Astoria, Oregon, is the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. And if you visit, there is no shortage of things to see and do there.
Astoria sits on the Columbia River, just seven miles from where it spills into the Pacific Ocean.
There are two iconic landmarks that are very easy to spot. The 4.1 mile Astoria-Megler Bridge stands out as it spans the mighty Columbia. More than 1.5 million drivers cross this bridge every year. It’s worth a drive across just to marvel at the engineering and design.
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The Astoria Column is perched on a bluff above downtown. The tower is 125 feet tall — 164 steps up the interior spiral staircase to the top. And on a sunny day, the view is incredible.
The official population of Astoria is just over 10,000. But if you come to the vibrant downtown area, you might guess it’s a city that’s four times that amount. It is a bustling downtown region. Lots of restaurants, a variety of retail shops, lots of lodging and entertainment venues such as the historic Liberty Theater, a vaudeville theater from the 1920s. They hold music events, live theater and children’s productions.
Astoria’s colorful, history is on display for all to see in the downtown area. The Flavel House Museum is ornate with lots of local history inside.
Right across the street is the entertaining Oregon Film Museum. And it is housed in the former county jail. The many movies and television shows filmed in Oregon and in Astoria are featured there. But the most popular film showcased is “The Goonies,” which was filmed locally in 1985.
Down on the waterfront, along the trolley route, is Frite and Scoop, a restaurant featuring ice cream made from scratch and tasty French fries — an intoxicating combo. Just a few blocks away is the unique Bowpicker Fish and Chips, a restaurant inside an actual fishing boat.
Just down the block is the Columbia River Maritime Museum with incredible displays of the history of commerce on the Columbia River. This is a must-see in Astoria. It also features what was once a floating lighthouse that was anchored seven miles off the coast.
Columbia River Commerce is on full display seven days a week. Huge container ships line up and wait their turn to go either upriver to Portland or downriver and out across the treacherous Columbia River Bar, also known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. More than 2,000 ships have gone down trying to cross this bar.
There are many lodging options in Astoria. The Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa sits on a pier out in the Columbia River in the shadow of the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Each room here faces the river and incredible views.
Also on the riverfront is the Bowline Hotel. Luxurious simplicity is the vibe here. It offers rooms, suites and a couple of Scandinavian saunas. It’s bar restaurant called The Knot is a local favorite.
There’s even an Astoria Underground tour that digs into the city’s colorful and interesting past.
For shopping, you can start at Pier 39. It’s a former tuna factory converted to retail space with a popular coffee shop, a brewery and souvenir shops.
This is just a mere smattering of the options you have on your next visit to Astoria. One thing you will notice is that merchants love to show off their history. It is, in many ways, a living history.