Oregon day trip: Astoria

Get cozy on a winter visit to the Northern Oregon Coast

Jennifer Margulis

Why go now: Because rain can actually be romantic when paired with thundering surf—and fresh, crisp beach walks when the storm breaks. Plus, in the off-season, you’ve got the typically packed place to yourself.

Scene: Yellow-slickered fishermen mixed with just a sprinkling of iPad-toting tourists in a small riverfront town with San Francisco–steep streets.

Population: 10,050.

Number of bridges: 4.

Local shipwreck: The Peter Iredale, a four-master that ran aground in 1906 at what’s now Fort Stevens State Park (see below). You can explore the ship’s rusty hull at low tide.

Cheap date: On February 12, hit the Astoria Co-op for a free wine tasting and local food pairing (2–5 Feb 12; 1355 Exchange St.; astoriacoop.org). 

Happy 200th: 2011 is Astoria’s bicentennial; the official townwide celebration kicks off in May. (Yet another reason to go now, while it’s still quiet.)

OMG, look at those waves: Fort Stevens State Park is one fine stretch of sand, with towering dunes, uninterrupted ocean views, and, in winter, some of the most impressive storm watching anywhere. For formidable whitecaps, the park’s South Jetty viewing platform is where you want to be—the Columbia River hits the Pacific here. Bundle up and watch the waves explode against enormous black boulders. 1675 Peter Iredale Rd.; oregonstateparks.org

Tokens of love beyond the trite: A box of chocolates? Snooze. Duck inside Lunar Boy Gallery, where owner Deborah Starr curates whimsical art like an inflatable elk head, squirrel-size underpants, and Astoria local David Sloan’s modern surrealist paintings. Closed Sun; 1133 Commercial St.; 866/395-1566.

Brighten a gray day: Sweet-smelling Bloomin Crazy Floral can cure any case of SAD. Pick up tropical plants, pretty vases, and, for Valentine’s Day, bouquets packaged with brownies or cake from a local bakery. Closed Sun; 971 Commercial St.; 503/325-3571.