The Oregon Coast is part of the great Pacific Rainforest, the largest temperate rain-forest in the world. Stretching 350 miles from Astoria to Brookings the scenery is stunning at every turn. Beautiful, wide sandy beaches set against dramatic rocky coastlines call out for long walks no matter what the weather. Just under two hours from Portland, the town of Cannon Beach is known for Haystack Rock, an icon of the Oregon coast and a charming place to spend a few days.
The weather on the coast can be unpredictable. December- February is rainy season with late spring becoming drier and summer the driest. A magical part of being on the coast is experiencing the atmospheric changes—the fog rolling in, the clouds thick as a wall surrounding Haystack Rock, the sun bursting through the maritime layer—all beautiful. Be prepared by bringing layers! For hiking enthusiasts we strongly recommend that you check out Saddle Mountain which is about a 20 minute drive from the Stephanie Inn. The hike begins at an elevation of 1650 feet and climbs to a height of 3290 feet over 2.75 miles of fairly steep terrain. The challenge pays off handsomely for those who refuse to quit. From the summit (on a clear day) you are able to see the Columbia river feeding into the Pacific Ocean in addition to the peaks of Mt Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt St. Helens and Mt Jefferson. Bring plenty of water and maybe even a picnic lunch to enjoy up top!
Stay: Check in to the three-story Stephanie Inn, right on the beach with sweeping views of Haystack Rock and the needles. Rooms are large and very comfortable, if not quite stylish, and top floor rooms have spacious balconies; perfect to watch sunset. The vibe is sweet, rather than sophisticated, with charming touches including an afternoon wine tasting hour, evening nightcap at 9, and homemade cookies available all day. (Stored in the ceramic house, next to the front desk.)
Coffee: After or before the complimentary breakfast at the hotel head to the adorable Sleepy Monk, for very good organic coffee roasted right in Cannon Beach.
Hike: Walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at Ecola State Park, just a 5-minute drive from downtown Cannon Beach. This is one of the best spots for panoramic views of the Coast—the sea stacks and small islands to the South, and to the West, Tillamook Rock, Oregon’s only offshore lighthouse. There are both walking and hiking trails and beach access at Indian Beach, popular with surfers. We hiked the 4-mile Tillamook head Trail climbing up through a tall forest of Sitka Spruce before reaching the top.
Lunch: How can you not love the concept of the Screw and Brew: half hardware store, half restaurant. The funky space more than delivers with good burgers, salads and fish sandwiches. At Ecola Seafoods, a fish market with a bunch of tables, the packed house doesn’t seem to mind the no-frills-atmosphere as they happily consume steamers, clam chowder, fish and chips, and grilled locally caught salmon or halibut. The fresh Dungeness crab meat cocktail and a whole cooked crab were the clear favorites at our table.
Town: Cannon Beach is a cute beach town with shops and galleries. If the line isn’t too long at Osburns, get an ice cream and walk around after lunch.
Beach Biking: The Stephanie Inn has bikes for guests to use; don’t miss the opportunity to ride them on the beach. The sand at the waters edge is hard packed, making for a great ride. At low tide you can go for miles. We rode in the direction of Tolovana State Beach, continuing past Silver Point and Humbug Point and turning around at Hug Point. Along the way the scenery constantly changes; the crowds by Haystack replaced by isolated stretches of beach, sea caves, high dramatic cliffs, and an old road bed that is now a path of barnacles and green algae. (If you just want to play around, recumbent bikes can be rented at Family Fun Cycles at Tolovana Park.)
The Rock: At low tide, walk right up to Haystack Rock to explore the tidal pools where kids of all ages are looking for starfish, crabs, shrimp and anemones. Tufted Puffins arrive late spring and summer to join the thousands of birds already calling Haystack home. Friends of Haystack are on hand to answer questions and to safeguard the ecosystem of this incredible monolith, formed from lava flows millions of years ago.
Dinner: When I mentioned to a friend I was visiting Cannon Beach, she told me stop what I was doing and immediately call EVOO for a dinner reservation. She was so adamant, that I didn’t argue, and I was lucky enough to score a reservation. Chef Bob Neroni and his wife Lenore Emery have been welcoming guests for over 10 years to their unique venue, a combination cooking class and fine dining experience all in one. Watch each dish prepared with lively discussion from Bob and Lenore, who have a light banter that comes from years of experience. They use only the best ingredients--organic, local, and seasonal in their Mediterranean inspired menu. The food was delicious, sophisticated and layered, and the wine pairings were well thought out and complimentary. This was a fun night out and no visit to Cannon Beach would be complete without a stop at EVOO.
Night Skies: Sunset is late in the summer, sometime around 9PM, allowing you to pack the most in a day. Luck plays a part here, as one day the colors can be spectacular and the next night a wall of clouds can roll in shutting down the sun splash. As the daylight fades away, a surprise awaits, as small beach bonfires begin doting the beach in small pockets for miles.
Must do: Arranged ahead of time, the Stephanie Inn will set up a beach bonfire for you complete with all the s’mores fixings. Song lyrics for Kumbaya not included.
**A special thank you to photographer Grace Hurtienne of Grace and Jaden, a husband and wife team who specialize in wedding and travel destination photography and cinematography. Click here to see their stunning photographs and the schedule for their upcoming workshops.