Contrary to popular belief, boats are actually much safer than cars, which inexplicably sink every time you drive them on water. Take a proper water-road ride with today’s Groupon: for $33, you get two tickets to a Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler sightseeing cruise and a $10 voucher to Locks Waterfront Cafe from Portland Spirit (a $66 value). Cruises are scheduled on mornings and afternoons throughout the week May–October, and they depart from Marine Park in Cascade Locks.
River-roving captains ferry passengers on two-hour journeys along the sparkling Columbia River from the Cascade Locks to the Bonneville Dam. Powered by a churning paddlewheel, the triple-decker Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler sails downstream like a floating club sandwich as tour guides discourse on passing scenery as fluently as the breathtaking views allow and on the regional travels of Lewis and Clark. As sightseers relax aboard the charming vessel, they might glimpse local wildlife or traditional Native American fishermen at work.
Upon returning to Cascade Locks, cruising duos can venture to the nearby Locks Waterfront Cafe to take in more natural beauty from riverfront seating and dig into a recently revamped menu of American cafe fare. Fish 'n' chips transform a school of fish into a rollicking party school with beer batter and three pieces of wild cod, bass, or snapper ($10). Six ounces of hand-pressed local beef nestle into a Painted Hills burger ($9), perhaps protected from predators by a fence of freshly cut Kennebeck fries ($4).
Portland Spirit Cruises
With the Columbia and Willamette Rivers in its backyard and Mount Hood rising from behind a sweeping skyline, Portland boasts stunning views. Determined to give their customers front-row perches to these vistas is Portland Spirit, which launches a cache of brunch, lunch, dinner, and sightseeing cruises that put the city in the forefront.
With a quintet of vessels—Portland Spirit, Williamette Star, Crystal Dolphin, Explorer, and Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler—and myriad private events for guests, Portland Spirit Cruises also customize jaunts for any occasion. The company also operates a trio of terrestrial venues in Marine Park: the Terrace at Thunder Island, the Gorge Pavilion, and Locks Waterfront Grill.