Cannon Beach, Oregon, on the North Coast, is making waves amongst travel experts after being named one of the top travel destinations for 2024. While summers are the high season, Cannon Beach is a great place to visit year-round. I had the privilege of spending extended time in this incredible town during the offseason, and I admire everything it offers even when it’s not in “peak form.”
What To Know About Visiting Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach is best known for nature and art combined with small-town coastal charm. Planning a trip to Cannon Beach will provide visitors ample opportunity to have fun between shopping, perusing art galleries, beachcombing, and wildlife watching. These are some recommendations for what to see and do on your next visit.
Marvel at Haystack Rock
This iconic rock formation rises 235 feet from the shoreline’s edge and is one of the most photographed and visited places in Cannon Beach. It’s a National Wildlife Refuge with active nesting seabirds and features a colony of Tufted puffins during the spring and summer. When the tide is out, it’s a great place to check out the tide pools and snap an Instagram-worthy photo. Many may recognize this peak from the 1980s classic movie The Goonies as the main characters’ search for hidden treasure and adventure. Sunsets at Haystack Rock, even cloudy ones, are one of my favorite pastimes in Cannon Beach.
Stroll the Streets and Beach
Cannon Beach, Oregon, is a very walkable town and is the best place to visit the eclectic shops, galleries, and eateries. The main street in town is S. Hemlock Street, with its companion street, Spruce Street, one block to the South. On a busy summer day, parking and dealing with crowded streets full of tourists are the biggest challenges. Visiting in the offseason will make this more accessible and more enjoyable, and the Chamber of Commerce offers a guide on how best to enjoy on foot.
It’s easy to catch a whiff of the sweet smells coming from Bruce’s Candy Kitchen and shop for your furry family members at Four Paws on the Beach and Fetch Cannon Beach. There are ample places to pick up various coastal-themed gifts, decor, and other items in Sandpiper Square, Village Centre, and the Cannon Beach Mall shopping plazas. The stores are all locally owned and operated, and no national chains exist.
Take in Some Art
Cannon Beach is recognized as one of the Northwest’s top art towns, featuring over a dozen galleries ranging from watercolor and bronze sculpture to glass-blown items and modern art. Visitors can delight in the art around town outside the galleries by undertaking a public art walking tour. On this tour, visitors can check out a stainless steel wave, metal whale ribs, and a pair of bronze Tufted puffins sculptures.
Discover Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park should be at the top of any visitors list with a visit to Cannon Beach, Oregon. At one end of the park, winding roads and walking paths lead through Oregon’s old-growth rainforest with sweeping views of Tillamook Head and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. On the other end, check out Indian Beach, popular for surfers, and Crescent Beach, popular for seasonal whale watching and birdwatching. Ecola is one starting point for the Tillamook Head Traverse Hike, which is a scenic and often muddy 6.3-mile hike one way. A camera is a must, as the viewpoints are breathtaking, and wildlife viewing can be possible.
Visit Hug Point and Arcadia Beaches
Another must-do is the three-mile drive south of Cannon Beach to Hug Point State Recreation Site. Low tide is the best and safest time to visit this spot, where walking north on the beach brings visitors to a waterfall that streams right onto the sand, a scattered sight on the Coast. Tidepools at low tide may also yield viewing marine life. Additionally, the ocean has carved out sea caves and sandstone cliffs over the years. It’s a newly discovered beach area for me, but I will continue to visit each time.
Another place just south of Cannon Beach is Arcadia Beach Recreation Site. From the beach access at Lion Rock, visitors can take beach walks south to Hug Point and north to Silver Point. Keeping an eye on the tides is essential because these areas can become accessible during periods of high tide. I always practice an excellent rule of thumb: “Never turn your back on the ocean.”
View the Local Elk Population
Visitors to Cannon Beach in the summer might not view Roosevelt elk herds as often as in other seasons because the elk disappear into the hills with more humans in town. In different seasons, the elk herds can regularly (almost daily) be spotted around town, finding snacks to eat in yards and bedding down on the beach at night. One of the more epic sights I witnessed was a large herd crossing the Necanicum River. Watching them at a safe and respectful distance is advisable, especially when their calves are with them.
Venture To Surrounding Areas
Many visitors to Cannon Beach come to town to enjoy the serenity, relaxed pace, and scenic views and never need to leave. For those wanting to venture out, Manzanita and Rockaway Beach are to the South, and Seaside and Astoria are to the north. Astoria is the area’s biggest city and setting for The Goonies. Visitors can check out sites and filming locations from the movies and drive over the famous Astoria-Megler Bridge, linking Washington and Oregon.
Where To Eat and Stay
An authentic visitor experience to Cannon Beach is complete with indulging in tasty delights offered throughout town. From intimate cafes to fine dining, visitors have many options in town. The main staples include Mo’s Seafood and Chowder and the Wayfarer Restaurant, which sit on the oceanfront, while The Driftwood Restaurant and Lounge sits in the heart of downtown. There are also three brewpubs in town, offering local microbrews and delicious cuisine.
There are many options for places to stay in Cannon Beach, from vacation rentals to small inns and RV resorts. Planning ahead is essential for the busy summer months. In the offseason, visitors can enjoy a more intimate experience in town, being mindful of weather and road hazards.
Many of the best sites to see around Cannon Beach require a car to get to them; however, there are other options to get there. A twice-daily bus, The POINT makes trips from Portland to Cannon Beach and other places on the Coast. It stops in the heart of town, within walking distance of downtown. The Northwest Connector shuttles also provide local service around town and other coastal places. Travel Oregon, the state’s tourism website, has even created car-free itineraries for the coastal areas.
Cannon Beach, Oregon, has earned its place amongst other elite Oregon Coast locations as a top place to visit. Its inspiring and picturesque landscape helped National Geographic list it as one of the “100 Most Beautiful Places in the World” in 2013. My extended off-season time in Cannon Beach gave me such an appreciation for the small-town charm, people, and restaurants in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Enjoying this corner of the world is a little slice of heaven.