Driving through the coastal range toward the ocean, it’s hard to imagine that there is anything between you and the end of the continent but the occasional house or roadside restaurant. Winding your way over the twists and turns, rises and dips, of the narrow road that dares to call itself a highway, there seems to be no end to the verdant forest. Which is a good thing, but not if you need a bathroom.
Then, suddenly, you take a turn and there it is—no, not the bathroom.
Founded in 1811 by John Jacob Astor, it has the reputation of being the oldest city east of the Mississippi.
In 2010, according to the Wiki, the population was around 9,400. So, it still can be classified as a small town.
It sure has the feel of it. Houses, some of them 200 years old or more, are settled into the hillside looking out to the Columbia River. Being a port city, it does have a pretty cool maritime museum, but it’s one that can be perused in less than an hour.
The downtown is comprised of a conglomeration of buildings in various styles and ages, as a true downtown should. There is a lot of traffic, since Astoria is a main thoroughfare for those wishing to get to the beach, south along the coast, or over the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington State.
Difficult to find parking, but worth the time it takes to be able to ditch your car and stroll around. So many little shops, but Astoria is definitely not a tourist town. Most businesses that line Main and Commercial Streets are there for the citizenry. But there are the tourist shops too, I’m sure. I just haven’t paid much attention. However, I know of at least two quilt shops, but that is generally my focus anyway.
As for dining, I have always had a good experience in Astoria. I have had breakfast at the Pig ‘n’ Pancake, and dinner at Fulio’s Pastaria. Great places, great people, friendly and so very helpful. If I can come in with eleven other people (which is usually what happens—my Portland-to-Coast team), and the wait staff doesn’t even bat an eye, that is friendly, in my mind. One of my team members is a dyed-in-the-wool raw vegan, and he was very happy with how the wait staff at Fulio’s accommodated him.
The biggest draw to Astoria, hands down, is a monolithic structure perched high on the hills above the town. The Astoria Column was built in 1926 with financing by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor. It was erected in commemoration of the city’s role in the family’s business history.
This is a fantastic place to see the confluence of the Columbia River with the Pacific Ocean, but if you decide to climb the tower, keep this in mind: Inside is a spiral staircase with over 300 steps, and nowhere to stop to catch your breath. There are people going up (and down) constantly, and they are all expecting you to soldier on to the top like the rest of them. And when you get there, remember to move aside for those behind you as you melt into a puddle of Crème de Pooped Tourist.
But the view is gorgeous!
Astoria is well worth the stop-and-browse. Friendly people, lovely vistas, a jaw-droppingly beautiful bridge, and once in awhile a cruise ship at the port. Astoria—what’s not to like?
Thanks to Kathy Ree for providing this post about Astoria in her home state of Oregon. If you’d like to learn more about Kathy, please visit K.R.Morrison, Author.