In 1846, the USS Shark met its end on the Columbia River Bar. The ship broke apart, and a section of deck bearing a small cannon and an iron capstan drifted south, finally in 1894 washing ashore south of the current city limits at Arch Cape. And so Cannon Beach town got its name, which it adopted in 1922.
In the winter of 2008, during an especially low tide, two additional cannons were revealed. Although their provenance has not been verified, they’re also thought to be from the Shark. Although they are currently being cleaned and studied at Texas A&M University, these cannons are expected to go to Astoria’s Columbia River Maritime Museum  in about 2011.
In 1873, stagecoach and railroad tycoon Ben Holladay helped create Oregon ’s first coastal tourist mecca, Seaside , while ignoring its attractive neighbor in the shadow of Haystack Rock. In the 20th century, Cannon Beach evolved into a bohemian alternative to the hustle and bustle of the family-oriented resort scene to the north. Before the recent era of development, this place was a quaint backwater attracting laid-back artists, summer-home residents, and the overflow from Seaside.
Today, the low-key charm and atmosphere conducive to artistic expression have in some part been quashed by development and the attendant massive visitor influx and price increases. While such vital signs as a first-rate theater, a good bookstore, cheek-by-jowl art galleries, and fine restaurants are still in ample evidence, your view of them from the other side of the street might be blocked by a convoy of Winnebagos.
Nonetheless, the broad three-mile stretch of beach dominated by the impressive monolith of Haystack Rock  still provides a contemplative experience. And if you’re patient and resourceful enough to find a space for your wheels (try the free municipal lot one block east of the main street), the finest gallery-hopping, crafts, and shopping on the coast await.
The city is small enough for strolling, and its location removed from U.S. 101 spares it the kind of blight seen on the main drags of other coastal tourist towns.
Wood shingles and understated earth tones dominate the architecture of tastefully rendered galleries, bookstores, and bistros. Throngs of walkers along Hemlock Street, the main drag, also distinguish this burg from the typical coastal strip town whose heart and soul have been pierced by U.S. 101. You have to go clear to the north end of Cannon Beach to find a gas station, and even then you’re liable to pass by its stone-cottage facade.
From U.S. 101, there’s a choice of four entrances to the beach loop (also known as U.S. 101 Alternate, a section of the old Oregon Coast Highway) to take you into Cannon Beach. As you wade into the town’s shops, galleries, and restaurants, the beach loop becomes Hemlock Street, the main drag of Cannon Beach.
Sunset Empire Transportation District operates The Bus (503/861-7433), which serves Cannon Beach, Seaside , Astoria-Warren , and points in between. Parking can be hard to come by, especially on weekends, but you’ll find public lots south of town at Tolovana Park and in town at Hemlock at First Street and on Second Street.
The Cannon Beach Shuttle runs every half hour on a 6.5-mile loop, from Les Shirley Park on the north end of town to Tolovana Park; it operates 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, with extended summer hours. The fare is $0.75.