With its stunning, rocky shoreline, smooth-as-glass beaches, and friendly, relatively affordable towns, the northern Oregon coast has become increasingly well known over the years as the Northwest's premier Pacific playground - it's a very popular destination among LGBT residents and visitors of nearby Portland (just a 90-minute drive from Cannon Beach) and Seattle (about 3.5 hours away).
Cannon Beach Gay Guide
Among the several towns along the northern coast, Cannon Beach stands for its natural scenery - it's flanked by a gorgeous beach (keep in mind that the ocean up here is chilly, more for beachcombing than swimming), bookended by two spectacular state parks, and rife with quaint cafes and restaurants, both upscale and fairly affordable accommodations, and a number of galleries and boutiques. If you've never explored the Oregon coast, and especially if you're visiting from Portland, Cannon Beach (population 1,700) is a great place to start your explorations.
Other Popular Communities Near Cannon Beach
Just south is an even smaller and funkier community called Manzanita, which abounds with vacation rentals and is also renowned for its long, stunning beachfront. Just north, family-friendly Seaside has more diversions, cheap chain motels and fast-food restaurants, but also more crowds - it's a good base of operations, but it doesn't quite have the charm of Cannon Beach or Manzanita. About a 35-minute drive up the coast, actually fronting the Columbia River near its mouth, Astoria is another community that very much merits a visit and that's becoming increasingly popular with LGBT visitors, in part because it has a bit of a nightlife scene and bohemian coffeehouse culture. Check out my Astoria Gay Guide for more on what to see and do in that area, and also this article on Astoria Gay Pride, held in June.
Getting to Cannon Beach
From Portland, it's an easy and scenic drive over the Coast Range Mountains to the beach - just drive west on U.S. 26, cutting south down windy but pretty Hwy. 53 if you're bound for Manzanita, or turning left (south) onto U.S. 101 (Oregon's Pacific Coast Scenic Byway) to reach Cannon Beach. Give yourself about 90 minutes or a bit more to reach either town. You can then use U.S. 101 to drive back and forth between Manzanita and Cannon Beach - this stunning drive passes over high bluffs and through the pine-studded forests of Oswald West State Park.
Cannon Beach Attractions
The actual town of Cannon Beach is quite small, with about 3 miles of stunning beachfront with dramatic rock formations off the shore, the most famous being Haystack Rock, which rises about 240 feet above the water.
Cannon Beach Gay-Friendly Dining - Cannon Beach Gay-Friendly Bars
Divided into three main commercial districts strung along the coastline, Cannon Beach has a number of terrific restaurant options along with a handful of lively and gay-friendly bars.