Visit Oregon's most famous coastal town at Cannon Beach.
Cannon Beach is on the Northern Oregon Coast, an 80-mile drive northwest of Portland.
Cannon Beach resembles a New England town, with quaint, shingled cottages lining the streets and enchanting laneways.
This jewel of a town has a dreamy setting, with a broad, sandy beach punctuated by the monolithic Haystack Rock. Its main commercial area along Hemlock Street has a selection of charming restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries.
10 best things to do in Cannon Beach
1. Stroll along beautiful Cannon Beach.
Breathe in the fresh sea air while taking in the magnificent backdrop of Haystack Rock and the Oregon Coast Range, as you walk along the 4-mile sandy expanse of Cannon Beach. All 363 miles of Oregon's coastline is accessible to the public, including Cannon Beach, thanks to legislation introduced in 1967 by Oregon Governor Tom McCall.
Cannon Beach is Oregon's most famous and photographed beach, often included in lists of the world's best beaches.
Check out these tide pools exposed at low tide, at the northern end of Cannon Beach. From this angle, you can see three rock formations to the right of Haystack Rock, known as The Needles. The water is too cold for swimming at Cannon Beach and there are no lifeguards, but tidepools are fun for wading.
2. Explore the tidepools around Haystack Rock.
It's fun to explore the tidepools around Haystack Rock at low tide, full of starfish, hermit crabs and sea anemones in a vibrant intertidal area. During summer months volunteers set up trailers near Haystack Rock, and run free interpretive sessions on the marine and bird life. This is an especially great activity for kids at Cannon Beach.
The monolithic Haystack Rock stands 235 feet high. This basalt rock was formed 15 million years ago from lava flows and volcanic activity. Back in the day, intrepid visitors would climb to the top of Haystack Rock using a narrow path that once existed. Locals became frustrated by the sheer number of tourists needing to be rescued, and in 1968 blasted away this path.
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach attracts a wide variety of sea birds, like Tufted Puffins, Western Gulls, and Pelagic Cormorants. Don't forget to bring your binoculars to watch this prolific bird life. The Tufted Puffins are the most photogenic birds, with bright orange beaks. Haystack Rock has been a designated wildlife refuge since 1968, so you can't climb it or remove any sealife.
Haystack Rock is a 1-mile walk from downtown Cannon Beach, so it's often easier to drive there. The most direct access to Haystack Rock, is along Ecola Court, near the Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge (pictured). In winter, this street is often inundated by powerful surges from king tides. Many lives are lost each winter along the Oregon Coast, from visitors who underestimate the power of these tides.
3. Stroll along the scenic beachfront path near the dunes, that runs for 7 blocks.
Cannon Beach doesn't have a path running the full 4-miles along the beachfront. However, there is a shorter path (pictured below), that stretches 7 blocks along Ocean Avenue (bookended by Washington Street and Harrison Street). It's great for those colder days, when you don't walk to walk on the beach.
The sand dunes at Cannon Beach have been stabilized by European grass plantings, protecting the town against erosion caused by the fierce winter storms and king tide waves. Strict development controls have maintained the beauty of this area.
4. Explore shops, galleries and restaurants along Hemlock Street.
Hemlock Street is the jewel in the crown of Cannon Beach. It has avoided the cheap, touristy shopfronts of other coastal towns, to create a picture-perfect downtown area that looks like something out of New England. Explore a wonderful selection of boutiques, cafes, and upscales galleries. Families with kids can also find plenty of beach toys like buckets, spades and kites. Kids can also load up at the ice-cream and candy shops.
The Lazy Susan Cafe is a popular breakfast and brunch spot (126 Hemlock Street).
Stop for lunch at the Local Grill and Scoop (156 Hemlock Street).
The Coaster Theater is a community run theater on Hemlock Street at Cannon Beach, with musicals, comedies and plays. Check the latest shows.
Cannon Beach prides itself on being one of the best art towns on the West Coast of America, with over a dozen galleries, a vibrant artistic community, and plenty of art shows. Stop at The Landing complex on Hemlock Street (pictured above) for a great selection of art galleries (224 Hemlock Street).
Search for interesting treasures and curiosities at the Butler Did It Antiques (124 Hemlock Street). The gorgeous, flowering garden out front is characteristic of the pretty landscaping along Hemlock Street.
