In the spring, my partner Hans and I took our very first trip together on a sweet little getaway to the Oregon coast. We settled on spending three nights in Cannon Beach, roughly six hours from our outpost in central Washington.
It was lovely from start to finish, though admittedly, the weather could have been nicer (and we would have loved to see some puffins).
This post will be part personal narrative, part practical travel tips. If you want all the juicy details, keep reading. If you’re just here for the Cannon Beach travel tips, scroll to the bottom of the post.Heading to beautiful #CannonBeach, Oregon? Read these useful #traveltips Click To Tweet
Our Cannon Beach Story
With our 30th birthdays falling just one month apart, Hans and I knew we wanted to commemorate the occasions jointly, and taking our first trip together seemed the perfect way to do it.
Now, while I may know my way around certain overseas destinations, Hans has spent considerably more time exploring the Pacific Northwest, and so Cannon Beach, a small town on Oregon’s northern coast, came at his suggestion. It didn’t take much arm-twisting for me to agree.
Fortunately, we both work flexible jobs which allowed us to travel mid-week, thus avoiding crowds and saving considerable money on accommodation.
Once we’d settled on travel dates, we went on the prowl for a place to stay–something charming and beachy, affordable and modest. After a few weeks of searching, we discovered the perfect place: Gull’s Nest Cottage.
The studio-style space was just the right size for two people and came complete with a fully stocked kitchen, a dining table, its very own parking spot, and sat just one block from the beach.
When our departure date arrived, we loaded Hans’ car with far more than we needed for a three-day trip and set off on our adventure, sure to be the first of many.
During our six-hour drive, being the awesome co-pilot that I am, I introduced Hans to The Tim Ferriss Show. We would end up listening to several podcast episodes before the trip’s end, including an enlightening talk with Tony Robbins and a lesson in minimalism from Marie Kondo, the “Japanese tidying master.”
When we finally arrived in Cannon Beach, it was just about dinner time, and the sun was quickly sinking into the ocean. It was still low season and the town felt sleepier than expected–had we realized our dining options would be limited or that most shops and restaurants would close early, we might not have beelined for the beach that day.
But, given that we’d expected drab, rainy weather and instead arrived to find clear skies and sunshine, we figured we ought to make the most of it.
Haystack Rock, bathed in golden rays, imposing and grandiose, took my breath away from the moment I saw it. We spent the next hour or so frolicking on the beach like the 8-year-olds-trapped-in-adult-bodies that we are.
Our first night was pretty chill, both literally and metaphorically–after we’d dethawed from staying on the beach a little too long, we laid low at our rental, curled up in bed with a takeaway burrito and Netflix.
We had no interest in waking up early during this trip (with one exception–I wanted to photograph the sunrise) so the next morning, we lazed in bed until late morning. By the time we’d sucked down some coffee and were up and at ’em, it was nearly noon.
After consulting our tide chart and discovering a 2:30 pm low tide, we decided it’d be a good day to attempt some puffin spotting near the tide pools surrounding Haystack Rock. It was the very start of puffin season so we weren’t positive we’d see any, but we remained hopeful.
Haystack Rock, formed millions of years ago by lava flows, is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is a state-protected marine environment. It’s a local landmark and a truly imposing sight when you’re up close to it. There are no two ways about it–you must visit this rock if you go to Cannon Beach.
After a few hours, a photoshoot gone awry, and one debilitating Raynaud’s attack (blood vessel spasms that restrict circulation to your extremities–my condition affects my feet most severely), we decided to pack it in.
We didn’t see any puffins, but we managed to peep a few anemones and some other local birds.
The weather was harsh this particular afternoon and whipping winds and cold temps didn’t make for great beachgoing conditions. Poor Hans had to carry me much of the way back to the cottage because my feet were in so much pain.
Since the day was kind of a bust and it was now late in the afternoon, we planned for our evening–a celebratory birthday dinner. We dressed to impress for this one–impress each other, that is–and made a reservation at a restaurant barely one block away from our Airbnb, Newman’s at 988.
“Cozy,” “upscale,” and “French-Italian” read the online description of Newman’s. It lived up to every one of our expectations. Bread for the table, wild mushroom polenta, and the ravioli du jour left us barely able to move and grateful for the chance to enjoy each other’s company over a phenomenal meal.
We always enjoy each other’s company, but it’s rare that we indulge in such a decadent meal (much less while dressed to the nines), which made the occasion all the more special.
