Astoria
There are more than a dozen famous film locations in Astoria that can easily be toured in a day, rain or shine. (Photo credit: Justin Bailie)
The Oregon Film Museum
The Oregon Film Museum is housed in the historic Clatsop County Jail, the site of the famous jailbreak in “The Goonies." (Photo credit: Justin Bailie)
Astoria Column
Explore the city where dozens of films were made, which is often referred to as “Hollywood North.” (Photo credit: Ashley Mersereau)

C’mon, admit it: We all cried at the end of “Free Willy,” whether we saw it back in the 1990s or more recently for old-time’s sake. But did you know it was filmed here in Oregon?

The classic scene when the famous orca whale jumps to his freedom over the breakwater happened at the Hammond Marina, a 20-minute drive west of downtown Astoria in Hammond, at the northwestern tip of the state.

The “Free Willy” site is one of more than a dozen famous film locations in Astoria that can easily be toured in a day, rain or shine. It’s a lot more than just “The Goonies,” the cult classic that put Astoria on the map back in 1985 and is celebrated each year on the town’s official Goonies Day, June 7. (Note that the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television has closed off public access to the iconic white house from “The Goonies” due to vandalism and trespassing.)

Taking a self-guided tour of the film sites — both memorable and obscure — is a great way to spend the day on a nostalgia trip.

Start at the Oregon Film Museum to grab a map of scene locations and explore the production behind the crop of films made in Oregon, often referred to as “Hollywood North.” Housed in the historic Clatsop County Jail, it’s the site of the famous jailbreak in “The Goonies,” as well as scenes from “Come See the Paradise” (1990) and “Short Circuit” (1986).

From this site you can also see the Flavel House, where Mr. Walsh works in “The Goonies.” The house-turned-museum is filled with period furnishings and artwork that celebrates the life of Captain George Flavel, one of Astoria’s most influential citizens in the 1800s.

The iconic 125-foot Astoria Column — the city’s proudest landmark — is pictured in nearly all of the films shot here, including “Kindergarten Cop” (1990) and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” (1993), as well as “The Goonies,” “Free Willy” and “Short Circuit.” Visitors can climb the 164 steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing deck 600 feet above sea level for a panoramic view of the lower Columbia area.

The 4.1-mile-long Astoria Bridge is another defining shot for classic made-in-Astoria movies. Connecting Oregon to Washington across the mouth of the Columbia River, the span is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. Pedestrians are allowed on the bridge just one day per year, during the Great Columbia Crossing, set for October 16, 2016.

True film buffs will want to hunt down the more obscure movie scenes too, like the medical supply store that doubled as Naomi Watts’ newspaper office from “The Ring Two,” and the house where Ally Sheedy’s character meets robot Number Five in “Short Circuit.”

The kids will also appreciate a trip to Youngs River Falls, eight miles south of downtown, where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fought a clan of Japanese warriors when they traveled back in time in “TMNT 3.”

about author Jen Anderson

Jen Anderson writes and edits Travel Oregon's e-newsletters and other online content. She loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two young boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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  1. Tim Dempsey says…

    This year we visited family in Washington State for Christmas. My wife Suprised me on my birthday, her and I went on a Goonies pilgrimage and payed our respects. Great sights, great people. We stayed at the Cannery Pier Hotel. The hotel was very nice, but what made the trip perfect was the trip to and from dinner in the hotel car. Our driver was a great man, a native to Astoria. He drove us around and showed us the Jail Museum, The Flavel House, Astoria Column, The Kindergarten Cop school as well as other sights. Well worth the trip. There is also a great coffee house at the bottom of the hill the goonies house is on.

    Written on April 7th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  2. Deb Eichner says…

    Am searching for directions to the National Historical Registered Lewis and Clark winter camp now a cemetery as have great grandparents buried there along with great uncles, aunt and grandmother. ..

    Written on April 24th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
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