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The Absolute Best Things To Do In Astoria Oregon

Astoria, Oregon viewed from above.

Oh Astoria, this place has captivated us twice now. This city just has a certain powerful aura that’s hard to describe.

Astoria Oregon sits at the mouth of the Columbia River, right where the nation’s fourth biggest river collides with the mighty Pacific Ocean.

As the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, Astoria is steeped in history. From the early native Americans to the completion of Lewis & Clark’s grand expedition, to a maritime legacy that is still being written to this day.

And with all the famous movies that have been filmed here, it seems that Hollywood agrees that there is something just powerful about this place.

Here are the best things to do in Astoria Oregon to help you plan your visit.

Astoria Riverfront Trolley (AKA Old 300)    

The Astoria Riverfront Trolley

I can’t think of a better way to begin your Astoria visit than riding the historic Riverfront Trolley. This narrated trolley ride will introduce you to so many of the things that make Astoria great!

It costs 1 dollar to board for a round trip or just 2 dollars for unlimited rides for a day. And it is cash only.

Volunteer conductors provide tons of interesting insights into the history, landmarks, buildings, wildlife, and more. It’s a great way to be introduced to the town and get around to many things on this list.

The Trolley itself has a long and storied history, long before its new life in Astoria. It was actually built in St Louis in 1913, first serving as a streetcar in San Antonio Texas. After many cycles of relocation and neglect. It eventually found its way all the way to Astoria, where volunteers restored it for yet another new life.

The trolley runs daily from noon to 5pm (except Wednesdays). And when cruise ships are docked, they extend the service from 9am to 6pm.

But rather hilariously, the trolley doesn’t run in rain or snow.

And the thing about Astoria, is that they get a lot of clouds and rain.

But regardless of whether or not the trolley is running, you can always stroll the Astoria Riverwalk to explore the waterfront. Just be mindful of the trolley if you are on the tracks.

Astoria Column

The Astoria Column is an historic tower above town.

This 125-foot tower sits atop the highest hill in town. And the views from up here are too grand to even capture!

This historic monument was built in 1926 to commemorate America’s settlement of the West. The 525-foot mural carved into the tower tells the history of Astoria.

The mural on The Astoria Column.

From here, it’s easy to appreciate the magnitude of the landscape and envision all the hardships people have endured to survive here.

Admission to the park is $5 per car.

You can climb the dizzying 164 stairs to the top of the tower for the best views. But don’t worry if you’re not up for the climb because the views from below are plenty impressive too.

There’s a small gift shop at the bottom, where they sell wooden gliders for a dollar that you can launch from the top of the column.

Bowpicker Fish & Chips

A fresh order of fish and chips from the Bowpicker.

This retired fishing boat is one of the most unique places to get fish & Chips on the Oregon coast. They keep it really simple, the Albacore Tuna fish and chips is the only thing on the menu. Add an extra piece of fish if you like.

I was initially skeptical that this place was a gimmicky tourist trap. But after trying it, I must say it’s perhaps the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Their breading is unlike any breading I’ve tasted before. It’s delightfully airy and crispy, yet melts in your mouth at the same time.

But something to be aware of is that it’s cash only and there is no seating. Also, due to the unique kitchen arrangement, sometimes they have to close because of wind or rain. So it’s not going to be the perfect restaurant for every occasion or type of party.

The Goonies House (Plus Film History Museum)

The Goonies House in Astoria Oregon
“The Goonies House”

Another one of Astoria’s claims to fame is that The Goonies was filmed here. Mikey and Bran’s house from the movie still sits on the same hill above town.

And the jailhouse from the opening scene of the movie now serves as a film museum, with the jeep from the movie parked out front.

The Oregon Film Museum is the former County jail, featured in The Goonies.

While The Goonies is definitely the most well-known, other popular films like Free Willy and Kindergarten Cop were also filmed in Astoria.

The film museum is only $6 per person and is a great thing for movie buffs to explore.

If you want to see the Goonies House, keep in mind that it’s a privately owned home in a residential neighborhood.

The current owners have kept the house accurate to the movie set, and are nice enough to tolerate the high volume of visitors. So please be respectful of the neighborhood.

Since it’s at the top of a dead-end street, they ask that you park down the hill and visit only on foot.

Drive The Astoria–Megler Bridge

The Astoria Megler Bridge.

I know it seems funny to include a bridge, but this impressive bridge is really an iconic feature of Astoria. It spans over 4 miles to cross the Columbia River, connecting the states of Oregon and Washington.

Driving over the bridge on a clear day can be an entertaining activity in itself.

You can make a day trip out of it by visiting some popular destinations just across the border. (i.e. Cape Disappointment, Fort Columbia, and Willapa National Wildlife Refuge).

