Lying at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River is the small city of Astoria which is steeped in history and has lots of interesting tourist attractions and stunning scenery for visitors to enjoy. Due to its strategic and secluded setting just inland from the Pacific, its port acted as a stop-off point for seafaring voyages for many years with numerous things to do in Astoria relating either to its maritime past or the wonderful waters around it.
Remarkably enough, Astoria was the first US settlement established west of the Mississippi with the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition having wintered here in 1805. Aside from this, the city’s other main claim to fame is that it was the setting for blockbuster hit The Goonies with numerous sites around town having featured in the 1985 film. Add in all of its beautiful historic buildings, bustling downtown, and nearby nature spots and it is easy to see why Astoria makes for such a popular, if slightly drizzly, destination.
12. Youngs River Falls
Set just twenty minutes’ drive to the south of the center is the Youngs River Falls which certainly makes for a spellbinding sight. One of the only waterfalls in the Astoria area, it lies in a scenic and secluded spot and makes for some fantastic photos.
Towering to sixteen meters in height, the jet white waters of the falls cascade down a craggy cliff before plunging into a pool below. As it lies at the end of a short trail, visitors need to hike to the waterfall before they can bask in its beauty, bathe in its waters, and enjoy a picnic on its banks.
Due to its scenic splendor, the falls are very popular to visit in the sunny summer months and have even appeared in several films such as Free Willy 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.
11. Astoria Oregon Riverwalk
As it spans the entire length of the city’s Columbia River waterfront, the Astoria Oregon Riverwalk really is a treat to amble along with stunning scenery and views wherever you go. In addition, it also passes many of the city’s main attractions with maritime museums and historic sites, restaurants, and breweries lining the route.
Stretching just over ten kilometers in total, the picturesque riverwalk takes you from the bustling Port of Astoria right the way to the pretty and peaceful lagoons of Tongue Point. Along the way you pass countless waterfront attractions such as the iconic Astoria-Megler Bridge, excellent Maritime Museum, and moving Maritime Memorial.
Aside from strolling along, taking in the sights, and stopping off at its innumerable establishments, you can also opt to either cycle along the paved path or take a vintage trolley ride along the route.
10. Oregon Film Museum
A fun and fascinating place to visit, the brilliant Oregon Film Museum and all its incredible artifacts and exhibits can be found right in the city center. A must for cinephiles, it looks at the history of films and film-making in the state of Oregon which has often been nicknamed ‘Hollywood North’.
Established in 2010, the museum occupies the distinctive Clatsop County Jail which so memorably featured in the opening chase scene of The Goonies. Inside, you can find several props and costumes from the film as well as memorabilia and exhibitions on Free Willy, Kindergarten Cop, and Twilight among others.
Besides learning about famous films made in Oregon and watching some short clips from them, you can also shoot some scenes yourself with the museum’s small sets and green screens.
9. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
Offering up an invaluable insight into the infamous expedition and its achievements, the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park has several sites that are scattered across the state for you to explore. While some lie alongside the Columbia River, others instead hug the Pacific Coast with interesting historic tourist attractions and stupendous scenery and nature wherever you go.
Encompassing everything from forts and camps to coves and nature trails, the park shines a light on the Corps of Discovery’s travels and the hardships they had to endure. Besides seeing important and impressive historic sites and learning about the expedition, there are also lush rainforests and epic coastal views for you to enjoy.
The most popular part of the park to visit, however, is the Fort Clatsop National Memorial which lies not far from Astoria and contains lots of artifacts and exhibitions relating to the expedition.
8. Fort Clatsop
Lying just fifteen minutes’ drive southwest of Astoria, you can find the superb Fort Clatsop National Memorial which protects the site where the Corps wintered in 1805. While the original encampment is long gone, guests can tour around a wonderful rustic and rough-hewn replica which highlights how the famous explorers and their men used to live.
During the harsh winter months, the Corps recuperated, hunted, and prepared for the return leg of their trip with Lewis jotting down many of his notes during this period. At the reconstructed fort, you can watch costumed re-enactors make candles, canoes, and tan leather as they explain the history of the expedition.
In addition, its visitor center houses numerous artifacts and exhibits on the explorers with some great hiking, fishing, and kayaking also to be had within the park’s scenic confines.
7. Astoria-Megler Bridge
One of the city’s standout symbols and sights, the enormous Astoria-Megler Bridge spans the lower Columbia River and connects Astoria and Oregon to Point Ellice in Washington. Due to its arresting architecture, the bridge makes for a striking sight and has even appeared in films such as Free Willy and The Goonies.
Completed in 1966, it is impressively still the longest truss bridge in North America, stretching over six and a half kilometers in length. Designed by William Adaire Bugge, it towers to sixty meters in height with each of its cantilever-span sections only carrying one lane of traffic in each direction.
