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Cannon Beach
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Downtown Cannon Beach, OregonWhat’s to Love:  Cannon Beach is the “ace in the hole” when it comes to Portland getaways.  It’s a clean town with excellent surrounding beaches, parks and camping.  Plus, for a hefty price, you can usually find good food and lodging.  It’s a bit predictable for us, but we always seem to stumble onto something new each time.

Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach, OregonMany people don’t like the Disney-like-foot-traffic that plugs the walkways, restaurants, beaches, parks and playgrounds.  Others think it’s a bit sterile and/or upscale for their tastes – they prefer a getaway with a little more character such as Manzanita or Oceanside.  While I like the gritty towns, I also like many of the upscale amenities that Cannon Beach has to offer.  And, if you take the time, you will find that Cannon Beach has something to offer almost any visitor. 

Shops at Cannon Beach, OregonCertainly, Cannon Beach is one of the most popular and well known beaches in Oregon, if not the entire Pacific Northwest.  Haystack rock, the huge monolith that rises from the ocean is probably one of the most photographed images in all of Oregon.  Haystack Rock provides a sanctuary for many birds – birds that you’ll see swarming all over it like a beehive.  At low tide, one can stroll out and explore the tidal pools looking for all kinds of aquatic life.  This has been one of the constant highlights for my son.

Playing at Cannon BeachAnother constant at Cannon Beach is cooler weather and morning clouds.  Therefore, we always like to start our visit with a trip to the city park.  We often play there until the weather warms-up a bit and/or the clouds dissipate.  The park has a some athletic fields, a revamped (and awesome!) skatepark, a tennis court, and a decent playstructure.  There are also some picnic tables, so your family can enjoy a picnic before heading down to the beach.

Many folks love Cannon Beach for its excellent shopping and art community.  Unfortunately, I’m not much of a shopper/consumer and there are certainly plenty of other sources for this type of information.  However, I would like to point out a few places that keep me coming back visit after visit.

Ecola MarketEcola Seafoods – Market and Restaurant is my favorite place to eat in Cannon Beach, and it’s casual atmosphere is perfect for families.  It’s a family business – they’ve been commercially fishing the Oregon coast since 1977.  If you want fresh fish/seafood, cooked in a variety of ways, this is the place to go.

Ecola MarketIf you’re new to the market, it will take a second to soak in all the options.  Plus, you can always take some fish home with you, if you have a cooler.  They use 100% trans-fat-free oil for their fried options like the excellent fish and chips.  If you want to avoid fried food, there are plenty of options as well.

Gepetto’s Toy Store, Cannon Beach, OregonGepetto’s Toy Store – I loved toy stores when I was a kid, and I still love them now.  My favorites are always small, independent stores like Portland’s Spielwerk Community Toy Store.  Gepetto’s in Cannon Beach fits the bill, and we always stop in when we’re walking through town.  If you forget your vast collection of beach toys, don’t worry!  Gepetto’s has you covered with buckets, pails, shovels, scoops, sifters, beach games, flying devices, and anything else you could possibly need at the beach.

The Picnic Basket - Cannon Beach, OregonThe Picnic Basket – 97 flavors of salt-water-taffy…wow!  I guess that says it all right there.  However, there are plenty of other goodies at this Cannon Beach favorite.  Ice cream, chocolate candies, fudge, carmel apples, and a new fast-food stop inside the store all await your kids.  The Picnic Basket used to be across from the Ecola Market, but it moved last October to Hemlock (the address is wrong on Google), which is the main street that runs through downtown.  Here are a few video clips from a recent visit.

Caveats:  The downtown street (Hemlock) can get so crowded – literally walking shoulder to shoulder with people on the sidewalks.  Strollers are a good idea for walking in town, but you may have to maneuver it constantly in and out of people.

Most food and lodging is very expensive in Cannon Beach.  We’ve only stayed at one hotel (The Inn at Cannon Beach), and it was very nice.  It’s reasonably priced when compared to other hotels.  If you can afford it, I recommend staying there a night or two.

Website Cannon Beach Google Map

Distance from Portland:  It’s around 80 miles, but it can take up to 2 hours to get there if you hit some bad traffic.

Recommended Ages:  All ages!

Parental Stress Factor:  Low to Medium-High.  Walking around a crowded Cannon Beach downtown can be stressful due to the traffic, parking issues, packed restaurants, and booked-up hotels.  If you’re planning on staying near town, do your homework and get a reservation well in advance.  If you avoid downtown and stick to beaches outside town, you’ll have a pretty low stress visit.

Physical Difficulty: The downtown area is flat and accessible, but south-beach access requires walking some hills and/or a dune.  Walking in sand is always a grind – if you park strategically, you can minimize the difficulty factor.

Family Fun Factor:  High!  Going to the beach is great fun for families.  There are so many great things to do.  Get there early and spend some time at the City Park (near Spruce and 2nd) while the clouds clear and the weather warms up a bit.

Pet Friendly:  The beach is a great place for dogs and many of them can run free due to the tremendous amount of open space.  Please make sure to clean-up after your pet.  Despite the large amount of human traffic, the beach remains pretty clean and comfortable.

Weather Considerations:  Some folks like heading to the coast during the winter.  It provides a romantic getaway with all the fierce storms that time of year.  If you are planning on bringing the whole family, I would wait until the beautiful summer weather takes over.  

Cannon Beach, OregonInsider Info:  If you don’t care about going downtown and want to avoid the crowds, take the third Cannon Beach exit and head for Tolovana Park – it’s right next to “Mo’s” restaurant.  This beach has some natural, spring-fed-streams and 100 yard-access to the beach.  We usually head to this beach – it’s less crowded with easier access.

If you’re looking to surf and/or get away from the downtown scene, check-out Ecola State Park – the access road is right when you’re heading into town.

For some camping, you may want to try one of the family-run-campgrounds.  It’s your best bet for reasonable accommodations.

Wright’s For Camping:  This place has gotten some very positive reviews on Google.

Sea Ranch RV Park:  This campground has some sweet cabins for $80/night.  Plus, this campground is within walking distance of downtown and the beach!  They have tent sites, but be prepared to camp near RVs as well.

Cannon Beach - Playstructure at City ParkFamily Tips:  If you’re on a tight budget, don’t spend money on food in Cannon Beach.  Bring your lunch and/or snacks in a cooler in your car.  I recommend bringing a Bob/Jogging Stroller with you to transport the cooler and/or anything else you want to bring down to the beach.  That way, if you’re with small kids, you’ll have the stroller available for a walk on the beach.  If you don’t want to eat at the beach, try a picnic at the city park, which is next to the public parking area.

There is public parking in town, but it can fill-up pretty fast on busy weekends.  If you want parking in-town, I recommend getting there before 11AM, even then, you might have to park outside of town in an overflow lot.

Buy a kite from one of the kite shops in town!  It’s so much fun flying a kite on the beach, because there is so much wind.  Your kid won’t have to run like crazy to get it to fly for a few minutes.

Skatepark at Cannon Beach, OregonIf your kids are skateboarders, make sure they bring their gear!  The Cannon Beach skatepark is awesome.  They expanded the square footage and put in some rolling terrain with a few advanced features.  This is a great little skatepark!

Technorati Tags: Cannon Beach, Oregon, beach towns, Haystack Rock, Ecola Market, Fresh Seafood, Portland Family Adventures, Vince Schreck

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