Plan a day at the lake! Fern Ridge Reservoir is the region's largest lake with a diverse shoreline offering wetlands, marine moorings, campgrounds and parks. Just north of Veneta and west of Eugene, this vast water playground is perfect for sailing, waterskiing, standup paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and wildlife watching. Plus, with close proximity to wine country and campgrounds, you can make your day into a memorable weekend retreat.
Rise and shine early to experience the lake waking up. Your first stop is Perkins Peninsula Park just off Highway 126. Open at dawn, this day-use park has a boat ramp and dock on Fern Ridge Reservoir, a designated swim bay and sprawling lawns and picnic facilities. Pause here, or at one of the wetland preserve observation sites, for a meditative wildlife and bird watching experience. As rosy hues unfurl across the water, the reeds start to sway and the water ripples — you can catch glimpses of herons, hawks, bald eagles and geese. Bring your camera and binoculars for prime birdwatching.
At 8 a.m. drive into Veneta to Our Daily Bread Restaurant. This destination bakery and restaurant serves up house-made baked goods and robust breakfasts in a historic church building. Sip your coffee as the light pours in through the colorful stained glass windows. Take a few loaves of their bread with you — we recommend the pumpkin hazelnut and the potato rosemary.
Fueled up for your day, it's now time for a paddle! The Coyote Creek Nature Trail is within the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area and follows meandering channels throughout the lake's wetlands. Launch your canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard onto the quiet waters of this lush playground — best when water levels are high.
Head back into Veneta to The Patio Oasis, a food truck courtyard right on Territorial Highway. Choose your lunch from the food truck (currently offering Mexican), then picnic in the enclosed grassy garden. The patio is open Tuesday - Sunday, noon to 7 p.m. and has yard games — outside beverages are welcome.
Now it's time to get out onto the open water. Stock up on beverages and snacks at the Veneta Dari Mart on your way out of town. Follow Territorial Highway north toward Fern Ridge and access the lake from one of the day use parks and marinas.
Afternoon winds have picked up, so sailing is ideal if you have access to a sailboat. You can still enjoy paddling too — striking out across the vast expanse of water this time instead of following the sinewy water trails.
At Orchard Point Marina, sailboat vendor Under Way LCC offers rental sailboats, kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards. Orchard Point is a popular recreational day-use park in the summer with concessions, barbecues and picnic shelters.
Motorboating is also a fun option on the 9,000 acres (3,642 ha) of Fern Ridge. Try out water skiing, kneeboarding or tubing. Or bring your jet ski!
After hours in the sun and on the water it's time to unwind. Fern Ridge is in the middle of Oregon Wine Country, so plan to visit a winery tasting room before 5 p.m. (typical closing time). LaVelle Vineyards, open daily, is located nearby and specializes in estate wines. Also nearby is Five Fourteen Vineyards, open for wine tasting by reservation only, or to the south of Veneta, visit Sarver Winery with beautiful views and excellent charcuterie plates.
After relaxing with a glass of wine, evening starts another period of wildlife activity, so settle in near the water for bird watching. When the sun goes down head back into Veneta for dinner or back to your campsite for a satisfying campfire meal.
Where to Stay
The best places to stay in Veneta are in vacation rentals or yurts, or to camp at Richardson Park Campground on Fern Ridge Reservoir. The Yurtel-Veneta is a unique glamping experience right in Veneta.