Astoria is a popular stop along the Oregon Coastal Highway 101 and with good reason! Astoria was never on my radar before visiting but the waterfront town left me pleasantly surprised. If you caught my last post, you’ll remember that my boyfriend Lucas and I spent a week in a remote Washington beach town on one of his business trips. Since we were only an hour away, we decided to visit Astoria on one of his days off. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am so glad I got to experience this gem in the Pacific Northwest!
What to Do
We were only in Astoria for a few hours, so this limited what we were able to do. Our first stop after lunch was to the Astoria Column. The column sits 600-feet above the city on a hill overlooking Young’s Bay and the Columbia River. It’s one of the most visited attractions in Oregon and Astoria’s most popular tourist attraction.
I’m a little afraid of heights, so I was hesitant to make the climb to the top. The spiral staircase is pretty narrow but it’s not too bad of a climb. If you get winded, there are a few points where you can stop and let people pass you. Even without going to the top of the column, there are still amazing views from the hill. Admission to the park is free but parking costs $5! You can also buy airplanes for $1 to throw off the tower.
After checking out the Astoria Column, we set off on a mission to explore downtown and figure out what there is to do in Astoria. We passed several antique stores and stopped in a few. I love vintage shopping and thrifting, so shopping in Astoria was pure bliss for me. Even if I won the lottery, I think I would still probably make regular trips to thrift stores because I love the hunt!
One of our favorite stores was Vintage Hardware, which sells antiques, furniture, and locally salvaged items. There are several show rooms, so you should definitely find a few things that catch your eye. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll be tempted to buy almost everything.
Doe and Arrow was another cute shop we stumbled upon. It’s a beautifully curated boutique that I would expect to see in Seattle or Portland. So, I was excited to find it in a smaller town like Astoria! There were so many dresses, bags, and rings that I wanted to take home with me. Unfortunately, I had to resist since I’m in hard-core saving mode for my summer travels. They also have records, home goods, and some beauty products. It look a LOT of will power not to buy anything because everything was so cute!
Photos courtesy of Doe and Arrow
The downtown area is lined with boutiques, vintage stores, thrift stores, and other quirky finds. Even if you’re on a budget, window shopping is a blast here! I also enjoyed admiring the historical buildings and the town’s many cafes, dive bars, and other local oddities.
Where to Eat
If you’re driving into Astoria via Highway 101 from Washington, you’ll cross the town’s famous Astoria Megler Bridge to enter Astoria. We stopped for lunch at Bridgewater Bistro, which is right next to the bridge and has waterfront views. It’s on pricier side but for us the view was worth splurging a little. The Hungarian-mushroom dill soup was delicious but I wasn’t crazy about my entree. Lucas’ burger was good though, so I would definitely give the restaurant another shot.
View from the restaurant’s deck area
In between sight seeing and antique shopping, we decided to stop for a coffee break. Street 14 Cafe caught our eye, so we decided to stop in for a quick pick-me-up. I was planning on getting a latte until the barista overheard me joking with Lucas about whether or not it was too early for a drink.
It was definitely way too early to bust out the booze but I’m sucker for a good Bloody Mary. When the barista started telling me about how they garnish theirs, I was sold. I fancy myself as a Bloody Mary connoisseur (I’m only half joking – I’ve seriously probably tried over 1,000) and this one was seasoned exactly how I like ’em! Lucas iked their drip coffee as well.
In addition to good drinks, the cafe has an awesome atmosphere. It’s housed in a historic building and is attached to Hotel Commodore, a trendy boutique hotel. The atmosphere is bright, airy, and modern. It’s definitely the kind of cafe I would love to hunker down in with my laptop and work for hours. We enjoyed our drinks in the hotel lobby, which also has a stylish and modern interior.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Commodore
Since there are so many highly-rated restaurants in Astoria, we had trouble deciding on where to eat dinner. We ultimately decided on Fort George Brewery. We ate dinner at kind of an awkward time of the day (around 4:30 PM), so our dinner options were limited. Stopping at Fort George Brewery proved to be a good decision, since the upper level had amazing river views. Like most breweries, there’s a great beer selection. The food menu offers more than the standard pub fare and we loved their pizza!
Photo c/o Fort George Brewery
What We Missed
Since we only stayed a few hours, we barely scratched the surface of all Astoria has to offer and really only caught the tourist highlights. So, I’m sure we missed a lot, especially from a local’s perspective!
If we had more time in Astoria, we would have liked to check out the Columbia River Maritime Museum. The Columbia River is the largest river in the region and spans all the way up to British Columbia. The Columbia River bar near Astoria is dubbed the “Graveyard of the Pacific” with over 2,000 shipwrecks.
To be honest, maritime history isn’t something I’m particularly interested in. However, the museum has killer reviews and the exhibits sound both engaging and interesting.
Louis and Clark National Park is across the river and explores the history of Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea. It is also said to have good hiking trails and beautiful scenery. Fort Stevens State Park is another beautiful park that should appeal to history buffs.
Lucas and I both love food (who doesn’t!?) but Lucas is an excellent cook and one of the biggest foodies I know. So, he was disappointed that we couldn’t try everything. If we had more time, we would have really liked to try Drina Daisy Bosnian Restaurant. I’m still bitter I didn’t make it to Bosnia during my trip to the Balkans. So, trying Bosnian food would have been a small consolation. Maybe next time!
If you’ve been to Astoria, what did you enjoy most? I love hearing about off-beat things to do anywhere I visit, and would love recommendations for our next visit!