The Best Things to Do in Astoria, Oregon (Eat, Stay, & Play)
Many people associate Astoria with 1985’s “The Goonies,” a cult hit that led to its annual Goonies Day Celebration, but this town on the Columbia River offers a lot more than searching out the filming sites. Even after living in the area for a significant amount of time, I never ran out of things to do in Astoria.
Just walking along the riverfront soaking up the atmosphere is enjoyable here. It has a rich history as the first area to be settled west of the Rockies, founded in 1811, with steep, hilly streets lined with magnificent Victorian-era architecture. Located right along the water, it brings opportunities for everything from world-class fishing and sailing to kayaking, paddle boarding, and even diving.
This guide will fill you in on it all, including where to stay, drink, dine, when to go and what to do in Astoria so that you can make the most of your time.
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What to Do in Astoria
Here are some of our favorite things to do in this charming coastal town at Oregon’s northwest corner.
Take in the Best View Around from the Astoria Column
If you’ve never visited Astoria one of the first things you should do is check out the Astoria Column.
As the 125-foot-tall column sits atop Coxcomb Hill, the town’s highest peak, you’ll get a breathtaking panoramic view of the colorful Victorian homes that spill down its hills, the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean, Saddle Mountain and the Cascade Mountains, including some of the region’s famous snow-dusted volcanoes like Mount St. Helens.
It also provides a great perspective of the streets below to help you get your bearings. Plus, one of the best things to do in Astoria is to purchase some small balsa wood planes at the gift shop and send them soaring off the top of the tower, accessed by climbing around 160 steps.
Learn More About “The Goonies” and Other Films Shot in Oregon
If you’re one of the many “Goonies” fans, you’ll want to head to the Clatsop County Jail which was featured in the famous opening jailbreak. It’s no longer holding any prisoners as it now serves as the Oregon Film Museum. Visitors can step into the cell shown in the movie and view all sorts of memorabilia from that and many others, such as “Kindergarten Cop,” “Free Willy,” “Animal House,” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Tour the Captain George Flavel House Museum
Right across the street from the Oregon Film Museum, the Captain George Flavel House Museum is magnificent inside and out, with its spectacular garden setting making it worth a visit just for an Instagrammable shot. Stepping through the door of this 11,600-square-foot home, complete with a four-story tower, is like walking back in time to the 19th-century. It also happens to be the place where Mikey’s father worked as a curator in “The Goonies.”
Ride the Historic Riverfront Trolley
The riverfront trolley is not only a great way to get from point A to point B, but by taking a ride you’ll be traveling on a slice of history, complete with tour narration to learn more about Astoria and its past. The “Old 300” is a 1913 heritage streetcar that rolls along former freight railroad tracks for three miles, allowing riders to hop on and off all day long for just two dollars – if you want to hop aboard in between stops just wave a one dollar bill as it approaches.
Stroll the Riverwalk
If you want to be more active while enjoying a view of the river and many of Astoria’s attractions, take a stroll on the Astoria Riverwalk.
It stretches for 6.4 miles, but you can access it at nearly any point. If you want to start at the beginning, the western trailhead is located at the port with parking available.
It will bring you beneath North America’s longest continuous three-span through-truss bridge, the 4.1-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge. Along the way, you can visit the Maritime Memorial, explore museums, learn from interpretive kiosks, and pop into restaurants or breweries.
Watch the Free Sea Lion Entertainment at the Astoria Docks
Just off Astoria’s main street, Leif Erickson Drive, you’ll find the Astoria docks. Dock 36, which was called the “Goon Docks” in “The Goonies” movie, is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of sea lions.
While the weight of the animals damages the docks, and their constant barking can be an annoyance to those nearby, for most visitors, including myself, they can provide endless hours of free entertainment. Despite efforts to get them to move elsewhere, they’ve been here for years and are unlikely to be going anywhere soon.
Watch them try to hop on from the water – when they do, another is likely to push them right back in. When they do make it, they’ll have to battle for a spot by trying to maneuver over the top of all the others, barking their arguments the entire way.
Get Out on the River
There are so many options when it comes to fun on the Columbia River. You can join a fishing charter for the chance to catch your own meal, paddle around in a kayak or SUP, go sailing, or even scuba diving, through Astoria Scuba and Adventure Sports.
Discover a Shipwreck and More at Fort Stevens State Park
Less than 10 miles from Astoria, Fort Stevens State Park sits at Oregon’s north-westernmost point. Here you’ll find one of the area’s must-visit attractions, the Peter Iredale Shipwreck, the most accessible of its kind on the west coast and a popular photo-op.
