by Northwest Travel & Life Staff
Founded as a fur trading post in 1811—only five years after the Lewis & Clark expedition—Fort Astoria stood strategically near the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The finances of the fort’s namesake, John Jacob Astor, made the trading post possible and brought trappers, traders and other European-Americans seeking business opportunities to the Northwest Coast. As the fur industry eventually dwindled due to over trapping, fishing and logging took its place and drew people westward to this growing coastal outpost. It is from this legacy that Astoria became an incorporated city in 1856, and developed into the city it is today.
Astoria’s front yard is its thriving Riverfront, where visitors find a 5-mile scenic Riverwalk Trail, hotels, restaurants, breweries, museums and more scattered among fisheries, warehouses and other holdovers from its days as a thriving fishing, canning, logging and shipping port. Contemporary entrepreneurs have repurposed industrial buildings and sites along the Riverfront into boutique hotels and breweries. The Riverfront is also home to a cruise dock, making Astoria a port of call for small-ship cruise lines that operate on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Adjacent to the Riverfront, the vibrant downtown is full of galleries, restaurants, more boutique lodging and historical sites, like the Flavel House Museum, the old Clatsop County Jail (home of the Oregon Film Museum) and the fascinating Clatsop County Historical Museum.
These ingredients make a recipe for a perfect weekend getaway. Book a room at the Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa, a handsome lodge built on a pier over the river on the site of a former fish cannery. It is conveniently located on the Riverwalk Trail and within a stone’s throw of the massive, 4-mile-long Astoria-Megler Bridge that crosses the Columbia into Washington. Your river view is right on the shipping lane, and your room comes complete with a shipping schedule, so ship watchers know when to watch the shipping traffic coming in from the Pacific.
Stroll the Riverwalk Trail—or ride its vintage hop-on-hop-off trolley—and venture into downtown to discover your own Astoria. Grab a meal (and a local brew) at one of the many restaurants with a river view, like Astoria Brewing Company, The Knot at Bowline Hotel, Fedé Trattoria, or Frite & Scoop (yes, they only serve killer French fries and house-made ice cream).
A short drive from Astoria, turn back time to the years before the founding of Fort Astoria with a visit to Lewis & Clark National Historical Park’s Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent the winter of 1805 to 1806. You’ll find an excellent visitor center and a full-size replica of the original fort.