We went to Cannon Beach, OR in May of 2013. We were staying in Portland and drove out as a day trip. The most notable thing about Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock.
Haystack Rock is a tall rock which sets just in the water. During low-tide, you can walk up to it, but during high-tide, the water runs up past the rock onto the beach. This rocks is old volcanic material and is home to unique plants. You will also see dozens of birds flying around it and standing all over it.
It is strictly prohibited to climb Haystack Rock. It is a protected piece.
Aside from viewing Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach offers a completely unique experience. It is nothing like Atlantic Ocean beach towns. It's a quaint little town with narrow streets and minimal parking. It's best to find a spot along the road and get out and walk around.
Cannon Beach features some really cool little shops and restaurants. You can find a seafood restaurant which sells great seafood, a lot of it caught right off the shores in the Pacific Ocean, so you know it's fresh!
Stroll around the town and take a gander at the neat homes, buildings, and plant-life. Many folks have made small gardens out of what grows naturally in this area, and it's really cool to see what they've come up with.
Cannon Beach isn't very touristy, at least it wasn't during the time we were there. There are no big flashy touristy shops selling bathing suits, sand toys, and cheap jewelry. It's all locally owned, locally thriving places where every building is different and quaint.
Get close to the beaches and look up. You'll see tsunami sirens lining the beaches. East-coasters like myself haven't seen something like that before. It's kind of eerie!
The people we encountered working in restaurants and shops around Cannon Beach seemed relaxed and friendly. During the time of year we went, the water is much too cold to try to swim. Instead, you walk along the beach, fighting the winds and sea spray. While it can be cold and even miserable at times, it's still worth going even in off-season, just to see how unique the place is.
Walking along the beach, we found virtually no seashells. Perhaps it was the location or the time of year, but it was sort of a let-down. I really wanted a Pacific Ocean seashell! However, I did find some very nice black rocks which we think may be volcanic in nature, so I was happy.
I'd highly recommend spending a few hours in Cannon Beach if you're traveling the Pacific Northwest area. Even from Portland it's not far, and the drive there offers a variety of stops. Seeing Haystack Rock is worth making the trip, and strolling around and grabbing a bite to eat, or shopping in the little stores makes it a nice afternoon.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.