I’ve traveled through Astoria often on my way to Seaside and Cannon Beach. Occasionally, I’ve stopped there to get a meal, but for some reason I hadn’t really spent any time exploring the city itself. When I was looking for some “me time” over a weekend, I decided to visit Astoria and just spend time there.
Thankfully, I used to live fairly close to the Oregon border, so it wasn’t going to be a long drive. If you don’t have that advantage, though, you can often find cheap flights to Oregon.
As I wanted to be close to the water, I decided to stay at Comfort Suites Columbia River. On Google Maps, I could see they were next to the riverwalk and the trolley. The room had a refrigerator and microwave, and Safeway was a short walk away, so it looked like it would be a great place to stay.
When I got to my room, I had a rather lovely discovery—A large colony of sea lions is very close by! You could hear them barking even with the windows closed. I was so excited! For some reason, none of the reviews I read made any mention of the sea lions. While I knew there was a marina near the hotel, I hadn’t seen anything that mentioned the colony hangs out there.
Having the windows open made it even more fun. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the little couch by the window just listening to them.
Astoria has quite the selection of eateries, and it was a bit difficult deciding where I wanted to eat my first night. However, I had read about a Bosnian restaurant called Drina Daisy. As I was driving around town, I spotted it and decided to go ahead and stop there.
Boy was that the right choice! WOW! I ordered the burek, and it was fabulous! My seat was near the kitchen, and the cook/owner gave me some lamb as she had just cut some. I can highly recommend that as well.
They had a good list of cocktails as well as a decent variety of central and eastern European beers. I saw one that I used to drink while living in Prague, and I just couldn’t resist ordering that.
During the weekend, I also decided to hit up a place some readers had suggested. It’s called Bowpicker Fish and Chips, and it has an unusual presentation: The food is served from an old fishing boat. There are a couple of picnic tables you can sit at to enjoy your meal, but I ended up just eating in my car.
Now, this isn’t your typical fish & chips. They make theirs from locally sourced wild albacore. And it’s freaking delicious! Their chips are also excellent.
Don’t be dissuaded by a long line. They move pretty quickly. Also, make sure to bring cash. They don’t accept cards.
What to See/Do
If you want to see the sea lions up close (and why wouldn’t you?), head to the East Basin Docks. You’ll see the pier you can walk on to get closer to the colony.
The downtown area is kind of fun to walk around, especially if you like shopping for antiques and tchatchkes.
Some people had recommended the Columbia River Maritime Museum (which is conveniently across the street from Bowpicker), but I didn’t visit during this trip.
While driving around one day, I saw signs for the Astoria Column. I was intrigued so decided to stop there. Even if you’re not really that interested in seeing the column, go there for the scenic view! That alone was worth the uphill drive. Even if you don’t have a lot of sunshine, you won’t be disappointed. It’s amazing how much you can see.
If you’ve brought kids along, this is also a great place to just let them run around. It has a park-like feel which really invites you to just sit down and attempt to soak up all of what you see. There are also some picnic tables and would be a great picnic spot.
I wanted to go inside the column and go to the top where the views are even more amazing, but my knees had other plans. So I can’t really say much about that part of the column’s attractions. The column, though, is covered by fascinating artwork displaying the history of the area. Even if you aren’t really into history, I found the artwork alone to be a great experience.
There is no fee to enter the park or column, but they do charge $5 for parking. You can pay with a card if you need, but it will be a lot easier for you if you pay in cash. If you don’t live far away from Oregon, keep the parking ticket they give you as it’s good for 1 year.
Note they’re open daily except on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Of course, if you have time and haven’t been to Seaside and Cannon Beach, they’re not far away either. You can also cross the Astoria–Megler Bridge which is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. This will take you to Washington, and the fantastic beach of Longview is a reasonable and pretty drive from Astoria.
Astoria has its own merits for sure, and it’s also a great base if you want to see more of Oregon and southern Washington.
Have you been to Astoria? What did you think about it?