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25 miles S of Astoria, 9 miles S of Seaside, 112 miles N of Newport, 79 miles W of Portland

Weathered cedar-shingle cottages and buildings, picket fences draped with drifts of nasturtiums, quiet gravel lanes, interesting little art galleries and shops, good restaurants and coffee shops, and a long, flat, gorgeous sand beach presided over by massive monoliths, called sea stacks or hay stacks, rising from the surf—what more could you want from an Oregon beach town? If it weren’t for all the other people who also think Cannon Beach is the most wonderful place on the Oregon coast, this would be a misty version of heaven.

Some say that Cannon Beach suffers from chronic quaintness; others complain that it has become too upscale and expensive for its own good. Once, after all, it was the Oregon coast’s most renowned artists’ community. But now Cannon Beach is as much about upscale shopping in tasteful, tucked-away plazas as it is about being in touch with nature in the form of the Pacific Ocean. But with so many utilitarian and ticky-tacky towns along the coast, I personally think that well-groomed and always-presentable Cannon Beach is one of the top beach towns on the Oregon coast. Once you get away from the crowds, it still has a village atmosphere, and summer throngs and traffic jams can do nothing to assault the dramatic, in-your-face beauty of Haystack Rock, the famous monolith that rises like a giant plum pudding from the pounding waves of the Pacific.

Cannon Beach trivia

*Cannon Beach was named for a cannon that washed ashore after the U.S. Navy schooner Shark wrecked on the coast north of here in 1846.

*Rising 235 feet above the water, Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock is the most photographed monolith on the Oregon coast.

*The area’s offshore rocks are protected nesting grounds for sea birds. Watch for tufted puffins, something of a Cannon Beach mascot.

*Tillamook Rock is the site of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (aka “Terrible Tilly”), which was frequently battered by huge storm waves that sent large rocks crashing through the light, 133 feet above sea level. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1957 and is now used as a columbarium.

Cannon Beach Shopping & Spa-ing

For many Cannon Beach visitors, shopping is the town’s greatest attraction. In the heart of town, along Hemlock Street, you’ll find dozens of densely packed small shops and galleries offering original (and not-so) art, fine (and not-so) crafts, souvenirs, gifts, and casual fashions. And because this is a fairly upscale getaway town, relaxing in a spa is also possible.

Galleries Northwest by Northwest, 232 N. Spruce St. (www.nwbynwgallery.com; [tel] 800/494-0741 or 503/436-0741) features works by established Northwest artists. White Bird Gallery, 251 N. Hemlock St. (www.whitebirdgallery.com; [tel] 503/436-2681), sells colorful contemporary art and fine crafts. Icefire Glassworks, 116 E. Gower St. (http://cbgallerygroup.com/icefire-glassworks; [tel] 888/423-3545 or 503/436-2359) is a glassblowing studio south of downtown. Cannon Beach Gallery, 1064 S. Hemlock St. (www.cannonbeacharts.org; [tel] 503/436-0744) is operated by a local arts organization and mounts shows in a wide variety of styles but which tend to be heavy on beach landscapes.

Spa Book a massage or a skin or hydrotherapy treatment at the Cannon Beach Spa, 232 N. Spruce St. (www.cannonbeachspa.com; [tel] 888/577-8772 or 503/436-8772). Prices run between $80 and $105 for an hour-long massage (couples massages are also available). There’s a Chocolate Café on the premises.

Nightlife

The Coaster Theater, 108 N. Hemlock St. (www.coastertheatre.com; [tel] 503/436-1242), the best-known professional theater on the Oregon coast, presents a season of dramas, comedies, and musicals.