Astoria & Cannon Beach, OR -> Maritime Refinement & Bloody Beautiful Coastline
We’ve been having waaaaay too good a time here on the coast, weather and all. You already know how I love the OR coast. I’ve gushed about it, fawned over it, even waxed poetic about it (yes, real live poetry folks), and the fun is only just starting. We’re at the very northern tip of our OR coast travels, hanging just south of Astoria a mere 20 miles or so from our last campground.
It may seem nuts to travel so short a distance, but we are deliberately taking our time down the coast and will be doing drives of only ~30-60 miles at each stop, fully soaking in each spot, until we get down to our summer jobs at Bandon. It’s not the first time we’ve driven this trip, but (apart from our current spot) we will be hitting all new state park campgrounds and all new areas. It’s one of the things I love about the coast. No matter how many times you drive it, you’ll always experience something new, and the changing weather makes it all the more so.
Speaking of which, the weather has been oh-so-good. You never know when it will change of course, this being the coast and all, but apart from a few chilly, foggy mornings (which, by the by, we love equally well…you can thank 10 years in San Francisco for that one) we’ve had afternoons of rockin’ sun and perfect mid-60’s temps. It’s the whole reason we’ve chosen to hang on the OR coast this summer. It’s the sure-promise of consistently cool temps, unending pooch-friendly beach and never having to run the AC (priceless!)
But before I get carried away, let me update you on our week here:
Poetically Historic Astoria
Astoria is a lovely town that lies on the southern shore of the mighty and dangerous Columbia River, and claims history as the first permanent US (non-European) settlement west of the Mississippi. Founded in 1811 as a fur-trading post, the town quickly progressed to the much more profitable business of fishing attracting, interestingly enough, a strong core of Scandinavian emigrants in the mid 1800’s. The salmon and canning industry waned and died in the late 1900’s, but the town has continued to thrive in other ways. Today, Astoria combines a colorful maritime history (the downtown Maritime Museum is a “must-see”) with a thriving arts community, a food co-op, a cool farmers market and no end of interesting places to eat. And those Scandinavian roots have endured. It’s tickles my heart strings to see Scandinavian flags fly around town and the heritage is celebrated each year by a massive Scandinavian festival (sadly, we’re just missing it) complete with serious musicians, folk dancing and food. We’ve spent several days just walking around town and seeing the sights. Plus we’ve sampled two awesome foodie-spots (the Bowpicker fish and chips, plus local hole-in-the-wall foodie favorite the Columbian Cafe), and even met a few blog readers!
Refined Cannon Beach
A clear favorite of ours on the Northern OR Coast is Cannon Beach. This lovely town, often known as the “Carmel of Oregon” (you Californians will know what I’m talking about) is a rather refined and upscale beach spot. Downtown is only a few blocks long, but packs in more restaurants, coffee shops, distilleries, tapas spots, wine, artisan chocolate etc. than just about any place I’ve been. You can don black tie and plonk down the $$$$ here, should you feel so inclined, but you can also find some pretty yummy and relaxed spots to eat, many of which have outdoor seating appropriate for doggie too (we had a lovely lunch with pooch at Sweet Basil’s Café followed by outdoor expresso at one of the gazillion coffee shops). If eating is not your style, then head to the coast which is superbly unique here. Cannon beach boasts the third tallest intertidal (=reachable at low tide) coastal monolith in the world, gorgeous Haystack Rock which rises 235 feet (72-meter) high. It’s quite the impressive sight and, as a bonus, it’s a gorgeous back-drop to just about any doggie shot 🙂
Scenic Ecola State Park & “Terrible Tilly”
The other awesome thing to do around Canon Beach is to visit Ecola State Park just north of town and take in the gorgeous 1.5-mile hike from Ecola Point to Indian Beach. This brisk walk will open up stunning views of the coast and, in clear weather, a peek to “Terrible Tilly“, easily the craziest lighthouse on the entire west coast. Tillamook Lighthouse was built on a huge ocean rock ~1.2 miles from land and first lit in 1881. Not only was it an amazing feat of engineering to get the thing built (the fact that they even tried is beyond comprehension), but the lighthouse keepers who stayed at this isolated and dangerous rock had to be particularly hardy folk (only single men were allowed). It’s privately owned these days and not visitable unless you happen to have special pull and lots of $$$, but it’s a helluva sight to see.
And then of course there’s Fort Stevens State Park where we’ve been spending the rest of our fine time. I have fond memories of this place from 2 years ago, especially where a certain dent in my head is concerned. I’m happy to report there have been no further head incidents and the beach is just as fabulous as I remember. We’ve got toes & paws in the sand, no matter what the weather, at least twice a day and we just happen to be in a loop with not a single RV in sight (seriously, all 25 sites around us are empty). We’ve had an awesome week here and will be heading a grand total of 43 miles south to another great coast-stop tomorrow AM. Hope you like beach shots folks, because you’ll be seeing around 3 months of them. Ahhh…’tis a tough life, I know.