Astoria, Oregon, nestled on the picturesque Pacific Northwest coast, is a charming and historic town known for its rich maritime heritage, stunning natural beauty, and a plethora of activities to captivate the hearts of visitors. Located at the confluence of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, Astoria boasts a unique blend of rugged landscapes, cultural treasures, and outdoor adventures.
Whether you're a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful coastal getaway, Astoria has something to offer everyone. In this blog post, we'll explore eight must-visit attractions and experiences that showcase the best of this enchanting coastal town. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, Astoria promises an unforgettable journey filled with exploration, relaxation, and discovery. So, without further ado, let's dive into the top 8 things to do in Astoria, Oregon!
Explore Astoria's Maritime History
Visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum
One of the crown jewels of Astoria's cultural scene is the Columbia River Maritime Museum, a must-visit destination for anyone interested in maritime history and the Pacific Northwest's seafaring legacy. This museum provides a captivating journey through time, offering a rich tapestry of exhibits, ship models, and maritime artifacts that vividly narrate the region's maritime heritage.
Exhibits and Maritime Artifacts:
1. Ship Models: The museum houses an impressive collection of meticulously crafted ship models that range from historic vessels to contemporary ships. These intricate models showcase the evolution of shipbuilding and navigation, allowing visitors to appreciate the craftsmanship and engineering behind these maritime giants.
2. Maritime History: Dive deep into the stories of shipwrecks, daring rescues, and the brave individuals who navigated the treacherous waters of the Columbia River Bar. Exhibits highlight the challenges and triumphs of maritime exploration and trade along this rugged coastline.
3. Fishing Industry: Astoria has a rich history in the fishing industry, and the museum pays homage to this tradition with exhibits that delve into the lives of fishermen and the tools of their trade. You'll gain a profound understanding of the region's economic backbone through artifacts and interactive displays.
Educational and Interactive Aspects:
1. Hands-On Learning: The museum offers a range of interactive displays and educational programs suitable for visitors of all ages. From knot-tying workshops to simulated navigation experiences, you can actively engage with maritime skills and history.
2. Astoria's Role in World War II: Discover Astoria's crucial role in defending the Pacific coastline during World War II. Interactive exhibits allow you to step into the shoes of a soldier, experiencing the wartime conditions and strategies used to safeguard the nation's shores.
3. River Pilot Simulator: One of the museum's standout attractions is the River Pilot Simulator, which lets you experience the challenges of navigating a ship through the Columbia River Bar—a notoriously dangerous passage. It's a thrilling and educational experience that offers a taste of the real-life challenges faced by mariners.
4. Educational Programs: The museum hosts a variety of educational programs and events throughout the year, including lectures, workshops, and special exhibits, making it an excellent destination for those looking to delve deeper into maritime history.
A visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum not only provides a fascinating glimpse into the past but also offers an engaging and interactive experience that brings the maritime history of Astoria and the Pacific Northwest to life. It's a place where you can immerse yourself in the tales of seafarers, the power of the Columbia River, and the enduring spirit of maritime exploration.
Tour the Astoria Column
The Astoria Column stands as an iconic symbol of Astoria, Oregon, perched atop Coxcomb Hill, the city's highest point. This towering column holds significant historical and cultural importance and offers visitors breathtaking panoramic views of the town and the mighty Columbia River.
Significance of the Astoria Column:
1. Historical Tribute: Erected in 1926, the Astoria Column serves as a tribute to the explorers and pioneers who played a pivotal role in the history of the Pacific Northwest. The column's 125-foot height represents the 125th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition's arrival at the mouth of the Columbia River.
2. Intricate Artwork: The column is adorned with a spiral frieze that wraps around its exterior, featuring intricate illustrations that depict key moments in the region's history. This captivating artwork tells the story of indigenous cultures, the arrival of European explorers, and the westward expansion of the United States.
Climbing to the Top:
Climbing to the top of the Astoria Column is an experience like no other, offering a spectacular reward for your effort:
1. Panoramic Views: The 164-step spiral staircase inside the column leads you to an observation deck at the top. From here, you'll be treated to unparalleled 360-degree views of Astoria, the Columbia River, and the surrounding coastal landscapes. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
2. Photo Opportunities: The observation deck is an ideal spot for capturing stunning photographs of the town, river, and the lush greenery that surrounds the area. Sunrise and sunset visits are particularly magical for photographers.
3. Educational Panels: Along the way to the top, you'll find informational panels that provide historical context for the column's artwork, enhancing your understanding of the region's past as you ascend.
4. Family-Friendly: The climb is family-friendly, making it a great activity for visitors of all ages. Children, in particular, often find the journey to the top an exciting adventure.
5. Picnic Area: After your descent, consider visiting the picnic area at the base of the column, where you can relax and enjoy a meal while taking in the views.
Visiting the Astoria Column not only offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the historical significance of the region but also provides a memorable adventure as you ascend to the top. It's a place where you can stand above the town, feel the breeze from the Pacific Ocean, and gain a new perspective on the beauty and heritage of Astoria, Oregon. Don't forget your camera; the views from the top are truly breathtaking and make for lasting memories.
Immerse in Local Culture
Stroll Along the Riverwalk
Astoria's Riverwalk, a picturesque promenade that meanders along the banks of the Columbia River, is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the town's natural beauty and waterfront charm. This scenic pathway offers visitors the chance to savor stunning views of the mighty river and provides numerous opportunities for leisurely walks and birdwatching.
Scenic Views of the Columbia River:
1. Riverside Tranquility: The Riverwalk invites you to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life as you take in the peaceful serenity of the Columbia River. The sound of gently lapping waves and the occasional passing ship create a soothing ambiance.
2. Historic Landmarks: Along your stroll, you'll encounter historic landmarks such as the iconic Astoria-Megler Bridge, which spans the river, and the towering masts of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, a fascinating remnant of maritime history.
3. Wildlife Watching: Keep your eyes peeled for a variety of wildlife that call the riverbanks home. Osprey and eagles often soar overhead, while seals and sea lions can be spotted swimming in the river. Birdwatchers will find plenty of opportunities to observe local and migratory bird species.
Leisurely Walks and Birdwatching:
1. Trail Options: The Riverwalk offers a range of trail options suitable for different fitness levels and preferences. Whether you're seeking a short, relaxing stroll or a longer, more invigorating walk, you'll find the perfect path.
2. Interpretive Signs: Along the Riverwalk, you'll encounter interpretive signs that provide insights into the area's natural and cultural history. These signs enhance your experience by offering context and stories related to the landscape and its significance.
3. Picnic Spots: Several designated picnic areas along the Riverwalk allow you to pause and savor a meal while surrounded by the beauty of the Columbia River. It's an ideal spot for a relaxing break.
4. Birdwatching Hotspot: Birdwatchers will find the Riverwalk particularly enticing, as it provides opportunities to spot a wide variety of avian species. Keep your binoculars handy to identify everything from bald eagles to great blue herons.
5. Photography: The scenic vistas and ever-changing light conditions along the Riverwalk make it a favorite spot for photographers. Capture the river's tranquil beauty and the vibrant colors of sunrises and sunsets.
The Riverwalk in Astoria, Oregon, is a tranquil escape where you can connect with nature, relish serene river views, and explore the region's rich history. Whether you're interested in leisurely strolls, wildlife observation, or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery, this enchanting pathway offers a peaceful and rejuvenating experience for visitors of all ages.
Visit the Flavel House Museum
The Flavel House Museum, located in Astoria, Oregon, is a beautifully preserved mansion that stands as a testament to the opulence and elegance of the Victorian era. This historic house is a must-visit for those interested in history, architecture, and the lavish lifestyle of Astoria's early elite.
1. Prominent Family: The Flavel House, built in 1885, was the residence of Captain George Flavel, one of Astoria's most prominent and influential citizens during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Captain Flavel was a successful Columbia River bar pilot and a key figure in the maritime history of the region.
2. Victorian Splendor: The mansion reflects the wealth and status of the Flavel family. Its architecture, interior design, and furnishings are exquisite examples of the Victorian era's opulence, with intricate woodwork, ornate details, and period-appropriate decor.
Showcasing Victorian-Era Architecture and Lifestyle:
1. Architectural Marvel: The Flavel House is a prime example of Queen Anne-style architecture, characterized by its asymmetrical design, elaborate ornamentation, and decorative details. Visitors can admire the beautifully preserved exterior, complete with a distinctive turret, gables, and a wraparound porch.
2. Interior Elegance: Stepping inside, you'll find yourself transported back in time to the late 19th century. The interior of the mansion features meticulously restored rooms with period-accurate furnishings and decor. Visitors can explore the elegant parlor, dining room, bedrooms, and the impressive library.
3. Guided Tours: Knowledgeable guides lead visitors through the mansion, sharing stories about the Flavel family, the history of Astoria, and the significance of the Victorian architectural elements. These tours provide valuable insights into the lifestyle and social norms of the era.
4. Gardens and Grounds: The Flavel House Museum is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, adding to the overall charm of the property. The gardens provide a serene and scenic backdrop for the mansion, inviting visitors to stroll and enjoy the outdoor surroundings.
5. Special Events: The museum often hosts special events, exhibits, and educational programs that offer additional opportunities to delve into the history and culture of the Victorian era.
Visiting the Flavel House Museum offers a unique glimpse into the past, allowing you to experience firsthand the grandeur of Victorian-era architecture and the affluent lifestyle of Astoria's elite. It's a journey through time that showcases the enduring beauty of this meticulously preserved mansion and provides a deeper understanding of the history and culture that shaped the town of Astoria, Oregon.
Explore Fort Stevens State Park
Fort Stevens State Park, located near Astoria, Oregon, is a sprawling natural wonderland that offers an array of outdoor activities and historical attractions. From hiking trails and beach access to well-preserved military structures, this park has something for everyone seeking adventure and exploration.
1. Peter Iredale Trail: Named after the famous shipwreck that can still be seen on the beach, this trail provides a short and scenic walk to the remains of the Peter Iredale. It's an excellent choice for those looking for a brief stroll with historical significance.
2. Fort Stevens Historical Area Trails: Explore the history-rich grounds of Fort Stevens on a network of trails that wind through the military installations and offer glimpses into the past. These trails are not only educational but also provide a beautiful natural setting for a hike.
3. South Jetty Trail: This trail takes you along the South Jetty, providing panoramic views of the Columbia River as it meets the Pacific Ocean. It's a fantastic spot for birdwatching and enjoying the coastal landscape.
1. Miles of Sandy Shoreline: Fort Stevens State Park boasts miles of pristine sandy shoreline, making it an ideal destination for beachcombing, picnicking, and building sandcastles. The beach is also known for its stunning sunsets and opportunities for kite flying.
2. Fishing and Crabbing: Fishing and crabbing are popular activities along the park's shoreline. Cast your line from the beach or try your hand at catching Dungeness crabs in the estuary.
Historic Military Structures:
1. Fort Stevens: The park is home to the historic Fort Stevens, a military installation that played a significant role in defending the Oregon coast during World War II. Explore the gun batteries, bunkers, and interpretive exhibits that offer a glimpse into the past.
1. Birdwatching: Fort Stevens State Park is a birdwatcher's paradise. Keep an eye out for a variety of bird species, including bald eagles, herons, and migratory birds that frequent the area.
2. Camping: The park offers a range of camping options, from RV sites with hookups to tent campsites and yurts. Camping here allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the park and enjoy a serene night under the stars.
3. Biking: Bring your bike and explore the park on two wheels. There are bike-friendly trails and paths suitable for cyclists of all levels.
4. Wildlife Viewing: Besides birdwatching, the park is home to deer, elk, and other wildlife. Keep your camera ready for unexpected encounters with these creatures.
Fort Stevens State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Whether you're hiking through the park's lush forests, enjoying the sandy shores of the beach, or exploring the remnants of military history, you'll find endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation in this coastal gem near Astoria, Oregon.
Discover the Astoria Riverfront Trolley
The Astoria Riverfront Trolley is a charming and historic attraction that offers visitors a delightful vintage trolley ride along the scenic Astoria waterfront. This nostalgic experience combines a leisurely ride with stops at key attractions, all while immersing passengers in the rich history of the town.
Charm of the Vintage Trolley Ride:
1. Nostalgic Appeal: The Astoria Riverfront Trolley is a fully restored vintage streetcar that evokes a sense of nostalgia. Its classic design, including wooden benches and brass fixtures, transports passengers back to a bygone era of travel.
2. Scenic Waterfront Views: As you ride along the waterfront, you'll be treated to picturesque views of the Columbia River, the historic town of Astoria, and the majestic Astoria-Megler Bridge. It's a perfect vantage point for capturing memorable photographs of the coastal landscape.
Stops at Key Attractions:
1. Downtown Astoria: The trolley begins its journey in downtown Astoria, allowing passengers to explore the town's charming shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. It's a convenient starting point for a day of exploration.
2. Columbia River Maritime Museum: The trolley makes a stop at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, offering visitors easy access to this captivating institution. After your museum visit, hop back on the trolley to continue your waterfront tour.
3. Astoria Riverwalk: The trolley route closely follows the Astoria Riverwalk, providing passengers with the opportunity to disembark and explore this scenic pathway. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the river, take in the views, and perhaps even catch sight of some local wildlife.
1. Preservation Efforts: The Astoria Riverfront Trolley is a testament to the town's commitment to preserving its historical heritage. The trolley itself is a restored artifact, and its operation celebrates the significance of public transportation in the region's history.
2. Educational Experience: During your trolley ride, you'll have the chance to learn about Astoria's past, including its maritime history, early industries, and cultural evolution. Knowledgeable conductors provide commentary and share stories about the town's heritage.
3. Authentic Experience: Riding the trolley is not just a means of transportation; it's an authentic and immersive experience that allows you to connect with Astoria's history and culture in a unique and memorable way.
The Astoria Riverfront Trolley offers a delightful blend of vintage charm, scenic beauty, and historical significance. It's a must-do activity for visitors to Astoria, providing a unique perspective on the town's past while showcasing its picturesque waterfront and vibrant downtown. Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply looking for a relaxing and enjoyable ride, the trolley is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Dine at Local Seafood Restaurants
Astoria, Oregon's prime coastal location means it boasts a thriving seafood culinary scene, with an array of restaurants that serve up the freshest catches from the Pacific Ocean. Here are some popular seafood restaurants in Astoria to savor the flavors of the sea:
1. Bridgewater Bistro: Overlooking the Columbia River, Bridgewater Bistro is known for its delectable seafood dishes. Their menu often features locally sourced seafood, and the riverside location offers stunning views to complement your meal.
2. Bowpicker Fish & Chips: For a casual, quintessential seafood experience, head to Bowpicker. This unique eatery is housed in a converted fishing boat and serves up some of the best fish and chips in town. The fish is incredibly fresh, and the setting adds to the charm.
3. Clemente's Restaurant & Bar: Clemente's offers a diverse seafood menu with a Mediterranean twist. Whether you're craving prawns, scallops, or salmon, this restaurant offers a variety of delicious options for seafood enthusiasts.
4. Rogue Ales Public House: Rogue Ales is not only known for its craft beers but also its seafood dishes. Enjoy fish and chips, oysters, and other seafood delights alongside their award-winning brews. The pub-style atmosphere adds to the overall experience.
5. Silver Salmon Grille: This charming restaurant specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine, and their seafood offerings are a highlight. From grilled salmon to seafood pasta dishes, you can savor a range of coastal flavors.
6. Buoy Beer Company: Located in a historic cannery on the waterfront, Buoy Beer Company not only serves craft beer but also offers a seafood centric menu featuring local catches. Sip on a brew and enjoy dishes like clam chowder and fish tacos.
7. Drina Daisy Bosnian Restaurant: While primarily a Bosnian restaurant, Drina Daisy also offers fresh seafood options like prawns and calamari. It's a unique dining experience that adds an international flair to Astoria's seafood scene.
