Sandcastle Splendor in Cannon Beach

By Ann Powers | Monday, May 27, 2019

Grab your shovels and pails and get ready for some serious coastal creativity at the 55th Annual Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest from Friday, June 7, through Sunday, June 9. Teams of professional artists, amateur groups and families return year after year for this sand celebration spectacular that is the oldest competition of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

It all started way back in 1964 when a tsunami took out the Elk Creek Bridge, leaving residents somewhat isolated until a new crossing could be built. That spring local families came together for a sandcastle contest to amuse their kids and attract visitors to the area. The Sandcastle Contest was born and has grown into one of the largest on the West Coast.

Photo courtesy the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce

It's earned such a stellar reputation that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department recognizes it as an Oregon Heritage Tradition, an esteemed honor that only applies to 11 events in the state. To be considered an Oregon Heritage Tradition, an event must garner broad public appeal, 50 years of continuous operation and contributes to the state's identity.

How the Sandcastle Contest works:
Each team gets a plot of sand within a designated viewing area. Sand may not be added to or removed from the area. Only natural materials found on the beach (sticks, shells, rocks, seaweed, etc.) may be used for decoration. No artificial coloring, paint, flour, sugar, starch, adhesives or cement can be utilized.

The Masters division teams vie for cash prizes and churn out huge, elaborate formations by using construction forms similar to those utilized for pouring concrete in order to accomplish their epic size. To be eligible for Masters division, you must have won awards in a large division at this or other sandcastle events.

Photo courtesy the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce

There are no mandated themes, which often inspires creative commentary on current events, action figures, beloved animals, mermaids or amazing abodes. That said, organizers ask all teams to please be mindful that this is a family-friendly event and inappropriate sandcastle ideas are not allowed.

The official sand sculpture competition starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8. Judging times vary depending on the tide, which also determines how long the sculptures last. In addition to Sandcastle Contest there are plenty of other activities throughout the weekend including a beach bonfire, live music, 5K fun run/walk and more!

Here’s the event schedule:

Friday, June 7th
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Packets n' Pail Pickup - Cannon Beach Chamber & Visitors Center
12 p.m. Sandcastle Contest registration closes (limited to 100 entries)

Saturday, June 8th
9 - 11 a.m. American Legion Pancake Breakfast
9:30 a.m. Sandcastle Contest begins
2:30 p.m. Final judging and awards presentation to follow
3 p.m. Cars off the beach
7 p.m. Live music on the beach from the Bruce Thomas Smith band
8 - 10 p.m. Bonfire on the beach w/s'mores

Sunday, June 9th
8 a.m. Check in and final registration for Singing Sands 5K Fun Run/Walk (includes a kid-friendly course)
9 a.m. Singing Sands 5K Fun Run/Walk on the beach at 2nd Street

Photo courtesy Bruce Thomas Smith 

Signs will be posted on Highway 101 for beach access and parking. Event staff will be available to help keep traffic flowing and parking hassle free.

If you’re planning on staying over the weekend, there’s an array of great lodging options in the area. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort, a charming bed and breakfast, a place to park the RV or maybe a Cannon Beach vacation rental, our list of Cannon Beach accommodations and special offers will help you find an ideal spot to hang your beach hat. 

Photo courtesy the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce

For more information about the Sandcastle Contest and other weekend activities, contact the Cannon Beach Visitor Information Center at (503) 436-2623 or go here.

Make sure to check our Daytime Events and Nightlife pages for even more adventures along the Northern Oregon Coast. Also, we’d love to hear about your Pacific Northwest getaway in the comments section below!

About the Author Ann Powers
Ann Powers is a reporter and writer who has lived and worked on the Oregon Coast. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and currently working on her master's degree in multimedia journalism at the University of Oregon's Portland campus. Originally from Wisconsin, she now calls Oregon home, describing it as, "the Midwest of the Pacific Northwest," due to its dairy-state status, beautiful environment and friendly people.