There’s nothing quite like messing about on the river, even better if it’s an organised trip where you can really relax, let go and just soak up the incredible scenery. From stylish champagne brunches to something more high octane, here are the best cruise and boat tours in Portland, Oregon (in no particular order, they’re all awesome trips)…
1. Columbia River Gorge Dinner Cruise – a great way to explore this part of the river
Columbia River Gorge Dinner Cruise is a 2-hour cruise along the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The tour starts from Cascade Locks and takes you across the Columbia River Gorge, allowing you to indulge in the picturesque landscapes of the river.
As you sit on the expansive patio of the cruise ship, you get to explore all corners of the Historic Scenic Area while eating a fine meal. They offer an excellent selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts prepared with local ingredients with vegan and gluten-free options. You can also enjoy a wide range of craft beers, wines, and cocktails, although you’ll be charged an add-on for that.
From live narration from the captain to a private candlelit table, Columbia River Gorge Dinner Cruise offers everything to make your night special.
Cruise Timing: 6:00pm – 8:00pm (May to October)
- To book, check prices or dates for this Dinner Cruise
2. Champagne Brunch Cruise Through Downtown Portland
Champagne Brunch Cruise is a 2-hour brunch cruise that takes you along a major tributary of the Columbia River, the Willamette River. It is offered by Portland Spirit Cruises and Events. Starting from Salmon Springs in downtown Portland, Champagne Brunch Cruise takes you across the Willamette River watershed.
The 2-hour cruise offers a delicious brunch featuring authentic Northwest cuisine. They have a curated selection of beverages, including champagne, mimosas, and sparkling ciders. From historical narration on outer patios to live piano and entertainment, Champagne Brunch Cruise comes with a wide range of features to offer you a wonderful brunch experience. The timing of the cruise varies depending on the season.
- To book, check prices or dates for the Champagne Brunch Cruise
3. Dinner Cruise Through Downtown Portland
Dinner Cruise by Portland Spirit Cruises and Events offers a sunset dinner along the beautiful landscapes of the Willamette River. As you cruise down the Willamette River, you get to revel in the mesmerizing views of Portland’s skyline and its major landmarks.
Dinner Cruise by Portland Spirit Cruises and Events continues for two and a half hours. You are served a freshly cooked Pacific Northwest meal prepared with local ingredients. The cruise also comes with live music and entertainment and narration of the sights by the captain on outdoor patios.
The cruise takes you through many iconic landmarks of Portland, including Hawthorne Bridge, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Oaks Amusement Park, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and Portland Oregon Sign.
Cruise Timing: 7 pm – 9:30 pm
- To book, check prices or dates for the Dinner Cruise Through Downtown
4. Heart of Portland Sightseeing Cruise
Heart of Portland Sightseeing Cruise by Portland Spirit Cruises and Events is a sightseeing tour along the Willamette River that takes you through the major sites of Portland. They have two departure points, Caruthers Landing in SE Portland and Salmon Springs in downtown Portland.
As you travel northward between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Range, you get to enjoy the picturesque cityscape and historical narration by the captain. You learn about the historical significance of every landmark that you pass by.
Indoor seating is not guaranteed on this sightseeing tour, although you can enjoy a broad array of food and beverages on the vessel’s patios. They have an onboard bistro specializing in diverse cuisine, however food and beverages are not complementary.
Cruise Timing: 3:30 pm – 5 pm
- To book, check prices or dates for Heart of Portland Sightseeing Cruise
Columbia Gorge Jet-Boat Adventure
Columbia Gorge Jet-Boat Adventure offers two cruises, a full-day trip and half-day trip. Full-day cruise starts from downtown Portland and ends at Cascade Locks. Half-day cruise starts from downtown Portland and ends at Multnomah Falls. Both cruises take you through countless landmarks and over 12 bridges.
As you travel along the Columbia River, you get to see Beacon Rock, Vista House, Bonneville Locks and Dam, and Bridge of the Gods among many other iconic landmarks.
- To book, check prices or dates for Columbia Gorge Jet-Boat Adventure
5. Year-Round Sightseeing
Year-Round Sightseeing is a sightseeing cruise along the Willamette River by Portland Spirit Cruises and Events, one of the best boat tour agencies in Portland. The cruise takes you through all major tributaries of the Willamette River, including the Willamette Valley.
If you want to explore all of Sauvie Island, you must have this sight-seeing cruise in summer. The captain ferries you under some of the famous bridges of Portland, including Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, and Hawthorne Bridge.
