With no direct link to the I-5 freeway, Bandon is an out-of-the-way destination on Oregon’s southern coast. But if you’re up for making the trek, this 3,000-person retirement community has a lot to offer.
“A visitor once told me he had to swing on a vine to get here,” says Julie Miller, the Executive Director for Bandon’s Chamber of Commerce. “We are difficult to get to, but it’s part of our charm. It’s why we have so many repeat visitors. Once people get to Bandon, they fall in love.”
Unlike other popular towns along the Oregon coast, Bandon does not have a built-up waterfront area. A stroll along the Old Town boardwalk offers unobstructed ocean views, the occasional art show, and salt-of-the-earth service from a few long-standing businesses.
An example is Tony’s Crab Shack, which cooks up fresh-from-the-ocean Dungeness crab while you wait. If you prefer to catch your own, bring them over to Tony’s and they’ll cook them up for $1 a crab.
Coastal Mist is another Old Town highlight. Step out of the sea air to try one of the shop’s famous flights of drinking chocolates. If you prefer your flights full of beer, check out Foley’s Irish Pub, run by a “cranky, old Irishman with a great accent,” says Miller.
Bandon has Irish roots. The town was founded in the late 1800s by an Irishman, George Bennett, who named it after Bandon, Ireland. Bennett brought with him an ornamental shrub called gorse, which he planted all around the area to remind him of home. His nostalgic intentions turned sour in 1936, when a small fire reached a highly flammable gorse thicket and quickly spread into a devastating blaze that took out most of Bandon.
The town rebuilt over the next few decades, relying heavily on logging and fishing to drive growth. When those industries took a major hit in the 1980s, Bandon turned its attention to tourism, which today is the town’s economic engine.
Fishing remains a highlight in Bandon, but it’s more recreational these days. You can head out for some crabbing, or book a charter or river-fishing trip. Located on the Wild Rivers Coast, Bandon is known as a hot spot for steelhead and salmon. And fall is prime time for harvesting Dungeness crab in the bay at Bandon.
Perhaps one of Bandon’s best-known features is its golf courses. There are several award-winning courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and Bandon Crossings Golf Course, destinations for golfers from all around the world.
“People come here to experience golf as it was meant to be,” says Miller. “It’s a bucket-list item for serious golfers.”
Increasingly, Bandon has a lot to offer cyclists as well. The Wild Rivers Scenic Bikeway, located just 25 miles south of Bandon, is a 61-mile journey through some of the most appealing scenery in North Curry County. It takes riders past cultural and historic landmarks including Battle Rock, the Elk River fish hatchery, Cape Blanco Lighthouse, and the Port Orford Coast Guard Museum. The First Street cycle stop in Old Town Bandon lets cyclists pump their tires or lock up their bikes so they can cruise the town.
If walking on the beach is as adventurous as you want to get, Bandon will not disappoint.
“If you don’t want to get out of the car, there are better spots on the Oregon coast for driving views,” says Miller. “But Bandon has some of the best walking beaches in all of Oregon. We are known for sea stacks—big rocks sticking out of the ocean. You can get pretty close and climb on them if the tide is out.”
For some beach-inspired art, make sure to stop by Washed Ashore. This museum shows the artwork of Angela Haseltine Pozzi, who creates large sculptures from recycled beach trash. The sculptures have gotten international attention, but they’re homegrown right in Bandon.
Whether you’re an avid fisher, a passionate golfer, or a beach explorer who loves soaking up local flavor, Bandon’s laid-back pace will transform your state of mind.
“We are a leave-your-high-heels-and-briefcase-at-home, roll-up-your-pants-and- put-your-feet-in-the-sand kind of place,” says Miller. “When people come here, they really feel like they’ve been on vacation.”
To learn more about Bandon or to book a trip to this quaint seaside town, its website has a lot of good information.
(All photos courtesy Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives)