Astoria sits in the northwest corner of Oregon, at the base of the Columbia River. A charming coastal town, there are several interesting and unique things to do in Astoria.
Amongst its list of accolades, Astoria is the first permanent settlement on the west coast. More specifically, founded in 1811, it is the first American colony west of the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, it is also the oldest town in Oregon.
Holding on to much of its old-world charm, we found Astoria to be quant and understated, with a somewhat quirky downtown shopping area. It’s the ideal depiction of small-town USA, complete with picket fences and proudly flying American flags.
Today, the streets are filled with old houses, some charming, others showing their age.
It’s a city built around the fishing, lumber, and fur industries, yet its main waterway holds many hazards. There is a strong and ongoing maritime history here.
And, if you are a fan of the 1985 American comedy, The Goonies, you will believe Astoria’s home to a sunken treasure.
For us, Astoria was our first overnight stop on our adventure driving the exquisite Oregon coastline.
Top 5 things to do in Astoria
- Climb the Astoria Column for great views
- Get an insight into the maritime history at the Columbia River Maritime Museum
- Discover the lightship
- Check out the Flavel House Museum
- Take a stroll downtown and along the riverfront
The Astoria Column is a towering monument on Coxcomb Hill. Constructed in 1926, its exterior beautifully depicts Oregon’s early history in a hand-painted mural spiraling around the 125-foot column.
To enjoy the impressive views from the top, we had to climb the narrow 164 spiral steps inside the column. At times, it was a bit dizzying, and when we passed others going in the opposite direction, it was nerve-racking.
However, the view from the top was well worth the effort.
When we visited, we were able to participate in a local fundraiser and fun tradition. In the second image, I have just launched a paper glider off the top of the Astoria Column. You can see it in the image.
An annual parking pass is only $5 for the Astoria Column. We purchased it, along with a glider ($1) to throw off the top at the gift store in the parking lot.
Columbia River Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum focuses on the local area and the Columbia River, including coast guard rescue, fishing and whaling, and the treacherousness of crossing the bar.
It shares many stories of survival and bravery and even more of defeat. It also highlights fishing, shipping, and military history.
This family-friendly museum is situated along the river and is home to the world’s largest collection of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts.
Some of the internal highlights include
- A lifesize replica of a coastguard rescue.
- Large TV screens showing videos of boats attempting to cross the bar. These make the dangers clear.
- A current list of boats lost at sea in the Columbia River since 1792.
The lightship (a lighthouse on a ship)
The lightship is docked outside the Maritime Museum.
Historically, it was in service in the 1970s and served as a lighthouse in the rough waters of the Columbia River.
Behind it are US Coast Gaurd vessels, one that has markings indicating successful intercepts of four ships carrying cocaine and 36 with marijuana (while marijuana is legal in Oregon, there are different federal laws that govern the seas).
Flavel House Museum
There are still four properties in Astoria that once belonged to Capitan Geroge Flavel and his family. One has been converted to a museum, and another stands derelict on a corner. We never looked for either of the other two.
The Flavel House Museum is a Queen Anne–style Victorian mansion featuring lovely gardens and elegant furniture of the period. Originally completed in 1885, it features ornate fireplaces and spiral stairs and is kept pristine.
The derelict house on the right also belonged to the Flavel family and has quite a sordid past.
Stroll downtown and along the riverfront
One of the things we love to do when we are somewhere new is just to stroll around town. In Astoria, we walked along the peaceful Astoria Riverfront, the quirky downtown area, and several of the residential streets.
Some of the highlights included:
- A riverfront boardwalk passing canneries and restaurants.
- A sign highlighting the site of the first US Post Office west of the Rocky Mountains.
- We walked past Fort Astoria, once operated by fur traders. Originally constructed in 1811, the current one is a replica.
- A downtown shopping area complete with several legal marijuana dispensaries. Curiosity brought me inside of sweet Relief, the first of them to be licensed. Here I found cabinets filled with buds, edibles, liquids, or transdermal (tropical).
- A colony of sea lions that have taken over one of the piers, similar to what has happened at Pier 39 in San Francisco. (We found the Astoria colony of sea lions near the corner of Leif Erikson Dr at 36th St.)
Where to stay in Astoria Oregon
I know there are several hotel options in Astoria, but we opted to stay at a Bed and Breakfast so charming that I can’t imagine wanting to stay anywhere else. One look at the exterior, and you know why they named it the Rose River Inn.
