Cannon Beach Spot Guide

About Cannon Beach

Above Manzanita, Highway 101 quickly ascends Neahkahnie Mountain and veers deep into dense woods of spruce and fir, winding its way atop sheer cliffs but no beach access for a few miles on. This is one of those places so ruggedly scenic, so quaintly lush and rustic, that it almost warrants the piercing ice cream headaches, benumbed extremities, hungry white sharks, saturating rains and waves that are far from epic.

Through the tunnel and past the tiny hamlet of Arch Cape, the signed turnoff road leads you into Cannon Beach, a classic beach-tourist community surrounded by the ocean and mountains. The place has been called a "sparkling jewel among Oregon's coastal resort communities," and, seeing the town is a straight 80-mile zip from Portland and only 28 miles south of Washington, the place gets overrun with tourists throughout spring, summer and autumn.

Most of the immediate shoreline is thick with hotels, inns and private residences, barring views and public beach access. Offshore rocks and seastacks abound, including the famous Haystack Rock (the third tallest monolith in the world at 235 feet), fronted mostly by hard-sand beaches and steep, dripping cliffs. It's an area of tasteful business buildings and quiet residential retreats along unmarked dirt roads. The homes blend in seamlessly with the landscape, all brown, wooden and unpretentious. As for the surf, the nine or so miles from Ecola Creek south to Falcon Cove (including Tolovana Beach and Cannon Beach proper) is basically all beachbreak, thus surfable only when small and clean. The mouth of Ecola Creek occasionally has a good bar.

Just south of Cape Falcon, most North Coast denizens choose Oswald West State Park, aka Short Sands Beach, as their premier spot due to its wind protection and sand bottom. (Mr. Oswald West was Oregon's governor from 1911-1915.) Although it's a few miles south of town, you'll always find a posse of Cannonites and Seasiders out here. It's a beautiful spot, entailing a 20-minute stroll through old-growth forest to access the white-sand, driftwood-strewn beach. The surf can either be peaky and hollow or soft and mushy, depending on the tide and swell factor. It's a horseshoe cove, so the place is safe from all but west winds. Nonetheless, Short Sands is hardly a substantial spot -- more like a retreat from the wind than a good place to log tube time. Cannon Beach received its name from the 500-ton U.S. Naval survey schooner Shark, which was wrecked while attempting to leave the Columbia River on September 10, 1846. In an effort to slide the ship off of the rivermouth's immense sandspit, the three masts were hacked off and the cannon were jettisoned, but the boat began to break up and the crew took to its boats. Part of the Shark's deck, including a small iron cannon, drifted ashore south of Tillamook Head, thus bestowing the name to Cannon Beach.

Source: Cannon Beach Surf Guide

Ability Level

All Abilities

Beg Int Adv


Local Vibe


Welcoming Intimidating

Mellow, unless you encounter a shark.

Crowd Factor


Mellow Heavy

Short Sands Beach can get extremely crowded, but there's plenty of room around Cannon Beach.

Spot Rating


Poor Perfect

Kinda fun.

Shoulder Burn


Light Exhausting

Decent when smaller, but can be stronger when it's overhead.

Water Quality


Clean Dirty


Additional Information


There has been a shark attack or two at Cannon Beach.


For the Cannon Beach area, exit Highway 101 at the signed Cannon Beach off-ramp and look for the beach access areas. Tolovana Beach Wayside is an easy one. For Short Sands, drive nine miles south from Cannon Beach and look for the Oswald State Park sign. Park in the second lot, where the interpretive kiosk and bathrooms are, then walk down the trail beginning under the highway overpass.

Bring Your

Shortboard, funboard, longboard



Best Season


Swell Consistency and Wind Overview

Photos & Videos