As it is a sightseeing-specific cruise, it does not offer complimentary food. However, the vessel has a full service bar with food available for purchases. You can take this cruise both in bright daylight and after sunset.
Cruise Timing: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm or 7 pm – 9:30 pm
- To book, check prices or dates for Portland Spirit Cruises and Events
6. Gorgeous Brunch Cruise
Gorgeous Brunch Cruise is a 2-hour cruise that takes you across the exquisite canyon stretches of the Columbia River. As you sit on the outer deck of the sternwheeler, you get to revel in the spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge while eating a fine meal and listening to the captain’s narration of the rich history of the river.
The sternwheeler takes you westward through the Cascade Range, from where you can enjoy a few glimpses of the state of Washington. The cruise comes with a delicious plated northwestern brunch prepared with local ingredients. You can take the cruise on any Sunday between May and October.
Cruise Timing: 10:00am – 12:00pm
- To book, check prices or dates for the Portland Lunch Cruise
7. BrewBarge Cruise
BrewBarge Cruise by Brew Group is an adult-only cruise along the Willamette River. As you cruise across the major tributaries of the river, you get to see the leaves of the recent ice age. You are only allowed on board if you are over the age of 21.
While you can bring your own beer on board, the vessel has a classy beer shop offering a great selection of craft beers. You can take BrewBarge Cruise only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They have a small seating capacity with only 14 people allowed on board. The timing of the cruise varies depending on the season.
- To book, check prices or dates for this BrewBarge Cruise
8. Lunch Cruise by Willamette Jetboat Excursions
Lunch Cruise by Willamette Jetboat Excursions is a 3-hour cruise across the Columbia River. It is a 40-mile journey that starts on the Willamette River and takes you to the north of the Columbia River. You get to have a perfect lunch at The Deck, a casual floating restaurant specializing in American seafood and seasonal cuisine.
From St. Johns Bridge to Mt. St. Helens to Mt. Hood, you get to enjoy striking views of many iconic landmarks near Portland. The cruise ship takes you so close to big cargo ships that you can almost touch them. You can take this cruise on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- To book, check prices or dates for this Lunch Cruise
9. 1-Hour Shipyards
1-Hour Shipyards by Willamette Jetboat Excursions is a boat tour that takes you to Swan Island. It is a 14-mile journey that takes you through shipyards and beautiful bridges of Portland, including Hawthorne Bridge, Steel Bridge, Tilikum Crossing Bridge, and Marquam Bridge.
From iconic bridges to historical monuments to shipyards, you get to see many landmarks during this one-hour tour. It is a kid-friendly tour that does not charge any fare for children aged 3 or below. The timing of the tour varies every year. The tour is only available between June and September.
- To book, check prices or dates for Willamette Jetboat Excursion
10. Portland Christmas Ship Parade
Portland Christmas Ship Parade is an annual boat tour along the Willamette River during Christmas holidays. The tour starts in the first week of December and runs through the third week.
As you travel around Lake Washington and the Puget Sound, you get to see more than 65 waterfront communities. It is the only boat tour in Portland that takes you around a complex estuarine network of marine waterways and basins.
- To book, check prices or dates for this Portland Christmas Ship Parade
11. Kayak on Willamette River
Kayak on Willamette River is a kayaking tour by Salem Kayak Rentals. The tour is available from late Spring to mid October. It involves about 30 minutes of paddling. The tour starts from the West Linn and ends at the Willamette Narrows.
As you kayak across the Willamette River, you get to explore the unique geology of its tributaries. Children below the age of 13 cannot take this tour.
- To book, check prices or dates for Salem Kayak Rentals
13. Portland Skyline & Bridges Night Photo Tour
Portland Skyline & Bridges Night Photo Tour is a 2-hour night tour along the Willamette River at night. This is the ultimate tour for shutterbugs that allows passengers to capture the dramatic night lights of the cityscape.
This photo tour takes you to many major bridges and landmarks of Portland, including the Eastbank Esplanade, Hawthorne Bridge, OMSI, and Tilikum Crossing among others.
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Born and raised in Brazil, Gaby has always had a taste for the intriguing, the off-beat and the far flung. After travelling around most of South America, living in Spain and Italy and then moving to England, her feet have stayed continually twitchy. Studying for a degree in Spanish translation and then learning five more languages only poured more fuel onto her travelling ardor.
Gaby likes nothing better than discovering new destinations and meeting the locals, tasting the cuisine and hearing about the local stories. Her other indulgences include French cinema, boxing, photography, colourful manicures and soaking up the rays on a sun-infused beach. She counts Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon and Cornwall as her most favourite places in the world.