Cannon Beach comes in a close second for me after Seaside, but I’ve known many people who prefer Cannon Beach. Where Seaside is filled with carnival fun and a family feel, Cannon Beach is a little more reserved, a little more sophisticated, a little classier.
Still, don’t discount Cannon Beach when it comes to family vacations. There’s a lot to do here for everyone, starting with the fact that Cannon Beach has some of the most amazing tide pools and some unique beachfront that will appeal especially to parents with kids.
Explore the Beach
Cannon Beach has all the things you know and love from Northwest beaches – wide open sandy spaces, roaring surf, wind. But it also has Haystack Rock and the Needles – some pretty sweet monoliths just off shore. Haystack Rock is a whopping 235 feet high while the Needles are smaller-but-still-huge rocks jutting out nearby. No, you can’t climb them and, no, you should definitely not even try, but you can get up close when the tide is out and peep into the tide pools to look for sea critters. Bring binoculars and you can spot puffins and terns galore swooping around the giant rocks.
Play in Ecola Creek
The shoreline at both Cannon Beach and Seaside features rows of waves that come crashing in and really fricken cold water. Cannon Beach has the edge here. On the northern end of the beach, Ecola Creek flows down to the ocean. It’s a neat place to watch seabirds if that’s your thing, but it’s also a much quieter place for your kids to dip their toes into the (still very cold) water. You still have to be careful as there are deeper parts and might be a little current, but if the big waves intimidate your little ones, set up your towel and chairs for the day near the creek and enjoy.
Rent a bike to ride on the sand! These specially designed “funcycles” recline a little bit and are a unique way to tour the beach. Older kids can get their own and the shop even has different sized bikes for different riders. If you have a little one, you can rent a kid trailer too.
Fly a Kite
Flying a kite is just requisite on the Oregon Coast. If you don’t bring one with you, hit the shops and pick one or two out that suit your family. There’s always wind and lots of wide open beach spaces.
Sugar, Sugar, and More Sugar
Like Seaside, Cannon Beach has no shortage of places to get a good head start on some cavities. Schweitert’s has a location in town, don’t miss Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, and there are several other sweet shops. You’ll come across the usual plethora of salt water taffy and fudge, but you’ll also see something else…a sugary monstrosity that I couldn’t bring myself to try, but my 10-year-old self would have been all over it. Chocolate dipped snack cakes. What?? Yeah, I know. It’s like fair food gone wild. Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes, and other already-way-too-sweet cakes dipped in chocolate, topped with candy, and ready to sugar your kids into oblivion.
Leave the salt water taffy and fudge and chocolate-dipped snack cakes to your kids. You deserve something more. Something finer. Something chocolatey and rich. Oh yeah. While the Chocolate Café is small, it is mighty. It is a place where you can have your chocolate with a side of chocolate. Filled with handmade chocolates (many made right in the shop), sipping chocolate, some of the best hot chocolate you’ll ever have, and truffles upon truffles, you can choose your own chocolate adventure. I recommend some truffles with a hot chocolate to go with them. No, it was not too much chocolate. Is there such a thing?
Go Shell Shopping
Like most North Oregon Coast beaches, Cannon Beach is pretty devoid of shells. But if you have kids who are enamored with hunting for shells, turn that hunt toward the shops in town instead. Several sell all matter of shells from far-flung locations.
Ecola State Park
If you’re coming from the north, you’ll pass the entrance to Ecola State Park just before you arrive at Cannon Beach and a stop here is worth the $5 cost of admission. It’s worth it if all you do is drive straight up to the main viewpoint and then turn around and leave—the view is that amazing. When we were there, a storm was rolling in and we almost hesitated on visiting, but are so glad we went. From high up above, stormy waves crashed onto beaches below, Haystack Rock looked tiny in the distance, and we even got a clear view of Tillamook Lighthouse out in the surf (and you really have to wonder who in their right mind built it out there or what the commute was like when it was actually staffed). Beyond the viewpoint, you can find all kinds of trails to hike in the park as well as a beach to explore.
Visit Gepetto’s Toy Shop
Especially for younger kids, the magic of a toy store is always awesome. Gepetto’s is small, but fits in a whole lot of stuffed animals, wooden toys galore, puzzles, dolls, and lots of toys to stoke little imaginations. For older kids as well as kids with a nerdy streak, Voyager sells comics, toys, and games of all stripes.
Playground Next to Information Center
Sometimes you just need a good ol’ fashioned playground or a field to run around in, and if that’s the case, there’s a playground, field, and a skatepark right next to the Visitor Center at 2nd and Spruce.