Twenty-eight miles down north Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach, a picture-perfect beach town with a dramatically scenic stretch of coast that’s on everybody’s list of favorite Oregon places. Cannon Beach is where you’ll find Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-tall beach rock that’s an iconic image of the Oregon coast.
While Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s most loved beaches and a popular getaway from Portland, it has a decidedly different feel than Seaside, Oregon, just 8 miles to the north. While Seaside is busy and commercial, Cannon Beach is quiet and quaint. Most of the recreation in Cannon Beach is focused on nature: beachcombing, tidepooling, hiking, wildlife watching, surfing and simply admiring the stunning views. Dozens of public beach accesses offer passage to Oregon’s public beach, and several state parks and recreational areas are close by, including Ecola State Park, Oswald West State Park, Arcadia Beach and Hug Point. On this site we tell you everything you can do outdoors around Cannon Beach, and we give you the information on how to do it. And then, when you’re tired and hungry from all that exploring, we’ll show you all of your options for eating, drinking and resting, including oceanfront accommodations options so you can hear the waves as you drift off to sleep.
Arts and Culture in Cannon Beach
Downtown Cannon Beach exemplifies small-town coastal charm. Plan to set out on foot to explore the downtown area, which is chock full of galleries, shops, boutiques, bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants and charming cottages. And since Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax, you can enjoy what feels like discount shopping! Cannon Beach’s wealth of art galleries, artist studios, public art exhibitions, live theater and arts festivals have earned it a ranking on America’s Best 100 Art Towns. Festivals include the Spring Unveiling in May, Plein Air & More in June, Stormy Weather Arts Festival in November, Get Lit at the Beach in April and the famous Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest (hey, that’s art!) in June. Explore this site to find all of the arts, shopping and annual events offerings in Cannon Beach.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far is Cannon Beach from Portland?
It’s an hour and a half from Portland International Airport (PDX) to downtown Cannon Beach.
Where did Cannon Beach get its name?
The community is named for a cannon that was lost from the U.S. Navy schooner Shark when it hit land in 1846 while attempting to cross the Columbia Bar, known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. The cannon washed ashore near the town of Elk Creek and inspired the town’s name change to Cannon Beach in 1922.
What’s the best time of day to explore Haystack Rock?
Low tide. At low tide, you walk right up to Haystack Rock and observe many sea creatures such as sea stars, sea slugs, green anemones, crabs, snails, limpets, coral and sponges in the tidepools and intertidal zones. Check local tide tables for the lowest tide and make that your exploration window. You’ll find tide table booklets in locations all over town, including tackle shops, gas stations and visitor centers. Be sure to walk only on sand or bare rock to avoid damaging the natural resources. Haystack Rock is a designated Marine Garden, and all marine life is protected, so removing anything from the site is prohibited. The Haystack Rock Awareness Program offers interpretive programs at the rock at low tides from May to Labor Day.
When is the best time to see the puffins at Haystack Rock?
The nearshore and offshore rocks along Cannon Beach are part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and home to many seabirds, including Tufted Puffins. Haystack Rock provides nesting ground for puffins and is the Northwest’s most accessible location for viewing puffins. The best time is from early spring through mid-summer. Cannon Beach is a fabulous bird-watching destination year round. Thousands of Common Murres can be seen on the rocks in spring and summer. Pelicans are common from spring through fall, and eagles are a common site along the beach all year.
What should I do if I spot a whale, seal, sea lion or dolphin on the beach?
Marine mammals are protected by federal law. It is illegal to disturb, handle or feed them. Reporting marine mammal strandings to the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network is the best way to help them. Call (541) 270-6830. Remember that harbor seal pups are intentionally left on the beach while their mothers hunt for food, so they are usually not stranded. But if they appear sick or injured, call the network. Seals and sea lions can bite. Stay away, keep your pets away and do not pour water on the animals. If you spot a dolphin, porpoise or whale, report the stranding immediately. You can provide supportive care by protecting the animal from the sun or harsh winds, digging trenches for pectoral flippers, rinsing sand out of eyes, keeping the area quiet, pouring water on the animal (avoid the blow hole!) or covering the animal with wet towels if it’s very hot. Do not try to feed, drive back into the water or move the animal in any way.
When is the best time of year to enjoy Dungeness crab?
The season begins in December and runs through August. Oregon has a fleet of more than 400 crab boats, so fresh crab is readily available.
When is the best time of year for beachcombing?
Beachcombers are rewarded all year round, but the best finds of the year happen in winter, as high tides and strong winds wash in natural and manmade treasures. Plus, there’s much less competition out there in the cold months!