Cannon Beach is one of those rare Oregon Coast towns that’s well-known, but still uncrowded. This quiet hamlet is best known for Haystack Rock, but the small-town charm provides just as much of a reason to visit.
There’s tons to explore around Cannon Beach and the surrounding coastline. In this guide, I’ll highlight 10 of my favorite things to do in Cannon Beach for a weekend getaway.
1. Watch for Puffins at Haystack Rock
It’s impossible to miss Haystack Rock when you visit Cannon Beach. This imposing rock sits just off the beach and catches the light every evening at sunset, making it an incredibly popular subject for photographers.
Look closely, and you’ll find even more to love about Haystack Rock. The rock is home to a colony of tufted puffins that lay their eggs in the grass every spring, usually from April to July. Haystack Rock’s offshore location protects the puffins from predators, making it one of the few places where you can find these Arctic birds in Oregon.
I recommend taking a guided tour with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program. This volunteer group can help you spot the puffins with binoculars and does a great job answering questions about the birds’ nesting habits.
2. Search for Anemones and More During Low Tide
While you’re poking around Haystack Rock, remember to look down. The area around the rock is filled with tide pools at low tide. It’s like walking through a gigantic touch tank!
I’ve seen crabs, anemones, starfish, and even small fish in the tide pools around Haystack Rock. Some of the pools are incredibly colorful and teeming with life.
One of the great things about Cannon Beach is that these tide pools are just a minute’s walk from town. So, it’s easy to run down to the beach and see what you find no matter what time low tide is happening.
3. Grab a Beer at Pelican Brewing
Pelican Brewing is a staple of the Oregon Coast, with locations in Cannon Beach, Pacific City, Siletz Bay, and Tillamook. The Cannon Beach pub is located right next to the beach and offers tons of outdoor seating so you can watch the waves while you enjoy a drink.
The brewpub is also a great place to grab lunch in town. I recommend the fish and chips, which are breaded using Pelican’s Kiwanda Ale. All of the entrees on the menu have recommended beer pairings, which is a unique and fun touch.
4. Take a Hike at Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park offers access to a pristine stretch of the Oregon Coast. It’s one of my favorite spots on the coast because you can hike through foggy and fern-filled forest before arriving at wide-open views of the ocean.
The rocky coastline to the south is straight out of a photograph and you may have the beach all to yourself if you stick around for sunset. This is also one of the only places you can see the Tillamook Lighthouse, which sits more than a mile off the coast.
I definitely recommend spending at least a few hours at Ecola while you’re in Cannon Beach. While it’s only a few miles out of town, it feels like a completely different world.
5. Explore the Local Art Scene
Cannon Beach is home to a bustling art scene. There are more than a dozen galleries within walking distance of the beach, all of them featuring local artists and pieces that showcase the beauty of the coast.
I especially recommend stopping in at Icefire Glassworks and Dragonfly Gallery, both of which have incredibly detailed blown glass artwork. If you’d like to take home some photography of the coast, be sure to stop in at the Oregon Gallery.
6. Sample Cheese and Ice Cream at the Tillamook Creamery
Tillamook is about an hour’s drive from Cannon Beach, but it’s worth the trip. There’s plenty to see and do along the way, and the Tillamook Creamery is a must-see attraction on the Oregon Coast.
Take a tour to see how the famous cheese and ice cream gets made. It’s really interesting, and you pop out at a small ice cream shop where you can sample freshly made cheese and experimental ice cream flavors.
During your drive, take a few minutes to pause in the seaside enclaves of Nehalem and Manzanita. Wanda’s Bakery in Nehalem is a great stop for delicious cookies and scones. The beach in Manzanita has even fewer people than Cannon Beach and is a great place to take a relaxed stroll.
7. Travel the Beach by Horseback at Nehalem Bay
One of the best ways to see the sandy stretches of the Oregon Coast is to travel by horseback. There are several outfitters who offer guided beach tours around Nehalem Bay, including Oregon Beach Rides, Pearl Creek Riding, and Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides.
I recommend taking a tour down the length of Nehalem spit. You’ll travel on sandy trails surrounded by manzanita-covered dunes and eventually reach the end of the spit, where you can watch the river flow into the ocean.
8. Catch the Waves with a Surfing Lesson
Unless it’s an especially stormy day, you’ll almost certainly see surfers in the water when you arrive at Cannon Beach. It’s one of the most popular surf spots on the coast—surfers can go from riding the waves to grabbing lunch in town in literally minutes.
If you’d like to try catching a wave yourself, there are several surf shops in town that offer rentals and lessons. Cannon Beach Surf Lessons & Rentals offers affordable two-hour lessons throughout the year (even in winter!). If you already know how to surf and just need equipment, Cleanline Surf offers daily board and wetsuit rentals.
9. Catch a Show at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse
The Coaster Theatre Playhouse is Cannon Beach’s local playhouse and home to shows like Miracle on 34th Street, Murder on the Orient Express, Gramercy Ghost, and more.
There are shows on most weekends throughout the summer, offering great entertainment after the sun goes down. Tickets are usually $20-$25 and purchases go directly towards supporting the theater.
10. Find Solitude at Hug Point
Hug Point is another gem of the Oregon Coast. The sandstone cliffs surrounding this secluded beach have eroded from the waves, leaving behind huge caves and tunnels to explore. The beach is popular, but it’s still easy to find solitude just by poking around some of the smaller caves.
I recommend going at low tide, since some of the beach and caves are flooded when the tide comes in. I especially like Hug Point after a big rainstorm since there are numerous waterfalls and rivulets flowing through the sand out to the ocean.
Enjoy a Weekend Getaway to Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is one of the quieter getaways on the Oregon Coast, but it offers tons to keep you busy on a summer weekend. You can spend the day seeing Haystack Rock, paddling into the waves on a surfboard, or exploring a secluded beach. Then head into town to view local art, grab a bite to eat, or catch a show at the playhouse.
If you have more time, you can also visit Cannon Beach as part of a road trip down the coast. Check out our guides to Seaside, Pacific City, and Newport for more ideas of what to do along the Oregon Coast.