Cannon Beach has imposed a strict Building Design Review based on vernacular architecture, so all dwellings have a consistent weatherboard or shingle appearance that reflects the coastal aesthetic. There are no fast food outlets or big supermarkets, preserving the small town charm of Cannon Beach.
This fairytale-like dwelling is the Steidel Gallery, one of Cannon Beach's most charming buildings. It was originally owned by artist Bill Steidel, credited with kicking off the Cannon Beach art scene in 1959. Bill is now deceased, and the gallery is run by his son. Step inside to check out some of Bill Steidel's original works.
There are also plenty of wine tastings along Hemlock Street, like The Wine Shack with top rated wines (124 Hemlock Street). Experts will guide you in your wine choice, with a sampling of cheeses or charcuterie to accompany your wine selection.
Continue south along Hemlock Street past the downtown area, to see soaring views of the mountains. Many people enjoy this pleasant walk in the morning, breathing in the refreshing scent of evergreens and ocean air as the mists burn off the landscape. It's pure magic, and keeps visitors coming back to the beach each year.
5. Sign up for the Cannon Beach Cottage and Garden Tour.
One of the biggest events each September is the Cannon Beach Cottage and Garden Tour, which has a self-guided tour of historic homes in the Presidential Streets Neighborhood, music, dancing, and other festive events.
The Presidential Streets Neighborhood is full of original cottages built by Portland families as summer getaways in the early 1900's, and each of the streets is named after a U.S. President. These quaint dwellings ooze charm, with exposed shingle siding, picket fences and beautifully manicured gardens.
6. Spend a beach day near Ecola Creek at Cannon Beach.
Ecola Creek is at the northern end of Cannon Beach, near the main downtown area. Purchase a picnic lunch along Hemlock Street, and walk out to Ecola Creek for a fun day at the beach. Don't forget your umbrella and sand toys for the kids.
The sandy shoreline along Ecola Creek has magnificent views of the Chapman Point Headland and three offshore rocks known as Bird Rocks, home to the largest colony of Common Murres at Cannon Beach.
Can you see the mysterious Tillamook Rock Lighthouse to the left of the three Bird Rocks? The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is 1-mile out at sea, and was operational from 1881 to 1957. Its dangerous location and sheer isolation resulted in a life of misery for any Lighthouse Keepers posted there. The lighthouse has a haunting presence along Cannon Beach, once even used as a columbarium.
This is another perspective of Ecola Creek, looking south towards the Oregon Coast Range. All of the buildings you see here are available to stay in, positioning you mere steps from the beach.
7. Drive up to secluded Chapman Beach.
Chapman Beach is at the northern end of Cannon Beach, perfect for visitors seeking a little more seclusion. It's on the other side of Ecola Creek from Cannon Beach, so you'll need to drive to get there.
Get a close-up view of Bird Rocks from Chapman Beach, where the vibe is more private and peaceful.
There's a quiet neighborhood tucked away behind Chapman Beach, with some parking spots at the corner of Oak and Seventh Street (the gravel section pictured on the lower left). A few of these homes are vacation rentals.
Walk to the top of Oak Street behind Chapman Beach, for beautiful views back across Cannon Beach.
8. Take kids to the playgrounds at Cannon Beach.
There are two cool playgrounds to choose from at Cannon Beach, for your kids to burn off some energy.
The first is in the main commercial area on Spruce Street (between 2nd and 3rd). The second playground is at the beachfront park Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, and can be combined with a trip to Sea Level Bakery & Coffee to load up on treats and caffeine.
9. Have lunch at a hip Cannon Beach brewery.
Cannon Beach has some fun breweries to visit, with lots of comfort food and craft beers on tap.
One of the top picks is the kid friendly Pelican Brewing, inside a stunning, architectural interior with exposed beams and vaulted ceilings. This is a huge space, with lots of patio seating during summer. Another great option is Public Coast Brewing, in a relaxed atmosphere at the far north end of Cannon Beach.
Public Coast Brewing has an attractive setting in the above building, that used to house the Lumberyard Restaurant.
10. Stop by the free Cannon Beach History Center and Museum.
The Cannon Beach History Center and Museum provides an excellent overview of the history of Cannon Beach. It's a small museum that packs a big punch, with loads of fascinating information and local stories.
The narrative starts with the Native American history of this area, including a full scale Native American Longhouse. There's then an exhibit on the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition that reached the Pacific Ocean near Cannon Beach in 1806, opening up the Pacific Northwest to the rest of America.
