The Oregon Coast is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. There is just something about that rugged, windswept coastline – it’s so magical. And one of the best places along the coast to visit is Cannon Beach! It is absolutely beautiful and there are so many things to do in Cannon Beach – it’s perfect for a day trip or a little getaway.
Cannon Beach is located on the west coast of the state, about 25 miles south of the border with Washington State, and 80 miles west of Portland. Cannon Beach is famous for Haystack Rock, a giant rock that makes for the most picturesque and scenic beach in the state! It’s a very popular beach and town to visit, with over 750,000 annual visitors!
I live in Vancouver, BC which is a few hours north of Oregon (about a 6-hour road trip!) and so I’ve visited the Oregon Coast a few times. I love Cannon Beach because of the cute town to explore, the iconic Haystack Rock to take photos of, and the long, long, long beach to take a stroll along.
I am a more chill kind of beach person, preferring a good book and a long, slow walk over anything too strenuous. A lot of people prefer getting super active and busy! But the good news is that there are so many things to do in Cannon Beach that there is really something for everyone! So, without further preamble, here are my best tips for Cannon Beach and all the amazing cannon beach activities to check out.
Essential Tips about visiting Cannon Beach
Whether you are staying for a few days or just on a Cannon Beach day trip, there are some essential tips about visiting Cannon Beach:
Weather in Cannon Beach can change rapidly, from sunny and warm to windy or even cloudy or rainy. I recommend you bring multiple layers with you so that you can easily throw on a sweater or jacket and still enjoy the rest of your day!
Bring a camera
Or your phone works too! Just don’t forget to snap some pics of your day at Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock is iconic for a reason – it makes amazing photos!
Grab some snacks or a picnic from town
Once you find a good spot on the beach, you’ll want to stay there for a while! So, head over to Mariner Market, the Farmer’s market, or a local place to eat (see below) and grab some food.
Practice fire safety
If you’re sticking it out until the evening to watch the sunset (which I highly recommend!) then you’ll likely be making a beach bonfire! So, bring all the things you need – firewood, matches, etc. – but also remember to safely put out your fire when you’re done by pouring water on it and spreading out the ashes.
Check the tide calendar
Check what time high and low tide is. Even though you can enjoy the beach at any time during the day, you might want to go at a specific time – for example, you can only see the tidal pools around Haystack Rock during low tide.
For popular hotels, tours, or restaurants. It can get really busy in the summertime, so make sure you are planning ahead and booking your accommodations and things to do well in advance.
Check the events calendar
Cannon Beach has a number of annual events and festivals such as Whale Watch Week in March, North Coast Culinary fest in May, or Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest in June! You might want to look ahead to see when these events are happening – either to get in on all the fun, or choose a less-busy time to visit, depending on your purpose for traveling.
Pick up some binoculars
Tufted puffins will nest on Haystack Rock between April to July. You might want to grab some binoculars so you can check them out up close!
Bring a kite
It’s time to channel your inner child and pick up a kite (just head to a shop in town – they’re everywhere!). It can be windy on the beach all year round, so flying a kite is the perfect afternoon activity and one of the best things to do in Cannon Beach!
Best time to visit Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, known for its mild climate, higher rainfall, and prone to wind and rain off of the Pacific Ocean. This means that the best time to go to Cannon Beach, at least weather-wise, is from July-September. This season is the warmest (with temperature highs in the 80s) and driest (though rain is still a possibility!), making it pleasant for visiting and engaging in all the Cannon Beach activities.
The downside to visiting Cannon Beach during these summer months is that it can get pretty busy! Tourists and visitors flock to Cannon Beach and other coastal towns during the summer, and so prices can be more expensive and you’ll have to share the beach with a lot of other people. That is why I personally like to visit in the shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall, so from April-June or again in October. The weather is usually not too bad, crowds are thinner, and prices are better. I also think there is something really moody and beautiful about the beaches during these seasons, with dark clouds and lots of wind.
Everyone might not agree, but there are some people who actually think Winter is the best time to go to Cannon Beach. This is primarily because it is storm-watching season! Just imagine being all bundled up in your oceanfront rental with a hot chocolate, watching the majestic Pacific Ocean storm like crazy!
Things to do in Cannon Beach
Practice your photography at Haystack Rock
Haystack Rock is absolutely iconic. It is a 235-foot-tall rock and is actually a protected wildlife site! You will see this rock from anywhere on Cannon Beach – it’s pretty hard to miss! When the tide is low you can see check out the tide pools around the rock, full of starfish and other little creatures. But, the best part of the rock? It makes for pretty epic photos. I definitely recommend you spend some time setting up a good photo – either of the rock and beach itself or get in there and get a new Instagram photo!
