A winding road leads from Ashland to the coast; it’s a pretty drive that meanders along the Umpqua and Coquille Rivers. At only 185 miles from our hometown, we’ve spent many long weekends by the sea. Any season is a good season to be by the ocean, as long as you don’t expect unending sunshine and swimmable water. This is the Pacific Northwest, and you can find yourself wearing fleece on the beach, even in summer.
Fall has always been one of our favorite times to visit the coast—there’s often less fog and warmer temperatures in October than in July, and the summer crowds have thinned to nil. And unlike in the summer, it’s easy to find a camping spot—there’s a beautiful state park just a couple of miles outside of town at Bullard’s Beach. This time, though, we stayed with our dear friends Ted and Katherine at their lovely beach house, a stone’s throw from gorgeous Bandon Beach.
Bandon-By-The-Sea is the place to go for the classic Pacific Northwest coast experience. We walked the beach, went crabbing (successfully!), and took a leisurely boat ride up the Coquille. Katherine and I wandered the charming little downtown, browsed the bookstore, and indulged in handcrafted chocolate while the guys watched a game at a local pub. Back at the beach house, we cooked fabulous seafood meals, talked, laughed, and played cards, all the while staying cozy by the fire. This is a fun little town, and even better when shared with good friends.
Things To Do:
• Walk The Beach. That’s why you come to the coast, right? Bandon has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Northwest coast, mostly because of the architecturally interesting rock formations along the headlands and shoreline, including Face Rock, the site of a Native American legend about an Indian princess turned to stone by an evil ocean spirit. Look carefully, and you can see the profile of her face turned toward the sky.
Bandon Beach is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, a protected habitat for seabirds and shorebirds, seals, sea lions, and tidepool creatures. There’s a beautiful walkway along the bluff with wonderful interpretive signs and stairways leading to the beach far below. The sunsets are spectacular!
• Admire The Lighthouse. Although it’s the smallest of the many Oregon Coast lighthouses, the Coquille River lighthouse (AKA the Bandon lighthouse) is one of the most picturesque. Hence, it’s in a disproportionate number of our photos of Bandon. Situated on a rocky point at the south end of Bullard’s Beach State Park, the lighthouse was in operation from 1896 until 1939, steering ships through a maze of treacherous shifting sandbars into the safety of the Coquille River and the Bandon harbor. The lighthouse was closed during our stay; it’s open only from mid-May until mid-October, but it’s still worth the couple mile trip from town to see the lighthouse up close, view Bandon across the river, and take a long walk on Bullard’s Beach.
• Go Crabbing. We had the luxury of Ted’s fishing boat, but you can easily crab from the very fine crab dock in Bandon. Rent a crab trap, bait it with fish carcasses or raw chicken pieces, and voila—you’ll catch dinner. Dungeness crabs are huge, sweet, and delicious. (Eric really likes them, because where he needs about a dozen blue crabs to constitute a meal, just one Dungeness crab is enough.) To keep things simple, we walked over to Tony’s Crab Shack from the dock and had them steam our catch. If you want to make things truly easy, you can buy crab from Tony’s.
• Explore ‘Washed Ashore’. In 2010, artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi decided to do something about the plastic debris that washes up onto the pristine beaches of southern Oregon. In a moment of brilliant inspiration, she created the Washed Ashore project, enlisting local volunteers to collect trash on the beaches and transform all of the bits and pieces into enormous sculptures of the sea animals most affected by plastic pollution. These pieces are truly beautiful—and it’s also immensely disturbing to see the amount and kinds of plastic trash that wash up on our beaches.
Since 2010, the Washed Ashore project has created more than 30 giant sculptures with the help of more than 10,000 volunteers. They’ve recycled 11 tons of plastic debris into art meant to educate and inspire people to clean up our oceans and beaches—and more importantly, to cut back on plastic consumption. The project has been so successful that many of the pieces are now touring the country, encouraging reducing, reusing, repurposing, and recycling. If you’re ever in Bandon, visit this wonderful place. You can even stop in for an hour to volunteer—they always need help sorting plastic and working on the latest sculpture.
