Fall Getaway to Astoria, Oregon: Goonies movie history, a shipwreck, amazing cocktails, and the best fish and chips we’ve ever had.
We love a good weekend getaway in October in the Pacific Northwest. We have been to the Oregon Coast many times, always passing through Astoria, Oregon but only stopping for lunch or not at all. Astoria is often overlooked as it isn’t on the beach like Seaside or Cannon Beach just a little further south. However, it’s an historic salty sea town with a lot to offer. We fell in love with Astoria on this visit, even adding it to our list of possible retirement locations. (So far this list only consists of Portugal and Astoria).
Day 1: Fish and Chips, exploring the town, and a tiki bar
Astoria is about a three hour drive from where we live in Seattle, so we took Friday off to make the most of our time there. We planned our arrival to be about lunch time. When we arrived, we were pretty hungry. We went straight to Bowpicker Fish and Chips as we had read rave reviews online. There was a line, and I get the impression that there is always a line. It’s worth it.
Serving out of an old boat turned into a kitchen, all they sell is fish and chips, that’s it. We didn’t want a ton of fries, and found it more cost effective to get the 5 piece fish and chips and add an extra piece of fish to share. Paddy was initially disappointed that we weren’t going to have a sit-down lunch in a restaurant after the long drive, but his disappointment receded when we got our fish.
What makes Bowpicker fish and chips unique is that the fish is albacore tuna instead of cod or halibut. The breading is unique as well, and so crispy, finished with a sprinkle of sea salt. It was hands-down the best fish and chips we have ever had. There wasn’t much seating around so we ended up eating in our car. It was so delicious that we didn’t mind. If you like fish, don’t miss Bowpicker in Astoria.
Next we checked in with our hotel to see if we could get into our room a little early, but no dice. We parked the car and explored the town.
The town was awesome. So many little independent shops and restaurants, all vibrant and thriving. The community really got into the Halloween spirit, and most shops and restaurants had Halloween decorations up. The town had even installed witches on brooms on lamp posts all over the main strip, made to look like they crashed into the lamp posts on their flights. Each one was different.
Raintown Vintage Collective was a favorite stop. The upstairs is a collective of artists and craftspeople selling gifts and other fun things, and the basement level is all vintage clothes. I found two vintage 1960’s dresses that actually fit me, which was a unicorn find. I was over the moon. All the shop people were really friendly, there was a real community vibe in the town.
We had a little time to kill before we could check into our hotel, so we stopped for beer and cider at Reach Break Brewing. They had a nice covered outdoor patio and the beer and cider were tasty.
We had originally booked an apartment for the weekend that was managed by the Norblad Hotel. However, earlier that week the Norblad contacted me saying that their elevator was broken in the apartment building, and they wouldn’t be able to get it fixed before the weekend. Our apartment was on the 7th floor. They offered cancellation or a discount if we wanted to keep the apartment and use the stairs. Unfortunately, they were sold out of their regular hotel rooms in the main building. Seven flights of stairs was more than we felt like dealing with, so I was able to snag us the last room at the Hotel Elliott. It was more expensive, but the location was great. I was worried that the last room available would be a crappy room right off the lobby, but it was a perfectly fine room and even had a jacuzzi bathtub.
The Hotel Elliott is an historic building, which may or may not be haunted according to local legend. Since it was October, we chose to believe that it was haunted. I’ll be honest, the Hotel Elliott is a splurge. A hot breakfast was included, and we were able to park in the public lot across the street all night on Friday, and in the bank parking lot two blocks down for free on Saturday, which softened the price tag a bit.
*Note: The public parking lot across the street is used for the Sunday Market and any car parked there after 5:00 AM on Sunday mornings will be towed. The front desk is good about making sure everyone checking in is aware of this. They have a deal with the bank parking lot down the street to use for guests.
Overall, we would definitely stay at the Hotel Elliott again–if it is in our budget. However, for a cheaper stay downtown the Hotel Norblad has rooms with a lower price tag and a hip vibe and we would likely try to stay there again on a future trip.
Later that evening, we opted for dinner at Astoria Brewing.
Paddy had a burger and a side salad, and I had their clam chowder and a side salad. The side salads were huge! We shared a round of oyster shooters. Everything was fresh and delicious. The beer and cider were good too.
After dinner we walked down the street to the Inferno Lounge for a drink. It’s right on the pier and has a funky sort of goth/New Orleans/mid century vibe. The view is fantastic and as the sun set and the fog rolled in, it provided the perfect cozy, spooky October vibe we were in the mood for. The cocktails were nice as well. They also serve food, but we didn’t try any. Great spot if you are looking for a place to drink with a water view.
