17 Unique Things To Do In Cannon Beach Oregon - Travels With Elle
Travel Guide Oregon Road Trip USA

17 Unique Things To Do In Cannon Beach, Oregon

When you visit the magical coast of Northern Oregon, you’ll find that it’s hard to not fall in love with this stretch of the Oregon Coast. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s got charming villages by the sea, picturesque shorelines to walk on, dramatic rock formations and beautiful coastline views to see, spectacular state parks to explore, and even historical significance to learn about.

Cannon Beach is one of the most scenic and famous towns on the Northern Oregon Coast. Some would say it’s the ultimate Oregon Coast experience. Cannon Beach is approximately 80 miles (1.5 hours) from downtown Portland, making it an excellent day trip or weekend trip for Oregonians. Aside from getting to experience one of the most iconic rocks in Oregon, there are so many things to do in Cannon Beach, including hiking, strolling through farmer’s markets, visiting art galleries, and admiring colorful tide pools.

This guide will give you a taste of the many things to do in Cannon Beach, no matter the season. We hope you fall in love with it too!

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BEST TIME TO VISIT CANNON BEACH, OREGON

Cannon Beach, similar to a lot of the Pacific Northwest, is nicest between July and September. This is when the weather is the warmest and most dry. It’s no surprise that this is the season where most tourists and Oregonians flock to the coast.

Between October to May, the pace of the coast changes dramatically. Winter in Cannon Beach is when the town is most authentic and relaxed. You’ll get to experience the roaring sounds of the ocean, stormy nights, and best of all–fewer crowds. During the fall, winter, and spring seasons, it’s easier to get a table in the more popular restaurants and you’ll find reduced rates on ocean view rooms. Traveling outside of the high season means some businesses and restaurants will have limited operating hours, so check schedules in advance, especially if you plan to dine out or visit some specific shops.

If we had to pick the best time to visit Cannon Beach, we’d still choose the summertime. It’s great for people like us who can’t do the cold or rain.

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR CANNON BEACH

  • Check the weather before your trip. If the sun is shining all day great. If there’s wind, fog, or rain in the forecast, make sure you take note of that and pack appropriately.
  • Dress in layers and bring a rain jacket. North Pacific Coast beaches are often windy, so it’s always a good idea to pack a windbreaker and dress in layers. By dressing for the weather, your beach walks don’t have to be cut short by a passing shower. A hooded, waterproof rain jacket is a staple for locals on the Oregon Coast.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen–even if it’s cloudy out. The UV rays are powerful even if you don’t feel the sun directly on your skin.
  • Check the tide calendar and plan your trips to the beach accordingly. You can visit the tide pools at Haystack Rock only at low tide.
  • Whale watching season runs from March to June. Each spring, Gray Whales migrate north along the Oregon Coast. The peak of the migration is from mid-March to mid-April, but whales are often spotted throughout June as well.
  • Tufted Puffin watching season runs from April to July. They can easily be spotted nesting on Haystack Rock!

MAP OF THINGS TO DO IN CANNON BEACH, OREGON

THINGS TO DO IN CANNON BEACH, OREGON

CANNON BEACH AND HAYSTACK ROCK

Cannon Beach is a four-mile stretch of sand and beach, featuring the iconic Haystack Rock standing 235 feet tall at the edge of the shoreline. You can spot this famous landmark as you drive along the coast. The rock is not just any old rock– it’s a National Wildlife Refuge, which means you can explore the tidepools filled to the brim with marine life. If you visit during the spring or summer, you’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of the famous Tufted Puffin, as it is an active seabird nesting spot. Expect to spend an hour or two walking along the beach, admiring Haystack Rock’s towering presence, people watching, and snapping photos. If you plan to linger longer, don’t forget a beach blanket to sit on! We recommend stopping by at sunset; there’s nothing more magical than seeing the rock’s silhouette against the soft sun rays on the beach.

The Perfect Day Trip From Portland to The Oregon Coast

BONFIRE ON THE BEACH

Making a bonfire at dusk is a super popular activity at Cannon Beach. Simply just dig a pit in the sand and build a fire. Not only is it a relaxing thing to do, but you could also even catch the sunset, enjoy a dinner picnic, and roast some smores after! It’s a perfect way to enjoy an evening on the beach. Don’t forget to bring a jacket and a blanket– it gets chilly at night since you’re on the coast.

