As I mentioned in my “Hello, Spring” post, the last week of March means whale migration and a chance to see some of the ocean’s most magnificent creatures heading north for the summer. I’ll cut to the chase: no whale photos. My friends and I saw an occasional breath on the horizon, and one swears to have seen a whale’s back, but the real gold of the day was exploring Cannon Beach, Hug Point and Ecola State Park.
A mere 90 minute drive from Portland, Cannon Beach is an easily accessible and iconic Oregon landmark. It is best known for Haystack Rock (aka Captain One-Eyed Willy’s treasure stash in Goonies), which is host to beautiful tidal pools seen during low tide. Before heading out for your beach adventure, I recommend stopping by the Sleepy Monk for your morning caffeine fix, and maybe one of their homemade donuts – the vanilla with sprinkles is delish!
Stroll down to the beachfront and you’re immediately met with a stunning view of Haystack Rock. Heading towards the rock, you’ll be met with families, dogs running off leash and even a few beach bike rentals touring about. Consult the tide tables to ensure you don’t miss the sea anemones, starfish and other underwater critters, but if you do, taking a long stroll along the beach is an excellent way to spend your time.
A short jaunt south from Cannon Beach, is a lesser known recreation area called Hug Point. If you’re not one for crowds, but still want to enjoy nature’s views, venture to Hug Point during low tide for an assortment of small caves, a beautiful (climbable) waterfall, tidal pool viewing and even some fishing. I am very much looking forward to returning complete with picnic basket in hand. Make sure to check out the caves!
Pro tip: Not kidding about the low tide bit here. I’ve had friends who went as the tide was coming in and barely made it out before getting trapped.
Ecola State Park
To finish off our excursion, we drove back up to Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park for the first picnic of the season, and to try and spot some whales. Access to the park is $5, but is waived if you have a State Park Pass or Oregon Coast Passport – sorry, the Northwest Forest Pass doesn’t count, we tried. From the entrance, you can hang a right and park down at Indian Beach, where many surfers frequent, or go straight to the ocean overlook, the famous Haystack Rock viewpoint and picnic benches. We opted for the overlook first, where a spread of delicious food was happily consumed. In addition to my many cooking excursions at home, picnics and potlucks rank very high on my list of favorites, so get ready for more picnic-themed posts in the future. Our lunch consisted of kale salad, brie, bacon-wrapped tater tots and huancaína sauce, just to name a few. I promise a write up soon, particularly for the huancaína sauce.
As we scanned the horizon for whale breaths, we were surprised with another wonder soaring above us: a bald eagle. I snapped a couple photos, but the iPhone can only serve me so well, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Although we did not see too many whales or other forms of wildlife, the serenity around us was well worth the trip. We decided to complete our time at Ecola with a little walk along Indian Beach. From the picnic tables in the main parking lot, you can take the 1.5 mile path down to the beach, or be lazy, like us, and drive down. At the beach, you will not only have a magnificent wave crashing show, but an abundance of people watching, dog playing, and few brave surfers taking on the cold waters. Wander around and take it all in before heading back to the city.