Cannon Beach is a small coastal city known for its long, sandy shore in northwest Oregon. One of the more famous ocean views occurs in this town. Haystack Rock stands 235 feet tall and is a seasonal home for the tufted puffins. Chances are you have seen Haystack Rock in a popular film or travel promotion over the years. The Goonies, Twilight, Point Break et al have filmed here.
To the north, there are sweeping ocean views from trails in Ecola State Park with coves, wildlife and the lighthouse. Arcadia Beach and its picnic area and tide pools are located to the south, while sea caves are found nearby in Hug Point. The town’s downtown area features high end boutiques and galleries.
With a population of only 1,690 at last count, and about an hour and a half drive outside Portland, it’s easy to see why Cannon Beach is an Oregon beach spot favorite. Due to its proximity to Portland, Oregon, it is especially well known as a weekend retreat for Portlanders. By all measures, Cannon Beach is an extremely affluent beach vacation destination.
When I first read that popular chain stores have been discouraged from building in Cannon Beach in order to preserve the local economy and small-town feel, I fell in love with the place. Quite the opposite of Brick Beach, sorry Jersey.
Where is Cannon Beach? 45°53′N 123° 57′W
All visitors to Cannon Beach head to the well-known landmark, Haystack Rock, which is found near Tolovana Park, southwest of the downtown area. In the summer, at low tide it might be possible to access the 235 foot tall Haystack Rock up to the barnacle line, the top of the rock is a protected National Wildlife Refuge. After Australia’s Ayers Rock and Atlanta’s Stone Mountain, Cannon Rock is supposedly the world’s third-largest freestanding monolith.
This famous rock, which is featured on countless postcards is igneous. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava.
Haystack Rock is penetrated by a small cave system which can be seen from the shoreline. It is protected as a marine sanctuary, the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. There are 2 tall rocks that rise straight up out of the water, near Haystack Rock. These two other rocks are called the Needles. No events are allowed within 100 feet of the rock.
…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…” William Clark ,Leader of Lewis & Clark Expedition
Cannon Beach has four parks can be found within city limits: Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, Les Shirley Park, Haystack Hill State Park, the and John Yeon State Natural Site (closed to visitors).
Famous First Tourist
In early 1806, William Clark, one half of the famous duo Lewis and Clark made the first recorded visit to Cannon Beach by an American. The Lewis and Clark expedition was hunkered down for the winter nearby at Fort Clatson, 20 miles north. Two members of the traveling band returned from a foray with whale blubber from a beached animal. After William Clark decided to investigate the beach spot himself.
Close to the western cliffs of the headland, the adventurer encountered “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…” Today, visitors to the area can access “Clark’s Point of View,” from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park. Another famous traveler with Clark that January day was his guide, Sacagawea. When they arrived to the site of the beached whale, the party met with members of the Tillamook tribe who were boiling blubber for storage. Clark et al traded for some 300 pounds of whale blubber and oil before returning to the fort.
Some years later in 1846, a cannon washed up on the beach from a US Navy schooner, the Shark. The vessel met its doom while attempting to cross the infamous Columbia Bar, better known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. This cannon was found again in 1898, which ultimately led to the towns name being changed to Cannon Beach from Elk Creek. Today, the cannon can be found in the city museum. In 2008, two more cannons from the Shark were also discovered.
Things to Do in Cannon Beach: Annual cultural events
In June each year, Cannon Beach hosts their annual sand castle-building contest. A few weeks later, the Fourth of July parade is fun for all ages. The city’s galleries have opted to compete directly with Kentucky Derby and have their annual arts festival, the “Spring Unveiling” on the first Sunday in May.
Another Arts Festival is held in November, the Stormy Weather Arts Festival that allows artists from the Pacific Northwest to showcase their artwork in the local galleries. At the end of the event, there is an auction where you can bid on your favorite pieces.
Thinking about getting in the water for a quick swim? It is probably a bad idea in Oregon. Stick to the breweries, walks on the beach, or go surfing.
What is the Weather Like?
This region experiences warm, dry summers, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Cannon Beach has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate.
A special thank you to my dear cousin Silver Wings for the image of the beach. She is as cool as they come and tough as nails. A former roller derby player, she got on an airplane to ride roller coasters for her 40th. I was lucky enough to be asked to meet her and her hubby. I have only seen her a handful of times over the past decade, but they have all been memorable.