I really enjoyed my trip to the North Oregon coast, but poor weather can definitely change the vibe there. In summer it is likely to find lots of mist and fog. (In September when I was there we had a few perfectly sunny days and 2 misty cloudy days. Saymoi I know you mentioned you are coming from southern Arizona so maybe cool and damp will be a welcome escape form the triple digit heat at your home right now. The hotter it gets in Portland, the foggier it gets on the coast due to that strange heat pump thing, similar to San Francisco in summer. But if you can get there for a clear sunset it is spectacular. And I did find some good food too.
Cannon beach is the spot most people flock to and for good reason. It is a really nice beach and Haystack Rock is fun to look at. Probably the most photographed spot in Oregon. (Or as my friend would say: “Don’t bother stopping: just a big rock”).
It is a great beach for walking but the real attraction is to go at low tide. Definitely consult a tide chart and try to time it right if you can. At high tide Haystack Rock is way out in the water, just a scenic rock, but at low tide you can walk right up to it and the tide pools left behind are awesome. Stuck to the rocks you will see colorful starfish and dozens of other interesting sea creatures clinging to life waiting for the tide to return. Exploring these tide pools is a very cool experience, if you enjoy nature, that is.
Ecola State Park is just north of Cannon beach. There are some very scenic trails along the coast (very easy hiking) that are worth visiting for great views of the coastline.
A little further south: If you can get there at low tide Hug Point is a great spot to explore http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hug_Point_State_Recreation_Site You must time you visit just right or the roadbed will be under water on your way back out. More fun tide pools found here.
Further south Oswald Beach has an easy hike through old growth forest to a small alcove of a beach popular with surfers.
If the mist and fog remind you a bit of Ireland, or even if it doesn’t, The Irish Table is a very good restaurant in Cannon Beach. http://theirishtablerestaurant.com/The_Irish_Table/Home.html
I had dinner there twice and everything was fantastic including seafood and gourmet interpretations of Irish classics. Not pub food, but casual unpretentious fine dining. Only bad thing is they don’t take reservations. We joined many people lined up outside when they open at 5:30 for first seating, after that you might have a wait. (By day the same space is a coffee shop called Sleeping Monks)
In an earlier post Wally mentioned Southwest Oregon and the fun town of Ashland. I was there a few years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. The Shakespeare theme of the town might seem a bit over the top touristy to some, but the performances of the Shakespeare festival are top notch and seeing a play in the spectacular Elizabethan open air theater is a wonderful experience. Lots of restaurants in town, but we really enjoyed this wine bar : http://liquidassetswinebar.com/ It is also a bottle shop with many lesser known Oregon wines and you can purchase a retail bottle there and have it served to you for a very modest corkage fee (compared to restaurant prices for wine). I also love the name ‘Liquid Assets’ and will steal it if I ever open a wine shop in my next life.
If we are continuing on our foodie tour in the southwest of Oregon and if you follow some of Wally’s suggested route passing near Medford you can make a quick stop in Jacksonville Oregon for some really good jerky (or other picnic provisions) at Gary West http://www.garywest.com/products.asp?dept=1021 (I like the black pepper best).
Another cool local food treat is found at Rogue Creamery. They specialize in blue cheeses. I like the mild and fun named Oregonzola cheese. They have a cheese tasting room in nearby Central Point OR. http://www.roguecreamery.com/store/
And how can I forget Ashland’s best local product: Dagoba Chocolate. http://www.dagobachocolate.com/ Look for it everywhere.