The Best Things to Do in Cannon Beach: A Complete Guide

Cannon Beach is a straight shot west from Portland, Oregon, and there you’ll find just the right blend of seaside kitsch, upscale shopping, and dining fit for foodies.

Because it’s only about an hour and a half drive from Portland, Cannon Beach sees a lot of weekend traffic. Its mix of dining and shopping, day outings, and long sand beaches with breathtaking wild scenery make it perfect for a weekend trip, or a jumping off spot for exploring the Oregon Coast.

There are so many things to do in Cannon Beach, you’ll have to be picky about how you spend your time, and you’ll no doubt start planning your second trip before you’re even done with your first. 

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The Best Things to Do in Cannon Beach in a Weekend

Here are some ideas for your weekend in Cannon Beach to help you figure out where you want to eat, stay, and play. 

Visit Haystack Rock

It must be in the city’s bylaws that the first attraction listed for Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock.

It’s big:-really big. And it looks just like a haystack, perched at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It’ll probably look familiar because you’ve seen it in a framed photo hanging in your Airbnb, or maybe you’ll remember it from The Goonies.

It’s all that it’s hyped up to be, especially at sunset. Puffins and bald eagles abound. Your Insta story is waiting.

Explore the Oregon State Parks on the Coast

Do not miss out on the Oregon Coast’s spectacular state parks. They rival any in the world. If you’re into hiking and you’re wondering what to do in Cannon Beach, be sure to make time for tromping through the woods in one of these stunning parks.

Hug Point

Hug Point is five miles south of Cannon Beach and you can easily spend a half day wandering the trails and playing on the beach here. If you’re looking for a longer beach walk, head south from the parking lot toward Arch Cape. There and back is about 4.5 miles. 

Do your best to time your visit during low tide so you can see the old road (yes: a road!) blasted out of the basalt headland that stagecoaches and cars used in the early 1900’s before Highway 101 was built. Don’t wear anything that can’t get wet as you’ll probably have to do some wading regardless of the tide.

Warning: the parking lot fills up early.

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park is only about three miles north of Cannon Beach and sits on the Tillamook Head. The Oregon Coast Trail runs through it for eight miles, so there are a number of options for shorter or longer day hikes, and some of the best hikes on the Oregon Coast are within the boundaries of the park. Bring your binoculars to watch surfers and catch a glimpse of “Terrible Tilly,” lying a little over a mile out to sea :- the doomed Tillamook Head lighthouse that proved too dangerous to stay operational.

Clatsop Loop Trail from Indian Beach: This is a lovely, accessible 3 mile loop hike that will give you postcard views looking down on Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. It’s not unusual to see bald eagles circling above. A great option if you’ve only got an hour or two or are looking for a good hike to do with kids. 

Crescent Beach Trail: This trail is a bit longer at 3.6 miles, but is still easy and has the added bonus of getting you to a beach that isn’t as overrun by visitors. No, you won’t have the place to yourself, but the majority of tourists who visit Ecola stay fairly close to the parking lot, so if you’re willing to walk an extra mile or so, you will be rewarded with incredible caves and tidepools to explore. 

Oswald West State Park

Oswald West State Park is farther away from Cannon Beach (about ten miles south), but is probably my favorite of the state parks in the area. If you’ve only got a short time here there’s still plenty to take in, but it’s the jumping off point for some of the longer hikes in the area.

  • Cape Falcon: A 4.8 mile out and back hike and although there’s not a ton of elevation gain, the trail can be tricky so wear proper footwear as you will encounter mud, tree roots, and an eroded trail. It’s still relatively easy, but only for the sure footed. This can be a plus because it will weed out some of the less intrepid adventurers. 

  • Neahkahnie Mountain: Neahkahnie’s peak is only 1,631 feet high, but since it’s right on the coast it feels like you’re about a mile up. There are three options for this hike: an 8 miler, a 5 miler, and a 3 miler. The latter is best for smaller children, but they all have the payoff of the spectacular view at the end. If you can only do one hike during your visit, make it this one.

Saddle Mountain

If you’re looking to get the blood pumping and the quads burning, check out Saddle Mountain. It is a 45 minute drive east from Cannon Beach, but well worth it especially on a clear day. Hit it in the morning and you’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy the beach. 

This is a 5.2 mile out and back and though it’s rated “moderately strenuous,” I’d put it on the upper end of that spectrum. The peak is at 3,282 feet and the 360 views at the top are worth every ounce of sweat you’ll put into it. To the east you’ll look straight on to Mt. Hood then up the Cascade Range to Mt. Rainier, and to the west you can view the coastline from Nehalem Bay up to Astoria and the mouth of the Columbia River.

Shopping in Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach boasts some of the best shopping on the coast. It has a nice mix of your typical beach shops (kites, taffy, sand dollar tchotchkes), but also brings in some upscale options as well as quirky local establishments.

  • Cannon Beach Book Company: I always seem to find a new book I need here. It’s like they see me coming and rearrange their displays just to appeal to my interests. This place is great if you’re looking for a gift, an engaging read for sitting by the fireplace, or if you just enjoy the serenity of browsing a bookstore. They also have an awesome collection of kid’s books.

