This time of year, every year, always has me thinking about planning vacations. There is nothing like gray, cold, and snowy days to get me more excited to book a series of plane tickets. I am already planning to visit Phoenix, Saint Martin, San Diego, and Las Vegas in the next few months, and that has me reflecting on the best trips that I took during the end of 2014.
While I have visited much of the United States, the Pacific Northwest is one area that I had not yet touched. So, when my sister and one of her best friends invited me to tag along on a girls’ trip to Portland, I was immediately on board. Since I was the third wheel, I let Melissa and Ann take the lead in planning our itinerary – something that is extremely difficult for this Type-A personality. In the end, we planned to visit Cannon Beach, Willamette Valley, and, of course, Portland proper.
Immediately after landing in Portland, we rented a car and drove 80 miles northwest to Cannon Beach, probably best known for its cameo in The Goonies and Twilight, as well as for its beautiful vistas and old world charm. Chain stores have been discouraged from building in Cannon Beach in order to preserve the local economy and small town feel, and we absolutely loved it. Even the drive to Cannon Beach was incredibly beautiful, and we even found a cute pumpkin patch to check out.
No large chain hotels here, either; Cannon Beach offers only charming inns and bed & breakfasts. We stayed at the beautifully rustic Inn at Cannon Beach, boasting homey cottages which surround a central landscaped courtyard and pond. Walking distance to the beach, the Inn at Cannon Beach feels almost like a high-end summer camp for adults and families.
The main cottage at the Inn hosts the check-in desk, a comfortable seating area, a fireplace, and a great selection of board games and movies that guests can check out. And, best of all, the main cottage also offers an endless supply of local salt water taffy, freshly baked cookies, and some of the best peanut butter cup cupcakes which are offered to guests throughout the day.
Another cottage hosts a morning breakfast buffet of yogurts, bagels, waffles, cereals, fresh fruit and fruit juices, as well as coffee, cocoa and teas. Paintings by local artists adorn the walls, and the room is available for lounging throughout the day, as well.
After checking in to our room, we were ready to explore Cannon Beach. We began by walking to the beach and to the famous Haystack Rock, an igneous rock with an elevation of 235 feet, which is often accessible at low tide, especially in the summertime. On our first visit, the high tide prevented us from getting too close, but we were still able to walk along the beach and capture some fantastic pictures.
A short drive from the Haystack Rock is downtown Cannon Beach, which boasts lovely boutiques, art galleries, candy shops, and restaurants. Downtown Cannon Beach exhibits almost an old west feel, with historic buildings dating to the early 1900’s. We stopped at Sweet Basil’s Cafe, a cute little restaurant serving healthy and organic dishes, for a quick and casual late lunch. I enjoyed a delicious homemade vegetable soup, and Sweet Basil’s House Salad, with organic greens, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, yellow squash, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and avocado.
After our lunch, we were ready to shop at the local boutiques, picked up some Oregon Pinot Noir to enjoy during dinner, and continue exploring. We also stopped at a local candy store for the incredible local salt water taffy.
We then made our way to Ecola State Park, stretching along 9 miles of coastline, just north of Cannon Beach. While the scenic and hiking opportunities are the main allure of Ecola State Park, the diversity of outdoor recreation including picnicking, tidepooling, surfing, and wildlife observation make Ecola State Park a year-round destination.
At the main lookout point in Ecola State Park, from where trails break off, one can enjoy breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as Cannon Beach to the south, with sea stacks, shore line, and a backdrop of coastal mountains. Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach are a true display of nature at its finest, and was like no where I had ever been before.
Just as the sun was about to set, we rushed back to Haystack Rock to capture incredibly colored skies, as well as low tide, which allowed us to walk right out to the rocks, which were covered with live mussels being snatched up by the biggest and best fed sea gulls that I have ever seen.
After sunset we made our way back to the Inn, chose a movie, and opened up a bottle of fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir. Luckily, Warren House Pub was located next door to the Inn, so we ordered dinner to go and to enjoy with our wine. Warren House Pub is located inside of what was once the home of some of Cannon Beach’s original pioneers, and was built in 1912. I enjoyed some of the best Manhattan Clam Chowder that I have ever tried. And, because all of the restaurant’s smoked items are done in house, I ordered the smoked salmon salad. Wow, there really is nothing like local salmon, freshly caught and smoked. The salad, served with greens, sunflower seeds, and chopped vegetables, was delicious.
The next day, we enjoyed the Inn’s breakfast buffet, went for one last walk along the beach, and made our way to Willamette Valley. Be sure to visit Chritiques again tomorrow for my Willamette Valley Travel Guide – complete with winery recommendations!