Walking near the pier in the evening in the autumn fog continued the spooky vibe. A ship passing in the fog had a very ghostly appearance.
Full disclosure, one of the biggest things that prompted this trip was the opening of the new tiki bar in Astoria, Dead Man’s Isle. The proprietors of artisan tiki mug shop Munktiki finally opened their long-awaited tiki bar next door to their shop after some pandemic delays. Dead Man’s Isle takes reservations, which we made far in advance. They do take walk-ins as well. For a weekend, I would recommend a reservation to ensure a good table.
The decor at Dead Man’s Isle was on point. Classic tropical tiki, with an Astoria salty-sailor vibe. Everyone at Dead Man’s Isle was very friendly and appreciative of our shared tiki enthusiasm. We chatted with one of the owners for a bit and she gave us a sneak preview of a tiny micro bar off of the loft area that they are working on. It is supposed to be a Japanese-style bar themed around a specific type of Japanese toy. My understanding of the theme is limited, but it will only serve a few people at a time and will have an entirely different cocktail menu from Dead Man’s Isle. I definitely want to come back to experience that when it opens!
Dead Man’s Isle also has some food items that we would like to try on our next trip as well.
I had the Dead Man’s Grog, which came in their signature logo mug. I was worried it would be too sweet but it was perfect. I can’t remember what Paddy had (Suffering Bastard maybe?) but he said it was also lovely. For our second round we asked for recommendations and I went with our server’s favorite the Purple Orchid, which had lime, passion fruit, peach, ginger, Empress blue gin and cardamom bitters. The cardamom bitters are what makes this drink–it was amazing and I would love to experiment with these flavors in our home bar. Strong recommendation for the Purple Orchid!
Because Dead Man’s Isle is owned by renowned artisan tiki mug makers, they have an impressive selection of mugs, stickers, T-shirts and other swag for sale. Naturally, we bought the skeleton captain mug and a couple glasses and stickers. They even have a mini tiki mug vending machine!
Sadly, the Munktiki gallery and shop next door was closed for the weekend as the other owner was out of town visiting family. Next time we hope to see the shop.
Overall we loved Dead Man’s Isle and the mix of a traditional tiki bar with a Pacific Northwest fishing town vibe. The cocktails were fantastic and we can’t wait to go back.
Day 2: A shipwreck, Goonies movie history, exploring more of the town, a haunted underground tour, and a fantastic whisky bar
Saturday morning we took advantage of the free hotel breakfast, and then set off to Fort Stevens State Park beach to see the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, about a 20 minute drive from Astoria.
The Peter Iredale is a ship that ran aground on its way to Portland due to strong currents and high winds in 1906. There isn’t much left of it now, but it is still a popular tourist attraction on the coast. Paddy found it a bit underwhelming, but I think it’s worth a stop if you’re in the area.
Astoria’s biggest claim to fame is the movie Goonies from 1985. If you were a kid in the 1980’s, you are likely familiar with this movie. The two biggest film spots in the town are the Goonies house, and the Oregon Film Museum.
First we dropped by the Goonies house at 368 38th St for a quick photo.
*Note–The Goonies house is in a quiet neighborhood and people live there. It is very important to be respectful of the homeowners and their neighbors and to not trespass on the property. Park your car on Duane Street and walk up, do not try to drive up to the house. When we went there was a little tip box at the end of the drive way so we put $5 in as a thank you for the photo op.
Next, we parked our car in the bank parking lot that partners with the hotel and headed to the Oregon Film Museum.
The Oregon Film Museum building is the historic old county jail that was in the Goonies movie. It is now a tiny museum with a lot of Goonies movie info and artifacts, as well as a museum for other films made in Oregon. Entrance is $6.00.
Honestly, if you are a big Goonies fan I think it’s worth a visit. If you’re not, it will probably not be that interesting to you.
We explored some more of the town, admiring many of the preserved Victorian houses. We hunted for treasures at Phog Bounders Antique Mall and Treasure Alley, but didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without. I was tempted by a mid century blow mold jack o lantern but opted to save our money for cocktails that evening.
We heard a lot of marine mammal commotion near the pier so we wandered in the direction of the Bowline Hotel and found a gaggle of sea lions on a dock below. There was a lot of drama, a lot of bitching and shoving and griping at each other. Sea lion reality show.
For lunch we stopped at a small food truck food court on 10th and Duane and got some shrimp po’ boys at Surf 2 Soul. Absolutely delicious and the chef makes his own pickles. The homemade pickles really took it to the next level. Often store bought pickles are really salty and overwhelm the sandwich, but his homemade quick pickles were the perfect amount of salt and brine and didn’t steal the show from the shrimp. The homemade fries were great as well. Picnic tables are available if the weather is nice. We definitely recommend stopping here for a meal.
