The Pacific Northwest has a vibe of its own, doesn’t it? One moment you’re walking around Seattle’s urban hustle, and before you know it, you’re cruising on a highway that promises the perfect blend of sea, sand, and surf at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Haystack Rock, those Pacific waves – it’s not your typical beach scene, which is why everyone should do a Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip at least once in their lives.
Last summer, I went on a drive from Seattle to Cannon Beach after thinking about it for years, and all I could think after I got back was why I put it off for so long. I had so much fun on this trip, stopping at all the random places along the way and exploring my home state and Oregon in new ways. There were so many photographic moments, and relaxing at the beach was the perfect vacation I needed.
Heading to Cannon Beach from Seattle isn’t just about the beach vibes, though. It’s about the voyage, the detours, and the “did we just miss our exit?” moments (that happens at least once a trip for me, even though I’ve been a professional travel blogger for eight years!).
If you’re thinking about going on your own trip, I’ll break down the best pit stops on this route and give you a sample two-day Cannon Beach itinerary based on my own experience. Whether you’re in it for the views or just need a solid break from city life, this drive has something for you.
Tips for a Seattle to Cannon Beach Drive
Before jumping into the fantastic stops and sights of a Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip, you’ll need some helpful tips for making the most of the drive. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this trip.
Can You Drive from Seattle to Cannon Beach in a Day?
Absolutely, you can. The drive along the Pacific Coast takes around four hours, whether you go along Highway 101 or Interstate 5. That said, this is the quickest route, which doesn’t take into account pit stops, which I definitely recommend.
If you want to make the most of the drive, turn it into a fun road trip where you can stop to take some terrific shots for your Instagram (here are some of the best road trip captions), put your favorite playlist on, and make some memories. This way, you can turn the drive into a two or three-day adventure.
How Far is the Drive From Seattle to Cannon Beach?
The Seattle to Cannon Beach drive is around 200 miles if you go along the I-5 and US-101. However, if you make stops at popular destinations like Forks, the famed setting of Twilight, or the volcanoes at Mount Saint Helens or Mount Rainier National Park. With these detours, the drive can become up to 400 or even 500 miles—the more, the merrier!
What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Cannon Beach?
Cannon Beach is a picturesque spot year-round, with its stunning coastline, the iconic Haystack Rock, and a large stretch of beach. That said, I recommend visiting in the summer, where you can bask in the sunshine, go hiking in Ecola State Park, or simply enjoy the vistas.
Seattle to Cannon Beach Road Trip Map
11 Brilliant Stops on a Seattle to Cannon Beach Road Trip
The magnificent thing about the Seattle to Cannon Beach drive is how many fun stops there are along the way. I should note that this list is not intended to be a checklist of all the places you should stop, but rather some of the best attractions in the general direction when heading south to Oregon.
While I have a sample Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip itinerary at the end of this article, it’s up to you to decide which direction you want to go and how many stops you want to make.
Here are some of my top recommended destinations.
1. Olympic National Park, WA
The next exceptional stop on this road trip from Seattle to Cannon Beach is Olympic National Park – and here’s why. It’s a beautiful national park with its snow-capped peaks, vast, deep blue lakes, and verdant forests.
Then, there’s the picturesque coastline, which is dotted with beaches. Ruby Beach is among the most popular choices for beachcombing and tide pooling, and it is a top spot to enjoy a perfect sunset.
You can also enjoy hiking, whether that’s finding waterfalls at Sol Duc Falls or just walking along one of the park’s many loop trails.
Its scenery highlights why Washington is such a fantastic state to visit. However, planning where to go in the park may feel overwhelming for you. If this is the case, I recommend booking this Olympic National Park day tour for a seamless experience.
Note: If you’re looking for a more direct route on your drive from Seattle to Cannon Beach, you might want to skip the first two stops. However, the Olympic Peninsula is one of my favorite areas in the state, so I highly recommend spending a day here if time allows.
Looking for other road trip ideas? You’ll love the drive from Seattle to Glacier National Park.
2. Forks, WA
One delightful stop along the drive is the city of Forks in Washington. It’s located on the Olympic Peninsula and is a charming place to be. Forks is famous for being the setting of the Twilight film series; however, it’s perfectly safe here – don’t worry about vampires biting you.
Moreover, this city is surrounded by natural beauty, whether that’s the moss-covered Hoh Rainforest, the glorious Olympic National Park, or the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Forks is also a brilliant place to understand the area’s past. At the Forks Timber Museum, you can learn about the history of the local logging trade since the 1870s.
