The advent of Spring is a great time to plan a beach holiday somewhere, and if you haven’t already got plans, why not consider the magnificent coastline of our own Oregon? Several wonderful beaches spring to mind, with Seaside and Cannon Beach foremost for me. Our next dilemma: Is Seaside or Cannon Beach better?
Seaside and Cannon Beaches are both well worth a visit. Cannon Beach is better if you have no children with you, as it is quieter and more natural. Seaside Beach is better for families as there is a lot to keep kids busy, particularly on rainy days.
Both Cannon Beach and Seaside will provide you with a memorable vacation, and with international travel still curtailed somewhat by the lingering menace of Covid-19, a week or two on the West Coast could be just what you need and should prove safer and less expensive.
Where Are Seaside And Cannon Beaches?
Both beaches are in the state of Oregon on the west coast of the continental USA, easily reached via Route 26 from Portland and tucked in just below Washington State. The two popular beaches are around 15 minutes by car or 9 miles (15 km) apart. There is some very pleasant hiking in the vicinity of both – a great way to get a feel of the surroundings.
Both beaches have their fans (and a few detractors), and hopefully, you will make up your mind after considering everything in this post. Naturally, what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander, particularly where there are age differences, but both destinations are worth any time spent there.
Seattle, WA, is around 3.5 hours from Cannon Beach, so an easy drive down the I-5 S for a fabulous week or two at the seaside. The best news is that you are not obliged to make a final choice between Seaside and Cannon as any trip longer than three days gives you ample time to visit both.
Thanks to the Oregon Beach Bill passed in 1967, every inch of Oregon’s 365-or-so miles of coastline is open to the public, introducing the prospect of hiking north or south on any beach.
Now You’ve Arrived, What Is There To Do in Cannon Beach?
Cannon Beach is simply gorgeous with enchanting wildlife and some of the most dramatic coastline globally. If you have a decent camera, remember to bring it along. As Cannon has much to entice your artistic bent, many shots you will be snapping are not simply holiday selfies or groupies but attention-grabbing art pieces.
- Farmers’ Market
The Cannon Beach Farmers Market is held every Tuesday afternoon from June through September, and there is a wide variety of fresh seafood, vegetables, and local artisanal delicacies on sale. This is a great place to stock up on your supplies for dinner if your accommodation offers a kitchen.
- Haystack Rock (as seen in The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop Movies)
According to our friends at Wikipedia, Haystack Rock is a 235 ft sea stack in Cannon Beach and is the world’s third-tallest intertidal structure. (A taller structure is found at Pacific City, also on the Oregon Coast and also named Haystack Rock, though this is a mile offshore and inaccessible, other than by boat.)
Neither stack may be climbed or camped on as they are designated as a wildlife refuge, and their bases are submerged at high tide. Cannon Beach Haystack can be reached at any time, but children and the elderly are advised to take the short walk at low tide. Access is via 2nd Street, and you can usually find parking fairly close by.
If you enjoy exploring tidal pools and seeing the various forms of aquatic life that abound in them, visit Haystack 45 minutes to an hour before low tide. It is incredible how many life forms teem in these pools, but be prepared to wait for them to expose themselves.
Kite flying is also very popular, and the oldest kite shop on the Oregon Coast is Once Upon A Breeze, whose staff can certainly assist you if you arrive unprepared. Coastal winds make Cannon Beach a good place to ‘go fly a kite,’ and the owner, John Fraser, is more than competent to advise you.
- Beach Bonfires
No beach vacation is complete without a beach bonfire, where permissible, and Cannon is a perfect setting to catch the dipping sun as it goes to bed. Take blankets, as the onset of evening can really chill you on occasion.
Best done in the colder months, crabbing is a great day out on the bay. Rent a boat and some equipment and head out with your family. This is not an empty day of fun either – there’s an excellent chance you will catch enough for dinner, too.