Besides snapping photos of the spectacular structure from the Riverwalk, you can also drive across the bridge and bask in breathtaking views over the river and Astoria as you go.
6. Astoria Column
Another of the most recognizable landmarks in town is the massive and majestic Astoria Column which lies perched atop of Coxcomb Hill. Overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River, it offers up some of the best views of the city and its surroundings with the Astoria-Megler Bridge and even Pacific to be spied off in the distance on clear days.
Erected in 1926, the tall, slender tower rises up thirty-eight meters into the air with its exterior being coated in magnificent murals that depict significant events and scenes from the state’s early history. While some friezes focus on the local Clatsop and Chinook Indians, others instead look at the Lewis and Clark Expedition or the arrival of the railroads.
Aside from taking in its amazing art, it is well worth traipsing up the 164 stairs to its top due to the phenomenal panoramas of the Oregon Coast on show.
5. Fort Stevens State Park
Just twenty minutes’ drive to the west of the center you can find the stupendous scenery, nature, and historic sites of Fort Stevens State Park. Nestled at the north-westernmost tip of the state, it lies just across Youngs Bay from Downtown Astoria and has lots of great outdoor activities for you to enjoy.
Built towards the end of the American Civil War, Fort Stevens, its batteries and bunkers were erected to guard the mouth of the Columbia River. Although not much now remains, visiting its museum is still an interesting affair as you see old uniforms and weapons and learn about the fort’s history.
In addition, you can also stop by the historic Peter Irdale shipwreck which lies along the state park’s shores or go swimming in the sea and stay overnight at one of its cozy campsites.
As it full of fun things for you to see and do, no trip to town can ever be complete without exploring Astoria’s delightful Downtown. Lying alongside the Columbia River, the lively area contains many of Astoria’s tourist attractions with countless restaurants and shops also dotted about.
While Astoria was remarkably the first US settlement to be established west of the Mississippi, not all too many historic buildings remain as a fierce fire devastated the downtown district in the early twentieth century. Nowadays, however, you can find lots of cultural attractions here with numerous museums lying next to excellent art galleries and the lovely Liberty Theater.
Besides stopping by sights such as the Maritime Museum and Oregon Film Museum, you can also shop ‘til you drop and dine in any one of downtown’s brilliant restaurants.
3. Flavel House Museum
Also located within Astoria’s Downtown is the fabulous Flavel House Museum which boasts some absolutely beautiful Queen Anne architecture. Wonderfully well-preserved, the massive mansion is a treat to tour around with its interior being just as delightfully decorated.
Named after George Flavel, a wealthy entrepreneur and Columbia River captain, the huge historic house was built in 1885 to be his retirement home. Now protected as a museum, it is surrounded by some gorgeous grounds and gardens that feature some fetching Victorian-era landscaping.
While the pretty property’s elegant eaves and wraparound porch already make for a striking sight, inside is just as alluring for its ornate fireplaces, spiral staircases, and crystal chandeliers. With fine furnishings and period pieces also on show, Flavel House Museum is definitely well worth checking out if you have the chance.
2. Astoria Riverfront Trolley
Aside from strolling or cycling along the Riverwalk yourself, you can also opt take a romantic ride on the attractive old Astoria Riverfront Trolley. One of the city’s most iconic attractions, the historic streetcar line takes you through many of the most popular parts of town with countless sights, shops, and scenic viewpoints for you to stop off at along the way.
Stretching almost five kilometers in length, the trolley line uses the former tracks of a disbanded railroad and runs alongside the Columbia River for most of its route. As such, passengers can enjoy stunning views over its shimmering waters while also taking in the sights and sounds of downtown.
While the vintage streetcar is a useful way to get around, it is also lots of fun to ride in thanks to its old-time look and feel. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Old 300’, it was remarkably built back in 1913 and still functions perfectly to this day.
1. Columbia River Maritime Museum
The standout thing to do in Astoria however is undoubtedly visiting the Columbia River Maritime Museum which lies along the waterfront. Set in a wonderful wave-shaped building, it offers up an interesting look into the city’s seafaring heritage and has innumerable artifacts and interactive exhibits for you to peruse.
Since being founded in 1963, the museum has expanded considerably and now includes everything from maritime models and maps to figureheads, weapons, and a Fresnel Lens. In total, there are over 50,000 photos and objects to explore with informative displays documenting the history of fishing, exploring, and military maneuvers in the region.
Besides watching a film in its theater or seeing some of its historic vessels, you can also take a tour around the Lightship Columbia which is anchored alongside the museum. Now a National Historic Landmark, it used to guide ships to safety at the mouth of the Columbia River which not for nothing is known as the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’.