Time from Seattle: 3 hrs 45 min
Length of my stay: five days, four nights
What to Pack
DSLR + 50mm and 18-135mm lens
1 puffy coat
3 pairs of jeans
1 pair of leggings
1 blanket scarf
1 pair of gloves
1 pair of fuzzy socks
5 pairs of wool socks
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The family came all the way from the Marshall Islands just to spend Christmas with me over here in the cold, rainy, and I guess we can now include snowy, PNW. So we rented an Airbnb just two blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Cannon Beach, packed up my '92 Toyota Camry, and took off (after a cup of coffee or two) mid-morning to ensure daytime travel for to-be-encountered photo ops along the way.
Five minutes in: coffee stop. No shame.
And we were off down I-5, turned off to highway 101 - chose the highway with a scenic forest drive and a view rather than one down a traffic-infested freeway - and stopped here and there for a few quick snapshots of where the wetlands met the road along Willapa Bay.
Photo tip: Bring along a pop of color to make you stand out against the monotone winter scenery. Cue my favorite yellow beanie and sweater. Yellow may be my new favorite color... to be pondered another time.
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Close to four hours later and despite our best efforts, we arrived after dark to the brightly lit town of Cannon Beach. Christmas lights lined the buildings, Christmas decor at every corner, and it was surprisingly quiet - I was into it.
Our Airbnb awaited us just south of downtown Cannon Beach. The best part? The fireplace and hot tub. There's nothing like waking up and indulging in a cup of coffee next to a warm fireplace and ending the day with a long soak in the hot tub, rain or shine. AND it was just two blocks from the ocean. My kinda house. We settled in and shortly after, headed to town for a quick dinner at Tom's. But before we get to my dining recommendations, here's a list of things to do in this charming small town!
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Haystack Hill State Park
Duhhh, I know, but it really is a good time to actually walk up to it at low tide and scout for puffins. They're cute little guys! Hike on one of the many forest trails for framed views of Haystack Rock. Beach fires are permitted so gather some firewood and smores supplies and roast away. Though unlike Washington, driving is not allowed on Oregon beaches. I know right, actually walking a beach? Sounds gawd awful! ;)
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Ecola State Park
Drive along the winding road through old growth rainforest out to the edge of Tillamook Head for the iconic view of Cannon Beach. You do have to pay for a park pass ($5 for the day, $30 for the year) upon arrival. Vear left for a parking lot where a local herd of Roosevelt Elk hang about on the occasion - beyond lies the view you've been searching for. There used to be plenty of hiking trails leading down to the beach and out along the point, but due to a few slides, they've been closed for our safety. Sad day, but I get it. Still, meander on down to the viewpoint to gaze down the coast: pictured below. That's Haystack Rock in the distance!
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Once you've wandered the area, I highly recommend taking the hiking trail down to Crescent Beach. It's a short 1.5 mile stretch down to a secluded beach with sea caves (if you plan around low tide) on the north end and a waterfall hidden in the cliffside brush. Take in gorgeous views of the sea stacks and expansive ocean the all the way down.
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But if you're looking to hit the break, I'd recommend heading over to Indian Beach. The road brings you right down to basically the water. It's yet another beautiful coastal beach surrounded by rock with tidepools at the south end. See surfers riding the waves on a good day.
If you'd rather hike, you're in the right place. A network of trails takes you through the rainforest. If you're feeling bold, hike the entire length of the park, all the way from Cannon Beach along the coastal cliffs!
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Just five miles south of Cannon Beach lies Hug Point; a beautiful stretch of sandy beach with a notable history. Before the modern-day roads were built, stagecoaches had to travel along the beach. Even at low tide, they had to hug the point carefully, hence its name. Check out the still intact stagecoach road carved into the rock where the wheel ruts are still visible today! Two caves lie just around the point. Just be careful of the tide! It's easy to curve around the rocky peninsulas when it's low, but the fast-rising water could strand you if you're not careful! But don't let that scare you away.
The beach also offers tidal pools and seasonal waterfalls.
There are so many cute shops along S. Hemlock Street. Pick up a few beach-themed decorations, fill up a bag of salt water taffy after seeing how it's made at Bruce's Candy Kitchen, go for a wine tasting, or just take in the cute architecture that lines Cannon Beach.
Full-on espresso menu with a few bakery items and sandwiches for lunch. It's hidden away in a courtyard on Hemlock next to Pizza a'Fetta. The coffee was great and the vibe relaxed. They advertise a loaded cinnamon roll that looks delish! But... I'm sad to say when it arrived, the blueberries were still a little frozen and it didn't totally meet my expectations, so I'd recommend sticking to one of their hot sandwhiches! But loved the feeling overall.