The room was a classic example of my image of colonial hospitality and decor, including the fireplace. Importantly, it had all the modern conveniences including WiFi and a super comfortable bed.
Best of all was the fabulous breakfast. We opted for the room with the enclosed sitting deck. It was a perfect place to enjoy a water view, relax, and write this article.
It is in the historical district off the main road, so there is plenty of parking. More importantly, it is centrally located enough that we could walk everywhere. Plus, there was one of the intriguing Flavel derelict houses just across the street.
Reserve your room at the Rose River Inn
More on Astoria
- Looking for more Oregon photos, be sure to check out this stunning book by Greg Vaughn, fellow travel blogger: A guide to the natural landmarks of Oregon.
- Astoria was the starting point as we drove down the Oregon Coast to San Francisco, a small segment of any USA exploration.
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- Cars: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings.
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Have you been to Astoria?
More from the USA you might like, including our USA Adventure road trip.
Disclaimer: We are frequently provided with a complimentary entry or other benefits. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
Never knew about this town of Astoria. Looks beyond amazing and will definitely check out on our way up the coast this winter to get some turns in at Mt Hood.
There are many amazing towns along the coast.
Astoria looks like a very interesting town. I will like to go to the top of the column. The views are great! Surprised to see how many ships have been lost int he area.
It’s a very difficult river to navigate, lots of hidden danger.
Hi! It’s very interesting post.I enjoyed your photos very much. Thanks for sharin. We are in Canada now.
Trekking with Becky
Interesting! I didn’t know any of this. I love the column! 😀
Astoria is pretty amazing.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
Hi Rhonda. Did you see the Lewis and Clarke exhibition? It is a recreation of the camp where the expedition spent the winter before heading east again. David and I were in Astoria a couple of years ago and one of the things we most enjoyed was the connection with Lewis and Clarke. Although Lewis and Clarke are not well known outside the USA they are almost folk heroes within the US.
We missed it, but I do hope to get back to the Pacific Northwest again. I just loved the entire coastline.
What a beautiful area. I have never been there. Great pics.
We drove from there to San Francisco over in a bit over a week, (making tons of stops along the way). You might want to put it on your bucket list. Lots more photos coming of our adventure.
These are absolutely fantastic pics. Thanks for sharing… love them and thanks for stopping by… I’m gonna read more about these. So interesting
N J Magas
If ever a house was haunted, it’s that second one. >>;
Also, that maritime museum looks amazing. I love museums that have miniatures.
It does look haunted, but if you read the back story there is no mention of haunting.
good ol’ Astoria! Such a pretty town!
Glad you love it too.
Oh my goodness that is a lot of steps to go up Astoria Column. I think it was so worth it though!
Those sea lions are cute! I want to go up and hug them, but that would probably be a bad idea.
It wasn’t the number of steps that was so difficult for me, but rather the spiral nature of them. Narrow on the inside, wider on the outside so really scary to pass people when we were not on one of the landing decks.
Never been to Astoria, but it’s on the list. So the big question on my mind: why were the sea lions caged? 🙁
I had to go back and zoom in the photo. It appears that the left side of that enclosure is open, so they are not enclosed in the cage. I know that the boaties of Astoria are not happy giving up their pier and tried to scare the sea lions away. Check out this video, which also mentions the metal cages: Inflatable dancers are latest Astoria sea lion hazing tools
I’ve never been to Astoria, but we’ve driven by the Columbia River when we used to live in Spokane, WA. It is so beautiful out there. I had no idea that sea lions live by that river. Your photos are beautiful!
I don’t know if they have always lived there. It’s a new “problem” for the town. It’s only been in the news for the past few months.
That sordid past house looks intriguing…
I linked to the story, it was pretty interesting.
Great photos and info!
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
an interesting place, especially the colourful column:)
Climbing the column was a bit frightening, but worth the effort.
Great shots and info!
What a lovely area.
Yes, it was the start of a great few days . . . coming soon.
Have I ever been to Astoria? Yes! I spent a week in the hospital after a head on car accident on Highway 101. The food was awful.
Yikes, not a good visit for you. I hope you get to come back sometime and enjoy it.
Yes, hubby and I have been to Astoria. The food is very good there and the history very rich.
Have a fabulous day. 🙂
It seemed all the food we selected on the entire Pacific Northwest was excellent.