For dinner we were still in the mood for seafood, and opted for South Bay Wild Fish House. Owned by a family who sustainably catches the fish themselves, it doesn’t get much fresher. There was a bit of a wait, but the fish was fantastic. The set up is a little weird–you order and pay with the host and then they seat you. You can get on a waiting list when it’s busy and then they will call your name when a table is ready, take your order, and show you to your table.
We shared some Hawaiian ahi tuna poke as an appetizer, and then Paddy had the fish tacos and I had the Petrale sole with a salad.
The prices are good here for what you get. Sole isn’t a fish I have had a lot of but it was really good. If you are looking for fresh seafood in Astoria that is sustainable, high quality and doesn’t empty your wallet, South Bay Wild Fish House is a great dinner spot.
After dinner, we had booked an underground ghost tour a few weeks in advance. Much like Seattle, downtown Astoria was destroyed by a fire in 1922 and the rebuilt city was built on top of the ruins of the old one. There are still some buildings left below accessible by tunnels. These tunnels have stories of brothels, sailors getting “Shanghaied,” and paranormal sightings. The show Ghost Hunters even did an episode on the Astoria underground.
The tour met at Gulley’s Butcher Shop downtown, an appropriate location for a ghost tour. Our guide came in Halloween costume and let us through the butcher shop and down some stairs into the tunnels below.
The tour was supposed to be an hour long, and instead it was a 15 minute tour of the tunnels which were decked out with Halloween decorations, animatronic ghosts and clowns, and a few actors. We saw some of the historical spots and artifacts, but it was more of a haunted house walk through than a ghost tour with stories of paranormal activity. We were pretty disappointed.
However, after writing a bad review on Google, the tour contacted me and told me that there had been a mix up and the guide was under the impression that she was leading a haunted house tour and not the full ghost tour and offered a free ghost tour. We weren’t able to go again, so they apologized and offered a full refund if I removed my bad review. We were refunded and I took my review down.
Therefore, we can’t really give you a recommendation on this tour either way. If you go, I hope it is more exciting than the tour we got, and it sounds like it was a booking error on their part.
Our evening took a turn for the better at our next stop, Blaylock’s Whiskey Bar.
If you like craft cocktails, this is a bar you must go to. The cocktails were some of the best we’ve ever encountered. The menu is extensive, and it was difficult to choose. I honestly can’t remember what I had on my first round, but it was full of flavor and came with a pear wedge. Paddy had the Holy Woodsman, a take on an old-fashioned with black walnut bitters and cedar smoke among other delightful ingredients.
For round two I had the German Chocolate Cake Old Fashioned which was mind-blowingly good. Coconut fat washed whiskey, Frangelico, and cocoa bitters. Paddy had Smoke Signals, which came with a cloud of tobacco smoke held in place by a wooden coaster. Once removed, the smoke created a unique olfactory flavor experience mixed in with the cocktail, not to mention an impressive presentation.
We honestly could have kept savoring new cocktails for a few more rounds, but artisan craft cocktails like this come with a hefty price tag. We can’t wait to go back to Astoria just to go to Blaylock’s.
Our next stop was The Haunt, a Norwegian black metal bar. The bar is small, and don’t expect craft cocktails here. They do however have a decent collection of Aquavit. We had a couple beers and vodka sodas and the prices were very reasonable. They also serve Scandinavian food apparently, but we didn’t see anyone eating.
After a couple drinks at The Haunt, we stopped in to catch the end of a live music show at Labor Temple diner and bar, which also looks like a really great breakfast spot. On the way back to our hotel, we poked our heads into Galactix Arcade and Taphouse with an immersive sci-fi space theme. No cocktails offered here, but the beer and cider selection looked great, as well as the prices. We didn’t have any drinks, but I always appreciate a solid commitment to a theme.
Sunday morning we decided we couldn’t leave the Oregon Coast without a Dungeness crab benedict and biscuits and gravy at the Pig N Pancake. Pig N Pancake has locations up and down the Oregon Coast and never disappoints with their hearty breakfasts. The Dungeness crab benedict is always my favorite.
Astoria is a town with a lot of character, great food and drinks, and a fun, creative community. We left in disbelief that it took us this long to explore it. Cannon Beach and Seaside have the gorgeous beaches and family activities, but Astoria has a more unique charm. It is kind of like a micro Portland in a way. A salty-sailor fishing town full of artists and weirdos. Just our kind of place.