cannon-beachWhen I find a place that everyone in our family enjoys and is accessible for my daughter’s wheelchair, we tend to make it a regular family vacation destination. That’s the case with Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast, one of our favorite family get-away destinations. Just three and a half hours from Seattle or one and a half hours from Portland, you will find wide sandy beaches dotted by beautiful rock formations, and a little town filled with fun shops and restaurants.

We’re native Northwesterners, so as long as it’s not raining much we’ll spend entire days of our family vacation walking the beach, jumping waves, playing with a skim board, flying a kite, and exploring the tide pools at Haystack Rock. Of course the day has to end with a beach fire and s’mores.

When the weather is less friendly we’ll explore the town; Cannon Beach is well-known for its fantastic art community, there are plenty of galleries and beautiful shops. There are also several spas in town, it’s a great opportunity to treat yourself – you know that doesn’t happen often enough.

Accessibility at Cannon Beach


This is one of the reasons that Cannon Beach is our go-to beach – almost everything is accessible. It is a bit of a challenge to get my daughter’s pushchair to the sand, but the paved road behind the Wayfarer on East Gower Ave is the best route from town. At the south end of Cannon Beach is Tolovana Beach State Park where there is another wheelchair-friendly ramp to the beach. When we reach the sand at the end of the pavement, we turn her pushchair around and tip it on the back two wheels to pull it through the soft sand. Once we’re on the harder-surfaced, damp sand we can walk the beach for hours.

The stores are accessible with nice sidewalks and ramps, and in my experience the shop owners are friendly and accommodating if the racks are a little too close.

Where to Eat at Cannon Beach

Dining options range from family-style pizza at Fultano’s or Pizza-a-Feta and grill foods at Lumberyard, to gluten-free foods at JP’s, to high end fine dining. And of course there’s lots of coffee, but no Starbucks. Kind of a shocker for a Seattlite. Stopping by Bruce’s Candy at the north end of town is a must.

Where to Shop at Cannon Beach

There are lots of fun shops in Cannon Beach, but we have some favs: I always check out Dena’s Shop on the Corner and Purple Moon, my daughters go first to Ter Har’s for their surfer-girl lines. We all enjoy catching up with the guys at Cannon Beach Surf. There are two extensive kite shops and several fabulous art galleries. So much more – over 50 nice shops to wander through.

What do Do at Cannon Beach

Rent surf and skim boards, fly kites, visit Mike’s Bike Shop (he rents bikes, strollers and FunCycles), see Coaster Theatre performances, watch live glass blowing at Icefire Glassworks, enjoy the beach and relax.

Where to Stay at Cannon Beach

There are many great places to stay at all levels of affordability, from campgrounds to oceanfront beach houses. Of the several we have stayed at, these are the two we’ve found most accommodating.

Inn at Cannon Beach – Nice, clean rooms, great service, free breakfast, DVD library, dog-friendly, lots of events. We’ve stayed here many times. Ask for the handicap-accessible room; you’ll park in the handicap spot right outside and have a zero entry shower. They also own the new condos next door, one of which is ADA, equipped with an elevator. The only downsides – it’s several blocks to the beach (Tolovana State Park), you can’t really walk to town (I prefer as little car-wheelchair transfer as possible), the rooms are on the small side, and there’s no pool.

Hallmark Inn – They own several properties; the main Inn is oceanfront, as are the beach houses they manage. They have one ADA peak view one bedroom suite in the main hotel, which also has a kitchenette and is close to the pool. We’ve stayed at beach house #380, which is fairly accessible. It has three bedrooms so my daughter can have her peace and quiet when she’s over-stimulated and everybody sleeps better. The front door is accessed by a long flight of stairs, so you’ll need to go to the back door and up a stair to the deck for wheelchair access, and the bathroom is tight, no zero entry shower. Everything except the master bedroom is on the main floor, so for us, it works. Beach house #301 is fully ADA compliant and sleeps 9, so it might be a great place to stay with another family. The beach houses are a short walk to paved beach access, and you have all of the amenities of the Hallmark Inn, including the pool and housekeeping services.

The hardest thing about traveling with a special needs kid is going into the unknown. Now that you’ve got some Cannon Beach recon, you can visit with confidence. Making your reservation is the next step – Life is your adventure – Live it!