Updated: Nov 27, 2022
The Oregon Coast isn’t all cocktails and beaches…there is a rich and colorful history that has been captured in books, ghost stories, and museums. Museums might not be the first thing people think to visit when visiting a new place, but you won’t be bored in any of the ones we’ve got listed here.
Some historical sites have been covered in previous blogs (Astoria Underground Tour, The Column, and the Hanthorn Cannery Museum on Pier 39) but this will be the remainder of the best historical sites on the North Coast. History isn’t always pretty, but these museums and historical sites give history a chance to be remembered and honored while also engaging for people of most ages. The sites are listed in no particular order.
The Lewis And Clark National And State Historical Parks - No matter your age or interest in history, this is a great experience! There is an initial museum to explore, but most of the experience is outside. You can see the same views as Lewis and Clark when they arrived at the Oregon Coast, as well as original dwellings.
The Flavel House - This one may not be interesting for children as much as adults, but it’s worth a stop if you’re into interiors and architecture. The house was built in 1884 and was home to George Flavel, the first river bar pilot. The furnishings and small touches truly make it feel like stepping into the 1800s.
The Columbia River Maritime Museum - The Maritime Museum is a wonderful date spot, family outing, or even if you find yourself solo for an afternoon. Expect to spend at least two hours exploring the hands-on activities, movies, and history of the area. A highlight is definitely being able to step foot on an actual historic ship which has been maintained to its original glory.
Oregon Film Museum - We’d me amiss to leave out the Oregon Film Museum! Better known as the “Goonies Museum” around town. Located in the jail from the movie, with the jeep sitting right out front in it’s iconic location. You’ll learn about more than just the Goonies though...some major motion pictures were filmed in Oregon!
Battery Russell - If you’re a WWII buff this will be your cup of tea. Also, it’s free and right near the Peter Iredale shipwreck. While not maintained like the Flavel House, it’s pretty interesting to see what nature has done to these structures after nearly 100 years. There are numerous other historical sites like this to see in the area, click here to see a list.
Tillamook Air Museum - If you’re heading a bit south to grab some ice cream at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, this is very much worth checking out. The exhibits are geared more towards history buffs, but the blimp hangar is an amazing attraction in and of itself. The hangar is 120 feet high and used to store blimps during WWII. There are things geared towards children, but don’t expect them to want to spend a full day here.
Umpqua River Lighthouse - If you plan on crossing the Megler into Washington this is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with a lighthouse. This is a time capsule full of photographs and artifacts explaining its importance to the edge of the continent in the late 1800s into the 1900s. If you plan on stopping by make sure to check out other things Cape Disappointment has to offer, like views, beaches, camping, and hikes.
Museum Of Whimsy - Not the biggest museum in town, but it does not lack heart and character. Two floors of old mannequins, circus decor, dancer outfits, and even historical items from around the globe will impress even the hardest to entertain person in your group. If you love all things quirky and fun, don’t sleep on this hidden gem.
Heritage Museum - Housed in a beautiful historic building this is a one stop shop for much of the history from the surrounding area. The fact they discuss the indigenous people who resided in the area before settlers is an appropriate nod to the history of the Pacific Northwest. This museum does a great job highlighting the people who have lived and thrived in the area for generations.
Independent Galleries - Not quite history, but just as wonderful as the many museums around town. Astoria may not seem like a posh art destination, but there are some beyond talented artists housed in small galleries around town. Click the link for a full list and don’t miss out on some of the lesser known spots for exploring art and culture in this region.