Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Nature Still Rules Upscale North Oregon Coast Village
(Cannon Beach) - Metaphorically speaking, if most of the north Oregon coast is family-oriented towards a more general population - one that has their kids in public schools - then the analogy could be made that Cannon Beach leans towards those with offspring in private schools. Upscale is the operative word throughout this cozy hamlet, one which also carries the rather nebulous reputation for being an art mecca. There's an attempt at grabbing a Carmel, California vibe, with the town decreeing that all buildings must have cedar shingled siding. While that brings sameness to the surroundings, it is classy and pretty.
Still, it's the natural world that matters here.
Cannon Beach sits up against its rather spectacular stretch of beach with an upscale vibe that evokes Carmel, partially because of the proliferation of cedar-shingled siding. It's a long, thin town, meandering a few miles, with Hemlock as the main drag. This street, from north to south, carries a huge array of art galleries and specialty shops, and a cavalcade of can’t-miss restaurants. There are a host of upscale hotels and eateries that ante up the strain on your wallet, but all are worth it.
Most of the time, the beach is one long stretch of sandy repose, accentuated by the monolith called Haystack Rock, which often serves as an icon for Oregon beaches in the national press. It’s the third largest such basalt structure in the world. Like in Seaside, sticking to the extreme northern and southern beaches will keep you away from the masses and let you bound around the beach with a little more privacy.
Ecola State Park is another highlight, with its variety of rock cliffs overlooking dramatic vistas, and a great view of the mysterious Tillamook Head Lighthouse about a mile offshore. This ancient sentinel was built on a precarious perch out to sea back in the 1800’s, and many lives were lost doing so. In fact, workers housed in Seaside at the time, waiting to begin their shifts there, were sequestered from the general public so they couldn’t hear how many others were actually getting killed on the construction project. It was decommissioned in the 50’s and is now a wildlife refuge. It also houses the ashes of the deceased who have paid ahead to make such final arrangements.
Ecola contains the amazing crescent-shaped beach of Indian Beach, with its mix of rocky slabs and sandy tracts. It also draws many surfers.
Somewhere between Ecola and the northern end of Cannon Beach is a magnificent hidden cove called Crescent Beach (which can be seen from the cliffs looking south, towards the town). It’s only accessible via a mile and a half hike that begins along the road going into the state park.
At the northern edges of Cannon Beach, looming above it all is Tillamook Head, where a stunning hiking trail takes you six miles over the headland, past amazing viewpoints and over to Seaside. There’s a primitive campsite lurking along this route, a major historical site marking the Corps of Discovery’s stop along here, and the spooky ruins of a small army outpost sit cloistered in the forest somewhere.
From Cannon Beach to the Arch Cape Tunnel and Oswald State Park, you’ll find bunches of beaches slightly cloistered from the throngs, especially on either side of the tunnel. 101 becomes a winding, slithery drive, along high cliffs with breathtaking views. You’ll discover Hug Point here, with its assortment of eye-popping pleasures: a waterfall, freaky sea caves and that wondrous remnant of a road blasted out of the rock back in the beginning of the century. You can find the last hints of an ancient traffic light and electrical system embedded in this rock, still frozen there in time.
It's in this area, just south of town, where some of the most magnificent scenery lies, as well as a fair number of hidden beaches in the jaw-dropping category.
The town has acquired the reputation for being a kind of center of art and the artsy, but even many local tourism officials will secretly admit that’s way overplayed these days. It comes from having been an artist enclave for a few years – decades ago. But in fact, Cannon Beach lost all most of those artists long ago, with the price of local housing long ago skyrocketing beyond the reach of starving painters, sculptures and such. It does house more galleries than any other town on the Oregon coast and retains affection for all things arty, however.
But in the end, it’s still just a place on the beach. It is, after all, the beach the really matters. See of Cannon Beach at the Cannon Beach Virtual Tour
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