Cannon Beach: Your Perfect Homebase On The Northern Oregon Coast
Cannon Beach, Oregon sits 40 miles south of the Washington State border. It's a town I had scoped out before I took my Oregon Coast trip and my stay there confirmed every good feeling I had about the place before I arrived.
Though the town only has a population of about 1,700 full time residents, in the summer — like many coastal Oregon towns — the population swells as 400,000 visitors come to enjoy Cannon Beach every year. It's an easy day trip from Portland, about 80 miles away on Highway 26.
Cannon Beach is perhaps most famous for Haystack Rock, the third largest natural monolith in the world at 235 feet tall. The striking formation stands at attention on its shore and is a haven for tufted puffins. Ecola State Park on the north and Oswald West State Park (at Arcadia Beach) on the south bookend the town.
The night I arrived, I just happened to be there for the monthly Book Club meeting at the privately-managed and funded Cannon Beach Library. There were a dozen book lovers who attended, including me, and we discussed the book Let There Be Water by Seth M. Siegel. As the book's cover says: "As every day brings urgent reports of growing water shortages around the world, there is no time to lose in the search for solutions." The book looks at how Israel is working to solve its water crisis; there are certainly many applications to the US. We're in a time of extreme weather. While we have hurricanes pouring too much water on our land, we also have severe drought threatening farmers and our food supply, and it looks like upcoming water rationing in Western states.
The people I met at the Book Club were so gracious and recommended some other spots for me to check out over the next few days.
I don't want to forget to tell you. I also went to Cannon Beach's small, well-done museum and learned about the history of the area. When Lewis and Clark ended their Western expedition not far away at Fort Clatsop, and their crew was making salt along the Pacific shore, the men heard about a whale that had beached nearby. Lewis and Clark made the trip south hoping to trade with the natives to get some of the whale blubber. They were successful; the site they negotiated upon is now modern day Cannon Beach.
Cannon Beach is just four miles in length. I discovered some great restaurants and shops within its 1.5 square miles, yet the people are what make me want to return soon. Jack owns the Bistro on Hemlock Street, which is the main drag through town. He bought it after the restaurant burned down in 2012. Jack's a chef himself and has developed a unique menu that makes use of local products and seafood. The steamed local Willapa clams with white wine, leeks and clam nectar were delicious. I sat at the bar and had great conversations from every direction. There were a mix of locals and tourists which always makes it interesting.
While there, Jack gave me a tip. "I just heard that in an hour or so, a whole group of business people will be touring Bruce's Candy Kitchen just across the street." Thanks! I headed there, tapped on the locked door and when a man came to answer, I let him know that I was an independent journalist and would love to cover the event. "Sure, come on it." About 20 minutes a group from US Bank arrived, probably about 20 employees. They were having a team meeting that day and were there to see candy made and to take a goodie bag home with them.
Bruce's is a mainstay in Cannon Beach; they've been making candy and helping the community for four generations. It all began on April 1, 1963 when Bruce and Treva Haskell opened their small confectionery business with the help of their parents serving as candy makers and clerks. Today, their daughter Kelli and her husband Brian Taylor carry on the tradition.
The night I was there, Brian showed the crowd how he makes sour green apple salt water taffy. You can see the photo below. The taffy first has to rise to 220 degrees before it's stretched and made into pieces. It takes 42 lbs of ingredients to make about 3,000 pieces of taffy. I had some of their chocolate; it's exquisite, too.
I had been invited back to the Cannon Beach library's 90th Birthday Party the next day, and unexpectedly saw Brian bringing in candy for the fifty or so folks that were coming to celebrate the event at 4:00 p.m., including the major of the town, Sam Steidel. I also saw Brian in nearby Seaside, Oregon, where they have a second candy shoppe. No matter where I went, it seemed that Bruce's Candy Kitchen was there, always passing it forward.
These are the type of people that make a town a real community.
Cannon Beach, though small, also offers an eclectic mix of live music and theater. While there, on a stormy night, I attended a concert by Stephen Beus, a world-known professional concert pianist at Cannon Beach Community Church, and then later that night, headed to Public Coast Brewing Company, one of the local breweries and heard the The Bar-K Buckaroos, a western swing band based on the coast of Oregon. The band features Brad Griswold on rhythm guitar, Dave Quinton on bass, Richard Thomasian on lead guitar, Tom Peake on drums and John Orr on pedal steel. Both were splendid. That same night, there was also a local performance of Blithe Spirit at the Coaster Theater Playhouse. I was sorry to miss that. I do see that they'll be bringing A Christmas Carol to the stage November 17 - December 23.
Other great places to explore in Cannon Beach and nearby include:
- Manzanita, a small artsy coastal town just south of Cannon Beach;
- Jewelry By Sharon Amber, right downtown on Hemlock; and
- Sea Breeze Court, a small motel in Cannon Beach noted for its cleanliness, service, comfort and great prices.
If you're camping as I was, there are two excellent campgrounds in town: Sea Ranch RV Park and the RV Resort at Cannon Beach.
In just a few days, I came to appreciate Cannon Beach, a place overflowing with beauty and hospitality. Regardless of the season, making Cannon Beach your home base to explore the Northern Oregon coast is a decision you won't regret. Let it be your springboard for some wonderful new relationships and coastal memories.
Gold Beach is down the coast from Cannon Beach. Read about Gold Beach here.
(Photo Credits: Susan Beaver)