Astoria: Two if by Sea

Aptly called the “Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest” Astoria, Oregon lives up to the title, boasting a record-breaking bridge, colorful Victorian houses, a trolley through town, and best of all, a warm West coast welcome.
Written by J. Nichole Smith | Photography by Amelia Soper
Astoria, the oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, claims a rich history that is evident on every street corner. Her walls and sills are dressed with shabby chic peeling paint and her wealth of museums all tell of her past while lavish accommodations for travelers, massive container ships just off shore and the famed Astoria-Megler Bridge all have become icons of her future.

Nestled inside the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria is located about 180 scenic miles from Seattle and about half as far from Portland, making it an ideal weekend getaway for you and Fido. With pet friendly lodgings ranging from the luxurious Cannery Pier Hotel to the waterfront Holiday Inn Express, there is no shortage of places to stay with your pooch. Luckily, a warm bed is just the beginning of canine comforts and doggy discoveries to be found in this gem of the Pacific Northwest.

Corps of Discovery. With “Lewis and Clark Trail Site” signs leading the way like breadcrumbs to Astoria’s city center, you will be very aware, long before you even reach town, how very integral the “Corp of Discovery” history is to Astoria’s identity.

What you may already know. In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to explore the Pacific Coast. The Fort Clatsop National Memorial commemorates Lewis and Clark’s four-month stay in Astoria during the winter prior to their return home. The visitor’s center hosts a small museum of artifacts and just a few hundred yards away you can explore a 1955 replica of the original fort. Miles of riverside trails, canoe landings, picnic areas and the fort itself are dog friendly, which is highly appropriate because…

What you may not know. In addition to Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea and all the other historic characters we’ve long heard of, Seaman, Lewis’ black Newfoundland dog, was one of the key members of the Corp of Discovery. Purchased for $20, it is noted that Seaman was chosen for his size, strength and swimming abilities. Regularly defending the team against the threat of bears and retrieving beaver and other game, Seaman proved to be one of the most useful and hearty members of the team. Even in its earliest days, Astoria has been a place for pooches.

Other Parks. The list of must-see parks doesn’t end with Fort Clatsop. The south jetty, abandoned gun batteries and the beached remnants of Peter Iredale’s 1906 shipwrecked vessel are all worth sniffing out at Fort Stevens State Park. This 3,500-acre collaboration of campsites, hiking trails, paved bike paths and coastal beaches provides a great place for a walk, bike or run with your canine compadre.

Cape Disappointment State Park is 1,882-acres of doggy heaven that lies near Long Beach, Wash. just across the bridge. In addition to more camping, hiking and beachcombing, this seaside site features the oldest lighthouse on the West Coast.  

Now you’re hungry, right? Astoria is more than just the great outdoors… the indoors are pretty great too!

If you like tasty food and/or beer, any local will tell you not to miss the Wet Dog Café and Astoria Brewing Company. This café lives up to its name and in the summer your dog (wet or dry) may join you on the outdoor deck to share a meal and stunning views of the Columbia River. We highly recommend one of the many piled-high burgers (served with two of your choice of sides; we vote fries and fresh fruit) and of course one of their signature beers, brewed every two weeks. In addition to your doggy bag (you will likely have leftovers; the portions are generous) there is an array of clever merchandise to take home to your human and canine family members.

If you’re in the mood for Italian instead of burgers or a movie instead of scenic views, right around the corner you’ll find the Columbian Theatre. Their tagline says it all “ movie – beer – pizza - awesome.” At 7pm each night, for a mere $4 admission, you can relax, chow some ‘za, knock back some brew and watch the featured film.

Need more Italian or something more formal? Try Fulio’s Pastaria & Steakhouse. In addition to a full-service bar and lovely chandeliers, the 2003 “Munchie Award Best New Restaurant of the Year” offers wonderful family style multi-course meals (although your furry family member will have to sit this one out).

So now you’re exhausted. We cannot say enough about the Cannery Pier Hotel. In an industry where hospitality is the name of the game, and service and comfort are paramount, the Cannery Pier Hotel walks the talk. From the moment you enter though the double doors, you not only feel welcome, but that every person you encounter genuinely cares that your stay is exquisite.  

