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15 Top-Rated Things to Do in Astoria, OR

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Oct 14, 2022

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Astoria, Oregon, is home to a long legacy of fur trading, fishing, and fictional sunken treasure á la The Goonies (the 1985 American comedy). Much of the city sits at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, including its notoriously dangerous Columbia River Bar. This unique landscape exudes its own slice of Pacific Northwest paradise in far northwest Oregon.

Astoria
Astoria | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The charm of Astoria is undeniable. Victorian mansions dot the hillsides above the downtown streets, where other historic buildings and maritime attractions also catch the eye. And towering above the city, the iconic Astoria-Megler Bridge is always somewhere in view.

The first place to visit in Astoria is the postcard-perfect Astoria Riverfront, lined with local canneries and restaurants. The Astoria Riverwalk spans the length of the downtown waterfront for easy navigation. And between March and September, the Astoria Riverfront Trolley provides a low-fare and fun way to get around this part of the city.

Much of downtown is accessible via the Riverwalk or trolley, including things to do like shopping, dining, museums, and house tours. And alongside the cultural capital found on the streets, Astoria is also brimming with outdoor attractions. Places like the Astoria Column and nearby state and national parks dive deep into Astoria's lush and saltwater surroundings.

Find out for yourself why Astoria is a popular weekend trip from Portland with our list of the best things to do in Astoria.

1. Astoria Column

The Astoria Column
The Astoria Column | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Astoria Column spirals 125 feet into the air on Coxcomb Hill and has given a great perspective of Astoria's surroundings for nearly 100 years. The landmark was constructed in 1926, and visitors today can still climb the 160-plus steps to the top.

Telescopes at the top provide even better views of the Columbia River, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean on clear days. The column is open from dawn to dusk, and it's free to climb to the top.

But the view isn't half bad from the elevated Coxcomb Hill, either, for those who don't want to navigate the stairs. And just as interesting as the views, the column is also a canvas for a spiraling hand-painted mural. This unique piece of public art outlines major events in Oregon's early history.

A public park surrounds the column with picnic tables, public restrooms, and access to nearby hiking trails, including the popular Cathedral Tree Trail. The park and column are among the most popular places to visit to catch the sunset in Astoria.

Address: 1 Coxcomb Drive, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: https://astoriacolumn.org/

2. Astoria-Megler Bridge

Astoria-Megler Bridge
Astoria-Megler Bridge | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Astoria-Megler Bridge spans over four miles across the Columbia River. It was opened to the public in 1966 and has since solidified itself as an iconic symbol of the city. This impressive feat of engineering is hard to miss when visiting.

The curved entrance ramp in Astoria elevates the bridge to above the city skyline from most vantage points. It's especially present when on the Astoria Riverwalk. Head far enough north on the Riverwalk, and the path leads directly under the trusses for a spectacular view.

Pedestrians are allowed to walk over the Astoria-Megler Bridge once a year, as part of The Great Columbia Crossing 10K run/walk. This annual event takes place in October and allows anyone to cross the bridge at their own pace. The event has drawn over 3,000 runners in the past.

3. Astoria Riverwalk

Astoria Riverwalk
Astoria Riverwalk | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Astoria Riverwalk is a great starting point for any visit. This historic pedestrian corridor stretches for miles on the waterfront, following an old rail line with an even grade. It connects restaurants, museums, and other waterfront attractions and is also an excellent viewing platform for the dynamic river scene, including the many seabirds that tend to gather.

The entire downtown district is accessible via the Riverwalk. This puts attractions like shopping, dining, and museums within its path. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is one of the most popular pitstops, shedding light on the history and nature of the adjacent aquatic landscape.

Ships along the Astoria Riverfront
Ships along the Astoria Riverfront | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The entire Astoria Riverwalk is over six miles long, starting west of the Astoria-Megler Bridge and ending near Tongue Point. Visitors enjoy leisurely strolls along this length, and between March and September, they can hop aboard the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. The trolley spans approximately three miles along the most popular section of the trail.

Come evening, anywhere along the riverfront provides a stunning sunset of changing light and color. The Riverwalk is a popular place to visit, especially on sunny weekends.

4. Astoria Riverfront Trolley

Astoria Riverfront Trolley
Astoria Riverfront Trolley | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Astoria Riverfront Trolley offers one of the best ways to explore the downtown waterfront. The historic Old 300 trolley car operates between Memorial Day and Labor Day, exclusively on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The route spans approximately three miles, connecting all Astoria's top waterfront attractions.

It costs $1 to ride the trolley or $2 for an all-day ticket. Several designated stops line the route, though interested passengers can also wave down the trolley anywhere along the route.

It takes approximately an hour to ride the three-mile rail and back, though most opt to hop off somewhere along the way.