Where there is crabbing, there is certainly fishing, and this stretch of the coast is no exception. The salmon were enormous (at least to this landlubber), and provided you take a guide to assist you, this is a wonderful day out.
- Ecola State Park
If you’re a nature lover, a visit to this park is highly recommended. Highlights are Ecola Point at the Southernmost end and the one-mile-plus hike to Crescent Beach.
Note – Dogs are allowed on the beach, provided on a leash or under the owner’s voice control. (Hope my dogs are reading this!) As the animal’s owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that the dog is physically controlled.
If you’re not really a nature lover, you might like to try:
- Bruce’s Candy Kitchen – Their seawater taffy and Caramel Corn are sublime!
- Icefire Glassworks – Open most days from 10 am – 5 pm but closed on Wednesdays in Winter; they often have glass-blowing taking place in the shop.
- The Jeff Hull Gallery – For over 41 years, Jeff Hull has captured – in watercolor – the beauty and ambiance of the places where the sea meets the land. He has some exquisite works on sale, and if art speaks to you, don’t miss this gallery.
- The Sleepy Monk – Expect to wait a while at this organic coffee roaster, but a great Cup o’ Joe and their scrumptious homemade pastries are worth waiting for. I love their muffins, but the Bogman’s Brew coffee beans hold my heart.
- The Ecola Market – This is the place for, amongst many other things, delicious fish & chips, popcorn shrimp, oysters, scallops, halibut, and more. Do your tastebuds a f(l)avor!
Great Places To Eat In Cannon Beach
- The Pelican Brewery – Wonderful chowder and flatbreads, fish baskets, burgers, and lots more. Solid value.
- Tom’s Fish & Chips – Sit on the patio and enjoy the simple pleasure of wonderful food.
- Surfbird – Closed at night, Surfbird offers the best avocado toast and healthy breakfasts in the area.
- Public Coast Brewing Company – Great beer, clam chowder and more, in a wonderful atmosphere.
Caveat – Check opening times as shops and restaurants in Cannon Beach have some puzzling hours…
Accommodation in Cannon Beach
After an exhausting day absorbing the sights and foods of Cannon Beach, where can you lay your weary head? Summer is the peak season for the entire coastline, and prices naturally inflate, so bear that in mind when planning your stay.
If you’re in a camper or have a tent, several camping options are available. These three are all very close to the beach, though I have not checked out the amenities as yet:
- Wright’s for camping
- RV Resort at Cannon Beach
- Sea Ranch RV Park
NB No beach camping is permitted at this time.
I took a look at the various Airbnb options in the area, and the average price for a very pleasant, fairly simple place just a block or two from the beach was U$110 per night. This would sleep two and have full amenities.
If you are looking for pampering, then The Ocean Lodge at the southern end of Cannon Beach may be just the ticket, with WiFi access made available throughout, and free coffee and cookies available 24/7. These comfy rooms come with a kitchenette, balcony, cable TV, a DVD player, and a private bathroom. Some rooms even offer a spa bath and a stunning sea view.
Incredibly, the rooms start at U$110 per night for two people sharing, which is the finest value for money I could find in Cannon. This might be the cheapest splurge you ever experience!
Now You’ve Arrived, What Is There To Do in Seaside Beach?
Seaside is bigger than Cannon Beach, with tons of family-friendly activities, more shops, and a historic shipwreck – The Peter Iredale – right on the beach. There is a movie theater, arcades, museum, outlet shopping, aquarium, and more, with all ages catered for.
- Rent a Surrey
‘Chicks’ n ducks ‘n geese went a scurry when I rented my own lil’ Surrey’..!
You can rent a quadricycle, complete with ‘fringe on top’ and pedal about Seaside Beach at your leisure. Correctly called a Ciclofan, the Italian-made four-wheeler is the perfect way of moving young kids around the town.