Visit Pier 39

Pier 39 extending out over the water.

Astoria’s Pier 39 is the oldest standing fish cannery dock on the Columbia River. Canning salmon was one of the biggest industries in Astoria. And Pier 39 has been preserved to commemorate that history.

The dock has a free museum with small exhibits about the cannery and its workers.

Coffee Girl is a great place to enjoy your coffee or breakfast with a view. And there’s also a seafood restaurant, Rogue brewpub, and other shops.

Pier 39

Pier 39 is the last stop on the trolley, so it’s an easy and fun way to get transportation here. Otherwise driving out on the wooden pier is fun, but be aware that parking is limited on the pier itself.

Watch Sea Lions

A Sea Lion in Astoria

There are several popular places in Astoria to see sea lions. They especially like to hang out inside the breakwater near Pier 39. Another common location where they hang out is right under the docks near the Bowline Hotel.

Listening for their distinctive barking is a good way to know when they’re around.

Self-Guided Brewery Tour

Enjoying beers at the Fort George Brewery (Lovell Taproom)
Enjoying beers at the Fort George Brewery (Lovell Taproom)

Astoria has an impressive collection of local breweries to visit. It’s easy to find some unique and delicious beers, plus food too.

Fort George Brewery

The upstairs pizza restaurant at Fort George Brewery.

The Fort George Brewery is our favorite. This big brewery occupies an entire historic city block, and recently expanded some operations to the waterfront as well. Enjoy a pint at the downstairs pub, the upstairs wood-fired pizza spot, or in the Lovell Taproom close to where the magic happens.

Our favorite spot is the second floor. Enjoy great views in this open space or from the rooftop patio. And the wood-fired pizza is sooo good, like I would come here just for the pizza.

Buoy Beer Company

The Buoy Beer Company building.

Buoy Beer Company is the other massive local brewery in town. They are most well known for their super drinkable and tasty lighter styles of beer.

Their waterfront brewery recently suffered some near-catastrophic damage. So during our most recent visit, they were temporarily serving beer inside the Astoria Food Hub.

But they have announced plans to open a new brewery soon on the south side of town.

Astoria Brewing Company

The exterior and oceanfront patio at the Astoria Brewing Company

This brewery has an awesome waterfront location. They have a great patio facing the river. And even if the weather keeps you inside, their long beer hall-style tables provide good views too.

We didn’t try the food so we can’t comment on that.

We just ordered the Jake & Emily special, two Hazy IPAs, and we loved ‘em so much that we had them can up a crowler to go!

Be aware they have eliminated tipping, instead choosing to just pay employees a living wage. So don’t be shocked by the higher prices on the menu. 

Breakside Brewery

This brewery hails from nearby Portland Oregon. Recently opening up this location in Astoria. Breakside is yet another awesome brewery addition to Astoria. We didn’t try the food, but the beers we had were delicious. And their garage doors open to picnic tables outside.

Rogue Public House

Rogue is another very successful Oregon brewery that started farther down the coast in Newport Oregon. They have a gastropub on Pier 39, but we missed Rogue this time around since we went to the Pier for breakfast.

Also we just recently visited Rogue in Newport. (Read Best things to do in Newport)

Columbia River Maritime Museum

The coast guard exhibit at the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

If you are looking for a good rainy-day activity, Astoria has one of the nation’s best maritime museums. And for good reason.

The Columbia River has been critical to trade and navigation for decades. From the time the Lewis & Clark expedition successfully navigated to the Pacific Ocean, to the present day where billions of dollars of trade pass through here annually.

The Columbia River Bar is notoriously one of the most dangerous bar crossings in the world. It has earned the nickname, the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’. The mighty river clashes with the wind and waves of the Pacific Ocean creating wild and unpredictable conditions.

Even today with all our advanced shipbuilding and modern technology, all ships engaging in foreign trade are required to employ a dedicated bar pilot.

The Astoria Megler Bridge and cargo ship.

The Museum has many exhibits to explore, from fishing history, to one of the most dangerous coast guard stations, to shipwreck recovery and more. If there’s any downside to this museum, it’s that you can almost get burnt out from too much reading.

But they also have a 3D movie theater, showing a rotation of topical movies.

The Columbia Lightship at the Maritime Museum in Astoria.
The Columbia Lightship

Outside the museum, you can tour the Columbia Lightship. This retired vessel operated as basically a floating lighthouse at the mouth of the Columbia River.

It’s a unique bit of preserved history, and it’s cool to imagine what it was like for sailors stationed aboard this boat, enduring day after day of Pacific Ocean abuse. And try to catch a free tour of the engine room if they are offering them.

Walk Around Astoria’s Neighborhoods

The Pigeon Steps above Astoria.
“The Pigeon Steps”

If you are looking for a great free activity in Astoria, we always enjoy simply wandering around town.