17 Unique Things To Do In Cannon Beach Oregon - Travels With Elle

ECOLA STATE PARK

The gem that is Ecola State Park sits at the north end of Cannon Beach. This is a must-visit spot, so definitely add it to your itinerary of things to do in Cannon Beach. The drive through the rainforest brings you to one of the most famous views overlooking Haystack Rock, as well as capes and headlands to the south of you. The park offers access to Indian Beach and Crescent Beach, and the best way to get there is to hike:

  • Clatsop Loop Trail from Indian Beach – a 2.8-mile loop trail located near Cannon Beach, Oregon that features beautiful wildflowers and sweeping coastal views. The trail follows the edge of Tillamook Head through the rainforest, emerging at multiple sheer cliff viewpoints. There are some great views of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and because there’s a good incline, you’ll get a short workout in.
  • Ecola Point to Crescent Beach – a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike featuring a remarkable beautiful stretch of uncrowded beach even during the busiest times of the year. If you visit at low tide, you can walk north to Ecola Point to see its striking rock formations. This trail is steep and is sometimes slippery, but the payoff is so worth the struggle.

EXPLORE THE ART GALLERIES

Did you know Cannon Beach was recognized as one of America’s 100 Best Art Towns? If you love all things arts and culture, this is the place for you. One of the more popular things to do in Cannon Beach is to explore the dozens of art galleries throughout the town. From glassblowing to ceramics, coastal architecture to theater shows, Canon Beach really embraces the art scene. There is a gallery map available so you can take your own art tour. Cannon Beach is also home to a few festivals throughout the year, including the Spring Unveiling Arts Festival in May, Earth and Ocean Arts Festival in September, and Stormy Weather Arts Festival in November. As you can tell, they take their art seriously.

GO SHOPPING IN DOWNTOWN CANNON BEACH

If you love to shop, window shop, hunt for gifts, or browse around for items you don’t need, Cannon Beach is the best place to do it. Coastal towns know exactly how to suck you in! Among the many things to do in Cannon Beach, shopping is a biggie. There are tons of unique specialty shops, galleries, and boutiques along the main roads of downtown as well as tucked into flower-lined courtyards. Among the many shops, you’ll find outdoor gear, gourmet food products, ceramics, artisan-made jewelry, fine apparel and shoes, minimalistic and coastal-themed home decor, confectionary treats, and souvenir gifts. But do you know what’s best about shopping in Cannon Beach? Everything you buy is tax-free, so go on that shopping spree!

STAY AT A BEACH RESORT

Turn your weekend road trip into a luxurious getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are so many oceanfront hotels and resorts here that offer beach and coastal views. Many offer views of Haystack Rock and other dramatic rock formations along the shoreline. Views and sounds of the ocean? What a perfect way to fall asleep and wake up. Some of the hotel rooms offer fireplaces, some offer even an in-room spa. There are three parts of town to stay in, each offering resorts that feature something different:

  • Downtown – located around restaurants, art galleries, and retail shops. These offer views of Ecola Creek, Tillamook Head, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and/or Bird Rocks to the north.
  • Midtown – offers the closest views of Haystack Rock, located less than half a mile from downtown.
  • Tolovana Park – Oceanfront resorts offering views of Haystack Rock or Silver Point Rock to the south, along with access to secluded beaches to the south as well.

17 Unique Things To Do In Cannon Beach Oregon - Travels With Elle

If you’re looking for charming cottages in quiet neighborhoods close to the beach (with fully furnished kitchens, fireplaces, and private yards), there are various vacation rentals in Cannon Beach you could explore including Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals, Beachcomber Vacation Homes, and Starfish Vacation Rentals.

More: Check out all of the best deals on hotels in Cannon Beach, OR here!

WINE AND DINE ON THE FINEST FOODS

Some of Oregon Coast’s best restaurants are located in Cannon Beach. If you’re looking to add a few culinary/gastronomic experiences to your list of things to do in Cannon Beach, this is it. You’ll find restaurants housed in cozy cottages, serving signature cocktails and wines from the PNW and serving up the best of Northwest seafood. Upscale dining spots include Castaways, EVOO and Newman’s at 988. Cannon Beach also hosts the Wine & Culinary Festival in March.

