Home to Haystack Rock, this coastal town has wide open beaches plus quirky shops & delicious dining for families.
Of all the towns along the northern coast of Oregon, Cannon Beach is my family’s favorite beach getaway. Home to Haystack Rock, one of the world’s tallest sea stacks, the town has miles of wide open beaches plus quirky shops, attractive art galleries, and delicious dining that attract families from nearby Portland and beyond. But leave your bikini at home, because a day at the beach in Oregon is not for the faint of heart. Appropriate beach attire can be schizophrenic: flip flops and shorts on the bottom, polar fleece and winter hat on top. But this “we’re-going-to-the-beach-no-matter-what” attitude is part of Cannon Beach’s charm.
What to do?
All the beaches in Oregon are public lands and dog-friendly which makes our yellow Labrador quite happy. No matter where you stay in Cannon Beach, you can walk to Haystack Rock, the best place along the Oregon Coast to see Tufted puffins and other seabirds nesting. But bring your binoculars, because you aren’t allowed to actually climb the rock. Visit during low tide so that you and your kids can explore the tidal pools around Haystack which are designated as a protected marine garden. You’ll have no problem spotting sea slugs, ochre sea stars, giant green anemones, and hermit and kelp crabs.
Anything goes on this stretch of beach. You can take your bikes and ride along the hard-packed sand or rent beach bikes with kid carriers in town at Family FUNcycles. Or return at night and enjoy a bonfire as you listen to the roar of the Pacific.
If you’re looking to hike, head to Ecola State Park on the north end of Cannon Beach. You can enjoy some beautiful vistas on the cliffs above the ocean, and you may even spot a migrating gray whale in winter and spring. Cost: $5/car for day use.
When you need a break from the beach, head into the downtown area on the north end of Cannon Beach for a little shopping. The kids will make a beeline to Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, where they’ve been making candied apples and salt water taffy since 1963. Try the marionberry taffy, a flavor that you’ll likely only find in Oregon. The Picnic Basket and Osburn’s Ice Creamery also offer sweet treats and ice cream.
If you have the time in the afternoon, spend a few minutes in the Cannon Beach Historical Center and Museum, located outside of downtown and closer to Haystack Rock. Cost: Free with donations requested; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Where to eat?
If my kids had their way, we’d eat breakfast, lunch, and our afternoon snack at Crêpe Neptune in downtown. With both sweet and savory selections, these handheld meals are perfect to grab and go. Another favorite downtown breakfast spot is The Lazy Susan Cafe with omelettes done all ways. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly seafood choice for lunch, pick Tom’s Fish & Chips.
Farther south on Hemlock Street in the Haystack Rock area, you’ll find Cannon Beach’s best culinary choice. Until 2 p.m., this small cafe houses the Sleeping Monk coffee shop with fresh scones and handcrafted lattes. (Oregonians know their coffee. You won’t find a bad cup in Cannon Beach.) At 5:30 p.m., The Irish Table opens for dinner in the same space. Arguably the most delicious restaurant in Cannon Beach, you’ll need to plan ahead. The restaurant takes reservations for parties of four to six but won’t seat parties larger than that. (You can always split your party and get multiple tables.) If you’re dining with a smaller group, you’ll have to take your chances and line up; I’d recommend doing so at least a half hour before opening. It’s worth the wait!
Finally on the southern end of Cannon Beach near Tolovana Park, you’ll find an Oregon Coast institution, Mo’s Seafood & Chowder. With a wall of windows that look out onto the beach, it’s the perfect place to warm up with a cup of clam chowder on a rainy day.
Where to stay?
There are too many motels and hotels in Cannon Beach to list. Perhaps a better option is to rent one of the many cedar-shingled beach houses that sit just steps from beach access. Try websites a like VRBO to find your perfect getaway.
If you’re traveling in a camper or RV, the best-located park is Cannon Beach RV Resort with full hookups, a small pool, and basketball court. It’s a short ten-minute walk to beach access near Haystack or a pleasant 25-minute walk into downtown. There's RV parking in downtown Cannon Beach, but it’s not large enough for big rigs. Cost: starts at $36/night during off-season.
Alternatively, you can hop on the Cannon Beach Bus. For $1, you can ride anywhere in Cannon Beach or to the next beach town of Seaside; for $3, you can ride to Astoria for a day of sightseeing. Seriously, it's a steal!
Campers can pitch a tent at Wright’s for Camping (seasonal) next to Cannon Beach RV Resort. This small campground is closer to Cannon Beach’s attractions than nearby state parks. Cost: $36/night/2 campers.
Cannon Beach is located along famed Highway 101. It’s about a 1-1/2-hour drive from Portland.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah and her family live in Portland, Oregon, and visit the coast rain or shine, often experiencing both in the same day!