Did I mention I grew up in Northwest Oregon, near Astoria? In my About me section there is more information about my early life in this part of the world. Now that I live in Seattle I find myself yearning to return home and a weekend getaway to Astoria, Oregon perfectly fits the bill. I’ve traveled to this seafaring city at the Mouth of the Columbia River many times from different directions. No matter how you approach it, Oregon’s first official pioneer settlement makes for a fun, relaxing getaway.
Keep reading because this article is your planning guide to spend a weekend in Astoria, Oregon
I cover My 10 favorite things to do in Astoria in a different article that can help you get acquainted with all that is available. Also, at the bottom of this piece is an interactive map of Astoria, Oregon. Since I’ve been here many times, and have family and friends offering their own personal favorites, this map is updated regularly and can be trusted. And remember, you can save this map to your own Google favorites.
Weekend in Astoria — Table of Contents
- Stops along the way from Seattle to Astoria
- Sweeping views from the Astoria Column
- Astoria Waterfront Walk
- Eclectic Downtown Astoria
- Chinook people and Lewis and Clark
- Shipwreck and Sunset
- Cape Disappointment
- Mt. St. Helens add on
- Interactive Map of Astoria and area
- How to get to Astoria, Oregon — planning considerations
Let’s hit the road — on our getaway to Astoria, Oregon
This journey starts in Seattle, Washington (other options are listed below in the planning section). Get an early start to take advantage of the reverse commute leaving the Seattle/Tacoma metro area and head South on Interstate 5 to Olympia. Turn off on Highway 8 toward Aberdeen and follow signs to reach Highway 101 South. Avoid driving all the way into Aberdeen and take the bypass by turning off Highway 8 at Montesano.
Take a detour just outside Raymond, WA toward Tokeland to dine at the fantastic Tokeland Hotel. It’s worth the detour and be sure to grab a few chocolate chip cookies, dusted with sea salt, to go. The rest of the journey to Astoria is scenic and easy going. Cross the 4-mile span of the Astoria-Megler Bridge in the afternoon perfectly on time to welcome in an action-packed weekend destination.
Climb to the top of the Astoria Column
First things first, I like to get my bearings by heading up to the Astoria Column. From here, the 360-degree views are stunning, especially on a clear day. Buy balsa wood airplanes and fly them down the rolling grassy hill and sit in one of the fir Adirondack chairs to take it all in. There’ll likely be large ocean-going ships hanging out in the harbor. Look them up on the MarineTraffic app and imagine taking a cargo ship to Korea for the next ten days.
The column has a winding staircase that projects you onto a narrow cat-walk with even more spectacular views of the region. Look to the South to see Saddle Mountain, the West to the Pacific Ocean, and North to the Astoria Bridge. Imagine… John Jacob Astor once predicted this hilly perch would be the New York City of the West.
Walk the Columbia River Waterfront
After checking into the hotel, put on a good pair of walking shoes and head to the historic Waterfront Trail. The path is flat and spans a 12-mile section of the shore of the Columbia River. Historically full of fish processing plants, this area now hosts a variety of restaurants, warehouse buildings and even a trolley car that travels back and forth for only $1. Gaze out to watch ships slowly gliding under the massive metal span of the Astoria-Megler Bridge and end up at Bridgewater Bistro, for outstanding food and drink amongst stunning marine views. Live music is also known to emit from these premises, so the night is all yours.
An eclectic Downtown Astoria offers up a little something for everyone
Start the day with a quick breakfast at Blue Scorcher or Astoria Coffee House & Bistro which will situate you well to wander the main streets of town taking in the quirky shops that sell antiques, mysterious potions, vintage clothing and other tchotchkes. Check out the Asian park and hit the Oregon Coast Film Museum to get your Goonies fix. The Caples House also makes for an interesting museum stroll. The magic of Downtown Astoria really is in wandering and exploring the nooks and crannies, historic buildings and small fragments of history along the way. Then it’s time to grab a late lunch at either Fort George or Buoy Beer Company, both offering excellent food and tasty beer.
Learn about the Chinook peoples and enjoy history in action
All full of fish-n-chips and beer, truck down to the Lewis and Clark Historic Park to take in some local history, especially to learn about the Chinook Indian tribes who lived in these parts before Europeans arrived. In particular, the interactive vignettes outside near Fort Clatsop are fascinating — be sure to ask the characters questions. The museum costs $10 per person to enter or you can use an America the Beautiful Pass (National Parks Pass). The parking lot is also the trailhead to the 6.1 mile (each way) Fort to Sea Trail that covers a variety of plants and animals on the way out to the Pacific Ocean.
Shipwreck and Sunset — take in the expansive Pacific Ocean
By late afternoon, the sun is starting to get heavy in the sky, so head to Fred Meyer, or the nearby food co-op (both in Hammond, OR) for some picnic supplies. Venture to nearby Fort Stevens State Park and be sure to pay for a parking pass ($10 in machines that take credit cards). Find the shipwreck of the Peter Irdale and imagine what it must’ve been like in 1906 when the massive metal hull ran aground on this beach.
