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Seriously Quaint Oregon Coast Frontier Town That U.S. and International Travelers Must Know

Published 08/05/23 at 10:51 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Seriously Quaint Oregon Coast Frontier Town That U.S. and International Travelers Must Know

(Astoria, Oregon) – For those traveling from Europe or Asia, and those coming from other states in the U.S., there is one little burgh on the U.S. West Coast that has a distinctive mix of elements that run from the historical to the untamed and the truly curious. It's a place where rugged meets the upscale, where serious time travel leads you down hints of Euro influences as well as a frontier vibe, and where a tasty culinary scene caps a day of adventures in architecture or beach explorations. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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Astoria sits at the mouth of the Columbia River, several miles inland along the bay, and it's a standout historical site as it's the oldest town in most of the western U.S. [Astoria History Timeline: 200 of Years At the Top of Oregon Coast ] The result is a bit of roughhewn, Old West meets post-industrial small city, and a good smattering of Victorian-style mansions that give it a slight European flavor. Originally starting out as a remote American outpost in the early part of the 1800s, it was briefly fought over between the Brits and yanks, and then quickly grew to a commercial hub of various kinds over the next 150 years. Now, it's a unique cultural center and fishing port famous for a lot of things – not the least of which is its place in big movies like Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, The Ring and Short Circuit, among others.

Downtown has numerous buildings from the middle of the 20th century that bring you back to the '50s or '60s, showing a town that was starting to go urban, with classic big city architecture that feels like vintage Los Angeles or Portland. Other parts are remnants of its existence in the 1810s through the early 20th, like all the old vestiges of piers everywhere.

The monster fishing industry, shipping and timber made for a lot of wealthy locals early on who could afford to build lavish yet rough-around-the-edges mansions, many in the Victorian style. The neighborhoods here are chock full of them, and most if not all are on the National Register of Historic places.

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History oozes from every pore of Astoria, really, and the atmospheric vibes of those elderly pilings and the town's waterfront walkways bring mountains of atmosphere, evoking all kinds of historic imagery. To the new visitor, it's often a puzzle to look at: what were those now-ragged wooden beams sticking out of the salt water? On each one, canneries of one kind or another thrived for decades, usually tuna. Some buildings remain, and these are often famous hotels right on the water or even a shopping mall or two.

One must-see is the Astoria Underground Tours, which take you beneath the city to the remains of the town that burned down at one point in the early 20th.

Astoria's food and beer scene is nationally renowned, a place stacked with microbreweries at almost every turn, and a good many hosting those inimitable waterfront views. This north Oregon coast town is almost spellbinding when it comes to watching those massive ships lumbering in the distance. They're unfathomably gigantic, really.

Even Star Trek once recognized the town: According to Star Trek: 'Astoria. On Earth's Oregon Coast. It's Heaven'

A quick ten-minute drive south puts you into Fort Stevens State Park and right into the past of World War II and the Civil War. The old battlements here are one of the Oregon coast's most spectacular attractions. Concrete bunkers that once housed enormous guns played an integral part in guarding the area, beginning in the Civil War and then again as World War II got underway. It's one of the few places in the United States that were fired upon by a foreign power, with a Japanese submarine lobbing shots onto the beach one dark night. Battery Russell, Staircases and Entrance of the N. Oregon Coast Fortress

A plaque commemorating the gathering in later decades of the original sub crew and Fort Stevens crew is a fascinating look at how history can take interesting turns.

The beaches of the north Oregon coast begin here, and then they don't stop for another 362 miles. Fort Stevens also includes the wreck of the Peter Iredale, which is one of the most photographed shipwrecks in the entire world. Travelers from other countries and other states have helped make it famous for over 100 years now.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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