Heading east, the Columbia River Gorge shifts from forests into plains, from mossy trees into bare, rugged cliffs. Interstate 84 suddenly straightens, as if it’s paying close attention, guiding steadfast through a landscape of wide-open skies and yellow wheat fields fluttering in the wind.
Meet your idyllic introduction to Eastern Oregon. Take exit 164 for Boardman to get better acquainted.
Though small in population, Boardman is big in discovery. In just under two days you can get your fill of local history — and fresh-brewed hops. Follow this 24-hour itinerary for a first-timer’s tour of this beloved city that’s not quite off the beaten path but definitely easy to explore.
10 a.m. SAGE Center
Your first stop is a true local gem: the SAGE Center, an interactive visitor center that showcases the region’s Sustainable AGriculture and Energy. Here you’ll discover the unique industries that thrive in the Port of Morrow, from food processing to GPS farming technology to products that are shipped worldwide. Hop on the simulated hot air balloon experience, learn to drive a tractor, see how potatoes become curly fries and more.
The SAGE Center is also a Travel Oregon Welcome Center, where helpful travel advisors can answer all your Oregon road trip questions. You can also pick up free travel guides, farm loop maps and brochures.
Afterwards feel free to peruse the gift shop for a special keepsake. No one will judge if you indulge in a scoop or two of Oregon’s world-famous Tillamook ice cream.
12 p.m. Lunch
From the SAGE Center, take Olson Drive north and take a right on Columbia Drive. Take it slow as you pass by some of the Port of Morrow’s big industries like the Oregon Potato and Lamb Weston Plants. After about a mile, just before the Port of Morrow blue water tower, take Ullman Boulevard north toward the river, with PGE on the right. As you drive over the overpass, you’re treated to an incredible view of the mighty Columbia River, where massive cranes are hard at work and barges are being loaded.
Take a left on Marine Drive to reach Burnt Field Brewing, located in Boardman’s original train depot. Try a specialty pizza for a blissful refueling — whether you’re in the mood for bacon-infused alfredo sauce (The Chase), sauerkraut (The German), fire-roasted poblano pepper base (15:10 to Yuma) or cheese steak (Halfway to Everywhere), to name a few. Come Monday through Friday for slice deals at lunchtime. And don’t forget the brewery’s signature beers, like the malt-forward Mile Marker 40 IPA.
2 p.m. River walk
Time to work off that beer and pizza with a peaceful walk along the waterfront. Drive west on Marine Drive towards the Boardman Marina & RV Park, a popular destination for some 25,000 overnight guests every season. Pass the campground and park your car near the gazebo and boat ramp. From here, find 3 miles of paved trails tracing the park’s perimeter.
Stroll along the Port of Morrow Riverfront Center and the River Lodge property, admiring sailboats on the brilliant blue waters. Where the trail ends at the beach at Marker 40 is a great spot with restrooms and shelters. During the heat of the summer, festive barbecue parties will be in full swing, showing a true sense of community.
As you walk back along the path, be sure to look up into the big tree at the east end of the River Lodge. A resident bald eagle can be frequently seen (and heard) here.
4 p.m. Check-in
By now you’re likely refreshed and ready to check in to your hotel. With a private beach and outdoor pool along the Columbia River, the River Lodge feels like an oasis in the high desert. Its exterior resembles a remote mountain log cabin, while inside are 48 comfortable rooms filled with modern amenities. Now might be the perfect time to soak up the sun with the soothing sounds of the Columbia.
6 p.m. Dinner
No need to leave your cozy accommodations for dinner. The River Lodge Grill is a centerpiece of the lodging property, with relaxing inside and outside dining overlooking the river. Indulge in American classics, like juicy burgers and steak grilled to perfection, and a large drink menu.
From your table, watch as the sunset illuminates the Columbia River in phenomenal pinks and oranges. Now that’s something to cheers.
8 a.m. Breakfast
Rise and shine with breakfast at Sunrise Café, where the day starts right with hefty pancakes, omelettes, burritos and more. Use that morning fuel for another walk along the Columbia River.
Get your caffeine fix at The Farmer’s Cup, located in a quaint red barn. In the summertime sip on a refreshing Farmer’s Cup Fresher, served in seasonal flavors like strawberry, blueberry and cucumber. Nearby T&C Flowers & Melons, part of the River to Hills Farm Loop, sells dahlias and melons from their farm stand. We don’t blame you for buying a bouquet. Call ahead to schedule a tour of the gorgeous garden.
For your 24th hour in Boardman, grab some lunch for here or to go at C&D Drive-In & Bakery, also home to Poppy’s Pizza. The signature Bozo burger is famous among locals (rightfully so), as are the yummy hand-dipped milkshakes.
As you get ready to gas up and go, reflect on your whirlwind tour of Boardman. Now you know where to spend a long pit stop on your next trip down I-84.