Sunset Bonfires and Colorful Tide Pools Await on a Weekend in Cannon Beach

This Oregon Coast beach offers a serene escape to the raw beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Large rock off the shoreline on a foggy morning

After U.S. Navy warship USS Shark sank in 1846, its cannons were spotted off the coast—hence the name Cannon Beach.

Photo by Caleb Jones/Unsplash

Just 90 minutes due west from Portland, Highway 26 meets U.S. Highway 101 and drops into Cannon Beach. This part of northwestern Oregon feels rugged and alive, where visitors explore tide pools, hike forest trails, and enjoy regional art.

In addition, this coastal world is a popular romantic retreat with snug, luxurious beachfront hotels and fresh food. The compact downtown, with its cedar-shingled shops and galleries, draws travelers into the laid-back charm. Out by the shoreline, the 235-foot-high basalt Haystack Rock rises from the Pacific Ocean, taking center stage as the light shifts across it throughout the day.

As an adult, I long for the summer “sweatshirt beach days” at Cannon Beach that I enjoyed as a child. Here’s how to spend a weekend here—complete with a sandy bonfire at sunset.

Visit Cannon Beach to see jaw-dropping natural structures up close.

Visit Cannon Beach to see jaw-dropping natural structures up close.

Photo by Art Boardman/Shutterstock

Best things to do in Cannon Beach

Go on a mini marine safari

The number one stop: the tide pools at the base of the massive Haystack Rock. These little rock pools have a rotating cast of marine life, including anemones, sea stars, and sea slugs. and are accessible at low tide. During low tide, volunteer wildlife guides are on hand to answer questions and point out marine life. Private tours are also available.

Haystack Rock is also home to the second largest on-shore population of tufted puffins in the continental United States. A group of these bright shorebirds is known as a “circus,” and they nest on Haystack Rock between April and August.

Tip: The Oregon Coast’s ever-changing weather can go from foggy mornings to bright days, with a chilly golden sunset. Dress in layers—whatever the weather is at breakfast, it will change by afternoon.

Watch artists at work and take a workshop

Local creatives have fostered a community throughout Cannon Beach with public art, year-round shows, a live theater, and retail galleries. (There are 15 galleries in a few small, walkable downtown blocks.) Watch creators form hot glass sculptures at Icefire Glassworks (a working glass studio and gallery) or sign up for a photography workshop through the Cannon Beach Arts Association.

Hike and surf

A short drive north and south of Cannon Beach reveals plenty of additional beaches and trails, including beach caves at Hug Point (around 4.5 miles south) and views from Ecola State Park (about 2 miles north). One easy and rewarding hike just south of town is Oswald West State Park, where a flat, half-mile trek through a rainforest opens to one of the most scenic coves in Oregon. Local surfers are often active at this popular break. Surf classes, wet suits, and board rentals are available at Cleanline Surf Shop in downtown Cannon Beach.

Have a sunset bonfire on the beach

Ending the day with a sunset beach fire is a Cannon Beach ritual, and a permit is not necessary. You can pick up firewood and marshmallows at Fresh Foods across from Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. Parking here is free and offers direct beach access. (Because you won’t have to carry blankets and firewood far, that makes packing up in the dark easier.) Check the tide table to plan beach days, as high tides turn up fast.

Enjoy the dog days

Cannon Beach is a dog’s dream with generous beach off-leash laws. In town, dogs can enjoy the water dishes in front of many shops and pet-friendly outdoor dining is commonplace. One local shop, Fetch, sells Frisbees, Pendleton dog beds, and travel gear. You can even book a pet photographer to capture moments of your dog and family enjoying Oregon’s beaches.

Weathered wooden building with raised terrace for dining.

For Pacific Northwestern fare, head to restaurants like Ecola Seafoods.

Photo by Victoria Ditkovsky/Shutterstock

Where to eat and drink in Cannon Beach

Sleepy Monk Coffee is the pinnacle of the Pacific Northwest coffee scene. This tiny, all-organic roastery boasts award-winning beans and a line of customers snaking out the door, rain or shine. After coffee, Crêpe Neptune is the spot for a sweet or savory breakfast with crêpes named for local spots, including “Cape Blanco” and “Manzanita.” If a full-service breakfast is more your jam, head to the Wayfarer for views of Haystack Rock, scratch-made smoked salmon Benedict, and Dungeness crab omelets.

Sample the fish and chips or clam chowder for lunch at the Ecola Seafoods counter. This family-owned fish market partners with Oregon fishermen focused on responsibly sourced fishing.

Beer drinkers can relax on a sunny patio for the afternoon while enjoying a cold, house-brewed beer and an IPA-brined chicken sandwich at Public Coast Brewing. The brewery name pays homage to Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline, which is entirely accessible to the public. Brew lovers can also sample Pelican Brewing’s rotating seasonal menu of food and beer. Every food (and dessert) item is listed with a recommended beer pairing, featuring 20 taps year-round with growler filling to-go.

As the sun goes down over Haystack Rock, head to cocktails and dinner at the Bistro Cannon Beach, a tucked-away restaurant and patio with live music nightly. Its menu of freshly made pasta and creative options features local harvests and seafood (dishes include caramel chicken with nuoc cham slaw and cioppino with soba noodles). Chef and owner Jack Stevenson, who previously helmed dining establishments at prestigious hotels such as San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental, has now found his home in Cannon Beach. Reservations are recommended, and feel free to bring your dog: There’s even a menu for canines on the patio.

Hotel lobby with thick wooden beams and two sofas flanking a lit stone fireplace

Consider the Stephanie Inn for oceanfront views.

Photo by Gregor Halenda

Where to stay in Cannon Beach

The Stephanie Inn

This luxury oceanfront inn and spa offers creative experiences highlighting Pacific Northwest food and art. Sign up for local honey tasting or learn to cook with seasonal fruit using the hotel’s private farm-grown produce from its 40-acre culinary farm inland. Gourmet, to-go picnic basket lunches are also available.

The Inn at Cannon Beach

A wooded courtyard surrounded by plants creates a village-like environment between the collection of cottages at this property. Extras include a morning yogurt and pastry breakfast, as well as freshly baked cookies, coffee, and sand buckets for the kids.

The Ocean Lodge

In a prime ocean-side location, this lodge offers a fireplace in every room. Each ground-floor room opens onto a beachfront lawn with an outdoor dog wash on site.

Amanda Calnan Vowels is a writer based in Bend, Oregon. Living and traveling overseas with children has given her a deeper appreciation for the remarkable spaces and stories of her native Oregon.
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