We were lucky enough to arrive in time for freshly BBQ’d Oysters, a special holiday addition to complement the evening’s wine and appetizers. The tasty treats are served in honor of Valentine’s Day (when we visited). While flipping and spinning shelled beauties on the grill, Cannery Pier general manager Don West smiles and explains “Oysters are tied directly to romance.” In the name of love, he carefully cracks and stacks the steaming oysters on the half shell onto a white ceramic dish, where they are whisked away to be enjoyed by hotel guests.  Lounging, (mostly in pairs) around the lobby and living room, our fellow Cannery Pier residents laugh and chat and consume oysters, Lox and red wine. It’s a riverside dream come true.

Pet friendly amenities at the Cannery Pier include an oversized doggy bed, two bowls, and a basket generously filled with treats, bottled water and baggies. Rocco is a fan of both the plentiful supply of biscuits and the waterfront view. I am a fan of the fireplace, claw foot bathtub, and tasty turndown chocolate.

In the morning we awake to find a fresh blanket of thick, misty fog outside our windows, but inside, we find a fresh continental breakfast that warms us right up. In addition to the typical tea, coffee, cereal and banana selection you’ll find at most hotels, the Cannery Pier provides a fresh fruit salad, yogurt, various juices, and an array of pastries, bagels, and muffins. Even toasty waffles and energy bars are yours, if you so desire. This plentiful spread is available all morning, replenished from 7am-10am, so you don’t even have to wake with the sun to get your fuel for the day.

Need a ride? The Cannery Pier Hotel provides rides to local destinations in one of their signature 1939 Buicks. Going downtown with dog? No problem! They are happy to give you and Rover a lift!  If you’re feeling a little more spry, you can borrow one of the hotel’s gumball-colored day-use bicycles and peddle downtown in just a few easy minutes.

Also downtown, you’ll find the Old Riverfront Astoria Trolley. This restored 1913 trolley car operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting. The round trip is approximately 45 minutes, the fare is only $1 and just like the rest of Astoria, dog is welcome (on leash).

Where to now? So you’ve done the parks and eats, there are just a few more stops you have to make before you are on the road again. You simply must visit the newly remodeled Columbia Maritime Museum. Incredible interactive exhibits depict the harrowing life at sea in the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

The Astoria Column is 164 steps to a magnificent 360-degree view of Astoria and the Pacific coastline. From the ground, you can’t help but admire the stunning, spiraling sgraffito artwork that decorates the column’s exterior.

Does something about Astoria seem familiar? You might have seen these meandering streets or beaches in one of the many films shot in and around Astoria: The Goonies, The Ring II, Short Circuit, Kindergarten Cop and Free Willy are among the many. At the Astoria-Warrington Visitor’s Center you can score a guide to set locations so you can see them in real life.

Commercial Avenue cuts through the heart of the Historic District and is home to an array of great boutiques, corner cafés and vintage shops. Need to replenish your treat supply or do a quick dog wash? Riverside Pet Supply is a great shop just off Commercial Ave., packed with goodies and do-it-yourself grooming facilities.

Whether you come for a history lesson or a trolley ride, gourmet riverside dining or splendid seaside hiking, Astoria will not disappoint. Bring your camera, bring your sense of adventure and bring your pooch. Historic (and very dog-friendly) Astoria awaits.

Gear up for Astoria at the CityDog Shop.

More Information

Cannery Pier Hotel,
Hotel Elliott,
Holiday Inn Express,

Wet Dog Café, 503.325.6975
Columbian Theatre,
Fulios Pastaria & Steakhouse,

Fort Clatsop National Memorial, 503.861.2471
Fort Stevens State Park,
Cape Disappointment State Park,
Columbia River Maritime Museum,
Astoria Column,
Astoria Movie Tours,
Flavel House,
Heritage Museum,
Uppertown Firefighter’s Museum and Astoria Children’s Museum,
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