(I often wish that plastic had never been invented—but that’s pretty unrealistic, given that everything from my sunglasses to our kayak is made of plastic. For years we’ve avoided buying plastic when there are reasonable alternatives and we recycle, but this exhibit inspired me to do more.)
• Stroll The Downtown. Bandon has a lovely waterfront and a quirky combination of interesting little shops (notably Winter River Books and Chocolate Mist gourmet chocolate shop) along with some kitschy tourist traps. On our list for future visits is Alloro Wine Bar and Restaurant, a gourmet dinner venue, and Face Rock Creamery, a local gourmet cheese factory. And time at the Bandon Marsh for wildlife viewing, and a tour of the lighthouse. We need to get back there soon! [portfolio_slideshow]
This makes me homesick for Oregon and the Oregon Coast. That final picture of the sunset is phenomenal! You should enter it into a photo contest. The sculptures are amazing.
Happy Trails to you.
Thanks, Sheila. I agree, the Oregon coast is pretty special. Perhaps we should get some kind of Washed Ashore art project going on Lopez?
You have a way with words and pictures that make common places look attractive and places like Bandon look and sound absolutely spectacular!
Thanks, Doug. I think we’re just lucky to have so many beautiful and interesting places that we visit in our journeys. We live in a pretty unique part of the country, don’t you agree? :-)
So lovely to see Bandon from your perspective. Although it is no longer one of those hidden Oregon secrets, it still is no doubt one of the more charming little towns on our coast. Loved how you wrote about the places we love as well. Also, enjoyed seeing your fun with friends and food. I KNOW that house, was just noticing it last time we were there, and what do you know?! Small world.
I’m glad you enjoyed Bandon through our eyes, Sue. I think we have similar taste in places that we explore and things that we enjoy doing. How interesting that you noticed Ted & Katherine’s house! They built it, and it’s exquisite in every detail, down to the perfect table linens.
Dear Eric & Laurel: My dear sister, my birding buddy and mentor for many years “birded” this beach (and up the coast as far as Newport) many years ago when Greg was still in Eugene. What a special experience. Judy passed away 7 years ago, and your blog brought back that wonderful memory. Thank you!
Barbara, we’re so happy to hear from you, and to know that Bandon holds such special memories for you.
Looks like such a quaint area. I think I’ve become more partial to a little warmer weather and more sunshine after a month on the Texas Gulf Coast. I will be so ready come February to return to the desert to dry out LOL. BTW…. very cruel of you posting those photos of the food… yum!
Ingrid, by the time we head south in January we’re going to be ready for some warmth and sunshine, too! No better time for the desert. I hope we can meet up with you there. :-)
Bryan and I have always loved Bandon. It’s one of the few towns on the coast that has a downtown area sequestered from Hwy 101 – it was Bryan’s first experience of the Pacific Ocean as a boy – driving from Elko Nevada I think overnight and arriving at the Windemere Hotel sometime in the 1950’s. Sweet town. We also like Newport for the same reason that it actually has two “off the strip of 101” areas to enjoy the town culture.
What a great story, Nancy. Interesting that you should mention Newport — that’s where we were yesterday! We really enjoyed our time there, too. Hugs to you both.
Ohhhh….Dungeness crab….Not very many of those out here on the Rio Grande…Happy to see that you’re making the best of the season. Hi to Kathy and Ted!
Yeah, we’ve never found Dungeness in Texas, either! How’s your seafood stash from Alaska holding out? :-)
As I was looking at the pictures, I realized we were there two years ago. We stopped in so many places that the names have become jumbled, but once I saw the lighthouse I remembered. We plan on going that way again this summer, but much slower than before.
Pam, the little lighthouse is pretty distinctive! It’s definitely an area worth visiting many times and at a slow pace. We never manage to do everything that we set out to do!