Having taken photos at many different times of the day, I’ve found that the best shots, like those haunted images of the rusted ruins you’ve probably seen online, are captured just before the sun goes down.
There are many other things to do here as well, with everything from a beach that’s ideal for combing and freshwater lake for swimming to hiking trails, a 90-year-old underground gun battery available for tours, and the opportunity to watch blacksmiths at work.
Explore Cape Disappointment State Park
A short drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge into the Washington side of the Columbia River will bring you to Cape Disappointment, located at the state’s south-westernmost point.
The nearly 2,000-acre state park faces the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, offering opportunities for both recreational activities and the chance to learn more about the explorations of Lewis and Clark.
Enjoy everything from driftwood-strewn beaches to scenic hikes and a visit to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center that provides an overview of their arduous trip, focusing on the pair’s time in this area.
Visit Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
Located just five miles southwest of Astoria off Highway 101, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park provides an excellent sense of what the Corps of Discovery experienced during the winter of 1805-6 as it looks nearly the same as it did over 200 years ago.
Here you can watch demonstrations on things like hide tanning, candle making, and flintlock gun shooting by rangers donning buckskins, hike trails, visit the historic canoe landing, and browse the Visitor Center which includes books on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, informative displays, films, and a variety of merchandise.
Hike Saddle Mountain
If you like to hike, the trek up Saddle Mountain is a must. It’s a moderate climb along a 2.5-mile route from the parking lot to the top, which brings a stunning reward of astounding natural beauty from colorful fields of wildflowers and dense forest to a jaw-dropping view at the summit.
On a clear day you’ll see everything from the Cascades in Oregon and Washington to the east and the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific to the west.
Sample Tasty Brews
After all the activities you’re bound to take part in, one of the best ways to relax is to sample tasty brews at one of Astoria’s many fantastic breweries. Fort George Brewing is the largest and one of the favorites, but you can also visit Buoy Beer Co., located in an old cannery with garage-style doors that open up to river views, Reach Break Brewing, and Rogue Ales Public House.
Where to Eat & Drink in Astoria
Blue Scorcher Bakery & Café: The place locals go for coffee, baked goods, and other breakfast items, nearly everything at the Blue Scorcher is organic, including plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items. You can dine in, take advantage of outdoor seating when the sun is shining, or pick it up to go.
Bowpicker: This unique eatery is the locals’ favorite when it comes to fish ‘n chips – in fact, Bowpicker is considered one of the best on the Oregon coast, which is why there’s always a line. It sits within an old fishing boat with picnic tables on the grassy area surrounding it providing the perfect place to dine on a pleasant day – just be sure to hit the ATM first as only cash is accepted.
South Bay Wild Fish House: A seafood market and restaurant, South Bay Wild Fish House is also well-worth the wait as another one of the hotspots in Astoria for fish and seafood dishes. It’s known for its exceptionally friendly service and mouth watering menu items like fresh steamed oysters, Dungeness crab frybread, and fish tacos, all enjoyed with a fabulous and unique ambiance.
Surf 2 Soul: The perfect spot for a rainy day, or any day when you’re craving comfort foods, Surf 2 Soul is the place to go. Specializing in Southern classics, it offers items like Stacked Mac and Salmon, apple hush puppies, and shrimp and grits with shrimp that’s perfectly battered and grits that are extra cheesy.
Curry & CoCo Thai Eatery: For some of the best Thai curry and cuisine you’ll find in Astoria and the surrounding area, Curry & CoCo delivers. The owner and staff go out of their way to ensure everyone is satisfied, with dishes that have just the right amount of sizzle.
Drinking in Astoria
Reveille Cider: The first and only hard cider manufacturer in Astoria, Reveille impresses even the most hard core connoisseurs as well as offering a fabulous outdoor patio and exceptionally good service.
Buoy Beer: One of the most scenic breweries there is, Buoy Beer is right on the riverfront with tables outside for sipping tasty beers by the fire pit or inside where you’ll find a viewing port on the floor for watching the sea lions.
Fort George Brewing: The largest brewery in Astoria offers tours, taster trays, and lunch overlooking the Columbia River and downtown – 1000 Years of Silence is one of the highest rated, a stout with layers of cocoa nibs, brown, sugar, and molasses combined with a bit of Ancho chiles.
