nd annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, happening Fri., July 15-Sun., July 17.
🏠 Live in St. Johns
St. Johns is a close-knit, walkable community that’s just a 12-minute drive from downtown Portland. Residents have views, wildlife, and a slice of a unique part of Portland.
- For $271,000, this 934-sqft 2 BD, 1 BA condo has a view of the water.
- For $550,000, this 1,938-sqft 3 BD, 2 BA home is a stone’s throw from Cathedral Park.
- For $696,500, this 1,989-sqft 2 BD, 2 BA floating home has unparalleled views of the Columbia River.
- For $2.15M, this 5,836-sqft 15 BD, 7 BA brick complex is brand new + features seven units.