Astoria: salty, seaside, sweet little Oregon tourist town. We don’t have too many truly touristic, coastal towns in Oregon. Lincoln City is for casino and beach cabin fun, head further south for some sand dune action, or go to Seaside to pretend we actually have “beaches” in Oregon. But if you’re looking for a little weekend travel, its best to visit tried-and-true Newport, Tillamook or Cannon Beach, or one of my new favorite weekend trips: Astoria.
After several trips to Astoria over the past few years, I’ve come to learn that the key to a weekend away from Portland in this quaint little, historic and foodie and beer snob haven, is balance.
Tips for planning your trip:
- Choose one or two activities from each of the lists below. Start with a few of your favorites, and save the others for next time. After your first visit, you can be sure there WILL be a next time.
- If you’re not into historical sites and awesome child-of-the-80s movies, don’t include these destinations in your itinerary. Simple as that.
Consider bringing a bike or some good walking shoes to make touring downtown Astoria easier.
- Don’t try to visit every Lewis & Clark National Historical Park site in one day, one weekend, or even one year. You’ll be back next year.
- Plan with the weather in mind, and be ready to change those plans. It is Oregon after all. If its a blue bird day, you better get your butt up to the top of the Astoria Column ASAP. Who knows when you’ll be so lucky again? Stormy skies? Why not spend an afternoon at the Maritime Museum, sipping beers at Fort George or checking out the roaring waves around Cape Disappointment?
Places to Visit in Astoria, Oregon
- The Astoria Column: climb the steps of this historic pillar for views out across the peninsula
- The Flavel House: this restored Queen Anne style Victorian home opens a window into Astoria’s early years
- The Heritage Museum of the Clatsop County Historical Society: learn about the Clatsop Native American tribe at this museum housed in the Old City Hall building
- The Goonie House: stand outside the house made famous as one setting of the 1980s classic The Goonies
- The Oregon Film Museum: memorabilia and artifacts from several films made in Oregon are housed in this tiny museum
- The Columbia River Maritime Museum: check out the latest exhibits and a large collection of maritime and cultural artifacts
You might need to drive anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes to check out these historic locations, but visiting at least one is well worth your time for the historic interest and fantastic views.
- Fort Clatsop-Lewis & Clark National Historical Park: Site of the reconstructed winter camp for Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery where you’ll find the fort, walking trails, and a large interpretive exhibit at the visitor center.
Fort Stevens State Park: Just 20 minutes out of Astoria, is one part of a three-fort coastal defense system, active for 84 years from the Civil War to World War II, with an interpretive visitor center and historic fort sites to tour. Also home to a massive campground (I recommend reserving a Yurt for a winter camping trip!) walking distance from the beach, where you’ll find the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.
- Cape Disappointment & the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center: Drive north about 30 minutes to check out the stormy waters at the cape and the artifacts and exhibits at the museum, perched high on the cliffs.
Walking Tour Sites
Whether you’re strolling on foot, or you’ve caught a ride on the 1913 Astoria Trolley, you should definitely try to catch a glimpse of these cool sights.
- Cannery Pier Hotel
- Pier 39
- The Liberty Theater
- Astoria Harbor
Places to Eat & Drink
You’ll find your usual assortment of pricey waterfront seafood restaurants and local pub grub in Astoria, so pick your price range and decide how long you want to wait in line, and you’ll find that dining in Astoria is pretty much the same as any seaside tourist city. My recommendation: eat at one of Astoria’s awesome breweries and kill two birds with one stone.
- Fort George Brewery: Can’t get enough of their Vortex IPA, and the spacious seating and expansive pizza menu are pretty good too.
- Astoria Brewery & Wet Dog Cafe: my all-time favorite for good food, great beer and an easily accessible location
Buoy Beer Company: awesome beers, stellar river views (and slightly pricier menu to match)
- Rogue Public House: Go for the awesome waterfront location in the former Bumble Bee tuna cannery on Pier 39, stay for a pint of the locally brewed taps you won’t find at other Rogue locations.
- Frite & Scoop: Why not have dessert for dinner? Grab a scoop at this new small-batch ice cream shop that uses local craft brews in some of their recipes, and serves french fries with ice cream *wipes away drool, then drools some more* 🙂
- Bowpicker Fish & Chips: Quick, easy, greasy food. Grab some from this schooner turned food cart, while you’re walking to the Maritime Museum or Fort George.
Itinerary for a day trip to Astoria:
If you’ll only go to Astoria once… here’s what you do: First, plan a second trip to Astoria. Why would you only go this fantastic little city by the sea once? But, if you insist on only visiting Astoria once in your life, here’s what I recommend checking out:
- Drive up to the Astoria Column for the awesome views in all directions, but only if its a relatively clear day. If its a little cloudy out, it’ll be okay, but if its fogged in you might not see anything at all.
- Walk the Astoria Riverwalk towards either: Rogue Public House & Pier 39, or Buoy Brewing & Wet Dog Cafe, then sit down for a local craft brew and nice view of the ships coming into the Columbia.
- Choose one historical fort to visit, either Fort Stevens State Park or Fort Clatsop. You’ll spend a couple hours touring the fort outdoors, and at least 30 minutes wandering through the exhibits at the visitor center. Add that to the time you spend driving to and fro and you’ve got half your day filled, so don’t plan to visit both in one day. So, 19th-20th century American military fort (Civil War through World War II, only saw a single shot fired), or a glimpse at the winter camp of the Corps of Discovery (aka Lewis & Clark), what’ll it be?
- Drive over the 4.1-mile long (6.6 km) Astoria-Megler Bridge. Just do it.