The mansion turned art museum sits on 5,300-acres of south-facing ranch lands. The grounds surrounding the museum are like a desert oasis with lush grass, tall trees, sculpture art and panoramic vistas of the Columbia River.
The museum opened in 1940 and Time Magazine called it “the world’s most isolated art museum.” It’s not as isolated as some others, like Port Lockroy Museum in Antarctica, but it is far removed from any major metropolitan city. Seattle is 223 miles and a little under a 4-hour drive away, and Portland is 100 miles and a 2.5-hour drive.
An Art Museum at the Edge of the Columbia River
For me, as a small town and slow travel lover, its remoteness is part of the allure. After you’ve been traveling for miles through golden hills with craggy basaltic columns and suddenly a stately white building appears against a sapphire sky it feels like you’ve been transported into an episode of Downton Abbey.
The key to visiting the museum is to give yourself enough time to wander through all three floors which display 11 permanent exhibits, as well as, special exhibits. We spent over 2-hours there and could have easily spent two more.
Some of the highlights:
- Sam Hill’s collection of artifacts and photos related to his “favorite cause,” the Good Roads Movement.
- The Théâtre de la Mode, which showcases the post-World War II Paris fashion scene with miniature mannequin exhibitions posed on stylish theatre sets.
- American Indian artifacts from various North American tribes.
- Queen Marie of Romania’s collection of royal memorabilia.
Stop for Lunch with a View
Loïe’s, the Museum Café, is on the lower level and has sandwiches, soups, salads, beverages, a kid’s menu, as well as, jaw-dropping views. We brought a picnic lunch so we didn’t opt to dine here, but the views were stunning.
Explore the Grounds for Free
The outdoor sculpture area, grounds, and parking are free. If you are driving through and don’t have time to visit the museum, stopping to stretch your legs or wander the grounds makes for a great scenic stop. Here you’ll find shaded spots to relax, picnic tables with a view, and, of course, sculptures to admire. Shapes and forms twist and turn in the desert landscapes, giving it that extra cool factor. Next to the parking lot, under the trees, are several picnic tables, and while we were there, we were one of a handful enjoying a picnic and the view.
Travel tip: If you have time, you’ll also want to stop at Maryhill Stonehenge.
Information About Maryhill Museum of Art
The museum and café are open March 15 through November 15. Museum hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; café hours 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission: adults $12, senior $10, children 7-18 $5, family admission $30. They also have several free admission days which are noted on their website. On Wednesday, is a 2-for-1 admission deal; just mention “Two-Fer Wednesday” when purchasing your tickets.
(Prices updated 7/14/18)