With a population that swells on summer weekends (or whenever the mercury climbs much above 85 degrees in the Willamette Valley), Cannon Beach could be Oregon's answer to the Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard. It's bougie enough to support an olive oil tasting shop (The Oil and Vinegar Bar) and a long-running chef's counter called EVOO, where a three-hour, four-course “dinner show” runs $225.
But a trip there doesn't have to be fancy—and just taking in the sights is free. The town’s namesake beach boasts the iconic Haystack Rock, best first glimpsed while clutching coffee and a kouign-amann from off-the-beaten-path Sea Level Bakery. Be sure to check a tide table before strolling to the seastack—at low tide, you can walk out to the base and look at (but don't touch) anemones, sea stars, crabs, and more.
Stop off at Cleanline Surf for a rental wetsuit and a skimboard for nonfreezing ocean fun, or get up early to snag a parking spot at Ecola State Park. If you're feeling ambitious, hike the 2.1-mile trail from the parking lot to Indian Beach, one of the loveliest protected coves along the entire coastline, newly reopened after severe washouts in 2015 closed off the trail until late 2021. For even more solitude, and unbeatable ocean views, take the Clatsop Loop trail from Indian Beach to the Bald Mountain summit, five miles round-trip.
Back in town, there's no shortage of great shops. Check out the brand-new outpost of Staghorn Mercantile for gloriously tactile ceramic mugs from Ruby Farms with Haystack Rock etched on them, handwoven baskets from Rwanda, and all the houseplants you've ever cooed over. Speaking of cooing, peep the midcentury Pyrex in period shades of eggplant and artichoke and thrifted Pendleton flannels for sale at Vintage Viaje. Or poke around at Cannon Beach Book Company, which has the comfy seating so many Portland bookstores somehow lack, plus an entire section helpfully labeled “Beach Reads.”
Sit down for clam chowder at popular Public Coast Brewing, or grab a walking-around meal from the to-go window at Crêpe Neptune, its buckwheat crêpes cunningly packaged in tricornered French-accented holders—try the Cape Meares, with egg, jalapeño, spinach, tomato, and goat cheese. Feeling fancier? A new branch of Astoria-born Pilot House Distillery just opened here, or reserve ahead for a seat overlooking the beach at the Wayfarer, where an appropriately fish-centric menu toplines Dungeness crab, Columbia River sturgeon, and local salmon.
Cannon Beach doesn't lack for lodging, most of it clustered around the quieter, southern end of town. We like the simple, nautical vibes at the McBee Cottages. For something more luxe, head down the coast a bit to dreamy, just-the-beach-and-that's-enough Arch Cape, for the chicly minimalist Arch Cape Loft.
Top image of Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock courtesy Leon Wu/Unsplash