Two hours from Portland, At the mouth of the Columbia River, where it meets the Pacific Ocean sits the charming town of Astoria, Oregon. Known as the western end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Astoria has a lot of historical relevance and is the oldest settlement in the US west of the Rockies. Astoria was originally a small fort, grew to a fishing and canning village in its heyday and now is home to 10,000 people.
A mere 30 minute drive from where we were saying in Seaside, Oregon, we decided to take a quick drive up to see the city. I’m so glad we did because what followed was a great adventure!
Not knowing what to do and our lack of research, we headed to the Visitor’s Centre. The lady behind the counter was so sweet (a trend that would come out over the next couple days – people along the coast are SO nice!) and gave us a great overview of what to do and what to see in the area. With maps in hand, we headed out to explore the city.
Our first destination? The Astoria Column. But first, we had to drive through the town. It’s not very big, but the streets we did see were so charming and fit every stereotype I have of small town America. I loved all the low buildings and the beautifully designed buildings. Some were just stunning!
The drive up to the column takes you through some residential streets as well. These houses here are majestic Victorian houses. I would love to live in one of these. Plus they had such fabulous views.
The Astoria Column
The Astoria Column is located on Coxcomb Hill and was building in 1926 to commemorate the area’s history. Wrapping around the column are 14 murals scenes that depict the history of Astoria from early settlers up until the late 19th century. It can be rather difficult to actually see what is on the column as it’s so big and you really have to crane your neck to get a good look.
The view is great from the bottom of the column, but for even more dramatic views of the river and ocean, a climb up the Astoria Column is a must. The climb of 164 steps on a spiral staircase inside the column is a dizzying 125 ft (38 m) high.
Even though I exercise and hit the gym frequently, by the time I got to the top, I was winded and so so dizzy. I really hate spiral staircases – going up, going down, either way I get so completely turned around and confused. Stepping outside just made the vertigo even worse. I couldn’t walk around for awhile and needed time to get adjusted.
The view from the top is amazing though. You really get to see the surrounding areas and look out into the Pacific Ocean.
Good to Know
- Driving to the top of Coxcomb Hill is easy. The city has painted columns on their streets which tells you you’re on the right route. It’s very twisty through all the residential streets.
- Visiting the column is free, but you have to pay $2 for parking. You’re handed a parking pass which is valid for the next year.
- The walk up can be rather strenuous. There is no elevator, but there are platforms every so often where you can pause and rest a bit.
- There is an onsite gift shop where you can purchase a biodegradable glider to set off from the top of the column if you like dropping things from high places.
We next drove out to Pier 39. Yes, drove out onto the pier. There was water under where we parked. I found this to be so cool. Most of the time when I go to the pier, I’m just walking on it and never do you get to drive out onto it.
The visitor centre said there were sea lions in the area and that we should be able to smell and hear then before we could see them. A walk around the pier and there was nothing, which too turned into a trend on this trip. We finally spotted a few way far off in the distance.
The pier is also home to a free museum showcasing the Hanthorn Cannery which once called this pier home. We were too late in the day and it had closed already, but I envision it would be pretty similar to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery we have in Vancouver.
Fort Steven’s State Park
Just outside of the city of Astoria is Fort Steven’s State Park which definitely shouldn’t be missed. Why? Because you can get up close and personal with a shipwreck. The Peter Iredale has been stuck in the sands of the park since the early 1900s. Visitors can explore in and climb on what remains of the ship. A must see when visiting Astoria.
Read more: Shipwrecked at Fort Steven’s State Park
Other Things To Do in Astoria
There were a couple of other things to do in the town that the visitor centre recommended we do, but we didn’t have time for:
Running the length of the riverfront is a trolley that takes you through the city. The Astoria Riverfront Trolley, called Old 300, is a restored 1913 trolley car. For $1 you get great views of the city and stories from the conductors. Round trip takes an hour which is why we opted to not go. We did seen it running and the trolley was very cute.
We drove by the Columbia River Maritime Museum and it looked really interesting. From the outside you can spot boats set up inside and I loved the shape of the building. Looks like a wave to me. We didn’t have enough time to check it out, but I wonder what it is like.
The movie, the Goonies was filmed here and there are a couple locations worth checking out if you’re a fan of the movie. I haven’t seen the movie and the others weren’t too interested in going to the sites either.
For such a small town, there is a surprisingly a lot of great things to do and shouldn’t be skipped on your journey down the Oregon Coast. The whole town is so charming and great fun to discover.
Have you stumbled upon great little towns while traveling that have completely charmed you? Have you been to Astoria before? How did you like it?