Have a beach bonfire and watch the sunset
One of the best parts of west coast beaches is undoubtedly the stunning sunsets. And since Cannon Beach is so long, the sunsets here are totally epic and seem to go on forever. I recommend bringing a blanket (or two or three!) to bundle up in as the sun is setting. Then, set up a bonfire to warm up! Bring some s’mores and just enjoy the view. Bonfires are legal on Cannon Beach, but make sure you are practicing fire safety and put it out correctly.
Hike in Ecola State Park
This beautiful state park is located about 3 miles north of Cannon Beach and is a great place for outdoor recreation activities like hiking, surfing, or beachcombing. There are few popular hikes, including Clatsop Loop Trail (2.5 miles) or a section of the Oregon Coast Trail (8 miles). You can also take the trail to see “Terrible Tilly,” which is a local lighthouse (Tillamook Rock Lighthouse) with a bit of a colorful past! In short, Terrible Tilly got her name because of how difficult it was to construct – over 500 days to build, with many shipwrecks and storms impacting the sailors and workmen. Today, Terrible Tilly is an old and rundown lighthouse that makes for a unique viewpoint along your hike!
The Oregon Coast is a popular place to go surfing, and there are quite a few good opportunities to try it out around Cannon Beach! If you’re new to the sport, you can get rentals and lessons at multiple shops in town such as Cleanline Surf that will take you out and show you the ropes! Experienced surfers may head to the nearby town of Seaside, which has so great surfing spots.
Shop at the boutiques in downtown Cannon Beach
If you’re looking for a souvenir or gift for someone, there are lots of cute little boutiques to go shopping in Cannon beach. I really enjoyed strolling down the street, popping in and out of the little shops to check things out. I am really just a kid at heart, so I think my favorite store was Schwietert’s Cones & Candy to get some salt water taffy! There are also lots of shops that sell clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, and other souvenir items.
Pick out some art at a local gallery
Cannon Beach is home to some amazing artists and art galleries and was actually named one of America’s Best Art Towns! With over 15 art galleries, I can understand why! Some popular galleries to check out are the Archimedes Gallery (mostly paintings) or the Bronze Coast Gallery (lots of sculptures). You can also check out some glass-blowing at Icefire Glassworks!
If you’re looking for a little day trip from Cannon Beach, Seaside is just nine miles north and definitely worth a visit! Seaside is slightly larger than Cannon Beach, so has a lot of shops and restaurants to check out. The oceanfront is also beautiful and they have a long, expansive promenade along the ocean – great for a stroll with an ice cream in hand! Seaside also has a lot of different accommodations, so if you weren’t able to find somewhere to stay in Cannon Beach during the busy months, you can always check out Seaside too.
Just off the coast of Cannon Beach is the home of some resident gray whales that can often be viewed right from the shore! But if you are visiting in March/April or December/January, you are likely to see the whales migrate from Mexico to Alaska. You can try to catch a glimpse of these majestic whales from several spots along the coastline, such as Neahkahnie Mountain viewpoint, Ecola State Park, or along the dunes north of the beach.
Visit Hug Point
If you’re up for a short drive, travel the 5 miles south to Hug Point Recreation Area. This beautiful little sandy beach is the perfect place to explore the beach and tidal pools. It is less popular than Cannon Beach, so a good place to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet for the day! Fun fact: it’s called Hug Point because early travelers (think stagecoaches!) had to hug the point carefully while driving along this stretch of coast, so they didn’t get swept out into the sea!
Catch a show at Coaster Theatre Playhouse
As you now know, weather can change abruptly in Cannon Beach, and you might get an unexpected rain shower at some point! If you’re looking for the perfect indoor activity, definitely check out the Coaster Theatre Playhouse. You can catch a live show in this historical building; it was once a roller rink back in the 1920s and used to show silent movies during the 1950s. After its purchase in 1972, it was converted to the local theatre it is today!
Where to eat in Cannon Beach
I’m pretty sure most of you will agree with me that food is the best part of visiting a new place, and there is a ton of great places to eat in Cannon Beach! Where you decide to eat will depend on what you are looking for, so here are some recommendations based on top-rated restaurants and types of activity.
- When you’re looking for a beer… Pelican Brewery: So, you have probably heard by now that Oregon, or Portland specifically, is pretty well-known for their delicious and innovative craft beer! So, while in Cannon Beach, you should definitely check out this popular brewpub. Pelican Brewery serves some award-winning beers inspired by their location on the west coast! They also have a full-service menu of delicious food, so stop in for a drink or two and something to eat!