Located in the southern part of town, this cafe shares a wall with Cannon Beach Hardware Store and Public House. It's a small shop so get there early if you want a table! It's warm and cozy with a variety of you-pour drip coffee canisters lining the bar. Careful if you want to snap a pic or two, the staff was less than friendly about these few shots. The coffee, however, was great - try it topped with their signature whipped cream. It's roasted right there in Cannon Beach - they even say it's 'mystical' - and you can take home a bag of your own.
Brunch in a "treehouse"-themed setting? Yes pleaseeeeeee. It's your average diner, but it's local to Oregon so why not try it out? I liked it! They have over 35 varieties of breakfast!
Built by a man who apprenticed in the King's Palace in Copenhagen, this bakery has been taking Cannon Beach by storm since the '20's. Try a loaf of their famous Haystack Bread - the recipe hasn't changed since its creation over 50 years ago. Four generations later, the bakery is still going strong. Get a pastry to go and head out to the beach!
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Here you'll find relatively-priced fast-seafood, but I'm not kidding when I say it's better than Ivar's (PNW seafood chain claiming to bring the best of the Northwest's dining experiences to the public). My salmon and chips was (and I hate this word but I HAVE to use it) moist. I know, I'm sorry, but ohmygosh was it delicious. The cod was even flaky and mouth-watering, and the fish tacos? Just as good. I honestly think you can order anything from this place and your taste buds will thank you.
Pro Tip: Go on a Wednesday for a beer, a burger, and fries all for $6. Why can't there be one of these by me?
Dinner entrees price range: $4.25 - $15.95
Just a short ways south of Cannon Beach is Mo's. This is the place for cheap eats and a killer view; in fact, one of two dining experience that even offers a view of the beach. It's not the fanciest, but their menu is big, their halibut cheap, and there's nothing like a view of seals surfing the break in the distance.
Dinner entrees price range: $8.95 - $17.95
Not only do they have an amazing selection of micro-brews, but their food is amazing!! Not to mention, their motto, "born at the beach," speaks to me. Food-wise, the Tsunami Burger was to die for. The patty itself had a Tsunami Stout glaze (which is also their signature award-winning beer - so freaking good!), pineapple, tomato, baby arugula, crispy onions, Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese, and Kiwanda Cream Ale aioli. If your mouth isn't watering right now... I'm not sure we can be friends. Jokes, jokes, but seriously, I can't rave about this enough. For the beer - I had an amazing stout that tasted as you'd imagine but looked just like a blonde: truly incredible. I wish I could remember the name. I no longer see it on their menu but ask the waitress if you're interested! They also have bottles of their brew available for purchase in their small shop at the front. Highly recommend this place - definitely worth the visit.
Dinner entrees price range: $15.99 - $29.99
A bit more on the fancy side, Fireside Restaurant also has a bit of everything for everyone. It's a family restaurant with a warm and cozy log cabin feel. The building was first erected in 1921 to serve the area's loggers. Warm up by the massive stone fireplace and enjoy a course or two before walking to the nearby shops or strolling along the beach - it's in a fantastic location.
Dinner entrees price range: $17.50 - $28
Too many great places, not enough time! I so wish I could've eaten here at some point during my stay. This place serves the freshest seafood around. The owner opened this restaurant and market in 1993, bringing to the table fresh seafood caught daily by the owner and his crew. Their specialties include:
Fresh Oregon Troll Caught King Chinook Salmon
Fresh Oregon Hippopotamus of the Sea – Halibut
Fresh Dungeness Crab Meat and Whole Cooked Crab
Fresh Oregon Shrimp Meat
Willapa Bay Oysters and Steamer Clams
Their menu is extensive - try a melt or wrap, cold or hot fish sandwiches, or some quality shrimp, scallops, calamari, salmon, tuna, halibut, you name it, I'm sure they have it. Check them out!
Though I've never actually eaten here, it's received quality reviews and is the only ocean-front dining in downtown Cannon Beach. The food looks amazing and it has outdoor seating in the summer.
Dinner entrees price range: $32 - $84
Other Cannon Beach restaurants worth checking out:
Best pizza around!
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Delicious Gold Stout I wish I could remember!
That's the end of my Cannon Beach recommendations! If you have anything I missed or any suggestions for next time, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just shoot me an email on my contact page!
Just one more tip: Make sure to head back on 101 for possible elk sightings if you missed them at Ecola State Park like us! We saw two herds on the way home.
If you're feeling parched or just want to check out another cute coffee shop, stop in Elixir Coffee Shop in South Bend! Huge windows take over the walls of this decent-sized cafe, overlooking Willapa River. Take a seat in one of their colorful chairs and chat it up with a local fisherman. They have a lot to say and they're interesting stories at that.
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