Beyond Portland: Things to do in Cannon Beach

By: Crai S Bower

April 28, 2016

With 232 miles populated by more than 50 state parks, recreation and scenic areas, there’s no place quite like the Oregon Coast. Located about 90 minutes from Portland, Cannon Beach feels more like Northern California than Washington, and is popular with locals and visitors alike. From sandy beaches to hiking trails to innovative cuisine, these are some of the best things to do in Cannon Beach.

Things to do in Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock may be Oregon’s most photographed natural landmark © Crai S Bower  

 Beach House or Inn?

Cannon Beach is well stocked with accommodations, all within an easy walk of the beach or village. Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals offers every style of stay from loft to ocean facing six-bedroom properties. Alternatively, you can practically reach out and touch signature Haystack Rock from the beachside Hallmark Resort and The Inn at Cannon Beach offers the quaintest of rooms in this, the quaintest beach village in the Pacific Northwest.

What’s Cooking in Cannon Beach?

There may be no cabaret during Bob Neroni and Lenore Emery’s “Dinner Show,” but there will likely be plenty of Cabernet Sauvignon. Bob and Lenore opened EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School in 2004, and they’ve filled the chopping block demonstration table with culinary-inclined students ever since. More survey than lab course, CIA-educated chef Neroni demonstrates kitchen tips and tricks as he prepares a wine-paired four-course dinner Thurs-Sunday as well as specialty classes on weekends.

Things to do in Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock can be seen from many places in Cannon Beach © iStock/4FR

 Cannon Beach Cafe Culture

Like any cool coastal compound, Cannon Beach is steeped in cafés. The traditional Cannon Beach Bakery is three decades old and going strong. Like a fine baguette, Insomnia Coffee Company rises to every occasion, and Sleepy Monk Coffee roasts organic coffee beans and serves as one of CB’s unincorporated caffeine-fuelled community centres. Sea Level Bakery + Coffee, the new kids on Hemlock Street, have made a reputation for themselves with their scrumptious sticky buns and Old World loaves, baguettes and batards.

Surf’s UP

If you wonder whether Northern Oregon’s Cali vibe is for real, you just have to ask the scores of transplant surfers who’ve migrated north for big waves and hassle free breaks. To the south, Oswald West State Park avails a favourite surfer’s haunt, and also reveals a path up Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain, replete with wildflower meadows and offering the region’s finest vista of Oregon’s north shore. Indian Beach lies just outside of town, a protected cove well known for big waves, located at the north end of Ecola State Park.

Things to do in Cannon Beach
Kite flying is a popular local recreation in Cannon Beach © iStock/4FR

 Exploring Oregon’s State Parks

One of the best things to do in Cannon Beach, spend the early morning upon the 2.5 mile Clatsop Loop Trail, the very course taken by Captain Clark (of 1805 Lewis and Clark Expedition fame) who passed Tillamook Head through the old growth Sitka spruce forest and followed Indian Creek in hopes of finding a beached whale and its much needed protein. Set your heart racing via a trek up challenging Saddle Mountain – at 3,287-feet it’s the highest point in the Coast Range – and of course, a beach stroll is a must. Keep your sea gaze sharp as more than 20,000 grey whales migrate past each winter, though another 300 or so whales stay put off the coast all summer, too. The Wild Bird Shop is your go-to reference for all natural sights and sites.

Dinner on the Bounty

Cannon Beach benefits from that great product of a “How do we move here?” town: relocated urban chefs. This phenomenon explains why we find “wild tiger prawn martini served with banana chili salsa” tapas inside Sweet Basil’s Café and “tagliatelli served with Anderson Farms lamb” at The Bistro. Make sure to encamp one evening inside Castaway’s Tini Tiki Hut, the best Cajun and Creole restaurant in the entire state. Tom’s Fish & Chips provides authentic and fresh seafood, while fine dining enthusiasts and romantics should check out the Wayfarer and Driftwood.

Things to do in Cannon Beach

Artist studios and galleries can be found all over Cannon Beach © Crai S Bower

Beyond Driftwood Art

Yes, you can locate that seashell sand crab sculpture you’ve been craving, but you’ll also find plenty of talented artists here as well. The Cannon Beach Gallery Group hosts weekend arts festivals featuring scores of local artists. More than a dozen galleries illuminate the five-block village. Jeffrey Hull’s gallery features the artist’s gorgeous seascape oils and the Primary Elements Gallery offers works that will brighten the dreariest of homes. The Bronze Coast Gallery is exactly what it says it is, purveying life size bronzes of iconic creatures. Be sure to ask about art walks and studio tours at the Cannon Beach Arts Association.

Cannon Beach Pub Crawl

It wouldn’t be Oregon without a few good brews. Cannon Beach Hardware & Public House is every bit as brilliant as its name. Known locally as the ‘Screw and Brew,’ you really can pick up that claw hammer with a side of steamed razor clams to go with a hoppy IPA here. Bill’s Tavern Brewhouse sits in the heart of Hemlock Street, pouring its well-regarded Duck’s Dive Pale Ale among others. And finally, the Public Coast Brewing Co. feels a little bit like a Portland pilsner on holiday.

Things to do in Cannon Beach
Romantic sunsets await on Cannon Beach © Crai S Bower  

Mellow Manzanita

Located just 13 miles south of Cannon Beach, visitors to Manzanita find seven miles of open beach. Cafés promote sustainable growing practices and the espresso shop serves up plenty of political bumper stickers with organic teas and fair trade coffees. Not surprisingly, artists have long gathered here, like the seals that loll about on the jetty. Locals frequent the Big Wave Café, which serves a menu that will take the chill right out of those sudden gusts, while Left Coast Siesta adds a little more spic and Bread and Ocean keeps the ovens (and you!) warm all day.

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Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital.

Categories: Our Places