The mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific at Astoria, the oldest city west of the Rockies and a bustling riverfront getaway with a creative spirit and urbane vibe. It is named for John Jacob Astor, owner of the Pacific Fur Company, whose members arrived in 1811 and established Fort Astoria. In its early days, Astoria was a placid amalgamation of small town and hardworking port city. With rivers rich with salmon, the city relied on its fishing and canning industries. Settlers built sprawling Victorian houses on the flanks of Coxcomb Hill; many of the homes have since been restored and used as backdrops in movies or been converted into bed-and-breakfast inns. In recent years the city itself has awakened, with a greater variety of trendy dining and lodging options, as well as a superb museum dedicated to the Columbia River.
But Astoria still retains the soul of a fisherman's town, celebrated each February during its FisherPoets Gathering. The town of about 9,500 also has wonderful views from most areas and a richly forested backdrop to the east, yet it remains a working waterfront. There is little public beach access in the town proper; to reach the Pacific, you have to drive a few miles west to Fort Stevens in Warrenton.