Time to Explore and Relax
The Oregon beach at Bandon by the Sea must be one of the most beautiful in our nation. It certainly makes top ten lists often. Long stretches of beach are spotted with enormous rocks, in every direction. The view from a distance–or close up–is awe inspiring.
Add to that, Bandon is less than two hours from my home. Often exploring your own locale can be as enjoyable as a vacation away. At least that is what I’ve discovered. Last summer two friends and I drove the Oregon Coast. It was a blast! But for all the time we had, the trip was over too quickly, and we left so much unexplored.
So I set a new goal; to explore town by town on short trips. I decided to start with one of my favorites, Bandon-by-the-Sea.That’s where I am, right at this minute, sitting at the table in my room, looking out at this beach. As a matter of fact, I’ll be stopping soon to walk outside to see if the clouds have parted enough for a sunset that actually includes the sun. From my window I can see it’s trying.
While the shoreline is probably my favorite part of the area, there is much more to Bandon. It’s a lively little town, with busy restaurants, quite a few hotels and motels, and a lovely working harbor, filled with fishing boats along with smaller craft.It’s a lovely little town to get away to for a relaxing vacation, away from the busyness of the city, yet offering plenty to do.
The Oregon Coast Beach
I would have to visit here often, if only for the beach. It strikes me as exquisite, and is probably considered one of the most photogenic in the state of Oregon. This picture is the view from the balcony of my hotel room. Not bad, right?
This morning the tide was out, further out than I’ve seen it before. They call it a negative tide or minus tide. You could almost walk right up to Face Rock, which normally seems deep in the water.
I didn’t walk quite that far out, but the waves were breaking there. It was a delight to walk right up to many of the rocks usually surrounded by very cold water. As you can see, the starfish were exposed and amazing. I bet a count would have gone over a thousand of them. On nearly every rock there were clumps of them, some enormous, and some quite tiny. In so many shades too. Even the barnacles that literally cover many of the rocks are fascinating.
Right in this spot you will find Face Rock, Table rock, Neptune (that’s my personal name for it), Cat and Kittens rock, Elephant rock, and Cathedral rock. You can probably walk for a mile, especially at low tide. Maybe it isn’t quite that far.
On the other side, the Table Rock side, you can walk at least another half mile. And surprisingly, you won’t see many people. I bet there weren’t more than a dozen altogether when I was there this morning for a couple of hours. You feel like you have the beach to yourself–something found quite often along this stretch of the coast. Even the sand is cooperative. It’s nearly all hard packed, which makes walking very easy.
Gulls and even geese are plentiful. At times you will even see puffins! It must be a photographer’s favorite, with so many opportunities and sights to catch. I return home in the morning, but already can’t wait to come back!
For That Beach Walk
You won’t want to head down to the beach without a backpack and a hat. This is my new favorite pack. Empty the Electrolight backpack weighs less than 3 ounces! So easy to bring with you anywhere. It folds into a small pouch with a strap. When you need it, it opens up to 17″x13″x6.” Perfect to bring along in your suitcase for daily outings.
A Sun Hat
I love a hat like this Bora Bora Booney for the beach. It gets awfully bright on the beach, even if it’s cloudy. The wide brim of this one will protect against the sun’s rays, not to mention any rain that might surprise you. A tie is important since beaches do get windy here at times. It might come in handy when photographing too. The sweatband is omni-wick to keep you more comfortable.
The town runs for miles, but the quaint downtown area on 2nd street, right near the harbor, is only a couple of blocks long and wide. Cute, well maintained buildings, nearly all occupied, line the streets.
Mercantiles, gift shops, clothing stores are among them. You can stop in the Chamber/Visitor center for maps and local information.
You’ll find plenty of seafood restaurants and steak houses, along with fish and chips, pizza, chinese, and the very popular–and busy–coffee houses. There are plenty of vegetarian choices at most restaurants too.
Most of the hotels are spread out along the scenic beach loop. They are older, but clean and very well maintained, with unique interior decor. Many offer routes down to the beach, which is a definite plus.
Be sure to walk around to see the harbor too. It’s lovely at dawn. There’s a nearby golf course as well, if that is your passion, with a hotel right on the course.
Bandon has a small airport, as does Coos Bay/North Bend.
The Museum at Bandon
Interesting details from a small town’s history.
One of my stops today was the local museum. History has become more interesting to me over the last few years, so I was pleased to see the museum there, right on highway 101.
