Cannon Beach

The little town on Oregon’s North Coast has a front-row seat.

Story by Vickie Higgins

Cannon Beach

Extending 4 miles along a stunning stretch of beach, Cannon Beach offers a breathtaking view around just about every corner.

The town (named for a cannon that washed up on the beach in 1846) has worked hard to preserve its natural beauty. “We don’t specify materials, but many people use shingle siding,” says Rainmar Bartl, city planner, adding that staff work closely with applicants to make buildings compatible with the character and setting of the city. “It’s kind of a coastal look.” The retail area is an impressive collection of smart shops, all tastefully landscaped and some with tranquil courtyards—no obtrusive big box stores here.

I am immediately intrigued.

Shops and galleries galore

I start with The Buttery, the ultimate in home décor and gifts, where the presentation is as lovely as the merchandise. In fact, there are so many wonderful things that it takes several trips around the store to take it all in. Original oil paintings by award-winning Oregon artist Lori Wallace-Lloyd portray people and nature with a luminous quality of light. An extensive selection of distinctive home accessories provides that finishing touch for many moods of décor. You’ll also find a collection of books not found in your average bookstore, translucent gift wrap sheets made of cloth, not paper (and therefore reusable), and tiny packages of tissues with colored patterns of bunnies, kittens, and frogs. I cannot resist the little bags of potpourri, made from oil-infused ocean crystal salts in four scents—lavender, jade, crystal clear water, cinnamon apple.

Anita’s Cottage Garden, downtown.

Anita’s Cottage Garden, downtown.

Then it was on to Rhodes Stringfellow, an exquisite fine-art gallery of contemporary works including bronze, stone, and wood sculpture; acrylic, oil, and watercolor paintings; and charcoal and pastels. The gallery is well equipped for special events with a wine bar and grand piano, and is a popular place
for weddings.

Cannon Beach is a favorite among art aficionados with about 20 galleries to visit and offerings ranging from life-size bronze sculpture at Bronze Coast Gallery, to stunning original jewelry at Sharon Amber Jewelry, and the drama of the coast in paintings and photographs at several spots, including George Vetter Fotoart. On July 28, a Palate to Palette Show at DragonFire Interactive Studio and Gallery benefits the Clatsop County Food Bank. Featured artists are Sherry Casper and Miska.

Those with a penchant for stitching may busy their fingers at Center Diamond, a quilt shop full of ideas and talked about throughout the northwest. They offer classes and events, a block-of-the-month program, and a fabric club along with all kinds of supplies.

Treats of all varieties

When I saw Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, my sweet tooth came alive. The tasty morsels produced daily at Bruce’s have been a Cannon Beach family tradition since 1963. The delightful pink-and-white-striped storefront is an exception to the dress code for buildings here. It was mesmerizing to watch their award-winning salt water taffy being pulled on a machine designed just for this labor-intensive job. I haul home some scrumptious white chocolate cashew bark, dark chocolate Rocky Road with walnuts, and a New York Espresso assortment of beans.

Next is the book place. Cannon Beach Book Company is to a bookworm what the candy store is to—well you know. This friendly store welcomes browsers who often tarry much longer than intended. They also offer writing workshops and help sponsor community events such as the Midwinter Mystery Weekend the last weekend in January.

And on we went. El Mundo for Men is one of the finest and friendliest men’s shops I have visited—ever. Specializing in natural fibers, the store is classy, casual, quality. You’ll also find funny T-shirts and sweatshirts, chef’s aprons bearing outrageous messages, fun gifts, and a corner with casual women’s clothing.

Path to the beach.
Everywhere in town is close to the beach.

Freshly crafted food and brews

The EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) Cannon Beach Cooking School is closed the day we visit, but owners Bob Neroni and Lenore Emery graciously meet us at the school for a tour. I am determined to return to Cannon Beach to attend a class. They are having so much fun doing this and so are the students. There are three kinds of classes: hands-on, such as Artisan Bread Making; semi-hands-on: such as Pasta 101, featuring fettuccine, ravioli, or tortellini; or a kick-back-and-relax class where the students watch the teachers cook on Friday and Saturday at the Small Plates and Wine evening classes.

“We feed everyone who attends a class,” says Bob, “and we usually feed them when they first arrive.” The pair has an extensive background in food and teaching. They wanted to relocate from Seattle to Cannon Beach, did some soul searching to determine what to do and the answer came quickly, “We like to cook and we both like to teach,” says Lenore.

“We aspire to the sustainable approach,” says Bob. “We work with local products and use the fresh foods in season as much as possible. Most of our cheeses are farmstead. Willamette Valley Cheese is one of our biggest suppliers.”

The school is open Wednesday for a bread class, Thursday for a pasta session, Friday and Saturday for Small Plates and Wine, and Sunday for a brunch class featuring either omelets or crepes.

We stopped for a quick lunch at one of the many fine dining spots in Cannon Beach, Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse. I highly recommend cod fish ‘n chips or the shrimp and cheese sandwich. Along with your lunch, try the award-winning Duckdive Pale Ale or one of the many other great brews, including Blackberry Beauty, Bill’s Brass, Poncho’s Lil’ Dazy, and 2x4 Stout, all made right on the premises.

What a rock!