Situated on the North Promenade, the aquarium is not the biggest, but worth a visit if you have young kids with you, as they can touch the invertebrate sea life in the shallow tanks and then know what to look for in tidal pools. Perfect!
Staying with the kids, Funland is a huge arcade of several rooms and even has bumper cars on site. Grab a pizza at the onsite pizza restaurant as you enjoy the video games and avoid any inclement weather.
- Swan Boats
Rent a swan-shaped paddleboat on the river running through town for a relaxing, healthy hour or two outdoors.
- Painted Rock Beach
Another wonderful experience for younger kids (and young-minded parents) is a visit to Painted Rock Beach. Paint your rock and place it strategically in the vista.
- The Turnaround
The journey of Lewis and Clark ended right here in Seaside when the team reached the Pacific Ocean, and the Turnaround statue marks the general area where the explorers arrived back in the 19th century.
- Arcadia Beach State Recreational Area
About a mile in length, Arcadia does not get as busy as some of Seaside’s other beaches, and there is a picnic area and restrooms in the recreation area. The beach is pristine and offers exquisite photo ops.
- Tillamook Head
A stunning rock formation in Ecola National Park, Tillamook is so impressive that Clark considered the view the finest he ever set eyes on. Hike the trails around the head or access the bluff via the Indian Beach pathway. ‘Terrible Tilly,’ the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, provides another poignant photo op and sits 133 feet above sea level. ‘Tilly’ was so named because of several lives lost in her surveying and final construction.
- Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area
Well known for an abundant bird list, Jewell Meadows is also home to several hundred Roosevelt Elk, which can be heard calling in the colder months and is a very pleasant day out.
- Biking and Kayaking
Extremely healthy pastimes, biking and kayaking will show you Seaside from every possible angle, and of course, you can cover greater distances.
Great Places To Eat In Seaside Beach
Seaside is certainly not short of some great eating, whether it be wholesome, healthy, fun, or decadent, and here are a few favorites:
- Finn’s Fireside Patio – Great ambiance on a wooden deck outside or under cover: Enjoy superb calamari, tuna bake, sweet potato fries, and tons more, all beautifully presented.
- Norma’s Seafood & Steak – on N. Columbia has some real specials over lunch, and their menu is impeccable and really well priced. You probably like seafood if you’re at the beach, and Norma’s is ideal.
- Pig’ n Pancake – This is the place for breakfast, with a full menu available, apart from the ubiquitous pancakes, which are delicious.
- Sea Star Gelato – A seaside town will always have at least one place to cool down after a day at the beach, and creamy gelato from Sea Star is ideal. Cookie Dough with chocolate chip was my fave.
Accommodation in Seaside Beach
Camping seems easier in Seaside, and there are several campgrounds and RV Parks available. I didn’t stay in a campground, but these seemed fine to me:
- Seaside RV Resort
- Circle Creek RV Resort
- Venice RV Park
The Shilo Inn offers spacious, family-friendly accommodation, with two queen-sized beds and a full kitchen (refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher) at very reasonable rates. Close to everything in town, it’s located on the Promenade, the paved walkway that runs parallel to the beach for over a mile. A five-day stay for two people was U$675.
Hi-Tide Oceanfront Inn was a little more, at U$865 for the five nights, and has an indoor pool, exquisite breakfast area, and immaculate rooms. Most rooms have an ocean view, and Hi-Tide is very central.
Caveat for both Cannon and Seaside Beaches
Yet another sinkhole and landslide have closed Ecola State Park for the time being, but I have added the various attractions in the park in the hope that Ecola will reopen before your visit. I have heard rumors that the park can still be accessed from the north but that this only allows access to the heavily rainforested area there. Please check the latest situation before you leave.
There is no real way to choose between Cannon and Seaside, and you can easily enjoy both in just a few days. However, if I had to choose, I’d say Cannon is better if you are visiting without kids, but Seaside gets the nod with children as there is a fair amount more for the youngsters to do there. Nothing kills a vacation like bored children…