My 81-year-old mother and I headed to Bandon on the southern Oregon coast for the weekend to help her brother celebrate his 80th Birthday. Bandon’s a place I’d been to quite a bit over my life because of the relatives that lived there since I was a child. It’s only recently I discovered how wonderful Bandon truly is. In fact, it’s so nice that in 2010 Budget Travel named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America.” That’s saying something considering the town was wiped off the map by a devastating fire in 1936 where people survived only by seeking refuge on the dock, beach and in the surf.
Today Bandon’s back and booming. And to prove it, here’s a sampling of what I like about it:
First off, it was settled by Irish man George Bennett (my last name’s O’Leary). The weather can be unpredictable and never boring (also like me). And for years they’ve made Bandon Cheese here.
Rock formations along the craggy coast create interesting view points and the scenic beauty will be sure to offer many photo ops. I love to drive the Beach Loop that winds along the cliff where many stops lead to paths or stairways dropping down to the pristine sandy beaches below.
The rocks have names like Face Rock, Garden of the Gods, Table Rock, Cat and Kittens Rock and Elephant Rock. Local legend says Face Rock’s of an Indian maiden that was frozen into stone by an evil spirit. The Cat and Kittens Rock are her animals that were thrown into the sea and turned to stone by the same nemesis.
Another favorite locale is the Coquille River (named after the local native Indians). The river runs along the South side of Bandon where it empties into the Pacific along a rock jetty. The area is buffeted by crashing waves and has a history of ship wrecks the locals love to retell. Nearby, the Coquille River Lighthouse stands proudly and offers tours.
Old Town offers quaint shops, great restaurants, and a boardwalk with interesting wood animal sculptures and other art. There’s a pier, port, dock, boat ramp and marina – great for fishing and sight seeing.
Cranberries are a popular product of Bandon and there’s a a Cranberry Festival in September to celebrate the harvest. My uncle’s family has grown cranberries here for years and they owns bogs on a farm just out of town.
Other highlights include: four world premier golf courses including Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, you can explore nearby Bullards Beach State Park, Bandon Marsh and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuges, Bandon Historical Society Museum, West Coast Game Park Safari, plus the Oregon dunes are just a hop skip and jump away.
Of course there’s all the other charms and activities of a beach town like surfing, crabbing, etc, but one thing’s for sure – if you visitBandon you’ll want to return again and again.