Blink, and you might mistake Cannon Beach, Oregon, for Hawaii. It's the kind of place we'd choose to land if we were from another planet—the beauty is undeniable, the forest could hide a spaceship, and the locals are tolerant of quirky out-of-towners. There's also loads going on throughout the year, whatever your interests. Check the calendar, and book a mini trip ASAP for rest, relaxation, and the best change of scenery you could hope for.
Near downtown Cannon Beach, the town's most recognizable natural feature struts out of the water. It's close enough to the shore you can walk right up to and around the 235-foot rock formation when the tide is super low after a new moon. The eroding volcanic monolith, also known as "The Rock," is a million years old and a protected Marine Garden. Assigned locals guide visitors to spot the fauna and nesting birds without compromising the habitat. It's a wonderful initiative that enriches the experience of everyone who visits.
Ecola State Park rewards visitors with sensational views and a different perspective of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. There are short and long trails among old-growth rainforests, secluded beaches, and picnic areas. Simply driving up offers a good vantage point if you have mobility issues or are traveling with seniors or little kids, and dogs are welcome too. Parking will cost you five dollars, but it's arguably the best money you'll spend while in town. You can spot Roosevelt elk, bald eagles, the Tillamook Rock lighthouse, and filming locations for The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop.
Hug point is a family-friendly spot with a shaded cove where you could while away an entire day. You can explore sea caves, a mini waterfall, and what's left of an old road at low tide. Frolic in the tide pools with starfish, gather shells for sandy constructions, sunbathe, or go fishing. It's free and a favorite in good weather.
Visit Cannon Beach during the off-season in winter and spring, and you may see one of the approximately 18,000 gray whales that migrate along the coast. If you're staying at a hotel with ocean views, you can enjoy a warm beverage while using binoculars to view these marine mammals better.
Crescent Beach is accessible from Ecola State Park, but you'll need to hike two miles to reach Chapman Point through vibrantly green woods of Sitka spruce and another two miles to return to the parking lot at Ecola Point. When you arrive at your destination, it's not unusual to see pelicans, seals, and sea lions in the water.
Cannon Beach offers plenty, even if you don't enjoy long hikes or getting sand between your toes. This is an art town with galleries, public art walking tours, historic cottages, author events, arts programs, numerous festivals, and a museum all about nursing. There's also a pretty intense sandcastle contest that's been a local tradition for at least half a century.
Studios like this one are great for pretending you're in Middle Earth waiting for someone to forge a crucial piece of equipment. In this case, you'll be browsing or buying hand-blown glass ornaments for your wall niches. Icefire's been making and selling unique pieces for over four decades, and you can purchase beads, jewelry, vases, bowls, and sculptures. The studio closes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Few holidays are complete without a bit of retail therapy. New places allow you to find items you might not get back home and are a wonderful reminder of a destination. You'll find boutique stores on Spruce Street and some familiar brands. You'll also find a range of eateries to grab a bite after hauling shopping bags around.
Support the local community theatre and the artists that perform there by buying tickets to one of the live performances. The venue is a former roller skating rink right in the middle of town. Every comfy seat has good views, and the acoustics are on point whether you're there for a band or a play.
The salty sea air and hours spent on beaches are bound to make anyone hungry. Luckily, the North Coast Food Trail caters to every palate. Chefs, bakers, and beer makers dot the North Oregon coast and serve diners the freshest local produce. You can look forward to seafood, a Tuesday farmer's market, and cooking lessons at EVOO Cooking School.