While Seaside, Oregon, might aim to be the family-friendly option on the state’s coastline with its carousel, amusement rides, and promenade that spans a busy beachfront, it’s an awful place. After fifteen minutes of walking the main strip, I found a coffee shop that was knowingly selling fake eclipse glasses, spotted seven drunks piling into the backseat and trunk of a sedan, crossed paths with a young man wearing a shirt that read “Take Yo Panties Off” in neon pink font, and observed other family-unfriendly events.
For a more family-oriented experience, I’d suggest Cannon Beach.
The town, filled with toy shops and taffy vendors, homely restaurants and to-go creperies, was the perfect place to push a stroller. And pushing a stroller is the preferable mode of transport as the town is flanked by breweries: Pelican at one end and Public Coast on the other. Both are inviting to parents and their tots, offering quality pub food with their beers, and the noisy brewhouse ambiance that muffles fits. Public Coast brews homemade root beer, too, a bonus when seeking pure bribes.
For a more upscale dining experience, try the Wayfarer for excellent seafood and games of hide and seek, which, during our visit, took place between the three-year-old in our booth and the one the booth over. (I’m sure you can find an identical experience with future strangers.)
Some of the best places to visit in Cannon Beach were slightly beyond both breweries. First, Ecola State Park:
Despite one daughter being terrified of the ocean’s haunting ability to rise its tide and the other falling face first at that particular beach, putting both front teeth through her lip, Ecola State Park’s Indian Beach was a marvelous little spot. There, surfers rode sheltered waves and fully-wetsuited kids played in the freezing shallows. Families emerged from the woods after completing hikes, while others built capricious driftwood forts on the beach. (Entering with the car costs $5.00.)
South of the town center and the other brewery was our hotel, the Tolovana Inn, where gold and chinchilla-gray rabbits cottoned the grounds. The views of the famed Goliath in the ocean, Haystack Rock, were impressive. Haystack is the most photographed thing in Cannon Beach and at low tides beachgoers can even explore the tidal pool at the rock’s base that glow with anemones.
However, there’s a better rock.
One morning, I went for a run, heading south, away from Haystack.
In that direction, the beach is quieter, near empty, allowing one to notice all the death: cracked sand dollars lay halved upon the shoreline, crab carcasses too big for bowls are delimbed, sea fleas nit-hop festively around the corpses of thumb-sized sand crabs, and the wings of murdered birds (that must have had grave run-ins with dogs) allow their wings to flap one last time with the wind. But then there is life pulsing and wavering in the tidal pools that surround Haystack’s less-visited Cousin: turquoise and orange anemones stretch like flowers nodding to the sun, and red starfish, thick like varicose veins, are barnacled onto rocks.
The Cousin, as compared to Haystack, was equidistant from the hotel and similarly huge, so it seemed odd that everyone would flock to Haystack. It was the perfect place to explore with kids. I asked my daughter if we could visit the less famous rock during the second low tide of the day. It seemed like it would be the perfect father-daughter bonding moment. After all, we were both really into this new science podcast for kids, Wow in the World. Perhaps we’d ponder over why the anemones were the color of highlighters, or what sand crabs did beneath the sand. But she heard tide and refused to leave the room.