Last year we paid a brief visit to Astoria, a funky town at the mouth of the Columbia River, and really liked it so we were determined to spend a little time there this year. As Thanksgiving approached, we knew it was time to get to the coast and begin our (slow) drive south, but instead we made a slight detour north to Astoria.
We stayed at Fort Stevens State Park, a beautiful park just outside the town. The campground was pretty empty, so we found a cozy, private spot. Check out my review of the campground here.
Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor who founded Fort Astoria as a fur-trading port for his American Fur Company in 1811. During its early history, Astoria’s primary industries were fishing, fish processing and lumber.
Astoria’s deepwater port still serves as port of entry and trading center for the Columbia basin. But both the fishery and timber industries declined, forcing the town to reinvent itself. And it did so by supporting a burgeoning art scene and bringing light manufacturing into its fold.
It also succeeded in growing a tourism industry. With its location on the Columbia River, Victorian architecture poised amongst hills, proximity to the Pacific, surrounding lush forest and fascinating maritime history, it gained the nickname of “little San Francisco”. Astoria’s deepwater port now welcomes several major cruise lines.
Adding to the town’s interesting sites is Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis and Clark camped the first winter after their expedition ended, and which we visited last year. And the striking Astoria-Megler Bridge, a 4.1 mile long bridge connecting the town to Washington. Pilings near the bridge mark the spot where downtown structures once stood before a fire destroyed most of them.
We were incredibly fortunate to have outstanding weather while we were in Astoria. Although there were occasional clouds with some wind and colder temperatures, the sun was shining most of our week there. For it being late fall in the Pacific Northwest, it was glorious and we were truly thankful.
We even watched the beautiful full moon rise one evening.
We spent much of our time taking walks on the beach. And watching the sunset. The wreck of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground during a storm in 1906, is particularly picturesque at sunset. Its rusty bow sits on the beach reminding all of the power of the ocean.
The beach on this coast is amazing at low tide. It is wide and hard packed enough to drive on, not that we risked it. But the beachcombing was great. It is so much fun to find what the ocean has washed on shore with the last tide.
We finally got to sample the amazing fish and chips at the popular Bowpicker Fish and Chips. This little food stand is in a real bowpicker style fishing boat and almost always has a line that stretches down the block, which is why we hadn’t tried it before! Now we get why the line is long. Cheap and fantastic. Yum!
We also sampled frozen custard from the Custard King, a little business that was restored earlier this year.
The three of us celebrated Thanksgiving at our campsite. Interestingly, camping in Fort Stevens State Park is a popular activity on this weekend, so our private little spot was surrounded. But we had a lovely day. Hector made a very yummy dinner with a rack of pork as the centerpiece. We have much to be thankful for.
After Thanksgiving, we crossed the Astoria-Megler bridge over to Washington and visited Long Beach. This is yet another fabulous beach, with a sign proclaiming that they are the “World’s Longest Beach”, a claim challenged by some. The official story is that it is “the world’s longest continuous peninsula beach”.