The riverfront town of Kalama is the perfect stop between Portland and Seattle, just off Interstate-5.
The Port of Kalama maintains 6-miles along the Columbia River, with plenty of recreational opportunities like sandy beaches, a playground, parks, a museum, and a Hawaiian themed McMenamins Lodge with restaurants and bars.
You can also learn about Hollywood actor Marlon Brando's strong ties to this small community!
Kalama WA is the second busiest port on the West Coast of America, exporting 15 million tons of grain each year, so expect to see lots of container ships on the river. There are no lifeguards in this area and dangerous currents, so swimming is not recommended.
10 best things to do in Kalama WA
1. McMenamins Kalama Harbor Lodge
Enjoy a riverfront meal or stay overnight at the Hawaiian themed McMenamins Kalama Harbor Lodge in Kalama WA.
The lodge was opened in 2018, and modeled on the Pioneer Inn in Maui. The style of the lodge pays homage to Hawaiian born John Kalama, who arrived here in 1837 as an employee of the Hudson Bay Company, and worked tirelessly in the local area. Each floor is also filled with memorabilia and history about other local identities.
The pub and harbor lounge are on the main floor, with a stunning, riverfront patio outside.
Here's some visitors enjoying lunch, out on the patio. There’s also a rooftop bar with incredible views of the Columbia River. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to load up on McMenamins goodies!
2. McMenamins Ahles Point Cabin
The McMenamins Ahles Point Cabin has a superb location, right on the beach in Kalama WA. To get there, walk 8-minutes south of the lodge along the riverfront path, or you can park out front.
This cosy, English-style cabin has a roaring fire in winter, and beachfront patio in summer. Order some delicious pub food, and enjoy beer, wine, cider or coffee, while watching all the boat traffic out on the river!
3. Marine Park (246 Hendrickson Drive)
Marine Park is a 5-acre day use park, directly south of the McMenamins Kalama Harbor Lodge on the river in Kalama WA. This is a great place to stretch your legs, and has a large grassed area, access to the sandy beach (no lifeguards), and a playground.
Pack your own lunch and find a table at one of three picnic pavilions, with restrooms conveniently located nearby.
One of the picnic pavilions directly overlooks the river! The riverboat is operated by American Cruise Lines, running week long tours along the Columbia River, with a stop at Kalama WA.
This is the playground at Marine Park in Kalama.
There's also direct access to the sandy beach.
4. Westin Amphitheater
The Westin Ampitheater is in Marine Park, directly south of the McMenamins Kalama Harbor Lodge in Kalama. McMenamins hosts summer concerts here in this fantastic riverfront setting, so be sure to check dates on the calendar.
5. Port of Kalama Interpretive Center
The Kalama Interpretive Center is just steps from the McMenamins Lodge, and provides a fascinating overview of the history of Kalama WA.
The Interpretive Center is free to visit!
The highlight of the Interpretive Center is the giant 1917 Northern Pacific Steam Locomotive. Kalama WA was put on the map after it was selected as the location for the Western Terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1870. Kalama’s businesses thrived as the town’s population swelled to hundreds of people. However, Kalama’s fortunes declined when the Western Terminus was moved to Tacoma in 1873.
Kalama continued to be a transportation center for the railroad, and from 1883 to 1909 the giant Tacoma ferry transported rail cars across the Columbia River, from Kalama in Washington State, to Goble in Oregon, connecting commerce between these two regions. It was once the second largest ferry in the world!
In 1920, the Port of Kalama was formed, now the second busiest port on the West Coast.
See the vintage wagon at the center, used by early pioneering families to cross the Oregon Territory.
You can also get a close look at a 1929 Ford Model AA.
Enjoy the lovely patio overlooking the river, just outside the Kalama Interpretive Center.
6. Louis Rasmussen Park (268 Hendrickson Drive)
The Louis Rasmussen Park is another fabulous riverfront park, operated by the Port of Kalama. Walk south along the riverfront path, past McMenamins, then Marine Park, and finally Louis Rasmussen Park, ending at McMenamins Ahles Point Cabin for a drink or meal. The walk should only take you about 8 minutes! There are also a few parking lots at Louis Rasmussen Park.
This beautiful, 25-acre park has a large grassed area, and beach access (no lifeguards). You can also get a sheltered table at one of 3 picnic pavilions, or take advantage of the tennis, pickle-ball, volleyball and half-court basketball courts! Restrooms are also available here.
7. Rivers Edge Coffee Company
The Rivers Edge Coffee Company is just off Interstate-5 in Kalama WA, 1.5 miles south of the McMenamins Lodge. It’s housed inside a rustic cabin in-front of the Port’s grain silos with a huge, vaulted ceiling and roaring fire. Cozy up beside the fire on oversized couches, or sit at a table and fuel up on delicious coffee, sandwiches, ice-cream and snacks. Half of the complex is also filled with tasteful home-wares and furniture. Note, there’s no riverfront access from here.
8. Port of Kalama Mountain Timber Market
The Port of Kalama Mountain Timber Market will open in late 2023 just south of the McMenamins Lodge, and will feature a main floor marketplace.
9. Haydu Park (253 Kalama River Road)
Haydu Park is a 5-minute drive northeast of downtown Kalama WA, and is operated by the Port of Kalama. This 24-acre park was opened in 2015, at the site of the Haydu Family Farm. Today it’s a fantastic recreation area, with a huge playground, baseball and soccer fields, tennis and half court basketball courts, and a horse-riding arena. It also has access to a sandy beach near the beautiful Kalama River.
10. Downtown Kalama
While most visitors will gravitate to the riverfront at Kalama, it’s also fun to explore the historic shopping area along First Street, once a bustling metropolis in the 1870s with four hotels, three saloons, grocery stores and shops.
There are 3 antique shops to browse in downtown Kalama (Kalama Vintage Warehouse, 1st Street Antiques, and Drew and Davis Antiques). You can also stop for a meal at the Willie Dicks First Street Taphouse.
12. Twilight Filming Location
Twilight Fans can visit the Kalama High School near downtown Kalama, which served as the Forks High School in the first movie. The red brick building is easily recognizable from the scene where Edwards saves Bella’s life in the school parking lot.
13. Marlon Brando’s connection to Kalama
Marlon Brando was a frequent visitor to Kalama WA, from the late 1990’s up until his death in 2004. Both his business manager and son lived in the area, prompting his frequent visits, and he was often spotted about town. Marlon enjoyed the solitude of his business manager’s property on the edge of town, and also loved hanging out in her antique shop (176 First Street). Unfortunately the antique shop burned down, so there’s just an empty lot there today. Marlon Brando’s son (Christian Brando) and stunning first wife (Anna Kashfi) are both buried at a hilltop cemetery in Kalama.
14. Elvis Presley’s connection to Kalama
Elvis Presley once stayed at a roadside motel in Kalama, on his way to make a movie at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Word spread that he was staying at the motel, and the area was swarmed with fans. The budget motel still stands today (OYO Hotel), next to the retro Columbia Inn Restaurant.