Guide to visiting Cannon Beach, Oregon with kids

After a rainy Spring in Seattle, we were jonesing for a summer beach vacation. We visit Pawleys Island, South Carolina each summer and spend our days alternating between the beach and pool. The Pacific Northwest beach experience looks very different. Be prepared to trade bikinis for sweatshirts, and flip flops for hiking boots. We researched our options and ultimately decided on Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Getting there

Cannon Beach is located approximately four hours southwest of Seattle. It’s an easy drive down Interstate 5 and 101. Learn from our mistake: avoid peak travel times. We got stuck in traffic near Tacoma both ways. Olympia has a decent amount of fast food for a meal break. If you need to stop for groceries or food closer to Cannon Beach, make a pitstop in Seaside. We stocked up on cheap sand toys and snacks.

Where to stay

Cannon Beach hotels are more like inns. You won’t find popular chains. VRBO and Airbnb have vacation rental options. Pay attention to the location, though. Some rentals show up in search results for ‘Cannon Beach’ but are located in Manzanita, or Seaside. Both are good alternatives, but further away from things like Haystack Rock and downtown Cannon Beach.

We booked last minute, so a hotel was our only option. We chose Surfsand Resort for the views of Haystack rock and walkability to restaurants. We were not disappointed. Our one bedroom suite had a patio overlooking the beach, a gas fireplace and a gigantic bathroom. Guests can also reserve a personal beach bonfire nightly. The kids loved this so much, we did it twice. We added the s’mores kit for $10 well spent.

Kid-friendly activities in Cannon Beach

I’ll be honest: we are beach people. A cooler, sand toys, and a giant bag of pretzels will buy us three to four hours of entertainment. That being said, I know not everyone loves the beach as much as we do. Regardless, spend some time walking the coast. The coastline combination of mountains bordering the ocean is magical. If your kids like to swim, watch out for rip tides.

There are also a couple of cute kid-friendly attractions in nearby Seaside, including a small amusement park and Seaside Aquarium. We didn’t do either because of coronavirus, but saw go-karts and miniature golf that looked fun.

Where to eat in Cannon Beach

We travel with kids who exclusively eat chicken tenders, so our restaurant choices lean casual and quick. Pelican Brewing is a good option if you’re looking for a casual atmosphere with good beer. I’d describe the menu as upscale bar food. I had a smoked chicken sandwich and Jake had a tri-tip steak. Both were great. We left with a six-pack of their hazy IPA.

Mo’s Chowder, a local institution, is right on the beach and a great stop for fish and chips. The chowder is obviously also good. There is one in Seaside too. For breakfast, we hit Pig N’ Pancake. It’s a breakfast and lunch spot with a diner vibe. The kids loaded up on chocolate pancakes that induced a two-hour nap on the ride home. WIN! For coffee, visit Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters. Amazing, organic drip coffee and creative concoctions. Not to mention, their bacon cheddar bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese changed my life.

A friend also recommended Buoy Beer Company in Astoria. It’s about 30 minutes from Cannon Beach, but known for great beer and the taproom has a glass bottom where kids can see sea lions. I’m bummed we missed this one!

Local shopping

My husband is a sucker for local stores. Bonus points for ice cream shops or general stores. Shopping in Downtown Cannon Beach is walkable. We parked downtown and made an afternoon out of browsing small stores. We love to collect magnets, and Christmas ornaments from our destinations. Yuletides Christmas Shop is a holiday explosion. Ter Hars is a good stop for magnets, stickers, and t-shirts.

If you’re looking for grocery stores in Cannon Beach, there are a couple of local markets in town. I’d compare them to a Fresh Market, or Metropolitan Market. Mariner Market is downtown. Fresh Foods is a few miles away near Tolvana Park. Both have a decent selection of essentials, produce and great beer and wine.

Would we visit again?

Did we enjoy our Cannon Beach vacation enough to visit again? 100% yes. From the incredible beach views, relaxing bonfire nights, and local seafood – A+ rating from the Plummer family. Next time, we’ll do more state park exploring and check out some new restaurants.

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