Sometimes the spontaneous getaways are the best kind. Sometimes you just have to make work stop. Sometimes, when you do this, you can make time stand still, for just a little while. Though I was approaching deadline on a big work project, and my husband was sacked with 110 papers on McCarthyism to grade, our kids, 4 and 5, were on spring break, and we were all in desperate need of some together time–not the scheduled type between ballet class and swimming lessons–the unstructured, unplanned, meandering type of togetherness. The type of togetherness you remember when you were 5, when you found that giant length of seaweed on the beach that looked just like a seasnake. And what if you dug a sand tunnel and hid the snake inside it- would it be there the next day or would the tide wash it away? Oregon seems to be made for such moments, and so in search of some, we headed to Cannon Beach, about an hour and a half west of Portland.

We checked into the Surfsand Resort Hotel, a wonderful place right on the beach with stunning views of the enormous monolith that sits just offshore, Haystack Rock. At dusk you can walk to Haystack Rock and explore the tidepools (gently please) and show your kids that starfish are really real and count the anemones and talk to the marine biologists who are often on hand to answer questions. The Surfsand has free beach chairs, towels and tons of beach toys for the kids to borrow, and it’s a dog friendly hotel so there’s always fresh water for the pups. There’s a large creek, 3 inches deep, that flows into the ocean right at the hotel property, which is perfect and safe for little ones to play in for hours. That’s where our son found the seasnake and created a fantastical tunnel kingdom. The hotel is undergoing a renovation that will be complete this summer, but it doesn’t impact your stay at all, and the new rooms are beautiful. The one-bedroom suites are perfect for families, with an actual door you can close so you and your partner can drink wine on the balcony or watch a movie and not wake up the kids. It also has an indoor pool–perfect if you catch a rainy day (the pool will be under renovation early April through mid-summer, but they’ll be shuttling guests to another property to swim, if desired). My favorite “me” moment was when Paul took the kids to the lobby for hot cocoa and I took a bath in the huge tub, with a view of the ocean, and read recipes from the local Stephanie Inn cookbook. Pure decadence.

Pizza a Fetta has outstanding pizza and is located in a pretty courtyard near a good cafe, Bella Espresso, in downtown Cannon Beach.

One day we explored Ecola State Park, just 5 minutes from downtown Cannon Beach. The park was named after the nearby Ecola Creek (Whale Creek) which was crossed by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago when, in desperate need of oil for the winter, they went in search of a whale they’d heard had washed upon the shore. From the bluff, Ecola Park has jaw-dropping views up and down the coast–a great spot for a picnic and then an adventure walk down to the beach or into the forest, with glimpses of the rocky shore around every bend.

We ended the day, and our trip, with ice cream cones from Osburn’s Ice Creamery in downtown Cannon Beach. My daughter, having sampled 4 flavors, “because I’m 4,” settled on “the rainbow one.” We sat, the four of us, on a wall lined with tulips, soaking in the spring sun, debating the merits of the waffle vs. the sugar cone, and laughing at the pink, white and orange dripping down my daughter’s chin. My son still had sand on his cheeks, perfect, lovely and round. It was, in short, a perfect Oregon moment.

Editor’s Note: For more information on Cannon Beach, visit our Oregon Coast section.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.


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