The Top 5 Water-Friendly Cities & Towns in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest. A place where the climate has created its landscape, which in turn helped to shape its culture. A culture based on adventure, a love for nature, and a passion for outdoor sports. Known for its lush greenery and copious amounts of craft beer and coffee, the Upper Left is bursting at the seams with beautiful lakes, rivers, and coastlines that are begging to be enjoyed. Read on for our picks of the top five water-friendly cities in the Pacific Northwest.

5. Seattle, Washington

We know what you’re thinking if you’ve never been to Seattle, “Wait, isn’t that a metropolitan area, with 3.8 million people?” Why yes, yes it is. But have you witnessed the glory that sits within the city, and just outside of it? Seattleites can stay close to home with a visit to Lake Union or Lake Washington, both large, freshwater lakes within city limits. The route options are endless, and while paddling Lake Union you can admire the houseboats on the perimeter, and even stop at Gas Works Park for a nice picnic on the grass.

Just beyond the city, head over to the San Juan Islands, where you can kayak amongst creatures who inhabit the area — sea lions, otters, and even orca whales in the distance. Make your way around Whidbey Island, where you’ll get another dose of nature’s beauty, with bald eagles, harbor seals, and great blue heron.

4. Portland, Oregon

The second-most populous city in the Pacific Northwest, Portland’s oozing with deep-rooting indie culture, and a river that runs through it. Take a trip down the Willamette River, with several inlets to stop and peruse, like Ross Island. Just south of Portland, check out the Clackamas River. For more experienced paddlers, this whitewater river flows through Mt. Hood National Forest with some epic views. A few more notable mentions in the area include Santiam River and Willamette Falls.

Scappoose Bay, north of Portland, offers a nice little paddle with a little wildlife tour on the side. Whether you’re an expert or novice, there’s plenty of options to paddle in Portland, Oregon.

3. Hood River, Oregon

In the heart of the Columbia Gorge you’ll find Hood River, Oregon, a small, sleepy surf town with major waves. Nope — no ocean — just the epic Columbia River running between the Oregon and Washington border. While it’s windy conditions might attract kiteboarders and windsurfers, it’s a paddlers dream as well. Many stand up paddlers take on surfing the big river, with large rolling waves that are reminiscent of the ocean. In the morning and when the wind settles, paddlers can take advantage of the sea glass conditions. If whitewater is more your speed, the Columbia Gorge is world-renowned for its year-round whitewater on the White Salmon (just across the Columbia, over the Washington border) and surrounding rivers.  

2. Vancouver, Canada

Kayaking around this special city is amazing for two reasons: you don’t need any special technical skills to have a good time, and it is the best way to get up close and personal with nature in this British Columbia city. With tons of inlets, bays, and beaches to explore, kayaking and paddleboarding are at the top of the list to try in the area. False Creek in Downtown Vancouver offers one of the best year-round kayaking spots, which is not entirely urban and offers up some wildlife peeks like harbor seals, fish, and geese. Jericho Beach is perfect for sea kayaking, right alongside some kiteboarders. Deep Cove is not to be missed, and has been named one of the top ten attractions in Vancouver. Here you can kayak or SUP the calm waters while taking in the stunning scenery

1. Bend, Oregon

One could say we included Aquaglide’s Central Oregon home on this list from a biased perspective, but that’s simply not the case. Bend has earned this coveted spot with year-round sunshine and perfect temperatures, where you can pretty much take on any water sport you choose. Float, kayak, or SUP down the Deschutes River that runs through town. Paddle up in the High Lakes for some epics views and mild temperatures. And if you’re into big rapids, there’s plenty to go around along the upper Deschutes.

Elk Lake is always a hit, with stunning views of snow-capped mountains in the background. And when you’re ready for a break, hit the lodge for a refreshing beverage and delicious meal. While you’re in the area, Sparks lake is another crowd-pleaser, where you can paddle through narrow channels and fields of wildflowers in the summer. And it goes without saying, but if you’re in our hometown, find yourself bringing along your Aquaglide gear or renting from Tumalo Creek & Kayak.

Where will you adventure to next? Pack up your Aquaglide gear and hit the road to one of these top Pacific Northwest destinations. 

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