More interested in the history of indigenous people? Check out the Makah Museum, which houses over 500-year-old artifacts from the Ozette Archaeological Site.
Want to go north? Take a fun road trip from Vancouver to Seattle.
3. Tacoma, WA
Another brilliant city on the way is Tacoma, on the banks of Puget Sound. This port city is only 30 miles southwest of Seattle, which makes it a great place to stop.
What makes Tacoma even better is how vibrant the city is, with its interesting museum district, stunning surroundings, and exciting local cuisine. For art lovers, visit the Museum of Glass for some of the best local glass art or the Tacoma Art Museum for European Impressionism, contemporary local work, and Japanese prints.
If you love learning all about transportation, pay a visit to America’s Car Museum to see everything from sports cars to antique automobiles. Additionally, get a Museum of Flight admission ticket and spend a few hours enlightening yourself about the history of aviation.
Another scenic drive is the Seattle to Banff road trip.
4. Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Next on the list for your Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip, we’ve got the idyllic Mount Rainier National Park, which really is worth visiting. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll constantly see me here in the summer and fall months.
It features an iconic part of the Washington landscape, Mount Rainier, which stands over 14,410 feet tall. This active volcano is a spectacular sight and is definitely a must-see when visiting Washington.
Plus, it’s a terrific park to visit year-round, whether you’re looking to walk through vivid wildflower meadows in the spring or find fall foliage at Paradise in the fall. The park is full of dozens of hikes, waterfalls waiting to be explored, and more. With so much to do, this is the ideal place for outdoor enthusiasts to explore.
Driving with an infant? Here are some tips for a road trip with a baby.
5. Olympia, WA
As the capital of Washington State, Olympia is another magnificent city to visit along this road trip to Cannon Beach from Seattle. Whether you’re visiting the Washington State Capitol, grabbing a bite at the Olympia Farmers Market, or walking through Percival Landing Park near the waterfront, it’s an idyllic place to be.
If you’re traveling with kids, I recommend checking out the Hands On Children’s Museum, which has tons of interactive displays, an outdoor playing space, and a food court for when they get hungry (P.S.: Check out these road trip snacks for kids to avoid any tantrums). The Puget Sound Estuarium is also a brilliant place to learn more about the Sound’s marine life.
I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to help me plan out my trips and find fun stops along the way. Use my code “BTR5QTP” for $5 off when you sign up!
6. Mount Saint Helens, WA
Another iconic part of Washington is Mount Saint Helens, a volcano famous for its 1980 eruption. Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument stretches over 110,000 acres and is a brilliant place to go hiking.
It’s within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which is also a terrific spot for outdoor explorers. Two brilliant places to visit in this park are the Mount Saint Helens Visitor Center and the Forest Learning Center, which delve into the eruption and its aftermath.
Top tip: For a fascinating look into the area’s history, take this all-inclusive small-group tour of Mount Saint Helens.
7. Aberdeen, WA
Next up, we’ve got Aberdeen, commonly known as the “gateway to the Olympic Peninsula,” and a charming city. It’s also famous for being the birthplace of Kurt Cobain, the late, renowned vocalist of Nirvana.
The Kurt Cobain Memorial Park is a brilliant insight into the influence the city had on him and his lyrics. It’s surrounded by nature, from Bottle Beach State Park and its migratory birds to the stunning Lake Aberdeen.
Prefer to dive into some culture? Check out the Aberdeen Art Center to see some fantastic local artwork, or take an art class. Keen to try out some local wine? Visit Westport Winery, Greys Harbor County’s first wine farm.
You can also head out on a drive from Portland to San Francisco at this point.
8. Astoria, OR
Next up, we’ve got our first stop in Oregon, the historic city of Astoria. It’s a charming place on the Oregon Coast, with its waterfront views, proximity to several state parks, and cultural offerings. You’ll find some delightful places to visit if you want to take a pit stop here.
The Oregon Film Museum is a fun way to explore the history of movies in Oregon. Did you know that The Goonies was set in Astoria? Yes, this museum covers many movies shot in Oregon, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Free Willy.
Another delightful option on your Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip is the Astoria Sunday Market, open from May 9 until October 10, which has live music, tasty treats, and local arts and crafts.
If you’re in the mood for beer and pizza, I highly recommend Fort George Brewery; I go here every single time I visit Astoria, and I don’t feel bad for not trying somewhere new because it’s that good.
