“Let’s escape the heat and head to the coast this weekend,” says everyone this summer as we enter another week of 90+ degree weather. And while I agree that the cool sea breezes feel wonderful, I don’t like to share the beach with the crowds and arcades. So a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head out to Astoria on the north coast for a long weekend with some friends, and I jumped at the chance.
The oldest township on the western coast, Astoria is a tiny former trading post, full of stories and adventure. From Lewis & Clark’s final journey to the Pacific Ocean to current day, crazy sea to river crossing, the town has been shaped by heroic characters. To explore Astoria through the years, check out my four favorite activities around the area for your next summer weekend:
1. Fort Stevens State Park
Once a war-time fort during the civil war, WWI, and WWII, Fort Stevens today is a huge state park located on the long point where the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean meet. With camping, beach-combing, biking trails, and a historic shipwreck, the park boasts a variety of activities for visitors. One of my most memorable family trips as a kid was to Fort Stevens. We explored the abandoned bunkers, playing hide-and-seek amidst the ruins, bike around its hemlock and spruce forests, and learn about its colored history. Luckily in the fort’s long history, it never fired its guns in anger.
2. Astoria Column
Located 600-feet above Astoria with views of the Columbia River, the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge, Young’s Bay, and the Pacific Ocean, the Astoria Column shines a light all night to represent the courage and resiliency of first settlers in the Pacific Northwest and those that live there today. Modeled after Trajan Column in Rome, the beautiful and stoic column features a hand-painted spiral mural depicting three historic events: the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray, the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the arrival of ship Tonquin. Each event contributed to the early development of the area and its inception as a state. Inside the column stairs take you to the upper balcony for expanding views. Buy a wooden plane to fly from the top (or pick one up off the ground around the Column, like me!)
This summer the column is undergoing renovations to preserve the paintings. The restoration is scheduled to be finished in September 2015.
3. Astoria’s Brewery Scene
Make it a memorial weekend in Astoria by visiting the town’s new history makers: it’s craft breweries. Fort George Brewery, named after the original settlement site of Astoria, crafts spectacular coastal beers and delicious cuisine in their large brew pub on Duane street in downtown. Their tap list consists of 9 tried and true brews plus several seasons that rotate regularly. I’m a lover of their seasonal IPAs paired with the Chili Verde Burrito! Also, if you are just visiting for a pint on a overcast day, pop into the side bar attached the brewery for a beer and board games.
A newcomer for me on this most recent trip to Astoria, Buoy Beer Company, surprised me with their luscious Indian red ale and dog friend patio!
4. Goonies & Movie history
“Hey you guys!” Filmed in Astoria and various other locals on the northern Oregon Coast, The Goonies is an unforgettable cult classic featuring a band of characters as they go on an amazing adventure after treasure. The Goonies house, where the journey begins, still stands on the hillside surrounding Astoria. Stop by to get your photo taken in front of the house and recant as many phrases from the movie with your friends. If you haven’t seen this flick, find it now, sit your butt down, and then start planning your own trip out to Astoria.
Other notable movies filmed in and around Astoria include Kindergarten Cop and Free Willy. Visit the Oregon Film Museum just off of downtown to celebrate these movies and more filmed around the state of Oregon. The museum is located in the old Clatsop County Jail, also used in the opening scene of the Goonies!
My Car: Lexus NX 200t
For the weekend, I was lucky and got to take a beautiful, blue Lexus NW 200t out to the coast! Seating myself and three of my friends very comfortably even with all our camping stuff, the cross-over SUV showcased black leather interior and more buttons and special features than I could even try in two days. From the retractable sunroof to the touch screen navigation and audio system, I’m pretty sure this car was smarter than my smartphone. One of my favorite features though on the vehicle as a regular roadtripper and driver, was the dial that change the driving mode on the fly. You could go from regular driving to sport handling with just the turn of a knob, which was tons of fun as we cruised up and over the coastal mountain roads and around its tight highways turns. For those who love manual transmissions (like my boyfriend, who keeps trying to teach me to drive a stick shift), this Lexus vehicle also included paddle shifters so you could down shift for extra hill control.
My Campground: Astoria’s KOA
Before this weekend, I never imagined that a campground could be a destination in itself (except for maybe backcountry spots), but the KOA just outside Astoria proved me wrong. Offering cabins, tent sites, and RV pull-through spots, the campground could sleep a few hundred up on the north coast. My friends and I (6 of us in total) stayed in one of their new Deluxe Cabins! With one queen-size bed, one full pull out couch, and a set of bunk beds, we each had a comfortable place to sleep and some privacy with pocket walls. In the main space of the cabin, there was also a small kitchenette with refrigerator, cook top, sink, plus all the necessities such as plates, coffee, and even wine glasses! Outside, we also had our own fire pit, gas grill, and patio furniture, which you can be sure we took advantage of for s’mores and bbqing. But besides the awesome digs, it was the other offerings that truly impressed me and made me want to return with my nephews. On-site, the campground featured a putt-putt golf course, in-ground trampoline, swimming pool, hot tub, game room, bike rentals, and weekend activities. The weekend we visited, the KOA celebrated chocolate all day saturday including an ice cream social, chocolate obstacle course, and chocolate bar.