CANNON BEACH, Ore. — It was spring break, and throngs crowded the beach between Ecola Creek and Haystack Rock. At just under a mile, it’s one of the most popular stretches of Pacific Ocean sand in the Northwest.
On a sunny afternoon looking out from my family’s beachfront balcony at Schooner’s Cove Inn (schoonerscove.com), it was a spectacle of happy humanity — people flinging Frisbees, lounging in colorful tents, playing with dogs, flying kites, and much more.
Want ideas for your next getaway? Here are 15 activities we saw visitors enjoying at Cannon Beach, with tips on how to do it yourself:
1. Build the sand castle of your dreams. Try a “drip castle,” like one constructed by 12-year-old Eli Robinson, his 9-year-old brother, Myles, and their dad, Paul Robinson, visiting from Adna, Lewis County. You dig very wet sand and drip it from a bucket or shovel to form whimsical spires — like a sand castle Antoni Gaudí might have built in Barcelona.
“Every time we come to the beach we do one of these,” Paul said. “It’s pretty forgiving and it’s super creative.”
If you’re serious about castles, go for the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest (cannonbeach.org/events-and-festivals/sandcastle-contest) on June 8.
2. Wear out your favorite border collie (or black Lab, or even corgi) by flinging tennis balls across the beach. Dog lovers consider Cannon Beach one of Oregon’s most pooch-friendly beach towns (bringfido.com/attraction/beaches/state/oregon). Well-behaved canines that don’t chase wildlife are allowed off-leash as long as they’re under vocal control. And this beach doesn’t usually allow cars, so your ankle-licker doesn’t have to dodge Durangos (or other SUVs). Low tide is best; check a tide chart. (cannonbeach.org/things-to-do/outdoors-and-wildlife/tide-pools-and-tide-charts/tide-charts).)
For a fuller dose of dogdom, catch October’s annual lighthearted Dog Show on the Beach (cannonbeach.org/events-and-festivals/annual-events/cannon-beach-dog-show), with award categories ranging from “best trick” to “owner lookalike.”
3. Lounge on a beach log and sip a latte. Insomnia Coffee Co. (insomniacoffee.co), 139 W. Second St., is among caffeine peddlers closest to the beach. Want carbs with that? Stop by Cannon Beach Bakery (cannonbeachbakery.com), 240 N. Hemlock St., for a chocolate-dipped Haystack Macaroon ($2.50). Operating instructions: Dip. Sip. Repeat.
4. Meet an anemone. At low tides, naturalists with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (ci.cannon-beach.or.us/hrap) guide visitors at the base of the beach’s iconic 235-foot-high sea stack, part of a National Wildlife Refuge and a nesting site for sea birds (including rare tufted puffins). Staff post informational signs and help visitors enjoy the beauty of the rock’s tide pools and uplands without harming them.
“I love it, it’s great,” said Josh Francis, visiting from Nile, Yakima County, shepherding his three kids, ages 6 to 10, who were excited to see hermit crabs. “The (naturalist) was real helpful and told us what we could see and what we could touch or not. I thought he’d just say ‘Stay away!’ ”
5. Help your kids discover their inner civil engineers, like Weston Rehm, 1, and his brother Windham, 4, who industriously sculpted beach sand with a toy bulldozer during a visit from Washington’s Tri-Cities with their mom, Savannah Rehm.
“My family has been coming here since I was a little kid,” Savannah said. “We come for family time and the slow, laid-back pace.” Need an earthmover for junior engineers? Try the venerable Geppetto’s Toy Shoppe, 200 N. Hemlock St. (facebook.com/geppettostoyshoppe)
6. Go surf skimming. Glide like a snowboarder as saltwater rushes up the beach, without getting roughed up by big breakers. Rent a skim board for $15 a day at Cleanline Surf, 171 Sunset Blvd. (cleanlinesurf.com). Surfboards and lessons offered, too.
