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One of the most historic cities in Oregon, and arguably one of the most picturesque, offers lots to see and do. It may be most famous among film buffs as the setting of the 1985 hit film “The Goonies,” and fans will find a ton of ways to relive some of their favorite scenes. Astoria itself is rich in tradition and historical architecture, set along the Columbia River, providing more scenic beauty and all types of water activities. These are some of the best things you can do in this northern Oregon port city.
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A former fish cannery, Cannery Pier Hotel was built on 100-year-old pilings and doesn’t just overlook the mouth of the great Colombia River, it actually sits on top of it, capturing the spirit of Astoria. The exposed beams and wooden trusses give it a turn-of-the-century maritime feel while resort-like amenities abound. You’ll find cozy modern décor, including fireplaces, a Finnish sauna, a full-service day spa and even the opportunity to embark on a sunset cruise aboard a 65-foot yacht. There are lots of freebies too, like wine, loaner bikes, local author lectures and complimentary trips into downtown in a chauffeured 1939 Buick.
Visiting the Astoria Column is an absolute must. In fact, you may want to start your visit here as you’ll be able to soak up in some jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city as well as the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean, snow covered volcanoes of the Cascade range, and Saddle Mountain. The Astoria Column sits atop the highest peak in Astoria, on Coxcomb Hill. Climb the over 160 steps to the top of the column and then launch one or more of the small balsa-wood planes that can be purchased at the gift shop for a cheap price and watch them soar through the sky. There is no fee to visit the column and signs directly you there can be found throughout town.
The Clatsop County Jail was featured in a few scenes in “The Goonies,” famous for the opening jailbreak. The jail was recently converted into the Oregon Film Museum, as many movies have been filmed in the Astoria area, though it celebrates the art and legacy of films and film-making in the entire state of Oregon. Oregon has also helped give birth to well-known movies like “The Great Race,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “Animal House” and “Kindergarten Cop.”
You can even step into the cell that it was shot in, check out “The Goonies” memorabilia, or see items and exhibits from all the other films shot in Oregon. They even have interactive sets where you can shoot scenes from some of the movies.
Admission is a bargain, and you’ll be able to explore the museum that was once an actual working jail from 1914 to 1976.
Just across the street from the Clatsop Jail, is the Captain George Flavel House Museum, the very site where Mikey’s father worked as a curator in “Goonies.” Even if you don’t have time to explore the inside, the garden setting makes an ideal spot for a picture-postcard Astoria shot. If you do go in, it will be like stepping into the 19th century, welcomed with a gorgeous stained-glass window befoe wandering through the 11,600-square-foot home with its two and a half stories, rear kitchen, butler’s pantry, four-story tower, attic and basement.
Just below The Goonies house off Leif Erickson Drive which serves as the main street through town, are the Astoria docks. A visit to Dock 36, called the Goon Docks in the movie, is free and really a must experience as most days you’ll be able to watch the sea lions lounging in the sun or frolicking in the water. There are sometimes as many as 2,000 of the animals here, though as of late some of the locals have been trying to scare them off.
Fort Stevens State Park is yet another fabulous place to visit, offering camping, beach combing, freshwater lake swimming, trails, wildlife viewing and an historic shipwreck and historic military area. In the summer, you can watch blacksmiths work and tour a 90 year old underground gun battery. The Peter Iredale Shipwreck is one of the most accessible shipwrecks on the west coast, and while it’s been more than a century since it ran ashore, its remains are still visible on the shore. It was abandoned on the Clatsop Spit about four miles south of the Columbia River channel, and because no one was able to remove it, it remained and has been slowly deteriorating ever since.
The Astoria Riverwalk is a gathering place for locals and visitors who want to enjoy some exercise among breathtaking scenery and explore the area too. In fact, it may be one of the best ways to get a feel for Astoria’s true spirit. Begin your explorations at the Port of Astoria, where there are hundreds of ships from across the globe, and then stroll underneath the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge, taking in the mesmerizing river views and stopping to see the Maritime Memorial as well as visit one of the many nearby shipwrecks, and learn about life on the beautiful, yet dangerous river.