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Five Places to Watch Big Waves in Cannon Beach

One of the reasons we love our magic season in Cannon Beach is the waves. They’re not the boring little waves that lap our shore during summer. During the fall and winter, the waves roar. They crash against the shoreline and our picturesque sea stacks with explosive force. They form walls of water that can glow with an emerald green and deposit churned up foam along the beach. When the winds are right, they curl over leaving a misty spindrift that lingers in the air and catches the light. This is the Oregon Coast we love.

Many people come to experience our storms, but it doesn’t have to be stormy for our ocean to put on this magnificent display. Waves driven by offshore storms or storms that have passed can display some of the most exhilarating wave action even on our most spectacular sunny off-season days. To catch this thrilling display, we offer this list of the five best places to safely watch wave action even if it’s stormy.

#1 - Your Oceanfront Hotel Room

With a wide selection of oceanfront hotels and resorts overlooking one of the most stunning stretches of the Oregon Coast, your Cannon Beach hotel room can provide the perfect perch to watch the waves no matter what the weather. Whether you pick a room with views of Haystack Rock or other stretches of our beach, many hotels offer covered balconies ideal for watching the waves. If it gets really stormy, you can step back inside, light up the fireplace, pour a glass of wine, then watch and listen to Mother Nature’s greatest show. This amazing experience is made even better by some of the best hotel rates of the year.

#2 - Ecola State Park Viewpoint

Known for some of the best views on the Oregon Coast, Ecola State Park is an ideal spot to watch enormous storm waves roll in. Just steps from the main parking lot, you’ll find stunning viewpoints to the south overlooking beautiful Crescent Beach, Bird Rocks at Chapman Point and Haystack Rock where you can watch the waves form and rush to shore in lines of foamy surf. If weather permits, easy paved walkways lead to the edge of the headland for those south-facing views and another paved path branches to the west for views of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse just offshore, where big waves often crash upward reaching heights taller than the little lighthouse on the rocky island. Both viewpoints are only about a five-minute dash back to the parking lot if needed. While you’re in the park, it makes sense to take in our number 3 location a short drive away.

#3 – Indian Beach Overlook in Ecola State Park

Indian Beach is a small, stunning cove framed by picturesque offshore rock formations to the south and the rocky shoreline of Tillamook Head to the west, offering lots of opportunity for wave crashing action. The overlook is just steps from about a dozen prime parking spots and there is additional parking nearby. At higher tides, Indian Beach can completely disappear, or waves can come right up to basalt cobbles at the edge of the shoreline. If weather and tides permit, a short trail leads the beach where you can walk south towards the rock formations off Ecola Point, though you always have to be cautious of waves that can surge all the way across the sand to the rocky shore. The Tillamook Head Trail off the parking lot is another good option, weather permitting, with some excellent viewpoints within the first quarter mile.

#4 - Highway 101 Viewpoint at Silver Point

Just past the southern-most exit to Cannon Beach (South Hemlock Street), highway-side viewpoints offer panoramic views to the north, west and south just steps from your car. From the northernmost viewpoint, you can watch foamy waves crash against Haystack Rock before rolling onto shore with Tillamook Head looming in the background. From the second viewpoint a very short walk or drive to the south, you can check out the action as the surf surges past Silver Point Rock and Jockey Cap Rock on the shoreline below. From this spot, you’ll also find views to the south where the ocean rushes past Lion Rock at Arcadia Beach.

#5 - Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site

This highway-side parking lot with beach access overlooks Lion Rock, a great focal point for photos of crashing waves, complete with a lone tree snag on the cliff above. Sitka Spruce trees frame the views from the parking area where you’ll likely be unable to resist walking along the crooked wooden fence at the edge of the small cliffside. If weather and tides permit, you can follow the beach access pathway for better views of Lion Rock, though you always need to be aware of surging waves that reach right up to the beach access.