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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Astoria, OR

Written by Brad Lane

Home to a long legacy of fur trading, fishing, and fictional sunken treasure á la The Goonies (the 1985 American comedy), Astoria imbues its own unique slice of Pacific Northwest allure in the far northwest corner of Oregon. It's bordered by both the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Great views of this landscape can be seen atop the historic Astoria Column, and insight into the culture can be experienced at the Columbia River Maritime Museum along the Astoria Riverfront. A cultural haven for tourists, transplants, and long-time residents alike, downtown Astoria provides plenty of shopping opportunities and places to eat plus unique places to visit, including the Oregon Film Museum.

Besides the cultural capital found on the streets, Astoria is also brimming with outdoor attractions. On the west side of Youngs Bay, historical and natural appeal blend together at places like Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and Fort Stevens State Park. A two-hour drive or easy bus ride from Portland's urban attractions, Astoria offers many adventures, intertwined with its rich history. Find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Astoria.

1. Astoria Riverfront

Ships along the Astoria Riverfront

Ships along the Astoria Riverfront | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A great starting point for any visit, the Astoria Riverfront stretches for three miles adjacent to the Columbia River connecting restaurants, museums, and other waterfront attractions. Upon a wooden boardwalk and heritage streetcar line, visitors can take a leisurely stroll or catch the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, which operates nearly every day between March and September. Alongside spectacular views of massive ships on the river, this pedestrian and streetcar path also allows access to attractions like the Maritime Museum and the Uppertown Firefighters Museum. Come evening, anywhere along the riverfront provides a stunning sunset of changing light and color.

2. Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia River Maritime Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Overlooking the Columbia River near downtown, this kid-friendly museum tells the story and ongoing maritime history of the surrounding region. From the science of storms to antique cannons found in the sand, different exhibits at the museum touch upon natural, cultural, and historical attributes of the Columbia River. With the biggest collection of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the world, the museum also features special 3D movie screenings for a small additional fee. A top attraction on the Oregon coast, the Columbia River Maritime Museum hosts a variety of classes and events, including Underwater Robotics Summer Camps and kayak building seminars.

Address: 1792 Marine Drive, Astoria, Oregon

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

3. Astoria Column

The Astoria Column

The Astoria Column

Spiraling 125 feet into the air on Coxcomb Hill, the Astoria Column has been giving great perspectives 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 of the column where telescopes provide even better views of the Columbia River, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean on clear days. Just as interesting as the views, the column is also a canvas for a spiraling hand-painted mural, which outlines major events in Oregon's early history. Surrounding the column, a park site features picnic tables, public restrooms, and access to nearby hiking trails including the popular Cathedral Tree Trail.

Address: 1 Coxcomb Drive, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: https://astoriacolumn.org/

4. Captain George Flavel House Museum

Flavel House Museum

Flavel House Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Operated by the Clatsop Historical Society, the Flavel House Museum is a piece of living history proudly standing in downtown Astoria. Built in the mid-1880s for the businessman and bar pilot, Captain George Flavel, this Queen Anne-style home has been meticulously preserved in the period that Flavel and his family occupied the space. Intricate woodworking, spiraling stairs, ornate fireplaces, and two-and-a-half stories full of artifacts can be viewed and photographed (without flash) on a self-guided tour. The estate itself covers nearly an entire city block, and upon any visit, a stroll through the gardens and tour of the adjacent Carriage House is also recommended.

Address: 441 Eighth Street, Astoria, Oregon

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

5. Downtown Astoria

Downtown Astoria

Downtown Astoria | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Filled with shops, restaurants, galleries, and the occasional "Wanted" sign for Mama Fratelli (of The Goonies fame), the downtown district is one of the defining features that makes Astoria one of the best small towns on the Oregon coast. Clusters of food trucks and local neighborhood cafes provide plenty of places to eat, and live music on the sidewalks provides 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, as are the various cultural attractions downtown including the George Flavel House Museum.

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

6. Fort Stevens State Park

Pets and owner enjoying the beach at Fort Stevens State Park

Pets and owner enjoying the beach at Fort Stevens State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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, more than 4,000 acres of prime natural and recreation space define Fort Stevens, including accessible hiking trails, one of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast, and a stunning coastline, which stretches for miles. The century-old Peter Iredale shipwreck can also be viewed up close on the beach at Fort Stevens.

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

Fort Clatsop at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Fort Clatsop at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

On the opposite side of Youngs Bay from downtown, the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park provides immersive insight into the Lewis and Clark expedition. Operated by the National Park Service, the park's visitor center is a great first stop, as well as the adjacent reconstructed Fort Clatsop, which originally served as the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery. From here, hiking trails and interpretive paths lead to different historical areas and stunning natural features within 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

8. Heritage Museum

Heritage Museum

Heritage Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society and on a hill overlooking downtown, the Heritage 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.

Address: 618 Exchange Street, Astoria, Oregon

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

9. Oregon Film Museum

The Old Clatsop County Jail and Oregon Film Museum

The Old Clatsop County Jail and Oregon Film Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Open every day of the year except major winter holidays, the Oregon Film Museum celebrates the many different movies that have been made within the state. Located in the Old Clatsop County Jail, as seen in the Astoria-famous film, The Goonies, this museum takes you behind the curtain of your favorite filmed-in-Oregon movies. With plenty of memorabilia on display, this museum is very kid-friendly and appealing to cinephiles and casual movie watchers alike. A great rainy day or any-day activity in Astoria, the museum gives visitors a chance to take home their own personal mugshot to commemorate their visit to the old county jail.

Address: 732 Duane Street, Astoria, Oregon

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

10. Garden of Surging Waves

Garden of Surging Waves

Garden of Surging Waves | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Located 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's past who have helped build Astoria into what it is today. As of 2018, 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/

11. 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. With proximity to other attractions, including the Heritage Museum and the rest of downtown, also surrounding the public space, are local favorite restaurants serving authentic flavors of the Pacific Northwest.

Address: 1508 Exchange Street, Astoria, Oregon

12. Uppertown Firefighters Museum

Easily accessed from the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, the Uppertown Firefighter's Museum is housed in a 19th-century old brick building. The dated facade and historic feel of the building matches nicely with the numerous firefighting artifacts found inside, including a variety of firetruck engines from throughout the ages. Photos, firefighting tools, and interpretive information also can be found in this large, open-space museum. Operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society, the Uppertown Firefighter's Museum has limited operating hours throughout the year. For those planning to check it out, it's recommended to call the historical society ahead of time 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 and 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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