Consider the TikTok travel influencer, jetting to Europe and Asia, having glamorous adventures on sleeper buses and speed trains, backpacks at the ready, vistas everywhere.
Now, consider this: You can pack a bag and walk out your door, today even, and have your own glamorous transit-filled adventure in a dreamy location, no plane required.
Cannon Beach is an adorable oceanside village, adjacent to what is arguably Oregon’s biggest Instagram star: Haystack Rock. And a very nice bus will take you there, from Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro, twice a day.
On a recent late fall day, I left my house before dawn with a backpack and a three-year-old in a collapsable stroller, and we set off on our sweet little journey.
Riding on public transit is one of the true benefits of living in a city. In Portland and the surrounding area, for $2.50, you can travel pretty much anywhere. Is it perfect? No. Is it an amazing resource that is available to everyone? Yes.
So, we walked (or strolled, depending) to our nearest bus stop. Because it was a Sunday, and, with a three-year-old, you have to give yourself a little padding if you want to be on time anywhere, we were 23 minutes early, which meant we walked a few stops and watched the sunrise.
I am sure someone, somewhere will say that the time constraints presented by transit make it impossible to do with kids, but, counterpoint, those constraints add to the fun – a trip on transit has parameters, which narrow down the possibilities and forces you to make choices and a plan before you go. There’s no getting on the road late, with kids screaming from car seats, feeling stressed and harried. You just … leave early to make sure you are on time. No stress. And kids, almost across the board, love a bus.
At least, my kid, Nona, loves a bus. She was happy to climb on and ride downtown, and even happier when her grandparents (my parents) got on some stops later.
You could do this trip with one adult per child, but I find the vacations are more fun when the ratio of adults to kids increases. Also, my parents are experts at public transit and I like hanging out with them.
Together, the four of us disembarked from the city bus downtown and then walked through Old Town to Union Station. Again, we were a little early, but that meant extra time to walk around the train station and get hot beverages for the adults.
The NorthWest route on the Point bus goes from Portland to Astoria with five stops along the coast. The bus itself is a nice coach, with comfy seats and a small bathroom. The ride takes less than two hours and unlike a car ride, takes zero years off your life.
Purchase tickets for the bus through Amtrak.
Nona played with some toys, got a few snuggles in and availed herself of the bus bathroom.
When we got to Cannon Beach, we got off the bus and headed to the Hallmark Resort and Spa (1400 S. Hemlock St.). I picked the Hallmark because it’s out of tsunami territory, up high on a bluff, across from Haystack Rock, with beach access. (”Wow,” Nona said, when she saw the view.)
They also serve warm cookies at check-in, which I failed to note started at 4 p.m.
Since it was not yet 11 a.m., we got on a list for early check-in, dropped some bags and walked down Hemlock Street, the Cannon Beach main drag, in search of food.
We opted for fish and chips and clam chowder on the rooftop at Ecola Seafood Restaurant & Market (208 N. Spruce St.). The day was sunny and surprisingly warm and both the salmon and halibut were crispy on the outside and sliding apart inside, everything fish and chips should be. The clam chowder was also good and the toasted, buttery garlic bread reminded me of Mo’s in my childhood in the best possible way.
The food isn’t cheap – $26 for a four-piece halibut fish and chips – but there isn’t much cheap food to be found in Cannon Beach or anywhere, at this point.
After lunch, we strolled over to Bruce’s Candy Kitchen (256 N. Hemlock St.), an outrageous explosion of sugar that was a high point for the youngest member of our party. We purchased several things, including a pumpkin-shaped chocolate that she happily munched for the next quarter of an hour while we took turns pushing the stroller on the hard sand on the beach.
Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we stopped in at Bald Eagle Coffee House (1064 S. Hemlock St.), a utilitarian but sweet little coffee shop connected to an art gallery. The woman behind the counter was absolutely lovely, making a “tepid” vanilla steamer for the youngest, decaf coffee for the oldests, and a black tea for me.
The weather continued to be the star of the show – a sunny day on the Oregon Coast is better than a million-dollar lottery jackpot win – and we sat outside, watching the foot traffic on Hemlock Street.
After a quick spin through Cannon Beach Book Company (130 N. Hemlock St.), the hotel called and said our room was ready. So back up Hemlock we walked.
Our room at the Hallmark was cozy and inviting, with a huge comfy bed, a gas fireplace and a little side window view of the beach. But we didn’t hang out for long. Instead we donned swimsuits and headed to the indoor pool.
The Hallmark has a main pool, with a little one-foot deep side pool “for little kids,” as Nona noted. They also have two hot tubs (one hotter and away from the main pool) and an adults-only sauna.
We went back and forth between hot tubs and the pool, enjoying the cornucopia of watery options.
After the pool, we dried off and put on clean clothes to walk down the beach for dinner.
Cannon Beach is epically walkable, and who really wants a car when you walk from many hotels down a world-class beach to the downtown area, where most of the food is located?
So we walked down the beach, occasionally carrying the three-year-old, and then turned in to walk to Driftwood Restaurant & Lounge (179 N. Hemlock St.).
The Driftwood has a gorgeous patio, but unfortunately, minors aren’t allowed. No matter. The inside is full of wood and (electric) candles and vibes. The restaurant is 75 years old and it’s the kind of place your grandpa would love, but so would you.
My parents split shrimp Louis, Nona had a grilled cheese, and I opted for the prime rib and prawns special. All the food earned high marks. My prime rib was truly rare, tender and delicious, especially with the horseradish sauce. The Pete’s Mountain pinot noir from West Linn was a great addition, though such a huge glass I couldn’t finish it. The cocktails that my parents tried – a ginger mule and an old fashioned – were strong but tasty.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel along the beach in the dark. There was almost no moon and only two campfires on the beach. Haystack Rock was still visible, black against the sky, and stars and planets were twinkling.
We snuggled in the cozy bed, fire on, and watched a little hotel TV (another highlight for Nona), before falling asleep.
In the morning, Nona took a bath in the jacuzzi tub in my parents’ room while I walked down another dark, empty beach to Cannon Beach Bakery (240 N. Hemlock St.) to get some breakfast.
I picked a blueberry muffin, a chocolate muffin, a slice of pumpkin bread and a marionberry scone, all of which were enjoyed by the crowd back at the hotel.
We didn’t have too much time to lollygag since the bus picks up in Cannon Beach again at 9:20 a.m. So we checked out and headed to another coffee shop for more pastries because you should always have something for the road. Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters (1235 S. Hemlock St. A).
There are many things to recommend the Sleepy Monk – it’s located right next to the stop where the Point bus picks up, it has great seating outside looking out at Hemlock, the coffee is good (according to my parents), the vanilla steamer is good (according to my daughter) and the orange chocolate scone is very good (according to me).
Before long, we were on the bus again, snacking and napping, and then back in Portland, on Trimet and home. A genuinely relaxing and lovely trip, all made possible by the fact that I didn’t have to spend one second driving.
— Lizzy Acker
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