Whatever the season, there’s just something special about the Oregon Coast. Withcharming towns and sandy beaches up and down 101, there’s plenty of fun to be had–rain or shine. Take a break from Portland for a few days, or stay for a week. Consider staying in kid-friendly Cannon Beach, where arts and nature blend together in this quaint but wildly popular town. Haystack Rock (a 235 foot monolith jutting out of the ocean) is a stunning focal point from everywhere on the beach.

Go: Since the summer months will absolutely be crowded in this bustling town, try going mid-week or in the off season as it’s a fantastic getaway during the fall, winter, and springtime too.

What to do: Shopping opportunities abound here and, p.s, it’s tax-free in Oregon. Cannon Beach is dog-friendly (as long as they’re on-leash or under voice control) and many hotels accept dogs. Plenty of activities will keep you busy in Cannon Beach, but if you want to take a day trip, check out the nearby town of Seaside (don’t miss the Seaside Aquarium). You can also combine the trip down south with a few nights in Portland for a “surf & turf” vacation.

Stay: Oodles of vacation homes are available for rent here (plan ahead as the summer months can get booked solid); some right on the beach and some a few blocks up in town. For help here, utilize one of the many typical online resources for finding a home (Craigslist, VRBO.com, the guy from work…) or give your parameters to the folks at Cannon Beach Property Management and have them take care of the details.

The Surfsand Resort is a beach-front resort with family-friendly service, extremely easy access to Haystack Rock, and a location just a few minutes walk into town (or grab their shuttle). Upon check-in, children receive a sand bucket with treats for their beach adventures. Cookies and milk are available every afternoon and the evening turn-down service includes a little surprise for the kiddos. Seasonally (daily in the summer, once a week in the off season), a kid’s activity/craft occurs from noon – 1:00 pm. The newly renovated resort has seasonal cabana service with complimentary access to beach umbrellas, kites, and sand toys. Complimentary evening bonfires with roasted marshmallows are a fun way to meet other guests…or pay a little extra for a private bonfire. Be sure to ask about the ice cream socials and hot-dog roasts. Should the weather send you indoors, take advantage of the resort’s indoor pool and DVD library. Check out the website for a “kids eat free” special promotion through the end of 2011. Hint: Beach cruiser bikes are for rent at the surf shop next door.

P1000153If you prefer to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown, head South of town – about a mile – to the oceanfront Tolovana Inn. This is a good no-frills option if you prefer to have a kitchen for preparing your own meals; sometimes handy when traveling with little ones. Some rooms have fully-equipped kitchens and multiple-bedroom configurations. Be sure to specify your preference when booking. You can hop the shuttle if you want to explore downtown and there are a couple of dining options within walking distance of the Inn such as Mo’s Chowder. Tip: Get your chow “to go” and enjoy the ocean view at the nearby playground while the kids eat & play. Indoor pool, fitness center, and high speed internet…check, check and check!

Play: While we’re pretty sure that building sandcastles will occupy much of your vacation, don’t forget to explore downtown Cannon Beach where you’ll find toy & bookstores, a library with story time, and a playground amongst the art galleries and souvenir shops.

Tide pooling: Stroll out to the immense Haystack Rock at low tide to explore the tide pools abundant with anemones, sea stars, crabs and much more. Remember that Haystack Rock is a protected marine reserve and the creatures that live and grow here should be investigated but not disturbed (let alone taken home as a souvenir). A certain tide pool etiquette is expected of visitors. Many months of the year, trained staff from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program are on the beach to answer questions and increase awareness of this marine garden and National Wildlife Refuge.  Also worth checking out: Ecola State Park’s Indian Beach and Hug Point which has caves and a waterfall. Note: Always be aware of the tides so you don’t get stranded.

haystack tidepools.JPGKites and Bikes: We love the fact that you can ride bikes (or push a jogger stroller) out onto the hard-packed sand when the tide is out. Bring your own bike and strap junior into the trailer for a long beach cruise or rent everything you need from one of the shops in town such as Family Fun Cycles or Mike’s Bike Shop. No room in the car for B.O.B.? No problem, you can arrange to rent an all-terrain stroller by the hour, day or week. No trip to the ocean is complete without flying a kite. You’ll find a huge selection in town at Pinky’s Kite Factory (including small kiddo kites under $10). Actually, a trip to the colorful kite store is an event in and of itself!  Kite-flying is such an important part of Cannon Beach that an annual festival is dedicated to it called the Puffin Kite Festival.

Eat: The town has plenty of unique dining options for families including the wildly popular Pig-n-Pancake and family-owned Lazy Susan Cafe, with its gorgeous street-side outdoor patio. Both can be packed during the high season so try eating at slightly off hours or even getting an order to go.

A visit to Bruce’s Candy Kitchen has been a tradition in Cannon Beach since 1963. Kids love watching them make the salt water taffy and caramel apples right before their eyes. The shop sells over 20 varieties of salt water taffy and 30 types of hand-dipped chocolates. 

Evoo Cooking School is a must if you’re looking for a great selection of local wines and cheeses. Check out their cooking classes too, some of which are appropriate for older children. The evening classes make a fun date night (in case you’re traveling with others and can trade babysitting). If you’re vacationing with a group, they’d be happy to set up a private cooking class just for you.

Pop in here for yummy baked goods including the famous Haystack Bread (shaped just like the rock). The friendly folks at Cannon Beach Bakery score points for being extra helpful to an RT mom of a child with food allergies.  In the middle of the morning rush, they took time to go over an ingredients list and were able to offer a few delicious selections to her son. Way to go!

-Angie Ballas