It's fascinating to learn that Cannon Beach was named after a cannon that washed ashore from a wrecked schooner in 1846. You can also read up on the turbulent history of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, visible one mile off-shore from Cannon Beach, and operational from 1881 to 1957.
There's lots of fun photos and memorabilia on the Portland families that built the quaint getaway cottages here, and the Daddy Trains that once transported husbands from Portland each summer weekend from 1888 to 1938, until the highway was constructed.
Kids will also love the interactive exhibits.
Check hours (closed Tuesdays), located at 1387 South Spruce Street.
11. Visit Cannon Beach for winter storm watching.
Cannon Beach is especially popular for winter storm watching, where visitors can watch all the drama unfold from inside cosy vacation rentals or hotels. Many winter days are calm and clear, but when the Pacific storms roll in, the dramatic king tides can reach as far as the vegetation, lapping within a short distance of oceanfront homes!
12. Explore quaint coffee shops in Cannon Beach.
Cannon beach is home to some fantastic coffee shops. Some top picks include Insomnia Coffee, the Sleepy Monk and Sea Level Bakery.
Insomnia Coffee (pictured above) is just steps from the beach and is in the heart of downtown Cannon Beach. It has a lovely, rustic interior with vaulted ceilings, comfortable leather chairs and big tables. This is a good place to hang out for a few hours, with lots of tables and seating.
The Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters is a short distance from the main downtown area in Cannon Beach. It gets very busy during the coffee rush but is worth the wait. There's a small space inside with limited seating.
The Sea Level Bakery & Coffee is in the neighborhood of Tolovana Park, south of Cannon Beach. This converted cottage has a chic interior, with ample seating.
13. Enjoy a beach fire at sunset.
There's no better nightly ritual in Cannon Beach, then relaxing beside a beach fire while watching the sun set. Even in summer months the evenings can get chilly, so bundle up while watching the sun slip below the horizon, on one of America's most beautiful beaches. The summer sunsets are incredible here, lighting up the sky in a blaze of gold and orange. Many of the hotels will provide you with a S'mores kit, with wood, chocolate, marshmallows, matches and roasting sticks.
15. Stay at a luxurious lodge or vacation rental at Cannon Beach.
There are a huge number of vacation rentals and hotels at Cannon Beach, catering to every possible taste.
If you're in the mood for something luxe, then book an oceanfront room at the Cannon Beach Ocean Lodge or Stephanie Inn.
One of the best choices for families is the Surfsand Resort, with modern beachfront rooms. There's also an indoor swimming pool, nightly bonfires, lanterns for beach walks, beach toys, beach cruiser bikes and more. Lots to keep the kids occupied!
RV and camping enthusiasts can stay at Wrights for Camping, or the RV Resort at Cannon Beach.
This is the Ocean Lodge, perfect for a romantic getaway, with rooms on three floors.
Check out the views from the balcony of the Ocean Lodge!
This is the rustic lobby of the Ocean Lodge at Cannon Beach, with a roaring fire for those chilly winter days.
There are also dozens of vacation rentals, including many of the original beach cottages built in the earliest days of Cannon Beach.
The priciest vacation rentals are on the beachfront, many with larger space for families and groups.
Other fun things to do near Cannon Beach
Visit breathtaking Ecola State Park. Drive to Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach. It provides sweeping views of the famous coastal stacks at Cannon Beach. This State Park has easy walking paths along an open grassed section, leading to a number of viewpoints. On a clear day you will catch sight of the Tillamook Lighthouse. The lighthouse was commissioned in 1881, and is located one-mile off-shore on a rocky island.
Walk out to the gorgeous beach at Oswald West State Park. Drive a few minutes south of Cannon Beach to the popular Oswald West State Park. Stroll along a creek path through lush temperate rainforest to Smuggler's Cove. It's hemmed in on either side by dramatic headlands with a waterfall cascading from the clifftops to the beach below. Watch surfers braving the frigid waters.
Explore the charming town of Manzanita. Drive south to the tiny town of Manzanita to explore more upscale restaurants and shops. Manzanita is like a mini-version of Cannon Beach. It's sandy beach is magnificent but can get windy.
Plan a day trip to the seaport town of Astoria. The Victorian seaport of Astoria is 40-minutes north of Cannon Beach. It has a magical setting where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. There's so much to do here! Don't miss the excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum, Flavel House, and the Oregon Film Museum. Have a waterfront meal at the elegant Bridgewater Bistro, or Buoy Beer.