Official site: https://old300.org/

5. Captain George Flavel House Museum

Flavel House Museum
Flavel House Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Clatsop Historical Society operates the Flavel House Museum — a living piece of history proudly standing in downtown Astoria. This Queen Anne-style home was built in the mid-1880s for the businessman and bar pilot, Captain George Flavel. And today it has been meticulously preserved in the period that Flavel and his family occupied the space.

The estate itself covers nearly an entire city block. Intricate woodworking, spiraling stairs, ornate fireplaces, and two-and-a-half stories of artifacts are on display throughout a self-guided tour. And a stroll through the gardens and the adjacent Carriage House is also recommended during a visit.

Interior of Flavel House
Interior of Flavel House | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Flavel House Museum is open to the public every day of the year excluding major holidays. The museum runs for limited hours between October and March. In September, the museum hosts "Old Fun and Games Days," which provide old-fashioned entertainment for the whole family.

Address: 441 Eighth Street, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: http://www.cumtux.org/default.asp?pageid=35

6. Fort Stevens State Park

View from a military installation at Fort Stevens
View from a military installation at Fort Stevens

On the far northwest corner of Oregon, Fort Stevens is a sprawling state park with a storied military history. From the Civil War to the end of the Second World War, Fort Stevens and two other fort installations in Washington played a critical role in coastal defense.

Today, this converted military base features more than 4,000 acres of prime natural and recreation space. Visitors to Fort Stevens find accessible hiking trails and one of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast.

The Historic Military Site within Fort Stevens is a real appeal of any visit. Through interpretive information and a self-guided tour of more than 30 military installations including barracks, batteries, and antique cannons, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the unique military history of the area.

Fort Stevens also features a stunning coastline that stretches for miles. The century-old Peter Iredale shipwreck is quite the sight to see on the Fort Stevens coastline. And with vehicle access on the beach, nearly anyone can enjoy the sand or surf at Fort Stevens.

Address: 100 Peter Iredale Road, Hammond, Oregon

Official Site: https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=129

7. Downtown Astoria

Downtown Astoria
Downtown Astoria | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The downtown district is one of the defining features that makes Astoria one of the top small towns on the Oregon Coast. This bustling area is filled with shops, restaurants, galleries, and the occasional "Wanted" sign for Mama Fratelli (of The Goonies fame).

Clusters of food trucks and local neighborhood cafés provide plenty of places to eat. Live music often filters onto the sidewalks of Astoria to provide a nice soundtrack for exploring. Shopping at any of the local boutiques or galleries is also a fun way to spend the day.

Places like T Paul's Urban Cafe and Astoria Coffeehouse and Bistro are especially recommended to visit. Downtown is also the central location for many cultural attractions, including the George Flavel House Museum and Oregon Film Museum.

Official site: http://www.astoriadowntown.com/

8. Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia River Maritime Museum
Columbia River Maritime Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This kid-friendly museum overlooks the Columbia River near downtown and tells the ongoing maritime history of the surrounding region. And thanks to its many outlets for hands-on education, the Maritime Museum is also a top attraction on the Oregon coast.

Different exhibits at the museum touch upon natural, cultural, and historical attributes of the Columbia River. The museum has one of the biggest collections of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the world. A few permanent exhibits include the science of storms and antique cannons found in the sand,

The museum also features special 3D movie screenings for a small additional fee. And a variety of classes and summer camps are available, ranging from Underwater Robotics Summer Camps to kayak-building seminars.

Address: 1792 Marine Drive, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: http://www.crmm.org/

9. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Fort Clatsop at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
Fort Clatsop at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is on the opposite side of Youngs Bay from downtown. The National Park Service operates this historic park and provides immersive insight into the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The park's visitor center is a great first stop. As is the adjacent reconstructed Fort Clatsop, which originally served as the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery.

From the visitor center and Fort Clatsop, hiking trails and interpretive paths lead to different historical and natural areas of the park. During the peak summer months, besides plenty of visitors, expect to find costumed rangers leading historical demonstrations, and many other kid-friendly things to do.

Address: 92343 Fort Clatsop Road, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/lewi/index.htm

10. Oregon Film Museum

Oregon Film Museum
Oregon Film Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Oregon Film Museum celebrates the many different movies that have been made within the state. It's located within the eye-catching Old Clatsop County Jail, as seen in the Astoria-famous film, The Goonies.

With plenty of memorabilia on display, this museum is very kid-friendly and appealing to cinephiles and casual movie watchers alike. The museum gives visitors a chance to take home their own personal mugshots to commemorate their visit to the old county jail.

The museum offers a great rainy-day activity or fun thing to do no matter the weather. After visiting, take some time to check out the Flavel House Museum across the street. The Oregon Film Museum is open every day of the year except major winter holidays.