TRY SOME SEAFOOD

No trip to the Oregon Coast is complete without sampling some of the Northwest Coast’s specialty–seafood! When you’re looking for your next meal, keep local specialties in mind such as Dungeness Crab, Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Pacific Pink Shrimp, Albacore Tuna, and Pacific Halibut. Check out Bistro Restaurant and Bar, Tom’s Fish N Chips, or Mo’s Seafood & Chowder (my personal favorite for quick and affordable seafood).

TASTE CRAFT BEER

Cannon Beach might not have as many breweries or brewpubs as Portland or Bend, but there are some notable options worth checking out here as well. Pelican Brewing Company is one of the most well-known breweries in the state. They also feature significantly elevated pub food, including cioppino, clam chowder, and tri-tip, as well as signature pizza and burger entrees. At Public Coast Brewing Co, try a pint of the ’67 Blonde Ale, which won a few gold awards in the past. If you’re looking for British-style ales, head to Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse.

GO TO THE FARMERS MARKET

The Cannon Beach Farmers Market runs seasonally from June to September. You can find fresh produce, specialty foods, music, and food booths every Tuesday at the City Hall parking lot.

OSWALD WEST STATE PARK

About 10 minutes south of Cannon Beach, Oswald West State Park offers many miles of hiking trails that will take to impressive viewpoints. There is an easy walk to Short Sand Beach. Hike to the end of Cape Falcon, up Neahkahnie Mountain, or simply stop at the vista points by the side of the highway to soak in those expensive coastline views.

  • Short Sand Beach to Devil’s Cauldron – 4-mile hike featuring spectacular cliffside views of the coast. From the parking lot, it’s 0.5-miles to Short Sand Beach, but you can continue through the forest to the Elk Flats Trail for 1.3 miles, then take a short connector trail to reach the cliffs of Devil’s Caldron. Return via the Necarney Creek Trail.
  • Neahkahnie Mountain Loop Trail – 4-mile hike featuring spring wildflowers and panoramic views of the coastline. Take the north side of the trail up, and come down the south side via Neahkahnie Mountain Road back to your car. You’re going to want to pack a lunch on your hike up Neahkahnie Mountain. That way, you’ll get to sit up there for longer, refuel, and really soak in those views.

17 Unique Things To Do In Cannon Beach Oregon - Travels With Elle

GO HORSEBACK RIDING

Explore Cannon Beach from horseback! Sea Ranch Resort offers guided rides throughout the summer season, with route options that take you to Haystack Rock or Silver Point.

LISTEN TO LIVE MUSIC

Throughout the year, you’ll find local musicians and visiting artists performing at several of Cannon Beach venues. If you’re looking for a meal paired with live music, head to Public Coast Brewing, Seasons Cafe, Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse, and the American Legion– just to name a few.

GO BIRD WATCHING

When in Cannon Beach, you can expect to see puffins, common murres, pelicans, and bald eagles. The rocks along Cannon Beach are part of the National Wildlife Refuge, so you’ll find some of the largest seabird colonies here. Ecola Creek is another active spot for birds. Tufted Puffins can be seen in early spring through mid-summer, Common Murres can be seen in spring and summer, and Brown Pelicans from spring through fall. Bald Eagles are a common sight along the beaches.

GO WHALE WATCHING

Whale watching is a seasonal activity that you should absolutely consider adding to your list of things to do in Cannon Beach! The most commonly seen whale around Cannon Beach is the Gray Whale, which migrates along the coast twice annually, in the winter and spring. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to whale watch, head to Ecola State Park. The vantage points here are perfect for whale spotting!

whale watching oregon coast

HUG POINT

Three miles south of Cannon Beach, you will find Hug Point State Recreation Site. This area offers not only beach access, but at low tides, you can walk north to explore the exposed sea caves, a small waterfall, and remnants of the old cliff-side roadway.

VISIT THE NEARBY TOWN OF SEASIDE

If you’ve exhausted your list of things to do in Cannon Beach, take a short drive to Seaside. Seaside is another beach town on the Oregon Coast located 15 minutes north of Cannon Beach. It’s a popular resort town with a nostalgic, family-friendly feel with a lively oceanfront promenade. Park your car and walk down Broadway Street toward the ocean. Seaside is home to one of the biggest beaches you’ll ever see! Make sure you stop at Phillips Candies to taste the world’s best taffy. You’ll find lots of shops and food options here too. I’d recommend carving out ~3 hours to explore Seaside.