  • Shorelines Northwest: Shorelines is your typical souvenir place, but it’s definitely one of the better ones on the main drag. It has quality items at decent prices and they’re always really nice there. If you know you can’t head home without a beachy keepsake or hoodie, this is the place to go.

  • The Wine Shack: I have to listen to others on this one since I’m not a wine drinker, but if you ask around, everyone will direct you here. A perfect place to pick up a bottle (or two?) to bring back to your rental and enjoy after a long day at the beach.

  • Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House: Yes, you read that correctly:-it’s a hardware store AND a pub! Where else can you buy a hammer and a pint? Put it on your must-see list for Cannon Beach. I also think they have the best clam chowder in town (sorry, Mo’s).

  • Bruce’s Candy Kitchen: Bruce’s bubblegum pink striped exterior is hard to miss. Going inside feels a bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and you’ll buy way too many sweets and it’ll be great. In addition to Haystack Rock, this is one of those places that people will get mad at you if you tell them you visited Cannon Beach and didn’t go to.

  • Icefire Glassworks: You don’t have to be in the market to buy a hand blown piece of glass art to enjoy Icefire. Step inside to watch the artists as they work behind plexiglass, molding and transforming molten glass into exquisite pieces. It’s mesmerizing. They’re also really friendly and love talking about the process with visitors (as long as they’re not taking 1400 degree hot glass in and out of kilns).

  • Four Paws on the Beach: This store is actually in Manzanita, but it’s the best pet store in the area. They’ve got a great selection and it’s super cute. If you’re bringing your fur babies along to the beach with you, you’ve got to stop by.

  • Sesame and Lilies: This is the store I like to walk through and pretend I can afford the things in it. Maybe you like doing that kind of thing too. Everything is just so pretty in there.

Take a Day Trip to Seaside, Oregon

Seaside is the other closest-to-Portland coastal town just 15 minutes north of Cannon Beach. It’s more family-oriented, loud, and delightfully tacky. I love Seaside, but for my money, I say stay in Cannon Beach and visit Seaside for the afternoon. 

Kids will love the Seaside Aquarium where you can buy a cup of fish to toss to seals who have all mastered their own tricks like waving, clapping, or spinning in a circle to gain your attention (and your food). There’s lots of hands-on tide pools to view and touch starfish and urchins. 

The Funland arcade evokes instant nostalgia for me. If your kids are old enough you can drop them off there with a pocket full of quarters and they’ll have the time of their lives. Pop across the street to ride the Tilt a Whirl and bumper cars while you’re at it. 

Afterwards, grab a cone at Zinger’s Ice Cream, then swing by the Hop and Vine Bottle Shop before you leave for a bottle to enjoy that night. 

If you’ve got an extra half day on your hands, check out the incredible High Life Adventure Park. It’s a huge obstacle course except you’re 30 feet off the ground and harnessed in. It’s like a ropes course but you get to do it with your friends and family instead of your coworkers. It’s a bit spendy (about $70 per person), but worth every penny.

Take a Day Trip to Manzanita

Manzanita feels like a miniature Portland and it makes for the perfect afternoon trip. Located 20 minutes south of Cannon Beach, it has a cute mainstreet with shops and restaurants, and a lovely beach that can often be less windy than its neighbors as it’s somewhat buttressed by Cape Falcon. 

Head to Yolk for brunch, find your favorite new dress at Moxie Fair Trade, and if you’ve really got a wild hair, join the locals for karaoke at the Sand Dune Pub. You will not be sorry.

Where to Eat and Drink in Cannon Beach 

Insomnia Coffee: Locals and tourists alike love this one. It’s just really good coffee. This is where we thank Portland’s proximity by getting you out-of-this-world coffee on the coast (they also have locations in Portland). 

Public Coast Brewing Co.: As local as beer gets. Brewed and served in Cannon Beach. Try their World Beer Cup gold medal winning ‘67 Blonde Ale.

EVOO Cannon Beach: A unique dining experience where you watch the cook prepare your meal as they walk you through the process and ingredient selection. The mission of EVOO is to teach their customers how to make the food they’re eating so they can replicate it at home. They’re committed to simple yet sophisticated preparation and using fresh, local ingredients. Always a winner, and you’ll no doubt make friends with the people seated beside you.

Crepe Neptune: This place is great for a sweet or savory lunch or dessert. If you’re out and about, use their walk up windows and grab a ham and cheese, or Nutella and jam crepe. They’re served folded up kinda like a pizza so they’re easy to eat while walking around.

Lazy Susan Cafe: This cafe is cozy and quaint for brunch or lunch. Get the waffles. It’s a Cannon Beach fixture.

Wayfarer Restaurant: A pricier option, but the ambience is worth the splurge. Windows surround the dining room, and Haystack Rock is practically staring right back at you. 

Seasons Cafe: A great spot for sandwiches, paninis, and homemade soup for lunch, or dinner on the weekends. Kind of a hidden gem. 