There are a few options, depending on beach walking stamina, but I suggest driving North to Lot A and parking the vehicle here. Begin to walk North on the beach toward the Jetty Observation Tower. The sandy hike takes about 45 minutes and, from atop the study wooden structures, views on all sides open up as the angry waves crash against the huge boulders below. There is also a parking area near this tower. From here, set up a picnic on the beach and watch the sunset over the horizon of the world’s largest ocean.
Cape Disappointment and outdoor recreation
Day three starts with a quick breakfast at Workers Tavern and then driving over the 4 mile expanse of bridge along the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Turn left at the junction and head toward Cape Disappointment State Park ($10 day pass, or $30 Annual pass). Check out Waikiki Beach before winding up to the trailhead leading the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Although the hike out to the dramatic lighthouse is closed, there are still excellent views of the dramatic building clinging to the edge of the cape. Many options exist in this park to hike, bike, walk or view the sights from the comfort of your vehicle.
Final seafood chow and it’s a wrap
Return to downtown Astoria for one more sampling of the tasty fresh seafood in the area. Head for Bay City Seafood and try the fresh catch of the day. Drop by the Columbia River Maritime Museum on the way out of town to learn a little bit more about the dangerous world of the sea, and those who take the risks every day to bring fresh seafood to the table. Hop back in the car and head on your way.
But that’s not all folks — Mt. St. Helens option
For those heading back to Seattle, I suggest taking Highway 30 South to Longview and crossing the bridge to link up with Interstate 5. From here, it’s possible to add a stop at the Mt. St. Helens Interpretive Center in Castle Rock, which is excellent in describing the play-by-play of the famous eruption May 18, 1980 that forever changed the landscape. Be sure to watch the “must see” dramatic video. The boardwalk around Silver Lake is lovely any time of year.
It’s also possible to drive up to Johnston Ridge Observatory and take in the views as well, but this will add about two more hours to the trip. I write about all the details in another article, Life of a volcano — Mt. St. Helens.
Stop at Burgerville, USA, in Centralia, Washington on the way back to Seattle for fresh Pacific Northwest fast food.
Interactive map of the Astoria, Oregon area — including parts of the Washington Coast
How to get to Astoria, Oregon & planning considerations
Getting to Astoria, Oregon
While there are a few shuttles to the Coast from Portland, and people bike the journey too, Astoria is primarily accessible by driving.
The drive from Seattle to Astoria takes about three hours via two viable options.
- The journey on Interstate 5 to Longview is reliably fast and less scenic, but there are also a few interesting stops along the way that I write about in my article Seattle to Portland drive, which includes a detailed interactive map for planning.
- Enjoying a leisurely drive along the Washington Coast can be a relaxing and scenic way to get a weekend getaway to Astoria started. The only caveat is to understand that much of the road (in great condition btw) is two-lane and the busier times of day can have long lines of RV’s, trucks and other vehicles. Patience is a virtue so it isn’t horrible — just not the fastest option. The most expedient route involves driving to Olympia, Washington and taking exit #104 for Highway 8 toward Aberdeen and following signs for Highway 101 South.
For an interesting stop along the way, consider a stay at The Tokeland Hotel, in a hidden area along the Washington Coast — with outstanding food and hospitality. Since this area is well-known for oysters, a great off-the-grid stop for fresh seafood is Dock of the Bay (see map above) about thirty minutes South of South Bend, WA.
To/From the Olympic Peninsula
Astoria makes for a great addition to an Olympic Peninsula Loop, especially if you want to visit Portland, Oregon or other parts of the Oregon Coast. From anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula, follow signs for Highway 101 South. The highway is unique in that it makes the entire loop around this area, and since it meets back together in Aberdeen, Washington. Follow signs accordingly.
From Aberdeen, it’ll take about 1:40 to reach Astoria without stopping. However, if you’re feeling peckish the food is better in Westport, Washington and worth a slight detour which will add another thirty minutes to the drive. Stop at the Bennett’s Fish Shack in Westport or the Tokeland Hotel in Tokeland to grab the best grub in the area.
The drive from Portland takes about two hours and although mapping systems will give you two options (one via the Coast) Highway 30 through my hometown of Scappoose, Oregon is the fastest and most reliable route. I wrote about things to do in Scappoose and Sauvie Island in a day-trip blog about Vernonia, in case you’re interested in some stops along the way.
If you’ve done this before and want a quirky and interesting option, take the ferry from Westport, Oregon (just past Clatskanie, OR) to Puget Island and weave through the farmland toward Cathlamet. Ferries leave every hour and only accept cash. The area is full of interesting history of 19th Century Columbia River. Follow Highway 4 along the Washington side of the Columbia River, check out Grays River Covered Bridge, and pass over the Astoria Bridge. This detour adds another hour to the trip, but lets you explore a very hidden part of the Columbia River.
To/From places on the Oregon Coast
Highway 101 follows the Pacific Ocean all the way up, and is the only option to get to Astoria, so hop on the highway and venture North. For reference, Astoria is about 40 and 90 minutes from Cannon Beach and Tillamook, Oregon, respectively. Be warned, Summer traffic can be relentlessly busy with RV trailers and a plethora of other vehicles, so travel times can be much longer.