VISIT THE NEARBY TOWN OF ASTORIA

Astoria is another charming town located north of Cannon Beach and definitely worth visiting on your Oregon Coast vacation. Historically, Astoria was the trading center for the lower Columbia basin, with its economy centered around fishing, canning, and lumber. Located at the mouth of the Columbia River surrounded by natural beauty and rich history all around, it’s not surprising that there is so much to see and do in Astoria. Fun fact: It’s best known for being the filming location for The Goonies! I’d recommend reserving at least 4 hours to explore the town of Astoria. Come with an empty stomach too–there’s so much to eat and drink here!

ANNUAL EVENTS AT CANNON BEACH

  • Savor Cannon Beach Wine & Culinary Festival – March
  • Spring Whale Watch at Ecola State Park – March
  • Easter Egg Hunt at Sea Ranch Stables – April
  • Spring Unveiling Arts Festival – May
  • North Coast Culinary Fest – May
  • Annual Sandcastle Contest – June
  • Independence Day Parade – July
  • Earth and Ocean Arts Festival – September
  • Annual Fall Festival – September
  • Annual Dog Show on the Beach – October
  • Stormy Weather Arts Festival – November
  • Holiday Lamp Lighting – December
  • Winter Whale Watch – December

WHERE TO EAT IN CANNON BEACH

  • Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters: a coffee shop with creative signature coffee drinks and amazing pastries.
  • MacGregor’s of Cannon Beach: restaurant and whiskey bar with a cabin-like feel, serving up hearty and comforting foods. They have breakfast options all day (like chicken fried steak and homemade flapjacks), as well as lunch options (like fish and chips, sandwiches, and clam chowder).
  • Lazy Susan Cafe: delicious breakfast/brunch spot with an even more delicious Marionberry Scone.
  • Mo’s Seafood & Chowder: get the clam chowder, it’s life-changing. Their original shrimp dinner salad is also a delicious appetizer.
  • Tom’s Fish N Chips: a quick and affordable spot to grab burgers, fish and chips, clam chowder, and other seafood options.
  • Crepe Neptune: delicious crepe stand serving up both sweet and savory crepes.

WHAT TO PACK FOR CANNON BEACH, OREGON

  • Umbrella | An umbrella, particularly a wind-proof umbrella, is crucial when traveling to destinations with varying/unpredictable weather. If you have an umbrella with you, then it means the rain can’t stop you from enjoying your trip and exploring the outdoors.
  • Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
  • Hiking Socks | Make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
  • Adventure Sandals | Tevas and Chacos are my go-to brands for multipurpose summer sandals. If you’re planning on spending some time on the river or in the ocean, you should definitely consider getting adventure sandals — they’re comfortable for long-distance walking, safe for submerging in water, and super durable.
  • Waterproof Rain Jacket | A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is critical for any coastal destination. Since these weigh virtually nothing and are so easily packable, I recommend you carry one with you whenever you head outdoors. Depending on the weather forecast and chance of precipitation, I’ll either go with a rain shell or a puffier windbreaker. Despite the options I have here, one thing is for sure— I’m never without some sort of outer layer. My top recommendations are Marmot Men’s PreCip (for men) and The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket (for women).
  • Puffy Jacket | You’re going to need layers for the Oregon Coast. The coastal climate brings chilly evenings year-round, even on warm summer days. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of outdoor adventuring!
  • Daypack | I’m a fan of the Deuter ACT Trail 30 Hiking Backpack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for a day hike.
  • Laundry Bag | Outdoor activities = lots of sweaty, smelly, dirty, and worn clothes. Don’t soil your entire travel bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes! Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
  • Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Sun protection is key for any outdoor destination. Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun.
  • Sunscreen | Remember to put on sunscreen even if there is cloud coverage. UV rays in overcast conditions are particularly strong, so don’t overlook it.
  • Hand Sanitizer Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
  • Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the great breweries and eateries… the last thing you want is to be stranded with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
  • Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
  • Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
  • Firewood and fire starter | If you plan to bonfire
  • Picnic Blanket | for many hours of enjoyment by Haystack Rock
  • Picnic food & materials

As you can see, there is a boatload of things to do in Cannon Beach as well as another boatload of things to do outside of Cannon Beach. The Oregon Coast is such a magical place to explore, so embrace your time there and safe travels to you!

Looking for more Oregon travel tips? Read more:

The Perfect Day Trip From Portland to The Oregon Coast

17 Exciting Things To Do In Astoria, Oregon

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