Sunrise at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon
Oregon, Travel Tips

A Pacific Northwest Getaway to Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.Cannon Beach Travel Guide: What to do and see, where to stay, where to eat on the Oregon Coast!

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.

Airbnb in Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.

Related post: 6 Airbnb Alternatives for Booking Delightful Accommodation Around the World

Airbnb in Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.

Cannon Beach Travel Tips

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, Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.

Cannon Beach Travel Tips Cannon Beach Travel Tips Cannon Beach Travel Tips Cannon Beach Travel Tips Cannon Beach Travel Tips Cannon Beach Travel Tips

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.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

We didn’t see any puffins, but we managed to peep a few anemones and some other local birds.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.

Dinner at Newman's at 988, Cannon Beach, Oregon

“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.

Driving along Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast

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.

Driving along Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast Driving along Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast Driving along Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast

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.

Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach OregonHug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon

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.

Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon

When the sun finally poked through the clouds, we combed the beach for heart-shaped rocks, which, coincidentally, both of our mothers collect.

Hug Point near Cannon Beach OregonHug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon Hug Point near Cannon Beach Oregon

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.

Seaside, Oregon Seaside, Oregon Seaside, Oregon Seaside, Oregon

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.

Sunrise in Cannon Beach, Oregon Sunrise in Cannon Beach, Oregon

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.

Sunrise in Cannon Beach, Oregon Sunrise in Cannon Beach, Oregon Sunrise in Cannon Beach, Oregon

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

Do you have your own Cannon Beach travel tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

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  • Reply jin June 17, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Thank you for sharing your story of this place – Cannon Beach is actually high on my Oregon list! I have yet to explore outside Portland and dying to get to this wonderful beach! Great photos, too!

    • Reply Leah Davis June 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Thank you Jin! I hope you get to visit soon, it’s a special place!

  • Reply Anisa June 17, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Wow what a beautiful place! I visited Portland a few years ago but I didn’t have time to explore outside the city. Adding this to my list for next time.
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    • Reply Leah Davis June 19, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      It’s definitely worthy of a side trip from Portland 🙂

  • Reply Kathi June 17, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Love this – I’m dreaming of exploring more of Oregon one day and Cannon Beach is high on my list 🙂 Your photos are gorgeous – such cute couple shots! Do you take them with a tripod amd remote?

    • Reply Leah Davis June 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks, Kathi! Yes, I shot our couple photos with a tripod and timer/remote. 🙂 I hope you make it to Cannon Beach!

  • Reply Katharina June 17, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Your pictures are awsome. I really enjoyed reading this post. Great work 🙂

  • Reply Tracy June 17, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Your photos are amazing. This looks like a cool town to visit and I would love to get out to the Pacific Northwest one day. Thank you for the tips.

    • Reply Leah Davis June 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you Tracy! It was a great place to visit for a few days, there’s so much to do!

  • Reply cassi June 22, 2017 at 11:56 am

    yes, i love this! im heading to cannon beach next month and now i am so much more excited!

    • Reply Leah Davis June 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      You’re going to love it! Enjoy!

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