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But there is so much more; on the American side, Washington state has the spectacular Olympic Peninsula, the bustling port of Seattle and the unspoiled San Juan Islands. Across the border in British Columbia, the city of Victoria is where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were based during their royal visit last year, and the Gulf Islands offer a rural idyll of artists, cheesemakers and vineyards. Further north is one of many oh-wow sights: Princess Louisa Inlet with its mile-high granite cliffs and 60 waterfalls.

You can see it all aboard Safari Quest, a passenger motor yacht that is small enough to explore tiny coves and harbours.

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Native American tribes, French trappers and, most famously, the American explorers Lewis and Clark all followed the mighty Columbia river. Cutting through the Cascade mountain range, it snakes west to Portland and on to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way it forms the border between the states of Washington and Oregon as it flows through world-class vineyards and the awesome Columbia River Gorge.

Today, small ships cruise the Columbia and also the Snake and Willamette rivers. As well as taking in the views, many of these trips cater for wine lovers, with tastings and talks by wine experts on board and, on land, winery tours and more tastings in towns with plenty of character, such as Walla Walla.

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From Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the fabled Mississippi flows for some 2, miles — and its character changes along the way. As you travel by paddleboat between New Orleans and Memphis, the emphasis is on the romance of the South, with grand mansions and lush gardens.

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The cities of Baton Rouge, Natchez and Vicksburg ooze history, while even the much smaller St Francisville has six different plantation homes. Music is everywhere: jazz, blues and, of course, Elvis, whose death 40 years ago is marked in Memphis this year. New Orleans is a must for anyone interested in fine food and drink.

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Get the lowdown on shaking and stirring with a top-of-the-range cocktail-making class drinklabnola. Hop On Hop Off coach transport is provided at each port stop ; lightbluetravel. Sail from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St Paul to Dubuque in Iowa and you will see fertile farmland and dramatic limestone bluffs, barges, pleasure boats and wildlife.

Ashore, take included excursions to watch artists at work in the Red Wing pottery, and tour Villa Louis, home of a 19th-century lumber and fur magnate in Prairie du Chien. As for Mark Twain, you can find out more about his life and works while on board by chatting to his convincing impersonator, Lewis Hankins.

Light Blue Travel offers a nine-day Life on the Mississippi round trip from Minneapolis aboard the new passenger American Duchess, the first all-suite paddlewheel ship, departing July 30, Perfect for circumnavigation, its attractions include sandy beaches, ft-high dunes, lighthouses and the Dutch-style city of Holland. At the eastern end of the straits that link lakes Michigan and Huron is four-square-mile Mackinac Island pronounced Mackin-aw , a Victorian time capsule complete with horse-drawn carriages. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

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