7. Get naked and wade in Ecola Creek. Works best for all concerned if you’re 3 or younger, with a fully clothed parent nearby. Forgot your waders, beach mom? Pick up a pair of high-lace, high-top rubber boots by Danish clothier Ilse Jacobsen, in hot pink and many other hues ($199), at Rachelle M. Rustic House of Fashion, 148 N. Hemlock St. (rachellem.com).
8. Play a game, rain or shine. If you’ve not sat at a picnic table in the sun at the edge of a gorgeous Pacific beach and played a card game with your favorite people while guzzling mimosas on a Sunday morning, Dr. Travel will write you that prescription right now.
Need a fresh game that doesn’t feature Marvin Gardens or Colonel Mustard? Pick up lighthearted Sushi Go! (three sashimi = 10 points) at Cannon Beach’s Voyages Toys, 172 N. Hemlock St. (voyagestoys.com). Got a rainy day and more spare time? Try shop clerk John Kero’s go-to box game, Century: Spice Road, about establishing shipping routes on the Spice Road “and you’re using spices as your currency — fast and simple but you really get immersed in it!”
They also carry “Exploding Kittens,” which CNN says is “like UNO, except there are goats, magical enchiladas and kittens that can kill you.”
9. Go fly a kite. “Cannon Beach is just about as good as anyplace on the Oregon Coast,” said Stefan Henick-Kling at Once Upon a Breeze, 240 N. Spruce St., which claims to be the Oregon Coast’s oldest kite shop (facebook.com/bluekiteshop). What’s popular? “The deltas — anything triangle-shaped — are dependable flyers, easy for kids, and probably our No. 1 seller, in the $20 sweet spot.”
“They’re serious kite people,” said Dave Weston, of Enumclaw, who bought a rainbow-hued kite at the shop and walked the beach with it in the air above his wife, Diana. “I make it look easy — except for when I hit her on the head.”
10. Drool through downtown, which smells of pizza and waffle cones. Fans line up outside Osburn’s Ice Creamery, a longtime favorite at 240 N. Hemlock St., for a scoop of Tillamook Mudslide, Huckleberry Heaven or other flavors.
11. Cycle under the radar. Many people love the low-slung, recumbent-style three-wheelers that make it easy to fly across the sand at low tide. Rent one ($18 for 90 minutes) from Family FUNcycles, 1160 S. Hemlock St. (facebook.com/cannonbeachfamilyfuncyles). Or if you have a fat-tire bicycle, join the Cannon Beach Fat Bike Festival (bikecannonbeach.com), May 17-19.
12. Trot the sands. A young woman in a flowing white gown and hoisting a colorful banner as she rode a horse on the beach opposite wild, offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse intrigued us. A jubilant bride? Galadriel in a low-budget fantasy film? We never found out. But you can have your own equine adventure. Book a guided beach ride with Sea Ranch Stables, 415 Fir St. (starting at $95, Memorial Day to Labor Day, searanchrv.com/stables.htm).
13. Tank up on taffy. Schwietert’s Cones & Candy (schwieterts.com), 144 N. Hemlock St., boasts 96 flavors of saltwater taffy ($8.99 a pound). Flavors range from Frosted Cupcake to Banana Split to Chicken & Waffles. (“Whoever did that had something desperately wrong with them!” opined my daughter, of the latter. To each her own, I guess.)
14. Quaff a beer where it came from. You’ll find more than one brewpub in town. We liked cozy Bill’s Tavern and Brew House, 188 N. Hemlock St., where the house-brewed Sunny Haze IPA (unfiltered and citrusy) and Peated Porter with Rye washed down some excellent cod and chips (from $15.50). Extra points for no TVs. (If you want those, try Public Coast Brewing, 264 Third St., publiccoastbrewing.com)
15. Bury your sister’s feet in the sand. If you need tips on how to do this, you shouldn’t be at the beach.
If you go
Cannon Beach is 200 road miles from Seattle. See cannonbeach.org.