The Best Beach In America

It’s late afternoon at Cannon Beach, and Oregon’s windswept coast is at once moody and cozy. The gathering clouds over Haystack Rock—that iconic sea stack featured in such cult films as The Goonies—towers ahead as I warm my feet by the beach bonfire. I’m miles away from the bustling streets of New York, where the mounting summer heat has made the city feel like a sizzling frying pan. Amidst hot garbage smells and sweat-soaked subway rides, I’ve longed for the chilly weather of the Northwest, often losing myself to thoughts of knit sweaters and wine-fueled nights spent watching the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean.

“Another log?” I’m pulled from my reverie by a boyish teen smiling kindly and gesturing towards the waning fire. He is a staffer of the Surfsand Resort, a beachfront hotel that recalls the nostalgic days of family resort vacations. Since checking in, I’ve been lulled into a sort of dream-like state marked by cotton-candy skies, the sing-song of seabirds, and the crescendo of thunderstorms heading out to sea.

Courtesy of Surfsand Resort © Provided by Fodor's Courtesy of Surfsand Resort

My partner and I arrived at Surfsand a mere two days prior and instantly realized this would be no ordinary stay. Sure, we expected beachfront views and impossibly fresh seafood, but I did not anticipate swooning at a list of resort activities ranging from nightly beach bonfires to weekend ice cream socials. Being two somewhat jaded New Yorkers, there’s something disarmingly sweet about Surfsand and its daily fresh cookie hour.

The Surfsand Resort is located in Cannon Beach, a small coastal city in Northwest Oregon named one of the 100 Most Beautiful Places in the World. While the walkable town of Cannon Beach is host to a slew of art galleries and locally-owned shops, their biggest draw is the 235-foot-high Haystack Rock. More than a land formation, Haystack is home to dozens of nesting puffins, seabirds, and star-fish studded pools that become a tourist draw when tides are low. Staying at Surfsand puts you steps away from Haystack Rock, which means early-risers can peer at anemones and enjoy empty beaches before the crowds arrive.

We’ve come to Cannon Beach after spending two days at the historic Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland. For 48 hours, we roamed the dizzying stacks of Powell’s City of Books (the largest independent bookstore in the world), inhaled the intoxicating aroma of flowers at the city’s International Rose Test Garden, and sipped on craft beers at one of Portland’s many breweries. Of the many attractions that Portland boasts, I’m the most envious of the city’s proximity to Cannon Beach, which is only a short 90-minute drive away. New York may have the Hamptons and Finger Lakes, but neither come close to the awe-inspiring rugged coastline of Oregon.

With the bonfire now blazing, I awkwardly balance my wine in one hand and a marshmallow roasting stick in the other. Surfsand offers free nightly bonfires for guests, but for an additional $50, the staff will build you a private one complete with a s’mores kit. I think of the many times I’ve seemingly tossed $50 to the wind back in New York—having wasted money on subpar take-out or overpriced cocktails—and instantly rationalize that now is not the time to be stingy. With a wine bottled ordered from The Wayfarer (Surfsand’s on-site restaurant), we watch the sunset with sticky marshmallow fingers and wine-soaked lips.

Nikki Vargas © Provided by Fodor's Nikki Vargas

A quick note on The Wayfarer: I’m not one to religiously commit to room service when staying at a hotel. Instead, I prefer to scour a destination in search of gleaming examples of its local cuisine. This changes when I check into Surfsand and surprise myself by ordering (and continue ordering) from The Wayfarer. With our room’s balcony in full view of Haystack Rock, my favorite pastime quickly becomes eating fresh seafood while donning a fluffy robe in the comfort of our room.


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