Ecola Seafoods Restaurant and Market: The best, freshest seafood in town. It’s a casual dining spot if you want to sit down, or you can purchase fresh fish, clams, or crab to prepare at home.

Where to Stay in Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is big enough to have plenty of hotel and Airbnb accommodations, but don’t wait till the last minute to book. 

Staying in an Airbnb

There are a ton of Airbnb options in and around Cannon Beach, but the ones close in and walking distance to the main drag go fast, so book early. 

Arch Cape Lofts – Image courtesy of Airbnb

Studio for couples in Arch Cape: If you’re looking for a quieter place to stay that’s still close, Arch Cape is a perfect option. This large, modern studio in a boutique hotel boasts a balcony ocean view and will be a serene respite after your day of adventuring. For groups needing more beds, look at this larger unit. Elegantly furnished yet still functional and inviting.

The Haystack Haus: Wanting to stay closer in to town? This sleek, well-appointed cabin is a two minute walk to the beach and a near straight shot to Haystack Rock. 

The Haystack Haus – Image courtesy of Airbnb

Beachfront Hotels & Resorts

As one of the largest and most upscale towns on the Oregon Coast, you’ll have many options for hotel, motel, or resort stays. 

Protip: If your room has a kitchenette, head over to the Mariner Market for groceries. They have surprisingly good options for fresh foods if you want to skip the wait at a restaurant. 

The Waves in Cannon Beach could not be any closer to the beach

The Waves: Oceanfront views, and situated on the north end of town makes The Waves easily walkable to the main drag. After breakfast take the lovely mile walk up the beach to Ecola State Park.

Surfsand Resort: An upscale, beachfront hotel in the heart of town. Kid and dog friendly, plus they always have fresh baked chocolate cookies in the lobby!

The Ocean Lodge: This is one of the most expensive hotels in town, but you get what you pay for. Located a little down the beach from the main strip so it’s quieter, but still plenty close to walk into town for coffee. 

Webb’s Scenic Surf: A motel that’s decidedly funky and tacky in the most endearing way. Don’t be put off by their website that was last updated in 1996. It’s the most affordable oceanfront lodging in Cannon Beach, and if you’re lucky the wild rabbits will hop over to you in the morning and try to share your breakfast.

McMenamins Gearhart Hotel: Located 20 minutes north of Cannon Beach and sitting on an 18-hole golf course (the oldest golf club west of the Mississippi), McMenamins excels at their creative use of existing structures and locations. Go for the rooms, the ambiance, and the beer. My only hard critique: head somewhere else for food. It’s fine, but you can do better. You can easily book a room here and not leave the premises for the entire weekend. They have bunk bed rooms for the kids, and a soaking pool for the whole family. 

Best Time to Visit Cannon Beach 

Summer is hands down the most popular time to visit and for good reason. There are numerous festivals like the best Sandcastle Contest on the coast (the oldest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest), and the weather is generally at its best, but you’ll still want to bring a jacket in case conditions change. The water temperature is swimmable if, a) you’re a kid, or b) you’re the kind of person who can’t visit the beach without swimming and you’re not gonna let any 57 degree water stop you (and I think you are that kind of person).

Fall takes second place because here in the Pacifc Northwest we can have some amazing fall weather, especially in September and October. I swear there are more sunny days on the coast in these months than there are during the summer. There’s a higher chance of rain for sure, but you’re in Oregon and bringing a raincoat is par for the course. October highlight: The Cannon Beach Dog Show.

If it were just me giving advice to me, I’d say winter is the best season to visit the Oregon coast. Bring your rain gear and embrace it. Get wet. Get cold. You can always dry off and warm up later. Plus there are these magical winter days on the coast where the weather will be terrible pretty much everywhere else in the world, but it will be 70 degrees with clear blue skies at the coast. Just note that since winter is the slowest time of the year for coastal tourism, some shops and restaurants will close for the month of January.

Spring can be hit or miss, but that doesn’t stop the droves of families coming from the Portland area from spending their spring break on the coast, and Cannon Beach is a very popular destination. There will be rain, but if you get lucky you could see some spectacular days.

Pro tip: Oregon school’s spring break is the last week of March. You’ve been warned.

Getting to Cannon Beach 

Cannon Beach is really only accessible by car, and it’s easy to reach from Portland. If you’re visiting Portland for the week, consider renting a car for a couple days to do a weekend trip. 

It’s a straight shot west on Route 26, and a mere 90 minutes if you can avoid traffic. Speaking of traffic:-if you’re heading to the coast from Portland you will get stuck in it if you leave between around 2:30pm and 6:30pm during the week. Route 26 runs straight into downtown Portland and many people are commuting back to the suburbs situated just west of the city, which is your route to the beach. 

If you’re coming from the north or south on Highway 101, lucky you! What a gorgeous drive, but it will take longer as this route passes through a bunch of little beach towns and the speed limit drops frequently. Plan accordingly. 

That’s all folks! We hope you found something new and exciting to add to your plans for a weekend in Cannon Beach!

Did you discover something that you think deserves to be on the list? Shoot us a note! We’d love to hear from you.

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