Visiting Cannon Beach: No car? No problem
I'm approaching my 20th year as a Seattle transplant, and something crossed my mind the other day. What if this was my last summer in the Pacific Northwest?
Not in a morbid way - just in a 'what-am-I-waiting-for' way. The go-to excuse for my lack of regional travel has always been that I don't have a car. But for the first time this summer, I refused to have that be an excuse to keep me from checking off items on my Seattle Summer Bucket List.
First up? Cannon Beach, which I've heard is a must-see.
But as a city dweller who hates driving, the idea of renting a car was an expensive proposition and NOT one I was interested in. So I started to look at other options, and I'm so glad I did.
You’ve probably heard you can Bolt Bus or take Amtrak via the Coast Starline or Cascades train down to Portland...but what then?
Enter the NorthWest POINT, a daily bus service that takes you along the famed coastline from the Rose City all the way to Astoria if you so desire. The POINT is not like a heavily-used city busy - this is a clean stylish Volvo with wi-fi and comfy seats, only $17 each way.
I left my Portland hotel, hopped on the Max Green Line and was then faced with two options: the 9:20 a.m. POINT out of the Amtrak Bus Station, or the 9:30 a.m. out of Union Station. I went the Union Station route, and suggest you do the same - it's literally steps apart but a world of difference with the flair and flavor of a real old fashioned train station.
You could easily sleep, read or listen to music on the route, but I suggest you keep those eyes open. Farmland quickly gives way to beautiful mountain-scapes, almost like the forest parted just for this road trip. One moment you feel like you are riding on top of a mountain looking down on vast lines of trees then you’re at the bottom of a valley with green giants overshadowing the road ahead. You will see seas of lush green on your trip the sea.
You'll just see the tip of the famed Haystack Rock as you descend the final hill to the town of Cannon Beach - after just about an hour and a half on the POINT bus. You can either get off at the Midtown stop, or up in the North End of town next to the visitor center. (Note: You can drop off at either location but the evening pickup is ONLY at Midtown).
I opted for Midtown, which is literally across from beach access to Haystack Rock. You’ll probably want to visit the public restroom then grab water, coffee, a snack and make the trek to the famous monolith. As you turn a corner and hit the sand you see the 235-foot stack. It’s awesome to behold. As I got closer I imagined it without my fellow tourists and it honestly felt like an ancient site before humanity walked the planet. Like you’re on the set of a fantasy film where horseback-riding knights should be galloping along the beach.
As you get closer you feel the immensity of this natural wonder and feel the cold breeze and inhale the salty air. The rock is a nesting site for seagulls, puffins and terns. You maybe want to bring a sweater and definitely a hooded jacket because hats will blow. I lost my Gilligan cap!
When you get really close you can see crabs crawling up the rocky wall and tide pools teeming with starfish, sea slugs and more marine life. There are warning signs to guide you to protect the rock while allowing you to still get up close. There are naturalists on the beach to answer your questions and learn even more about the history and biology of this icon. Be sure you go all the way around to see other tall rocks that seem like ladies-in-waiting to this queen of the coast.
After making your way back to the town, head north for a variety of cafes, restaurants, candy and ice cream stores, gift shops and galleries. After all the walking, we were welcomed to the deck at the Driftwood Restaurant. Along with several tables there’s a shared fire pit to enjoy lunch and meet fellow travelers while enjoying a drink and seafood dishes. As you venture back up to Midtown browse more galleries and specialty shops including lovers of spices, books and puppies.
There was a brief period of misty rain and wind but it hit just as were back up to Midtown for a warm welcome at Sleepy Monk. It may be sleepy in the name but it’s busy with caffeine lovers waiting for a warm jolt, sweet treats and friendly service. This casual coffee café by day turns into the Irish Table Restaurant with a fusion of Pacific Northwest cuisine with flavor from the Emerald Isle. But let’s talk about the cozy Sleepy Monk, with coffee, teas and treats until 4 p.m. It feels like a small inn from a movie set where you can sip and read on the front porch or with chairs on the front lawn. We waited out the rain with coffee, tea and people watching until the rain subsided.
Save some time for dinner before the 7 p.m. ride back to Portland. The Pelican Brewing Company is a perfect spot to enjoy craft beer, watch the brewing process and great pub fare at the bar, in the dining room or under the sun on the patio. After dinner we reunited with fellow travelers at the stop and headed back to Portland. You arrive by 9 p.m. at Union Station – plenty of time to head to your hotel, change and hit the town.
- BoltBus or Amtrak to Portland the day before
- Take the Northwest POINT from Union Station at 9:30 a.m. to Cannon Beach Midtown around 11:15 a.m.
- Coffee. Haystack Rock. Swoon. Likely more coffee
- Walk north for lunch, shops, galleries, dessert
- Walk back south on the other side of the main road for more unique shops
- Dine, Drink. Be at the same spot, same side of the road at 7 p.m. for the journey back with arrival at 9 a.m.
- Note: You can even book an Amtrak then take an evening Northwest Point direct to Cannon Beach if you want to stay the night before
The Oregon Coast is not to be missed. Don’t let not having a car keep you from getting away from the city and experiencing small town charm and natural wonders. With a little research you can have your own adventure-cation your own way.