Have you visited Oregon’s only floating museum yet? If you’ve been in downtown Portland, you’ve seen it. Located on the Willamette River docked by Waterfront Park, the Oregon Maritime Museum is inside the historic vessel Portland, a sternwheeler straight from the early 20th century. Get a hint of the Northwest’s seafaring past on this magnificent vessel. Read on to find out more!

photo: paul via flickr

Visiting

The boat’s docked on Waterfront Park off Naito, right between the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges. Parking is the usual downtown bustle, and you’ll end up paying, so consider parking on the East Side and walking across the bridges, riding bikes, or taking the Max to the Oak Street stop (two blocks from the museum!) Your admission comes with a docent-led tour that lasts 45 minutes, led by knowledgeable volunteers and history buffs. These folks have the ability to make history come alive, so while you’ll stay docked during your visit, you’ll be steaming away in your imagination!

What You’ll See

The tour guides you through the pilot house, engine room, and captain’s cabin, discovering tall (true!) tales about local nautical history. Your kids will love the hands-on maritime artifacts in the Children’s Corner, like the loud ship’s whistle (kids will love it, parents might not!), and the moveable parts of a ship’s model. You’ll also learn about the weird history of underwater diving, see displays about sailing vessels, steam power, and WWII shipyards. There’s a lot packed in! End your trip with a visit the onboard museum store, full of books, toys, gifts, and other maritime memorabilia.

photo: metallica via yelp

Great for Kids

The vessel is a historical artifact, so of course there is no climbing on any equipment or horsing around in small spaces. Kids will love the chance to see the “innards” of a boat, pretend to steer by turning the giant wheel, and play with artifacts in the Children’s Corner. The docents do a great job of engaging older children with stories and questions– curious kids will learn a lot have a blast!

What to Bring

No need for lifejackets, captain’s hats or oars when you visit – there is plenty of boat paraphernalia to keep your little ones entertained! What you will need is an extra layer of warm clothing to keep the wind at bay, a pack for pre-walkers instead of a stroller and shoes that are good for exploring the ins and outs of a ship.

photo: metallic via yelp

Fun Facts

This is the last operating steam-powered sternwheeler tug in the U.S. It cruises the waters 4-5 times a year, occasionally open for the public to join.

The vessel was featured in the 1994 film Maverick. All dolled up as a river sternwheeler, the film showcases the Portland steaming through the Columbia Gorge. After your visit, you can rent this PG-13 flick for a fun movie night and play spot-the-ship!

If your kids love nautical history, take a trip to Astoria for even more maritime fun!

Need to Know

$7/adults, $3/children ages 3-12, free for children under 6 and active military
Wed., Fri, & Sat., 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Gate closes at 3:15 p.m. for the last tour)
On the Willamette River near Waterfront Park
S.W. Naito Pkwy at Pine St.
Portland, OR
503-224-7724
Online: oregonmaritimemuseum.org

Been to the Maritime Museum? What was your kid’s favorite part? Tell us in the comments below?

—Katrina