Discover Oregon's Old-World Charm

Oregon's coast has always been slightly off the radar, but now its small towns are gaining just the right amount of polish.

My final stop was Astoria, Oregon's northernmost town, 25 miles up 101. Set at the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria was founded as an outgrowth of Fort Clatsop, the settlement established by Lewis and Clark upon reaching the Pacific, and it still comes off as a roughneck port—all 19th-century canneries and working warehouses—albeit spiked with an indie-rock air.

I checked in to the recently renovated Commodore Hotel Astoria, a former seamen's boardinghouse turned 17-room boutique hotel (258 14th St.,, from $69), and then took a quick stroll. Boutiques and galleries have sprouted up all over downtown. There's even that requisite Portland import, an artisanal coffeehouse: 7-month-old Street 14 Coffee, attached to the lobby of the Commodore. This all seemed rather familiar and predictably urban to me, but strangely enough, as I lingered over my espresso, I didn't much mind. Even with changes here and there, the coast I loved had somehow overall managed to remain true to itself, while improving in just the right ways.

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