Not too many travelers know about the gem that's at the northern-most edge of the Oregon Coast: Astoria. Let's fix that! We've traveled across the Oregon Coast three times by now and let me tell you that Astoria was a popular stop. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend there.
In this post, I listed the 10 best things there are to do in town. We've covered most of these in our visits so far - but not all. So, this is also my own personal Astoria bucket list. I'm sure we'll be back to tick off the items we haven't covered so far.
Here are the top 10 things to do and see in Astoria, Oregon:
- Astoria Column
- Columbia River Maritime Museum
- Astoria-Megler Bridge
- Fort Stevens State Park
- Astoria Riverfront Trolley
- Flavel House Museum
- Fort Clatsop National Memorial
- Astoria Oregon Riverwalk
- Cathedral Tree Trail
- Young River Falls
Keep reading for information on the cost, hours of operation, and links to the website of each attraction. I also included a list of the best places to stay in Astoria at the end of this post.
Where is Astoria, Oregon
Some may say Astoria is not on the Oregon coast per se. If you take a look at the map, you'll see that the town is located where the Columbia River meets the ocean -
This location is what makes Astoria so special. This point of entry into the Northwest gives it strategic and commercial importance beyond its size. That's why you'll see military forts and a maritime museum in this list.
Astoria is a great destination for a day trip from Portland, Oregon. It also lends itself very well to a road trip along the coasts of the Northwest. So much so, that I included it in my suggested itinerary for a road trip of the Washington Coast (even though it's in Oregon).
Things to Do in Astoria, Oregon
Moving on to the actual list of the things you should include in your itinerary!
1. Astoria Column
This 125-foot tower serves as a memorial for the role the Great Northern Railway played in the city. A spiral frieze covers the outside, depicting 14 separate events significant to the early history of Oregon.
It contains a spiral staircase that allows visitors to climb to the observation deck at the top and take in breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The staircase has 164 steps so if you struggle climbing stairs this might not be the activity for you. On the other hand, if this is something you want to do, the views of the Columbia River, Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, and the Pacific Ocean are incredible!
If you come with kids, you have to include this column in your itinerary, and then buy a few small balsa-wood planes at the shop near the tower. They only cost a buck each, and you can fly them off from the top of the tower. Actually, the kids are just an excuse, I think in our case, my husband had the most fun with these...
The cost for parking is $5, there is no fee for entering the park or visiting the column. You can visit anytime from dawn to dusk, and the park itself closes at 10 pm. There is a gift shop open year-round, but the hours vary by season. Check the website for more specific information, including directions.
2. Columbia River Maritime Museum
This museum looks at the Columbia River Bar and the different extremes that have been occurring along it. Inside you will be able to learn about waves that surge up to over 40 feet high in severe winter storms along the Columbia River Bar. There is an additional exhibit that dives into the Science of Storms.
They also have exhibits of maps of the Pacific Coast and marine art, including noted works of artist Rolf Klep. You can tour the Lightship Columbia and then look at artifacts from the USS Shark Cannon, including 2 19th Century Cannons. There are also 3D movies available for viewing for an additional $5 per person.
We really enjoyed this museum. It took us about four hours to go through everything and we learned a lot about the maritime challenges of this particular location. One memorable experience: As we were walking the halls of the Lightship Columbia, we heard someone sending out messages in Morse code! We found the source of the sounds in one of the rooms on board the ship - it really was Morse code station, operated by the local radio society. The man behind the machine was super friendly and turned out to be a former sailor of the ship!
The museum is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm year-round, except when closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The cost for adults is $14 and they do offer discounted prices for seniors, children, and active military. For more detailed information, including directions, you can visit their website.
3. Astoria-Megler Bridge
Opened in 1966, this bridge completed U.S. Route 101 between Olympia, Washington and Los Angeles, California. Due to being known for its beautiful architecture, many visitors say crossing the bridge is just as worthwhile as viewing it from downtown Astoria. In addition, it has majestic views and is free to cross.
We enjoyed our crossing of the bridge for the views and just knowing that you're crossing the mighty Columbia River. Pretty cool!
The structure is usually closed to pedestrians but once a year a portion of it is closed off so that the “Great Columbia Crossing” can utilize the bridge. This run/walk shuttles participants to the Washington side of the bridge. After that, they run or walk to the Oregon side. This six-mile (10 km) event typically lasts around 2 hours and usually takes place in October.
4. Fort Stevens State Park
Fort Stevens has grown into a 4,300-acre park. It was originally the primary military installation for the area from the Civil War until World War II. They have a military museum and information center. In addition, it is home to the only Civil War-era earthen fort on the west coast and Battery Russel.
Battery Russell, constructed in 1903, was a concrete gun battery built to house cannon and heavy artillery. It is now home to the Pacific Rim Peace Memorial, dedicated to the American and Japanese soldiers involved in the shelling of Fort Stevens. Visitors can visit and tour the remaining structure for a glimpse of early 20th-century U.S. military history.
The remains of the Peter Iredale, a historic shipwreck, is located within the park past the South Jetty. We had a glimpse but didn't stay at the beach for long.
Many visitors like to visit the viewing platform which overlooks the jetty and watch ships as they travel along the Columbia River.
The park is known for its' network of nine miles of paved bicycle trails and six miles of hiking trails. Moreover, they have areas for beach-combing, freshwater swimming, wildlife viewing, and historic structures. It makes for a full day of exploring and learning in one location!