For our final full day in Cannon Beach, we wanted to tour some of the local state parks, perhaps go for a short hike, and take in the splendor of the rugged Oregon coastline from yet unseen angles. The weather was temperamental but not completely wretched, so we dressed in layers and hit the road.
Our first intended destination, Ecola State Park, was mysteriously closed that afternoon. After letting the disappointment wash over us and accepting that it wasn’t meant to be, we drove south, this time heading for Hug Point where waterfalls and sea caves awaited us.
Along the way, we hit every lookout point available and learned about the delicate ocean ecosystems and how the coastline came to be from a geological standpoint.
And as far as backup plans go, we could have done a lot worse than Hug Point. At low tide, a short walk along the beach reveals some pretty spectacular sights.
It rained on and off during our time at Hug Point and gusty winds threatened to take down the precious cargo atop my tripod, but we managed to avoid most major disasters.
When the sun finally poked through the clouds, we combed the beach for heart-shaped rocks, which, coincidentally, both of our mothers collect.
Next, we drove north to the town of Seaside where spent more time on the beach, doing little more than making googly eyes at each other and building sand castles.
For our final night’s dinner, we opted for the lone Caribbean-themed restaurant in town, Castaways. Unfortunately for these two vegetarians, there weren’t many meat-free options on the menu, but they were happy to modify a lovely curry for us and we shared something fried and cheesy as an appetizer.
Our final morning was an early one–I just had to catch the sunrise one time before we left. Hans isn’t the biggest fan of waking before the sun, but he graciously agreed to come with me anyway, the sweet guy.
The sky was clear that morning, leaving the cotton candy shades to speak for themselves. We enjoyed the serenity, the sound of waves crashing into the shore.
It didn’t last for long, though–our fingers were too cold and our bellies too empty–so we snapped a few final photos and circled back around to the Gull’s Nest to pack up for the long travel day ahead.
Cannon Beach Travel Tips
Cannon Beach, Oregon is a quiet little community roughly 80 miles to the northwest of Portland, 45 minutes south of Astoria, and 15 minutes south of Seaside.
It’s a great place to go if you’re a nature lover–the town is surrounded by parks and nature reserves and some of Oregon’s most stunning coastline.
Preparing for Your Trip to Cannon Beach
- Pacific Coast beaches are often windy, so it’s always a good idea to pack a windbreaker and dress in layers
- Don’t forget the sunscreen–even if it’s cloudy out, the UV rays are powerful
- Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals manage many of the vacation properties in town–rentals are often cross-listed on Airbnb, so check both websites before booking to ensure you are getting the best price
- Traveling outside of the summer high season means many businesses and restaurants will have limited operating hours, so check schedules far in advance, especially if you plan to dine out
- To spot the Tufted Puffins nesting at Haystack Rock, plan your travel between April and July
After You Arrive
- There are a handful of small grocery stores in town where you can stock up on breakfast items, coffee, and any items you forgot; we frequented Mariner Market
- If you miss their opening hours, there is a Safeway in Seaside that stays open until midnight
- Check the tide calendar (if you’re staying with Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals, they will provide you with one) and plan your trips to the beach accordingly–you can visit the tide pools at Haystack Rock only at low tide
Things to Do in Cannon Beach
- Visit the area’s many state parks and recreation sites; popular options include Ecola State Park, Haystack Hill State Park, Tolovana Beach, Arcadia Beach, Hug Point, Oswald West State Park, and Neahkahnie Viewpoint.
- Wander through downtown Cannon Beach and visit the stores and restaurants on South Hemlock Street
- Visit Haystack Rock and spot wildlife with the help of Friends of Haystack Rock; Tufted Puffins nest from April to July
- Take a cooking class at EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School
- Fly kites on the beach–buy your kite of choice at Kite Factory or Once Upon a Breeze
- Visit the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum
Where to Eat in Cannon Beach
- Newman’s at 988 – Upscale French-Italian cuisine in a cozy cottage home
- Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse – Standard pub fare and lively atmosphere
- Castaway’s Restaurant & Tiki Bar – French and Cajun-Creole cuisines
- Sweet Basil’s Cafe – Sweet spot for lunch with healthy and vegetarian items available
- Crepe Neptune – Sweet & savory crepes, plus coffee and smoothies
- The Wayfarer Restaurant & Lounge – Seafood with a sea view
Do you have your own Cannon Beach travel tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!