- When you’re in the mood for a picnic… Cannon Beach Farmer’s Market: I hope you take my advice and spend the day at the beach with a picnic! The best place to pick up some great items is at the Cannon Beach Farmers Market! It’s only open one day a week, so check ahead to ensure it lines up with your schedule. The farmers market has a variety of local vendors selling produce, cheese, bread, drinks, and more. They even have live music to enjoy while you’re checking out all the stalls. Grab something to eat, take your blanket and enjoy it during your beach day!
- When you need a morning coffee and pastry… Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters: If you’re anything like me, your first stop in a new town is to find good coffee! I was pretty impressed with Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters, who serve really delicious single-origin, organic coffee blends. They also have some yummy treats and pastries. I’d recommend stopping off here before heading out to your Cannon Beach activities for the day!
- When you want some good, west coast seafood… Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge: When on the coast, must eat seafood! Wayfarer is one of the top-rated seafood restaurants in Cannon Beach. They have a menu focused on local and seasonal ingredients, and you can try fresh salmon, Dungeness crab, or local oysters! Wayfarer is located right on the beach, so you’ll have some pretty stunning views while enjoying your meal.
- When it’s date night… Newmans at 988: Last time I was in Cannon Beach, I was with a bunch of friends, so we didn’t really want to go out for a romantic dinner… But if you are visiting with a loved one, you may want to try out Newmans at 988, an upscale restaurant that serves traditional French Italian cuisine. This is the perfect treat-yourself kind of restaurant for a night out. Don’t be afraid to ask for the perfect wine pairing to go with your meal!
- When you just want some comfort food… Pig ‘N Pancake: I just love the name of this place! And as a chain throughout Oregon, lots of other people do too! Pig ‘N Pancake is famous for their pancakes, but serve up all kinds of comfort food. They’re open for breakfast and lunch one of the best places to eat in Cannon Beach for a cozy, family-friendly environment.
- When you just need some pizza… Pizza A’Fetta: Sometimes all you need is a good ol’ piece of pizza. Well, Pizza A’Fetta is one of the top-rated pizza places in Cannon Beach – it’s actually rated top 50 in the country! You can either order by the slice or pick up a whole pizza and bring it back to the beach for a little oceanside pizza party!
Where to stay in Cannon Beach
While a lot of people go on a Cannon Beach day trip from Portland or elsewhere in Oregon, it is also a popular spot to stay a few nights! There are lots of great places to stay in the town, many of which have gorgeous views over the beach and ocean.
Your first option is to relax like a local in an Airbnb or B&B. I love choosing something that is local and unique when booking somewhere to stay rather than defaulting to a hotel chain. Cannon Beach has quite a few options that fit these criteria, with so many Airbnb’s available. Or, you can go the classic Bed and Breakfast route and check out McBee Cottages, Hearthstone Inn, or the Cannon Beach Hotel, which are very quaint and homey!
While a B&B offers that cozy environment, sometimes a luxurious or well-located hotel and resort is the better option! In Cannon Beach, there are a ton of beachfront hotels, resorts, and bungalows so you can have the most magnificent view over the beach and ocean! Some popular and high-rated beachfront hotels are the Surfsand Resort, the Hallmark Resort Hotel & Spa, and The Waves Cannon Beach.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective option – or you just can’t get enough of the great outdoors! – then there are a few camping options close by Cannon Beach too. You are not allowed to camp right on the beach, but you can check out private campgrounds like the Cannon Beach RV Resort or Wright’s for Camping if you have a tent. Both of these campgrounds are located right outside of Cannon Beach and so they are easily accessible. Oswald West State Park is also located close by (7 miles south) and have many campsites available for booking.
Cannon Beach, Oregon is one of the most iconic beaches in the United States for a reason! It’s beautiful, has tons of great activities, the town is quaint, there’s great food… the list goes on. Whether you love being super active and want to try surfing or go hiking, or you are a more chill and laid-back beachgoer like me, there is really something for everyone at Cannon Beach!
I’ve always enjoyed visiting Cannon Beach and definitely recommend it as a stop in your Oregon itinerary. There are so many amazing things to do in Cannon Beach and I hope this helped plan your own trip there!
About the Author
Alyssa is a freelance writer with her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies degree. Alyssa is passionate about travel and has been to over 20 countries – and counting! Living in Vancouver, Canada, she loves to take advantage of the mountains and ocean by getting outdoors as much as possible. When she’s not writing, Alyssa is probably walking by the river, caring for her many houseplants, or grabbing a coffee with a friend. You can keep up with her on her personal blog.