Oregon Road Trip: 24 Hours at Ecola State Park & Cannon Beach
Only an hour and a half away from Portland, Cannon Beach is one of the most popular coastal town destinations on the Oregon coast. With one full day to explore, I packed in all that could and felt I got a taste of what all the fuss is about. It didn't disappoint.
From Portland's International Airport (PDX)
The airport is located about nine miles outside of the city--convenient! You have a couple of ways of hitching a ride to the city center:
Light rail - For $2.50, you can get a one-way ticket and it takes roughly 40 minutes to get to the main drop off sites
Rideshare - Whether you chose a taxi or a rideshare app, you can make it downtown in about the same amount of time more or less, depending on traffic and weather. It will cost you around $35 plus.
Get all the details from the official PDX website.
Car Rental - Turo
For years, I've been using the car-sharing app Turo, like Airbnb but for car rentals. I suggest using this over your typical rental due to the flexibility and car selection. We chose a Telsa for this trip so we can save money on gas (hey, clean energy!), and have a smooth, comfortable ride. After grabbing some grub at ScreenDoor in Pearl District and a bit of sightseeing, it was time to head west.
Where to Stay
Cannon Beach is quite small, so you're close to the water no matter where you choose to stay. The price for a hotel or an Airbnb is going to be at least $100 and up per night, considering the location, but splitting it with someone will definitely help cut costs.
If you're booking with family or friends, I recommend getting a cottage, there were several planted right in front of Haystack Rock. They're cute, unique, and adds some privacy. Much of the lodging options are catered to house larger groups. If you're going solo or with one other person, the alternative of a single room may be a better financial decision. P.S. Many of the Airbnbs I came across are pet-friendly, so that's a huge plus if you're hoping to bring along your canine bestie.
Easy Morning at Cannon Beach
9 a.m. called for a coffee and light bite at Sleepy Monk. Judging by the semi-long line, or maybe it was just the morning rush, it looked like a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
If you're a chocolate lover, get their specialty drink, Monks Decadence. It's espresso, steamed milk, Irish cream, hazelnut chocolate with chocolate whipped cream. It will definitely hit the spot on a cool morning.
It's open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., excluding Wednesday and Thursday.
Ecola State Park
Drive 10 minutes north of Cannon Beach to visit Ecola State Park. There's a parking lot that overlooks Indian Beach, a spot where tons of surfers hit the waves. It's a great spot to take photos or sit and relax at the picnic tables. Be sure to bring your credit or debit card to cover the $5 dollar day pass to park.
Fun Fact: Cannon and Indian Beach were the locations of a handful of movies, including the 1985 classic The Goonies, along with Twilight and Point Break. There's an "Oregon Film Trail" you can catch while you're here as well. A movie buff's dream!
There's only one trail to enter Ecola State Park from the parking lot, after crossing a short wooden bridge you're mostly going uphill that levels out midway only to increase again. Your legs will get a workout! Since it rained the day before, it was quite muddy and slippery. If you have sturdy hiking boots, throw them on.
Hike Time from Indian Beach to Tillamook Lighthouse: 2 to 2 1/2 hours while stopping to take photos at a leisurely pace (one way)
Trail difficulty: easy (excluding the fallen trees that break parts of the path)
Distance: 4.2 miles
We took this trip in the late spring before summer travel. The weather was semi-unpredictable so pack layers. It was pretty chilly throughout the day, especially when you get closer to the coast, hovering around mid to upper 50s. Still, the park had vivid greenery and tons of wildflowers. A gnome could live in these parts.
We hiked to the viewpoint of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. This is where most people turned around, you can keep going for another four miles and hit Seaside.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse & The "Ghost Ship"
According to several articles, three weeks before the construction of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (Terrible Tilly) was finished in 1881, a British ship called the Lupatia crashed into the rock while attempting to port. All 16 crew members died--the only survivor was the dog on board.
Supposedly, on stormy nights you can see the ghost ship near the lighthouse. The lighthouse is deactivated but it's visible from Ecola and Indian Beach. By the way, this is just one of several ghost stories locals share!
Dinner in town
After walking for eight-plus miles, we needed food ASAP. We stopped at Driftwood and ordered tempura prawns, a burger and fries, along with two cocktails (that turned into four). Needless to say, we made a great choice. Check out their Instagram here. Our favorite was the calamari! Seriously, one of the best I've had.
If you're up for something sweet, get the Huckleberry Lemonade. If you want something a bit stronger, order the Jameson Ginger. I can't recall what was in the lemonade…but it was delicious.
Evening on the beach
Before heading back to the hotel to shower, we stopped by the general store and picked up firewood and s'more supplies for an evening bonfire. We brought blankets and towels from the room and sprawled out near Haystack Rock. And you don’t need to bring your own chair! You can snag beach chairs and small tables (free of charge) at one of the hotels. You just have to stay within viewing distance and return them when you’re done.
We closed out the night here. Although we couldn't see the stars, we did have neighboring bonfires from beach-goers that lit up the area.
Cannon Beach is the perfect weekend getaway. I would love to visit more coastal cities if they're anything like this jewel!