Carmel or Coney Island? I like long, relaxing walks on the beach at sunrise and sunset, along with browsing in bookstores. Others prefer volleyball, sand castles and boardwalks. My wife and I recently visited the Oregon coast and in Cannon Beach and Seaside, separated by only eight miles, we found both. Weekend visitors in the fall will avoid summertime crowds and take advantage of brisk autumn days and lower prices. The tab: $700, not including taxes, for two nights' lodging. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Portland begins at $184; car rentals are $18 to $25 per day. The drive takes just over 90 minutes northwest from Portland.
At Schooner's Cove Inn in Cannon Beach (188 N. Larch St.;  436-2300), we stretched out in an ocean-front, two-room suite with a full kitchen. At $350 a night, it was a splurge. Indulge in the ocean-view private hot tub and use the barbecue grills and picnic tables. I also read — and dozed — in one of the chaise lounges to the sound of waves less than 50 yards away.
I shirked the wine-and-cheese shops of Cannon Beach and indulged my inner teenager in Seaside. Amid the aroma of cotton candy, I stopped in at Bee Bop/Big Kahuna Burgers (111 Broadway, Seaside;  738-3271) and was greeted, as you might guess, by images of Elvis, Marilyn and Marlon. The high school senior behind the counter reminded me that a pepperoni pizza ($7.25) "might take as long as 15 minutes." So I wandered outside — dodging pedal taxis, one of the town's more popular activities — and into Fun Zone arcade, observing adolescents and a few adults playing miniature golf, crashing bumper cars and spinning themselves dizzy on the Tilt-a-Whirl. A quarter-hour later, I was savoring a sliver of greasy pepperoni and puffy crust, as Lesley Gore bemoaned that it's her party and she'll cry if she wants to.
Cannon Beach's coastline is dominated by Haystack Rock, a federally protected 235-foot behemoth with tide pools and nesting sites for sea birds. At low tide volunteers with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program set up rope barriers to prevent curiosity-seekers from climbing and to answer questions about marine life.
The lesson learned
Visit Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach before 10 a.m. and take in the stunning ocean views, with only a handful of other hikers, along the 21/2 -mile Clatsop Loop Trail. When we left at noon, there was a backup of at least 50 cars along the narrow, winding road to the park entrance.
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