You can easily spend several days in Astoria, Oregon with plenty to do and the beautiful Oregon coast is only a few miles away. From the Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill you can get a good overview of the town with its old Victorian houses and Art-Deco style downtown buildings.
It is impossible to talk about Astoria, Oregon without also talking about its rich history which is part of the "flavor" of this charming town. Astoria is built on hills and there is a view of the Columbia River every where you go. There is a constant parade of fishing boats, barges, container, and cruise ships. In June ships from the U.S. and Canadian Navy pass by on their way to the Portland Rose Festival.
It began as Fort Astoria, built by John Jacob Astor as a fur trading post in 1811. Then because it was not as successful as Astor had hoped, it was sold to the British in 1813. The British had a deep interest in the area and had the goal of controlling the Columbia River. The area was not completely under United States control until after 1845.
But this is not the beginning of recorded history for this area. The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805-1906 at nearby Fort Clatsop which they built while waiting for a ship to arrive to take them back to the east coast. It was a long hard winter and no ship ever came. So they had to make the trek back the same way they came.
Life in Astoria has always centered on the river and fishing. This is why thousands of immigrants from Finland settled here in the late 1900's and added a Scandinavian influence to the town. They fished the river, worked in the fish canneries, or worked in the woods as loggers.
Hollywood loves to make movies in Astoria which I think is fitting because this is where Clark Gable began his acting career. He joined the Astoria Players Stock Company and appeared at the Liberty Theater in 1922. Those who love the movie, "The Goonies," already know where they want to visit in Astoria. They want to see the Goonies house (pictured above), the County Jail, and Flavel House.
June 7th (the date the movie was released) is now actually the official "Goonies Day" in Astoria with special events. The 30th anniversary of the film will take place with three days of fun, June 5, 6, and 7, 2015.
You can see the Goonies House at 368 38th Street but remember that it is a private residence. You cannot drive up to the house. Just park at the bottom of the hill and walk up the driveway. Take pictures but try not to disturb the people who live there.
Other movies shot in Astoria include Kindergarten Cop in which children from Astoria played themselves in their own school, the "Free Willy" movies one and two, "Benji, The Hunted," "Short Circuit," and "The Black Stallion."
Many of these activities are good things to do if the weather isn't so nice.
Most people visiting Astoria go to see the column, patterned after Trajan's Column in Rome. It rises 125 feet above Coxcomb Hill. From the top you can see the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River, and the snow-capped Cascade Mountains to the west. Many of the photos you see of Astoria are taken here.
The Flavel House is a two and a half story Victorian style house that was built by Captain George Flavel in 1885. The mansion has many of the original furnishings and is representative of the decor at the time. Captain Flavel was a Columbia River Bar Pilot that made his fortune by first guiding ships across the bar and later from real estate and shipping. A carriage house was added in 1887 and it now houses the visitor's center and is home to the Clatsop County Historical Society. You will find this Flavel house at the corner of 8th and Duane Street.
There is a second Flavel mansion which is not open to the public and needs restoration work. It was owned by descendants of Capt. Flavel one of which was "Hatchet Harry" convicted of attempted murder in 1990. This house which is many people's idea of what a haunted house looks like is on the corner of 15th Street and Franklin.
The old Clatsop County Jail has been converted into a museum dedicated to films made in Oregon. Of course, "Goonies" plays a starring role because an opening scene of the film was shot here. You will find the museum at 732 Duane Street in Astoria. Hours: Open every day, May - September from 10 am to 5 pm, October - April from 11 am to 4 pm.
See the Lightship Columbia, the Pilot Boat Peacock, and view an interactive film about crossing the Columbia River Bar. The Bar where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean is one of the most dangerous in the world with 40-foot waves during heavy storms. The museum is located on the waterfront at 1792 Marine Drive. Hours are daily 9:30 am - 5:00 pm.
The Heritage Museum is in the old Astoria City Hall building. It covers the history of the area that is now Clatsop County from the early indians to modern times. Hours: May - September 10 am to 5 pm and October - April 11 am to 4 pm.
Long gone are the days when the waterfront was lined with more than a dozen canneries including the Bumble Bee cannery where canned tuna began. The canneries that remain have been rebuilt and turned into something else much more useful to today's Astoria. The Cannery Pier Hotel, luxury accommodation, sits below the four-mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge that crosses the river to Washington.
The Bumble Bee Cannery Pier, now known as Pier 39, is a complex housing the Bumble Bee Cannery Museum, Rogue Ale House where you can get a beer and a pizza, a scuba and kayak rental store, the Coffee Girl coffee shop, and three luxury suites rentals overlooking the water that you can stay in. There is even a place with a crab tank where you can buy Dungeness Crab.
You can walk or bike along the Astoria Riverwalk clear to Tongue Point if you want or you can tour two miles of the waterfront and the town itself by riding the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. A round trip on the trolley takes about an hour. See here for where to catch it.
A fun thing to do is rent a bike to travel around Astoria or explore the riverwalk. Bikes and Beyond are located just a block off the riverwalk at 1089 Marine Drive and 11th Street. Bikes are $5.00 an hour or $20.00 for a whole day. Helmuts are free.
The Astoria-Warrenton Crab Seafood and Wine Festival is always held at the end of April. Crab dinners are served all day long, live music the whole weekend, tastings of the wine made in the Pacific Northwest, and beer too. Parking can be a problem at this popular event but you can take a shuttle bus from many of the hotels in town.
The Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival is held the third full weekend in June. The descendants of the Scandinavians who made Astoria their home in the early 1900's celebrate their heritage with traditional food, dance, crafts, costumes, and music. The events are held at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds which are three miles east of Astoria.
The Astoria Music Festival takes place the last two weeks of June. The 2014 program includes Wagmer, Verdi, and Stravinski performed by well-known musicians from across the country and beyond. If you are interested in attending, keep track of performances and when tickets go on sale here.
You can experience any kind of fishing you want from fly fishing for trout in the Columbia's tributaries to fishing for tuna and halibut in the Pacific Ocean and some of the best crabbing you have ever seen. Fish for salmon or sturgeon in the Columbia River. For the inexperienced it is probably best to rent a charter where the equipment and know-how is provided. Arrange your fishing trip with Astoria Fishing Guides and Charters which is one of the best.
North Coast Distilling opened this year in February. Owner Lawrence Cary hales from Kentucky and he knows what he's doing. At the present he is distilling vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, and bourbon. The tasting room is open from 3 pm to 6 pm on Thursday and Friday. Hours on Saturday are 1 pm to 6 pm and on Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. You will find the distillery at 1270 Duane Avenue in Astoria.
Visit historic Fort Stevens at Fort Stevens State Park and view the Columbia River Bar from Clatsop Spit.
Learn about Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop
Take a Columbia River Cruise on the Majestic Line
You will need a place to sleep if you are going to spend more than a day in Astoria. Here is a good choice of hotels. The best campgrounds is at Fort Stevens State Park (see link above).