8. Local Markets and Seafood Shacks: Don't forget to explore local seafood markets and shacks where you can enjoy fresh oysters, crab, and other catches straight from the source. Some even offer picnic tables with waterfront views.
Astoria's seafood culinary scene celebrates the bounties of the Pacific Ocean, and dining at these restaurants not only provides a delicious meal but also an opportunity to connect with the town's maritime heritage. Whether you're a fan of traditional fish and chips or more adventurous seafood creations, Astoria's dining establishments have something to satisfy every seafood craving.
Visit Breweries and Distilleries
Astoria, Oregon, is not only known for its stunning coastal vistas and seafood delights but also for its burgeoning craft beer and distillery scene. Visitors to Astoria can indulge in a diverse range of locally brewed beers and artisanal spirits. Here's a glimpse into the craft beer and distillery scene in Astoria, along with some notable establishments to explore:
Craft Beer Scene:
1. Fort George Brewery: Fort George Brewery is a beloved staple of Astoria's craft beer scene. Their brewery and pub offer a rotating selection of innovative brews, and the spacious courtyard is a great place to enjoy a pint. Be sure to try their popular flagship beer, the "Vortex IPA."
2. Buoy Beer Company: Buoy Beer Company, mentioned earlier for its seafood offerings, is also a fantastic brewery. Situated in a historic cannery on the waterfront, they craft a variety of beers that pair perfectly with their coastal-inspired menu.
3. Reach Break Brewing: A relatively newer addition to the Astoria beer scene, Reach Break Brewing has quickly gained a following for its inventive beer recipes. Their cozy taproom provides a relaxed atmosphere for sampling their unique brews.
4. Astoria Brewing Company: Located in the heart of downtown Astoria, Astoria Brewing Company offers a variety of craft beers that cater to different tastes. Their taproom is a great spot to enjoy a brew with friends or family.
1. Stillwagon Distillery: Stillwagon Distillery is a family-owned and operated establishment known for its small-batch, handcrafted spirits. They offer a range of products, including whiskey, rum, and gin. Take a tour to learn about the distillation process and enjoy tastings of their creations.
2. Lewis and Clark Distillery: This distillery takes its name from the famous explorers and offers a unique tasting experience. They produce vodka, gin, and other spirits, all with a nod to the history and natural beauty of the region.
3. Buoy Beer Company (Distillery Division): In addition to brewing, Buoy Beer Company has a distillery division where they produce high-quality spirits. Stop by for tastings of their small-batch vodka, gin, and more.
4. The Pilot House Distilling: Located in nearby nearby Hammond, The Pilot House Distilling offers a variety of handcrafted spirits. Their tasting room provides an opportunity to sample their creations and learn about the distillation process.
Astoria's craft beer and distillery scene continues to flourish, offering visitors a chance to explore a diverse range of flavors and artisanal beverages. Whether you're a beer enthusiast or a spirits connoisseur, these establishments provide a taste of Astoria's creativity and craftsmanship in the world of brewing and distillation. Enjoy the local flavors and the welcoming atmosphere of these unique venues.
Conclusion: Embrace Astoria's Unique Appeal
Astoria, Oregon, is a coastal gem that offers a wealth of diverse experiences for travelers seeking a blend of maritime history, outdoor adventures, and culinary delights. From the iconic Columbia River Maritime Museum to the historic Astoria Column, the town's rich culture and history are on full display.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Astoria's Riverwalk and Fort Stevens State Park provide scenic beauty and opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and beachcombing. And if you're a seafood lover, the local seafood restaurants serve up the freshest catches from the Pacific Ocean.
Don't forget to explore the craft beer and distillery scene, where you can savor artisanal beverages that reflect the creativity and craftsmanship of the region.
Astoria invites you to step back in time, discover its maritime heritage, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Whether you're interested in history, outdoor exploration, or simply savoring the flavors of the sea, Astoria promises a memorable and enriching experience. Plan your visit and uncover the hidden treasures of this charming coastal town, where history, culture, and adventure converge to create a truly unique destination.