For a small fee, I learned so much about Bandon. It fascinated me to see the old equipment used for cranberry picking. The cranberry bogs here are widespread and popular, including the Cranberry Festival in September each year. There is a Cranberry Sweet store downtown where you can sample, but I’d like to come back during the festival to experience what it offers.
There were photos of the old Bandon cheese factory that was so popular, a lot of information on the bridges and the buildings. The whole museum is fun to see, with a military section, industry section, even old photos of school classes.
I think the part that surprised me the most was the terrible fire back in 1936. A forest fire switched direction suddenly and swept in to destroy most of downtown. Only a few buildings survived. Thankfully people were able to make it to the shoreline where they were actually taken across the Coquille River in boats to safety. When you remember that the ocean breeze nearly always blows in from offshore, heading east, how shocking and how fast the change in wind direction caused such damage.
The museum holds many pieces that went through the fire, as well as photos of before, after, and then the rebuilding. We would see swift moving destruction like that occasionally in Southern California, but it was startling to see it happen here on Oregon coast.
Face Rock Creamery
Another part of history–the Cheese Factory
The cheese factory, now called Facerock Creamery, has been newly built and reopened. Years ago it was the Bandon Cheese Factory.
My parents brought us to the old factory once, probably two decades ago. I always remembered visiting. It was an unusual experience to see how the cheese was made then. Seeing the process of how it’s made, tasting the cheese curds, which were new to me, all stayed in the back of my mind.
The Bandon Cheese Factory closed many years ago. So when it was reborn with a new name, I couldn’t wait to visit, to take a walk back in time. They were starting a batch when I was there. You can see the enormous rectangular container through the glass in this picture, where they mix the newly pasteurized milk.
Once this stage is done, it is piped into the second vat where the whey is drained off, leaving cheese curds. The whey is returned to the farmers who use it as fertilizer. It was very interesting to see how the product is made.
They have a good variety to try, including peppercorn, smokey cheddar, and the award winning ‘vampire slayer garlic cheese.’ Would you try that flavor? It was so tasty! You can buy cheese, cheese curds, gift sets, as well as local brands of wine, dressings and sauces.
All in all a fun store to browse while you watch the cheese being made. The best part is that it renews an important part of Bandon’s history.
One of the 9 Lighthouses along the Oregon Coast
And the Campground enroute
If you are traveling the Oregon coast, chances are you will want to see the lighthouses. There are nine just in Oregon, with three more not far across the California and Washington borders. You can get an official stamp book and actually have it stamped at each lighthouse if you want, like they do at the national parks. It’s a fun souvenir of your travels.
Just north of downtown Bandon is the Coquille Lighthouse. You can drive right up to it. It’s closed now, so you can’t go inside, but it’s quite easy to see. It sits on a stretch of beach covered with driftwood, very dramatic in itself. And at this point of the coast, the ocean is nearly level with the road. Go about a half mile south and the ocean is far below the pretty cliffs, 130 steps down where I stayed. Of course I had to count them!
There’s another lighthouse, Cape Arago, less than thirty miles north near Coos bay, and another to the south in Cape Blanco, also about a half hour away near Port Orford.
Enroute to the lighthouse you will also pass through a beautiful campground, with camping in all forms. There are RV spaces, motorcycle spaces, tents sites, and the popular yurts. They have some large yurts at this camp too. There is something about yurts that always look so fun. No need to pitch a tent, a plus, especially if it’s raining!
There are parks and look out points everywhere, between the lighthouse stops. In places, signs appear every mile or so. That’s true all along the Oregon coast.
Essentials for your trip to the Coast
Don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses!
Some things you need with you no matter what the season. Even on a lovely spring day, the wind chill down at water level can keep temps much cooler than you expect.
A hat or visor, a jacket, water, are all essential. Don’t forget sunscreen either. One other suggestion: Be sure your camera and phone are fully charged! If there is a place you could use an extra charger, this is it!
The Real Power AirX gets my vote for a small portable back up charger. You have several color choices, which is fun, but the important things to me are the LIFETIME guarantee and the fact that it will fully charge your cell phone 4 to 6 times, or your iPad 75%. That is a long charge. It has two USB ports too so you can charge two devices at once.
Biking trips, long flights, I can think of so many times it would be more than handy. Instead of sitting on the floor in an airport to have access to a plug, use this instead. Then at night, you can plug it in to recharge. The size is 6″x3″x.40″ (approximately). So small it will easily fit into a pocket or that beach backpack.
For beach walks it is a necessary item if you want to catch the light and the low tide while you can.
You are in for a beautiful, scenic visit here on the Oregon Coast.