Make sure to reserve your rental car ahead of time! I love using Discover Cars for my trips.
If you’re looking for a shorter drive, you can end here and just do a Seattle to Portland road trip.
9. Fort Stevens State Park, OR
Just 15 minutes (9 miles) from Astoria is the majestic Fort Stevens State Park which is worth seeing when driving from Seattle to Cannon Beach. This 4,300-acre park offers over 480 campsites, more than 15 miles of hiking and biking trails, and a historic shipwreck.
What’s more, it’s also home to a Civil War fort from 1865, which brings many history buffs to the park. This fort was used by soldiers in the Battle of Chantilly, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
Additionally, the 2.5-mile loop trail around Coffenbury Lake is a fantastic way to get some fresh air and a tranquil driving break.
Another fun drive is the road trip from Seattle to Crater Lake National Park.
10. Seaside, OR
The final stop before reaching Cannon Beach is the coastal town of Seaside. Yes, it’s literally the perfect description for the town, as this is the perfect beach town with its promenade, the Seaside Carousel Mall, and festive energy.
Looking for some fun things to do with kids? Check out the Seaside Aquarium, one of the West Coast’s oldest aquariums. Here, you can find all kinds of marine life, such as eels, octopuses, stingrays, crabs, starfish, and more. Plus, they take conservation seriously by helping beached whales and stranded mammals along the Oregon Coast.
Further, Seaside plays an important role in American history, as it was the final stop on Lewis and Clark’s expedition on the West Coast. The town even hosts an annual event to commemorate their efforts – the Lewis and Clark Salt Makers Return. A reenactment and other lectures, demonstrations, and workshops are held.
11. Cannon Beach, OR
The road trip ends in Cannon Beach, after hundreds of miles along the Pacific Coast. It’s a fun city with its long shores, a bustling downtown of boutiques and art galleries, and an exciting brewery scene.
For lovers of craft beer and good food, check out Pelican Brewing. It has all the usual suspects, like IPAs, stouts, lagers, experimental fruit ales, and even non-alcoholic hop-flavored drinks.
Plus, with the city’s great outdoors, it’s also well worth it to venture outside. There are many things to do, whether beach-hopping, tide-pooling, wildlife viewing, hiking, or even surfing.
Ready for more? You’ll love going on a drive to San Francisco from Seattle.
Seattle to Cannon Beach Itinerary: 2 Days
You might feel more organized now that you have all the spots to visit. If you’re not sure how to do it, check out this itinerary. Let’s get into it!
We start off the Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip in Seattle, where you’ll head down the I-5 for 32 miles before reaching Tacoma. Now, this itinerary will require you to be a bit more selective when choosing pitstops, but this city is a cultural hotspot along this road trip.
Next, you’ll drive for roughly 60 miles before getting to Mount Rainier National Park. Here, you can take a short hike in the park or enjoy a scenic drive and enjoy the incredible beauty. The last stretch of day one involves driving another 68 miles until you reach the enchanting city of Olympia.
A brilliant way to end the day is by wandering through Percival Landing Park and the waterfront before enjoying some delicious seafood at Olympia Oyster House.
Where to Stay: Get some rest at DoubleTree Olympia, with its comfy beds, relaxing wooden finishes, and air-conditioned rooms. (rates start at $144 per night)
Start day two with a delicious breakfast at Martin Way Diner, with French toast, biscuits and gravy, or a short stack of pancakes. Now that you’ve fueled up both your stomach and your car, you’ll go for around 40 miles before arriving at Aberdeen, the birthplace of Kurt Cobain. This is a great opportunity to stretch your legs, as the next portion of the road trip is over 70 miles long.
The next stop, Astoria, comes after passing over the Astoria-Megler Bridge, a truly stunning piece of architecture over the Columbia River. This is a fantastic place to stop for lunch, with many cafés, fish and chip shops, and Japanese restaurants.
Then, on your last stretch of the trip, there are optional stops at Fort Stevens State Park and Seaside. Fort Stevens State Park is the best stop to learn some new road trip fun facts, and Seaside is a beach lover’s delight.
Seaside is only 9 miles from Cannon Beach, and it’s a cute last stop.
Where to Stay: End the trip in style by staying at a classy Cannon Beach property, such as the Surfsand Resort. It’s right on the beach, with free Wi-Fi and an onsite restaurant. (rates start at $299 per night)
Now it’s time to get planning your Seattle to Cannon Beach road trip!