Address: 732 Duane Street, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: http://www.oregonfilmmuseum.org/

11. Heritage Museum

Heritage Museum
Heritage Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Clatsop County Historical Society operates the Heritage Museum on a hill overlooking downtown. The museum showcases exhibits and artifacts relating to the long history of the region.

From 1,000-year-old tools used by native inhabitants to a partially reconstructed prohibition-era saloon highlighting Astoria's sordid past, the Heritage Museum houses the definitive collection of Astoria's legacy.

The Neoclassical and striking building that houses the museum is an artifact itself, originally constructed in 1904 and home to City Hall until 1939. The museum is open daily between May and September, with limited hours throughout the rest of the year. Guided tours are available by request, but most visitors opt for self-guided exploration.

Address: 618 Exchange Street, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: http://www.cumtux.org/default.asp?pageid=8&deptid=1

12. Young River Falls

Young River Falls
Young River Falls | Ian Sane / photo modified

Young River Falls is a popular scenic attraction and summer swimming hole, located approximately 10 miles south of Astoria. This year-round waterfall plummets over 50 feet into a large basin, offering the perfect place to cool off during warmer weather. And it's a scenic waterfall to admire the rest of the year, well worth the short quarter-mile hike.

Expect the drive to Young River Falls to take about 20 minutes. The last half of the route follows Young River Road until reaching a signed parking area. It can be a popular spot on sunny weekends. Pets are allowed but must remain on a leash.

13. Garden of Surging Waves

Garden of Surging Waves
Garden of Surging Waves | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Across the street from City Hall, the Garden of Surging Waves was created to commemorate the Chinese heritage in Astoria, as well as to celebrate the city's 200th anniversary of being founded. Within the park, different sculptures, pavilions, and symbolism express Chinese values and honor those in the community who've helped build Astoria into what it is today.

As of 2022, the Garden of Surging Waves occupies about a quarter block of intricately decorated space with future additions in the city's blueprints. Centrally located near the downtown district, this charming city park is a fun and free thing to do upon any tour of the city.

Address: 1095 Duane Street, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: http://www.astoriachineseheritage.org/

14. Fort Astoria

Fort Astoria replica
Fort Astoria replica | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Originally constructed in 1811, Fort Astoria was operated by different fur trading companies throughout its early history. The British took control of the fort for a brief period, renaming it to Fort George and creating a moniker that has stuck over time.

The downtown fort you see today is a reconstruction of the original, and the small park surrounding the recreation is a great spot for a fun photo opportunity. The fort is near other major attractions, including the Heritage Museum and the rest of downtown. Local-favorite patios and restaurants also surrounded the public space, offering authentic flavors of the Pacific Northwest.

Address: 1508 Exchange Street, Astoria, Oregon

15. Uppertown Firefighters Museum

The Uppertown Firefighter's Museum is housed in a 19th-century old brick building near the waterfront, easily accessible from the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. The dated facade and historic feel of the building match nicely with the numerous firefighting artifacts found inside, including a variety of firetruck engines from throughout the ages.

Photos, firefighting tools, and interpretive information are also in this large, open-space museum. The facility is operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society and has limited operating hours throughout the year. For those planning to check it out, it's recommended to call the historical society to schedule a visit.

Address: 2968 Marine Drive, Astoria, Oregon

Where to Stay in Astoria for Sightseeing

A wide variety of hotels in Astoria can be found adjacent to the Columbia River, overlooking the water. Other hotels in the area are more centrally located in the downtown district, still only a few blocks from the Astoria Riverfront and the many top attractions in the city.

Luxury & Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The most upscale accommodations in Astoria can be found at the Cannery Pier Hotel located on a pier overlooking the Columbia River. Besides stunning views of the water, this five-star hotel provides spacious suites, stylish furnishings, and decadent common areas, as well as nice little touches, including complimentary hors d'oeuvres and binoculars in each room.
  • In the heart of the downtown district a few blocks from the Riverfront, Hotel Elliot is a another fine option with stylish décor. This hip and historic hotel has been renovated throughout the years to really embody the Pacific Northwest spirit unique to Astoria.
  • If you want a brand name hotel you can trust, the Hampton Inn & Suites Astoria provides comfortable rooms, an indoor swimming pool, and a complimentary breakfast.

Budget Hotels:

  • For those looking to save their vacation dollars to spend elsewhere, but not wanting to sacrifice style or comfort, places like the Norblad Hotel can fit the ticket. Just two blocks from the Riverfront, this historic hotel is on the second floor of a near-century-old building and features minimalist décor and local artwork on the walls.
  • Another great budget and locally owned option is the Astoria Rivershore Motel. Located next to the water, this affordable hotel often gets great reviews thanks to its quiet rooms, hot showers, and clean facilities.
  • Another cost-friendly option to explore is the Commodore Hotel, which features a slightly communal aspect with shared bathrooms and an open lobby filled with fun games and funky décor.

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