Cannon Beach is our favorite place to visit on the Oregon coast. It's the beach my wife would visit growing up, so for her it is very nostalgic. For me, there's something special about the gravel roads and cedar clad houses along the beach, the little shops, the way Ecola Creek twists out of the forest and into the ocean, and Haystack Rock towering in the background.
Our girls have so much fun playing in the sand, flying their kite, and splashing in the tide pools. Dancing in the wind while wearing a "beach tutu" is a favorite as well.
Special things we love:
- Having breakfast at The Lazy Susan Cafe
- Flying a kite by Ecola Creek
- Exploring the tide pools at Haystack Rock
- Enjoying a nice dinner at The Wayfarer
- Staying at Schooner's Cove, right on the beach
Seaside is a short drive just north of Cannon Beach but it's very different. It kind of feels like an old East Coast beach town with its boardwalk/promenade and tourist attractions. The wide beach looks like a fun place to play but, since we've only been there when it was raining, we wouldn't know. But, it's how we found the Seaside Aquarium.
We really weren't sure what to expect the first time; there was the ticket window in front of us, a gift shop on the right, and seals waiting to be fed by visitors on the left. The girls love aquariums and we were tired of walking in the rain so we took a gamble. Our daughters LOVED the touch tanks and the staff was so knowledgeable and patient. Sophie asked about 8,764 questions they happily answered.
Oregon Coast Aquarium | Newport
The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport is definitely one of our favorites. They have a great mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits. The otters, jellyfish, and "Passages of the Deep" exhibits are our favorites; Sophie likes the Giant Octopus the best.
After a a visit to the aquarium we like to drive through the Newport docks and hope the girls fall asleep in the back seat. But, if they're still awake, the Historic Bayfront is worth checking out to see the fishing boats coming in and drinking good local beer (Rogue Ales Brewery is just across from the aquarium), but watching the sea lions is what we like best.
Fort Stevens State Park
The first time we went, we weren't convinced the drive to the South Jetty was worth doing just to see the mouth of the Columbia River meeting the Pacific Ocean. Because the coast is the coast, right? Wrong. It is one of the most incredible things we've ever seen. That said, the girls didn't seem to notice anything but the rocks and sticks on the ground, so at least everyone was entertained. There are many things to see and do, but for us, the park is all about the waves (a storm had just blown through the first time we went). It's impossible to describe the experience, you can feel the sounds. To really understand, you just have to go.
Tillamook Air Museum
This was a completely unexpected find for us. A few years ago we were driving to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and we happened to see it on the side of US 101. It's one thing to see the hangar from the road but it did not compare to seeing it up close. It's enormous.
Since it was another rainy spring day, it made sense to spend it indoors. At first we were surprised that the aircraft and other displays only occupy a portion of the building (the rest is used for RV and boat storage). Originally built to house WWII airships, the hangar's scale and volume are striking. Not sure our daughters were overly impressed by the aircraft, but they had a great time walking around and playing.
The hangar is freezing in the spring so bring extra layers if you're visiting, even on a warm day.
On our last day visiting the Coast we always go to Astoria.
We like Astoria because it has great food, coffee, and beer. It has a lot of stuff for adults to look at and still enough to entertain the kids while walking around. There's a cool trolley that runs along the riverfront that Sophie loves (because, Daniel Tiger) and sea lions that bark under the old industrial buildings that run along the Columbia. If you loved The Goonies - and who didn't? - you can visit the jail where the Fratellis escaped (it now houses The Oregon Film Museum) and the Flavel House Museum where Mikey's dad worked. There is also a Coast Guard Museum that's worth a visit; especially on a rainy day.
We always start with coffee, usually from the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Café and then walk around the city and waterfront until the girls get bored or hungry and we stop for lunch. Since we are creatures of habit, we always go to Baked Alaska. If the deck is open, we sit there because it's right over the Columbia and you can hear the sea lions barking out on the buoys and sometimes see them swim by.
If the girls are in the right mood, we drive across the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Cape Disappointment in Washington (which is an adventure in itself) as we leave Astoria.
Cape Disapointment State Park
The weather was great this trip (which isn't typically the case), so we parked, hopped out of the car, my wife strapped on the baby, and we all hiked to the Cape Disapointment Lighthouse. It was a little long and steep (0.6 miles uphill) with two small ones, but totally worth it. The girls had fun on the trail looking at and touching the trees. It had rained every time we've visited the park before, so we were glad to finally see the lighthouse in person.
Disclaimer: as mentioned Cape Disapointment is in Washington, just a short drive from Astoria and definitely worth visiting.