Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Its modern-day history began when John Jacob Astor established his fur trading camp here in 1811. The trades that made Astoria’s fortunes — fishing, fish processing, and lumber — have long disappeared, and now the river port is a sleepy historic town. Today, you'll see remnants of that time, as well as a thriving craft beer brewing culture, sea lion-covered docks, and (for true Steven Spielberg fans) recognizable locations from the 1985 hit, "The Goonies," which was set here in the fictional "Goon Docks" neighborhood.
What We Love
Captain George Flavel House Museum: This Queen Anne mansion was the residence of a Columbia River Bar pilot who became a millionaire, and the interiors are a stunning display of Victorian elegance. Peer at the period furniture, hardwood fireplaces, and ceilings embellished with medallions and crown moldings.
Art Galleries: A growing number of artists have set up shop here, and gallery hopping is another pastime when you are in port. At some studios, you can blow your own glass ornament or purchase original ceramics, fiber art, or prints from local creators.
Best Known For
The Columbia River Maritime Museum: The lightship Columbia is open to the public and its exhibits tell the story of the huge number of shipwrecks piled up along the coast. Inside the museum, you can climb up onto the bridge of a World War II destroyer.
Fort Clatsop: In 1805–06, the Lewis and Clark Expedition team spent a miserable winter at the Fort Clatsop, Oregon's first military settlement, and the spare accommodations have been faithfully re-created. The party had hoped a ship would arrive in the spring but they ended up returning back east by foot.
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Who It's Best For
American History Fanatics: This town has a ton of Victorian charm, and you can take tours that retrace Lewis and Clark's steps deeper into the Columbia Valley.
Beer Lovers: Looking for a memorable seasonal beer made from local coffee, pumpkin, or oysters? Oh, yeah, you'll find it here.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Some Sites Require Stair-Climbing: If visiting the Astoria Column — an ornate tower with murals depicting Oregon's history — it’s a healthy trek up a hill even before you begin the climb up a spiral staircase inside. It's up to you to decide if the sweeping river views are worth it.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.