The hilly streets make for a good workout and help provide nice views of the area.

The architecture of homes in Astoria is definitely one of the underrated things about the town.

Cute and colorful houses in Astoria

Even to the casual observer, you’ll find yourself admiring the layers of colorful houses, all with unique and varied architecture.

Youngs River Falls

Jake and Emily taking a selfie in front of Young River Falls.

This trail is one of the best spots for nature lovers. This short 0.3-mile hike brings you down to a massive 54-foot waterfall. This powerful falls blankets the area with mist.

Just downstream from the falls there is a small beach that’s a good place to sunbathe and swim in the summer.

The trailhead is about 20 minutes from Astoria.

Fort Stevens State Park

The Peter Iredale Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park.

This massive state park is a great place to visit for history and nature.

It’s the site of the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. One of the thousands of ships that have crashed or sunk at the mouth of the Columbia River.

But unlike most others, this shipwreck remains easily accessible in its final resting place. All that’s visible now is a skeletal steel frame from the bow of the ship. Though occasionally shifting sands reveal more of the boat.

The best time to visit is either low or mid-tide. During low tide it’s easy to walk around the ship wreck, but then it’s also hard to take photos without other people in them. At midtide, you can still walk around the wreck (if you don’t mind getting your feet wet), and the shimmering sand creates nice reflections.

The namesake of this park, Fort Stevens is a historic military fort built for its strategic geographic position.

To visit the fort, it costs $5 per car (which also gets you access to Coffenbury Lake). Or the annual pass is $30.

It was constructed during the American Civil War, oddly enough to protect against a British invasion from Canada, should they decide to side with the Confederates.

But…….the fort wasn’t actually completed until after the war ended.

Artillery at Fort Stevens State Park

During WWII, this strategic location was bolstered again with many more buildings, artillery, and bunkers.

But even if you could care less about history, Fort Stevens State Park has plenty of other things to do. There are hiking trails, lakes, camping, vehicle beach access, a disk golf course, and even herds of elk roaming the area.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

The replica of Fort Clatsop.

The entire purpose of Lewis & Clark’s expedition was to chart a path to the Pacific Ocean. With their arrival to the area, they had finally achieved their lofty goal. This park occupies the site where they made camp for the winter, before heading back to report their findings.

The park has some exhibits about Lewis & Clark, easy hiking trails, and a replica of the fort they built. Which admittedly, as a replica, wasn’t really doing it for us.

The park also highlights Sacajawea. Who, as a translator and interpreter, was essential for helping the expedition connect with native tribes along the way, including the local Clatsop and Chinook tribes of the northwest.

Entry passes are $10 per person and are good for 7 days. Annual National Parks Passes are accepted too.

Surf 2 Soul

A fried chicken sandwich from the Surf 2 Soul food truck.

This food truck right in Astoria serves up some diabolical creations. They serve some over-the-top cajun & creole cuisine, like po’boys, grits, fried chicken, and more.

Our favorite was the ‘Which Came First” a fried chicken sandwich on a Belgian waffle with pimento cheese. Bring your appetite!

Surf 2 Soul is in a food truck pod, so there are plenty of other options as well.

Underground Ghost Tour ($20/person)

Astoria Underground Tour entrance.

This tour is highly-rated, but we skipped it because we’re not really into spooky stuff. But for lovers of the supernatural, it’s a real hit.

Favel House Museum ($7/person)

The Favel House Museum is a historic Victorian house.

This Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion was built in 1885. It has been turned into a museum offering self-guided tours of the interior and the gardens.

Where To Stay In Astoria

Here are a few unique and historic accommodations in Astoria.

Norblad Hotel

We stayed at the Norblad Hotel and absolutely loved it! Usually when searching for the cheapest hotel rooms in town, you settle for ‘good enough’. But this unique hotel doesn’t feel anything like a boring compromise.

It’s the longest-running hotel in Astoria, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s outdated. The hotel has been beautifully renovated to preserve the character of the old building, with lots of quirky artwork and clean modern designs.

You can really feel the attention to detail that has been put into this hotel.

Hotel Elliot

Or consider staying at the Hotel Elliott. This highly-rated hotel in Astoria is a great option for accommodation. We couldn’t help but notice their incredible rooftop terrace. It looks like a surreal place to take in the views of town.

Bowline Hotel

The Bowline Hotel is a clean and modern hotel situated right over the water. Rooms here have incredible views over the Columbia River, plus they have saunas on the dock as well.

Sea lions love to hang out on the docks around the hotel, so occasionally guests complain about their barking at night. But they provide complimentary earplugs if it’s a problem.

Map Of Our Top Things To Do In Astoria

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