What a wonderful place! Your beach photos are gorgeous. I love the huge boulders, especially that shot from the sand with the sea weed and the rocks in the distance.
Dungeness crab is my all time favorite…and to catch it fresh…yum!!
Sounds like you had a wonderful time with friends:)
Thanks, Pam. As you know, sharing adventures with friends makes for even more fun. ;-) The Dungeness crabs are just amazingly abundant. It’s such a thrill to pull up the trap with a dozen crabs, even if only one is a keeper.
Love, love, love your photos and stories. And lots of love to Ted and Kathy. What an absolutely perfect set of friends you guys make! Some of the world’s best people there in that little boat by the sea!!!!!!!!!
Janet, so happy you enjoyed the photos and blog. Your comment made me smile. :-)
You should work for the Chamber of Commerce if that is they want more people to visit or move to Bandon-By-The-Sea. Seems the founder might have been from England where such picturesque names are common. Your artistic pictures continue to inspire me to somehow try to change how I “see”. So far I’m not having much luck so your pictures are eye candy. Thanks so much for them and this lovely post.
Bandon is such a sweet town — it’s one of those places that I think, “I could live here!” That seems to happen to me a lot. I’m glad you continue to enjoy our photos, Sherry — it’s always interesting to try to find unique angles. The delete button is my friend! :-)
Beautiful shots of a wonderful place to visit.We ate at Alloro a couple of years ago and it did not disappoint!
Lisa, I was so disappointed that Alloro was closed while we were there. Glad to know that you enjoyed it; that makes me want to go there even more!
Gorgeous photos-as usual-Laurel. I think Bandon was our favorite Oregon coastal community. In one of the little galleries I purchased a beautiful pair or sea glass earrings while there–and, I, who never lose jewelry have lost one of them! :(( We will have to get out on the water next time and catch some crabs!
Glad you enjoyed the photos, Janna. It sounds like you need to make a trip back to Bandon sometime for another pair of earrings. Catching crabs is fun (and delicious!).
What a lovely place. I guess we didn’t visit it when we were in Oregon. I’m sure I would remember the crab shack, the gourmet chocolate shop and the artisan bakery. Don’t know if we’ll ever get up that way again, but if we do, it would definitely be a great stop. Love your pics as usual. I especially like the one of Eric with the lighthouse over his shoulder. Enjoy your holidays.
I’m sure you would remember those places as well, Jo. It’s definitely a little town that you and Fred would enjoy. Happy holidays to you and Fred in your beautiful new home!
Looks like a great time and great weather! We loved staying in Bandon several years ago and exploring the downtown area. Still have — and love — a beautiful glass vase made in Bandon at glass shop where you could see the folks working.
Sounds like another interesting thing to do in Bandon, Colette! We’ll have to check it out next time we’re there.
Great round up of our favorite little town on the OR coast!
Nina, it’s definitely one of our favorites, too! Hopefully next year we’ll get to see inside the lighthouse (and your lighthouse at Cape Blanco!).
Beautiful photos and an inspiring post. Wouldn’t it be lovely if they were to run out of “material” for the art pieces? I know much of the trash floats in from other locations, but I can’t imagine who thinks it’s okay to leave trash in such a magnificent place.
Haven’t made it there yet, but it is definitely on the list for next fall!
Jodee, I was thinking exactly the same — it would be wonderful to run out of material for the art pieces! The artist has vowed to continue creating art until no more trash can be found on the beaches.
We loved Bandon and we will surely make a return visit. Dungeness crabs has been one of our staple seafood when we lived in the Bay Area.
Lucky for us that Costco in Houston were selling them but shocked when we saw the price. It used to be 3.99 a lb but now it’s 7.99 but it did not deter us for we got one for lunch anyhow.
I envy you catching all that fresh crabs.
As always great post accompanied by vivid shots.
Thanks, ML! We love Dungeness crabs, too. Catching them fresh is the best — it’s so much fun (not to mention inexpensive!).