WineKraft Wine Bar: Located right on the river’s edge on Pier 11, this pet-friendly wine bar is not only ideal for sipping thoughtfully curated Oregon wines with a view, it’s a great place to enjoy live local music and a selection of small plates, with local beers and ciders available.
Where to Stay in Astoria
In order to take advantage of the many things to do in Astoria, you’ll need to know where to stay. Whether you prefer hotels or Airbnbs, there are plenty of options in town as well as the surrounding areas, including accommodation by the beach which is just a short drive away.
The Best Hotels in Astoria
Norblad. This budget-friendly property sits on the second floor of a 1923 building right downtown. A trendy hotel and hostel, it’s just two blocks from the Columbia River and offers both single-sex hostel rooms that sleep four and private rooms with minimalist décor and flats-screen TVs.
Commodore Hotel. A mid-range boutique hotel, the Commodore boasts a prime downtown location in a 1925 building that’s only a block from the Astoria Riverwalk. Hip and stylish, rooms and suites all include flat-screen TVs with DVD players, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi. Rooms provide access to shared bathrooms, while suites include their own private bathrooms – all guests enjoy access to a complimentary DVD library and coffee shop on-site.
Cannery Pier Hotel. An iconic Astoria landmark, this hotel is worth the splurge, built on 100-year-old pilings right on top of the Columbia River, while its wooden trusses and exposed beams give it a turn-of-the-century maritime feel. You’ll not only enjoy a magnificent view, but luxurious resort-like amenities, such as a Finnish sauna, mineral hot tub, day spa, opportunities for sunset cruises, complimentary loaner bikes, wine and chauffeured trips into downtown. All rooms have private balconies, and many include either clawfoot or jetted tubs.
Vacation Rentals in Astoria
Cottage on the Bay: While this charming cottage can accommodate up to four, it’s especially ideal for a couple’s stay providing the best of both worlds, nestled among the woods with a beautiful view of the bay yet just two miles from downtown. It comes with a full kitchen that includes coffee and tea, a BBQ grill, and laundry room.
Harrison House: Perfect for families or friends traveling together, this rental offers a slice of Astoria’s historic charm, built in 1890 with lots of original features while including all the modern essentials. The heart of town is just a 12-minute walk downhill and you’ll appreciate having a full kitchen, large dining room, washer/dryer, Wi-Fi, and a fenced-in yard where your dog can run around as it’s pet-friendly too.
Getting to Astoria
If you’re coming from Portland, getting to Astoria is easy as you’ll hop on Interstate 5 north into Washington State before crossing the Columbia River back into Oregon, traveling Highway 30 until you reach it for a total of 98 miles, or about an hour and forty-five minute drive.
From Seattle, travel south on Interstate 5, meeting Highway 30 just after crossing the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the river into Oregon, for a total of 181 miles, or a little over three hours.
When to Visit Astoria
Spring: Astoria gets a lot of rain, but spring is the wettest while temperatures are cool with average highs that range anywhere from 52 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. On the plus side, the crocus will be in bloom and the spring salmon will be returning into the Columbia River, known as some of the tastiest of all salmon species for those who want to try and catch their dinner.
Summer: This is the season when most tourists visit Astoria – usually kicking off with the Goonies Day celebration in early June. It’s the warmest time of year, with average highs in the low- to mid-70s, and the sun is likely to make an appearance more often too. While it rarely gets overcrowded, if you plan to come in the summer, be sure to book hotel reservations in advance.
Fall: Autumn is the driest season of the year for those who want to avoid the rain, although you will still want to bring that rain jacket just in case. Mid-September through early October can be one of the best times to visit with pleasant temperatures in the low 70s and few visitors around. As fall progresses, it will begin to cool down significantly, with the mercury rarely rising about the mid-50s by the time November rolls around.
Winter: Snow is rare in Astoria, but you can expect plenty of rain and chilly temperatures, with average highs in the upper 40s and low 50s. It’s the slowest time of year in terms of visitors, so you’re unlikely to have a problem finding accommodation, even at the last minute, while hotels often provide significantly discounted rates.
What is the Best time to Visit Astoria?
Astoria is fun to visit year-round but having experienced every season in this town multiple times, early fall is the very best period to visit overall, generally mid-September through early October, and sometimes a bit further into the month. While there are no guarantees, this is typically “Indian summer,” a time when the sun is more likely to make an appearance, yet all the summer crowds are gone.
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Enjoying this guide? We’ve got more Oregon travel guides to help you explore the best of Oregon and fall head-over-heels in love with it like we have.
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