Cannon Beach Oregon

Haystack Rock at Sunset
Haystack Rock at Sunset

The Oregon coast is a dreamland. Highway 101, which runs along the coast from Astoria down to Brookings, is the gateway to a 340-mile collection of misty beaches, wide sea stack filled bays, and incredible endless surf. Around every turn in the highway is an amazing new vista, the view often better than the last, promising that the next viewpoint will be even more breathtaking.

One such incredible vista, Cannon Beach, is located about 20 miles south of Astoria.  Cannon Beach has to be considered as the jewel in the Oregon Coast. A popular destination, it has been visited by humans for centuries.  It is both scenic and wild in its demeanor, and always memorable, mainly due to its key feature, a 235-foot basalt sea stack named Haystack Rock.

You may have seen Haystack Rock before.  Undoubtedly, it is the most photographed natural feature in Oregon and is featured on many travel guides. It is also Hollywood famous, being shown in the opening scene of movie The Goonies and also in one of my favorite flicks, Steven Spielberg’s 1941, where it poses as the California coast in the opening beach scene.

Haystack Rock is mighty and magical. It seems that every time you look at it, the Haystack takes on a different persona. In the morning sun it is green and lush, in the fading sunset it is dark and ominous. At high tide it stands tall as wide Pacific breakers crash all around it. At low tide it is more serene as a mossy home to mollusks and seabirds. In fact, the rock is a protected nesting site for sea gulls, terns and puffins.

The sunsets at Cannon Beach are second to none. I was there for two nights and each sunset had a different look and feel. People gather on the beach just for the sunset event, most of them arriving with a camera in hand. Groups pose in front of the setting sun and many more gather near Haystack Rock for a chance to include the behemoth in their sunset memory. People stroll in the surf, or ride rented bicycles up and down the beach, providing additional photographic fodder to eager shutterbugs.

Tandem bicycle on the beach
Tandem bicycle on the beach

The beach stretches out in both directions as far as the eye can see. I walked pretty far on the beach but I never reached the end. The brown beach sand is loose, but if you walk near the surf it is hard packed and easy to stroll upon. Or better yet, take off your shoes and walk in the surf. The water is cold but it is refreshing. Cannon Beach was never really crowded. Maybe there are more people at the beach on the weekend, as I was there on a Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.

Haystack Rock sits in the “intertidal” region of the beach, meaning that it can be reached by land at low tide. The Haystack Rock tide pools are home to starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets, and sea slugs. Included in my hotel room was a small book of current tide tables. The first thing you are to look up is the time of low tide. Low tide is a prime time to walk on the beach and also to get up close to Haystack Rock.

A view of the Haystack from my room at the Surfsand Resort

At the Surfsand Resort, where I stayed, the rooms are cozy and they are all very close to the beach. My room included a balcony overlooking Haystack Rock, which was nice. When I woke up in the morning I could see the towering sea stack, in all its glory, absorbing the heat of the morning sun. It was nice to be staying so close to the beach. The soft sand was only a short stroll from my door. A walk on the beach did not have to involve any footwear what so ever!

Other than Yellowstone, this is one location that I visited that I really want to come back to. I will be back!

Cannon Beach Gallery


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