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]