The park is open year-round and costs $5 for day use parking. In addition, if you are into camping there are many options available within this park. Check out their website for more detailed information as well as any advisories for your time of travel.
5. Astoria Riverfront Trolley
Built in 1913, “Old 300” is the trolley that runs during the summer. It runs 3-miles between different attractions along the riverfront, including the Maritime Museum (#2 on this list). It is considered a must-do for any visitors wanting to see the history and take in the old-world charm of Astoria.
The trolley offers amazing views so you can take in the sights without trying to keep your eyes on the road! If you have kids, the volunteers that run the trolley will allow them to ring the bell. In addition, these locals are great at pointing out interesting places and offering tips on the places locals like to eat!
The average round trip takes around an hour and costs $2 for the day. For more information on the history of the trolley check out their website. In addition, it will give you detailed information about routes and when the trolley runs. It even has a tracker so you can see exactly where the trolley is while you are in Astoria!
6. Flavel House Museum
Located at the corner of 8th and Duane Streets, this museum is a glimpse into the Victorian period and one of the area’s most influential families of the time. The Victorian house was built in 1885 for Captain George Flavel.
The Captain made his fortune in Astoria as a river bar pilot and real estate investments. This was to be his retirement home, and he lived there for 7 years before he passed away. In the ‘30s up until World War II the house was used as offices for different government agencies.
Walking through the house is like taking a trip back in time. It is 11,600 square-feet, two-and-a-half stories high and sits on an entire city block. Each aspect of the house is a prime example of the Queen Anne architectural style.
If you are interested in that time period or just in historical homes, this is another must-see! The house is available to tour for $6 per adult year-round, but the times change with the season. For detailed information on when you can visit, visit their website.
7. Fort Clatsop National Memorial
Originally the winter encampment for the Lewis & Clark expedition, this site strengthened the United State’s claim to the Northwest. It also helped pave the way for the Pacific Fur Company Post, the first American settlement in the area. The memorial is a replica of Fort Clatsop so that visitors can see what this original settlement looked like.
The site has been incorporated into the Lewis & Clark National & State Historical Parks. The park includes a visitor’s center. In addition, there is an exhibit hall, 2 informational films, and a bookstore. During the summer months, there are ranger-led activities with other events listed on their calendar.
This piece of American history is open to the public year-round, but the times change based on the season. The cost is $7 per person, but anyone under the age of 15 is free. Visit their website for more detailed information.
8. Astoria Oregon Riverwalk
This 6.4-mile trail is the most popular non-motorized option for touring Astoria’s waterfront. It follows a section of the Astoria and Columbia River Railroad and provides you an opportunity to take in the Astoria-Megler Bridge (#3) from underneath.
The trail surface is asphalt and boardwalk, making it a good biking or skating trail if you prefer a faster option than walking. In addition, the trail connects different museums, restaurants, breweries, and other landmarks. Keep your ears peeled and you'll soon hear the sounds of sea lions. They're not visible (at least we couldn't see them) but they're right under the deck, beneath your feet!
You can start your walk at the Port of Astoria and follow it through to the lagoons near Tongue Point. There are interpretive kiosks available along the walk which provides a historical narrative of the area. It is open 24/7 and is free to traverse, a map is available by visiting this site.
9. Cathedral Tree Trail
This 1.5-mile out and back trail is said to be an easy hike for all skill levels. It features views of beautiful wildflowers, numerous activity options, and ends at the Astoria Column (#1). Not only is it free to use, but it is also kid-friendly and dog-friendly.
The trail gets its’ name from the Cathedral Tree. A large Sitka spruce with a buttress-like base that is still standing, despite the amount of devastation around it from a December 2007 windstorm. The tree is believed to be more than 300 years old. Even more amazing, the tree is over 200 feet tall, has a diameter of 8.5 feet, and a circumference of over 27 feet!
Visitors suggest standing under the roots for a picture to truly understand the scale of this enormous tree. For more information on the trail and to get a detailed map you can visit this website.
10. Youngs River Falls
This waterfall is 45 feet tall and offers picturesque scenery for those who visit it. There is a car park available near the short hike required to get to the falls. Visitors say this is a small price to pay to be able to see this beautiful natural landmark. Many suggest bringing a picnic and spend a little time taking in the views before turning around and heading back.
The area is free to visit and open year-round. Some visitors say that the trailhead can be difficult to find using GPS and if you reach the quarry you just need to keep driving another 100 feet or so. This website shows the exact location and might be helpful when you plan your trip. In addition, it provides you with some fun facts about the falls, like they have been featured in several movies!
Where to Stay in Astoria
Here are a few options on places to stay based on my research and experience. As usual, the links will take you to my favorite website for booking accommodations during any of my trips, www.booking.com
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Astoria is the highest rated place to stay. It is right next to the historic Riverwalk and Riverfront Trolley (#s 9 & 5 on this list, respectively). In addition, it has a hot breakfast buffet daily.
The Norblad Hotel is the second highest rated hotel and the best value option available. Furthermore, it is a historic 90-year-old building located within walking distance of the Riverwalk (#9 on this list).
I hope this post helps you plan your own trip to Astoria. If you need any help, have questions or comments, do let me know by leaving a comment here - thank you!