One of the benefits of traveling (or moving cities) is you get to experience the feeling of discovery: new places to explore, new restaurants, new people. When we moved to Seattle a few years ago, we undertook this same journey. We hadn’t spent much time in the Pacific Northwest (PNW to the locals) before moving and when we came, we marveled in the beauty of the area and its many outdoor activities. One of the best things to do, we had heard from friends and coworkers, was to visit the Oregon coast. We decided to go in September and had the grandparents come along to celebrate our son’s birthday. We rented a house in Seaside, OR, about 8 miles from Cannon Beach, the more famous destination. It is a truly beautiful area with forests and beaches merging harmoniously – you can work up a sweat while hiking and end up at the beach for a pleasant dip in the water.
Getting there from Seattle
The drive from Seattle is about 6-7 hours to Seaside, a city on the northern end of the Oregon coast. We packed our stuff and planned to drive to Portland for lunch and to meet the grandparents, who were flying in there. This was a good way to break up the drive in half and it’s always fun to eat in Portland, consistently rated one of the best cities for food in the country.
After lunch, we headed over to Seaside to our rental house on the Necanicum River (I somehow don’t have pictures of our backyard overlooking it!). It’s a beautiful and serene setting that contrasted with the bustling main strip along the beach that was a few minutes walk.
Cannon Beach encompasses the beauty of the Pacific Northwest in many ways. It’s a combination of water, mountainous terrain and endless trees that reflect the natural bounty of the broader region magnificently.
Typically, the Pacific water in these areas (and even on down to California) is cold, but when the weather is warm, the water actually isn’t half bad to go into. This is true of Cannon Beach, and possibly given how far north it is, it’s even more welcoming since the sun seems to be quite strong in the very long days of summer. Haystack Rock (shown above) is a famous formation in the water that can be reached by foot and features tide pools with crabs, starfish and other sea creatures.
Some of the adults in the group, including me, decided to go hiking at Ecola State Park. The park boasts numerous trails, many of which overlook the Pacific and Cannon Beach and further down the Oregon coast below. The hikes can range from a nice stroll to reasonably strenuous, which allowed a pretty motley group of us all be able to hike together. Parking is sufficient, but I’d imagine in the peak summer months, it could be tough to find a spot if you don’t head up there early enough. On the plus side, you could always get more exercise by hiking up from the bottom!
We did a loop trail that kept us feeling fresh with the constant smell of clean air as we were surrounded by trees throughout. We stopped to gaze at the endless ocean near the top of the trail and could even see Haystack.
Eating and shopping
Without a doubt the most popular place to eat and shop in Cannon Beach is Hemlock Street. The street abounds in both restaurants and cafes and little boutiques and galleries, the types of which are similar to those found in other beach towns. The area doesn’t seem as cheesy as some places, but it is still extremely casual.
Outside of the main drag, both Cannon Beach and Seaside have a number of good restaurants that cater to any cuisine and diet. I’d recommend checking out Seaside for a less touristy and more neighborhood-y set of restaurants.
Having a car definitely helps if you want to tour the broader area, but biking is also extremely popular when the weather is nice. There are bike lanes on the major streets, including on US101. With smaller kids, it may be convenient to have a car to be able to get around since many of the major attractions are a few miles from each other, but as kids get older, biking would be much more entertaining.
We loved exploring the Oregon coast and are looking forward to making it a tradition. We’ll probably go further south next time toward Tillamook just to get to experience a different area on the coast, but we definitely had a great time in Seaside and Cannon Beach. We love being able to find new places to experience the beauty of the Northwest, especially when it’s not gray and rainy outside!