Always peaceful, typically quaint, often with leftover relics from all the history that preceded the area: it’s no surprise why people are so drawn to river towns.
The river sets the pace for the people, acting like the city’s metronome in a way, and makes for a place of calming and relaxation.
Along the Columbia River is no different – actually, some of the most charming river towns are located right here in the Pacific Northwest. When you book our Columbia River cruises, you have the opportunity to explore them and see for yourself why they’re so special. Before that happens, here’s a bit of information on some of our favorites, as well as some tips to enjoy your excursions.
*Note: Population numbers are accurate as of most recently-obtained census
Astoria is well-regarded enough as the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. Even today, many of the Victorian-style homes remain intact and beautifully situated into the hills overlooking the river.
Astoria is best known amongst travelers for its museums—notably the Columbia River Maritime Museum—breweries and forts. Movie lovers will be especially pleased, as Astoria was featured in well-known films like Free Willy, Kindergarten Cop, Short Circuit, and most famously The Goonies.
Stevenson is a tiny town with a big heart. It’s most popular for its annual Christmas in the Gorge festival in early December, where most of the town comes out to play. Aside from that, Stevenson’s music festivals line the summer, providing a sweet, bluesy backdrop to the rolling river.
There are many parks near and around the Columbia River, perfect for watching kayakers, windsurfers and all the other water sports that take place.
Most notable highlight of Clarkston would be its access to Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. It’s still oddly undiscovered, despite having tons of wildlife, gorgeous views and petroglyphs from Native Americans.
Clarkston was named after William Clark and the small city is filled with history from the famous expedition, especially the Clarkston Heritage Museum.
The Dalles, OR
The Dalles is most well-known for being the end of the Oregon Trail. Thus the city is one of Oregon’s most historical cities. It’s past extends way beyond that, though – archaeological findings suggest the area has been inhabited for over 10,000 years!
While you’re there, though, you must try two things: the cherry and the wine. The Dalles is a national and worldwide distributor for some of the sweetest cherries on the planet. For the wine, a visit to Sunshine Mills Winery will place you in front of James Martin, the owner and entrepreneur who was one of the most (in)famous and polarizing guests of the ABC show Shark Tank.
Hood River, OR
Winelovers have a special place here – Hood River reaps some of the best fruit harvests in the United States, notably pears, and thus produces some of the best wine in the region. Our top recommendations are Phelps Creek Vineyards, for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, or The Pines 1852, which has a century-old Zinfandel.
A river provides many things, and beautifully quaint towns are something that we as cruise lovers enjoy the most. We like our customers to experience these towns, and that’s why we always work them into our Columba River itineraries.