There are many reasons why Cannon Beach is popular, but it’s famous for Haystack Rock, the third largest monolith in the world. Towering 235 feet over the beach, Haystack Rock is a geological wonder. The fragile environment in the Haystack Rock Marine Garden and National Wildlife Refuge is brought to the public’s attention through the Haystack Rock Awareness Program. Volunteers and staff offer free interpretive programs throughout the year for two hours before and after low tide, says city manager Rich Mays. Visitors need to obtain a tide table and be at the area around the rock at the appropriate time to explore the colorful sea stars and delicate sea anemones in the tide pools. Viewing scopes offer a close up view of the birds that nest on the rook during the summer. Among the nesting birds is the tufted puffin, the adorable bird that some say is dressed like a clown—brightly colored bill, orange feet, and the namesake tufts drooping over the back of the neck. Late June through July is a good time to spot them with their young.

Wedding at Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is a popular spot for weddings.

Haystack Rock has a reputation for romance as well. Neil and Karen Laksamana traveled to Cannon Beach from Vancouver, Washington, to be married last October. “The grand view of Haystack Rock, the salty smell of the Pacific Ocean, the sounds of waves crashing, wind blowing, and seabirds cawing, the cold smooth sand pushing up between your toes … getting married with Cannon Beach as a backdrop made the day beyond memorable,” Neil says.

The big rock is one of several beach sites in and around Cannon Beach where weddings have become a significant business. Sarah and Kevin Bingham of Eagle, Idaho, tied the knot at secluded Hug Point, 5 miles south of town, last September. “We wanted to be married on a beach,” says Sarah. “We looked
at Fiji and Hawaii. I had never been to the Oregon Coast but knew it was gorgeous. It was so beautiful and relaxing. After the wedding, we drove all the way to San Francisco, and I wish we had stayed the whole time at Cannon Beach. We’re coming back this year for our anniversary.”

In sand or on stage, play’s the thing

The annual Sandcastle Day, held in June, was held for the first time in 1964 after a tsunami washed out the bridge between the town and Hwy 101. After the bridge was rebuilt, people were still worried about coming to the coast, so the festival was created to encourage visitors to return. Now, it has grown to enormous proportions and become a major summer event. Come in the morning to join in the building or to watch these fabulous creations take form. By afternoon, they’ll be gone, washed away by the incoming tide.

Coaster Theatre Playhouse has been bringing the outside world to town through the magic of live theater for 35 years. This year’s summer repertory plays include See How They Run, a British farce, which runs through September 7, and A…My Name Is Alice, running from July 5 through September 15 and offering a delightful kaleidoscope of contemporary women. In Wally’s Café, running from July 26 through October 13, Wally always dreamed of owning a café, but times are tough and customers are few until a girl hitchhiking to Hollywood returns to help after attaining stardom.

As my whirlwind tour of this coastal gem draws to a close, I just have to drive back through town one more time to stop at Haystack Rock. As the sun sets on this picture postcard scene I have admired so often in print, seeing it in person gives me goose bumps.

When You Go

Cannon Beach Map

Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce (503-436-2623;

Jeffrey Hull presents his original oils, watercolors, giclee, and lithographs at the Jeffrey Hull Gallery. His selections of coastal life, landscapes, boats, lighthouses, and the ever-popular Haystack Rock are hard to resist. (888-436-2606;

DragonFire Studio and Gallery was nominated by Niche magazine in 2006 as a top 25 gallery in the U.S. Don’t miss the café, modeled after the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (888-436-1532;

The Lumberyard Rotisserie and Grill’s outdoor patio dining and savory spice-rubbed organic and all-natural meats and fish create a meal not to be forgotten. (503-436-0285;

Along with great ocean views, the Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge features fine coastal cuisine and wine-pairing suggestions for each dish on the menu. (503-436-1108;

Stephanie Inn’s intimate kitchen creates fine-dining experiences by fusing classic cooking techniques with innovative ingre-dients. (800-633-3466;

The motto at Sleepy Monk Coffee is that “coffee is a gift.” That gift includes the Monastery Blend, Cannon Beach Brackish Brew, and Fiddlers Fusion, among many other organic blends. (503-436-2796;

Danish family traditions and 30 years of baking experience mean that the Cannon Beach Bakery has some of the best crusty breads around. Everything here is made from scratch and hearth-baked. (503-436-0399;

Get your ocean kicks at the Cleanline Surf Shop. (503-436-9726;

For 33 years, Mike’s Bike Shop has been providing fun on wheels. Rentals include Funcycles and beach cruisers for riding shoreside, as well as mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, and even all-terrain strollers. (800-492-1266;


At the Cannon Beach Historical Society see the actual cannon for which Cannon Beach got its name, a replica of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, or revel in music’s roots during Acoustic Folk! concerts, performed the last Saturday of every month. (503-436-9301;

Haystack Rock Awareness Program (503-436-1581 x108;

For information about state parks and recreation sites, contact Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. (800-551-6949;

Within the heart of Cannon Beach is Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, a great place to go for a walk along the shore, check out spectacular views of Haystack Rock, and enjoy the wildlife that make their home in this refuge.

Five miles south of Cannon Beach, Hug Point State Recreation Site offers visitors a peek into early transportation methods along the coast. Before Hwy 101 was built, people traveled on the beaches in stagecoach, and evidence of this mode of travel is carved into a rocky trail around Hug Point.

The 2-1/2 mile Clatsop Loop Trail, located in Ecola State Park, follows the approximate path taken by Lewis and Clark in 1806. The trail begins at Indian Beach and ascends through a Sitka spruce forest to the Hiker’s Camp. It then loops back toward the western edge of Tillamook Head with plenty of views of the ocean.

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