I accidentally discovered the small seaside town of Bandon, Oregon, about 20 years ago when I was searching for a new place to spend my summer vacation. As I went over my checklist of features that I hoped for in my next travel adventure, Bandon hit all the marks. Quaint and casual? Check. On the ocean with access to the beach? Check. Dog friendly? Check. Fresh seafood? Double check!
Located in southern Oregon, this little town of about 3,000 residents sits 101 miles north of the northern California border, 230 miles south of Portland, and 23 miles south of Coos Bay/North Bend, where the Southwest Regional Airport is located. It is easily accessible by car from north or south via the Oregon Coast Highway 101.
Stretching along the south bank of the winding Coquille River where it flows into the Pacific Ocean, Bandon is known as one of the top producers of cranberries in the country. Bandon also boasts top-flight golf courses, fresh-caught seafood, spectacular ocean views, and a beautiful, walkable, dog-friendly beach. Even after 20 summer vacations here, I still find Bandon interesting and a place I look forward to exploring.
Things To Do In Bandon
Explore The Beach
Taking a long walk or jog on a wide, deserted beach and gazing at the towering sea stacks just offshore is both peaceful and awe-inspiring. At low tide, you can walk through beach caves and among some of these monolithic rock formations, and explore exposed tidepools inhabited by sea stars, anemones, barnacles, and crabs. The beach is accessible from points along the bluff such as Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint and Coquille Point Trail. Both require the ability to climb the ramps and steps. To access the beach without stairs or trails, start in town at the South Jetty Park and follow the path to the beach.
Pro Tip: Bandon Beach can be windy, cold, and foggy. Make sure to have a windbreaker, jacket, and warm outer layers. They will come in handy depending on the weather.
Walk A Meditative Beach Labyrinth At Low Tide
Circles in the Sand is a lovely labyrinth raked onto the sand just below the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. Each day from May through mid-August, local artists Denny Dyke, Christine Moehring, and a group of volunteers create a new winding path down the beach. The experience of slowly walking this labyrinth next to the roaring sea is a great way to start your day. The labyrinth is only on the beach until high tide washes it away, so check their website for daily schedules and updates.
Pro Tip: While on the beach, search for beach-tumbled agates in colors of jet black, green, red, yellow, white, or brown.
Ride A Horse On The Beach
For those of us who have always fantasized about riding a horse through the surf on the beach, Bandon Beach Riding Stables can make that dream come true. Rides are about 1 hour long and are scheduled throughout the day. The horses are gentle and appropriate for children, but don’t expect to go galloping full speed along the shore. Just sit back and enjoy a relaxing ride.
Sure, you can go into almost any restaurant and order crab, but why not try to catch some yourself?
Head over to Tony’s Crab Shack or Bandon Bait and Tackle (both on the Coquille River Boardwalk), pick up a crabbing license, bait, and a crabbing ring, and spend an afternoon on the dock soaking in the fresh ocean air. If you don’t want to clean and cook your catch, drop them off at Tony’s, who will gladly do it for you while you sit on the boardwalk sipping something cold.
Meander Through Old Town
Old Town Bandon is a 10-block area filled with shops, restaurants, galleries, and events. With its variety of independent local shops, restaurants, pubs, and markets, you can find pretty much whatever you’re looking for. Here are a few of my favorites:
- WinterRiver Books and Gallery on Second Street, a friendly place for cards, gifts, calendars, books, music, and more
- Second Street Gallery, also on Second Street, where you will find exquisite art, photography, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, and other one-of-a-kind pieces from over 100 artists, primarily in the Pacific Northwest
- Big Wheel General Store, is a classic go-to if you’ve not packed the proper jacket, windbreaker, or sweatshirt for the changing coastal weather. Most items are branded “Bandon-By-The-Sea,” so your purchases also serve as a souvenir of your visit. Here you’ll find T-shirts, sweats, gifts, postcards, and 26 varieties of fudge (including sugar free) made on the premises.
Explore Bandon’s Past
If you’d like to learn more about Bandon’s past, the Bandon Historical Society Museum is worth a visit. This treasure trove of visual history features thousands of historical photos, newspaper stories, antiques, early Native American artifacts, and more. It pays homage to Bandon’s mining, shipping, timber, and cranberry industries. One of the most popular exhibits focuses on the Bandon Fire, which wiped out hundreds of buildings in town. The fire, which claimed at least 10 lives, was due to the prevalence of gorse, a common plant that still grows wild throughout the area.
Wander The Farmer’s Market
The Bandon Farmers Market happens every Friday and Saturday from April through the first weekend in November. Located at the Old Town Marketplace near the boardwalk, visitors can roam through the indoor marketplace and find farm fresh products, baked goods, artwork, jewelry, herbs, coffee, plants, and more by vendors from around Southern Oregon.
See “Washed Ashore,” An Art Exhibit To Save The Ocean
The Washed Ashore art project uses plastic trash collected off Oregon’s beaches to create larger-than-life-size sculptures of sea creatures meant to educate visitors about how trash affects sea life. Straws, flip-flops, fishing nets, plastic bottles, cigarette lighters, fishing rods, and even toilet seats are refashioned into towering colorful seals, sharks, turtles, fish, and coral reefs. The stunning figures of marine life made completely from beach trash graphically illustrate the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Restaurants In Bandon
As you would imagine, this being a coastal town, fresh-caught seafood is offered in abundance. But there are a variety of restaurants that offer a wide choice of fare for every taste. Here are a few that I’ve enjoyed.
Foley’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
Since Bandon, Oregon, is named after Bandon, Ireland, it is fitting there should be an Irish pub and restaurant. Foley’s is a cozy spot in Old Town Bandon that cooks up a variety of Irish and Scottish dishes, like shepherd’s pie and gravy, bangers and mash, Irish meatloaf, Scotch eggs, and fish and chips. They also serve prime rib, cheeseburgers, and sandwiches. My visits always include an order of their Irish eggrolls — crispy, fried dough filled with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and onions.
Bandon Fish Market
You can’t miss this sky-blue wooden building on the Coquille Boardwalk, as it usually has a line of people spilling out onto the sidewalk waiting to order lunch. The Bandon Fish Market makes some of the best fish and chips I’ve had, and the order is so ample that I usually have to split it with my traveling companion. Try the clam chowder or one of the seafood salads or sandwiches. You can also buy fresh fish and crab to take home and cook yourself
Tony’s Crab Shack
My introduction to Tony’s was ordering a hot cup of cioppino fish stew on a cool, windy afternoon. Packed with local seafood in a tomato-based broth, it was a cup of perfection. Tony’s menu also offers grilled fish, seafood sandwiches, oysters, clams, and fish tacos.
Attached to Tony’s is the Port O’ Call, a one-stop shop for tackle, beach-themed gifts, and fishing and crabbing rentals.
After a busy day shopping or crabbing, you might consider stopping into Bandon Brewing Company in Old Town for a pizza hot from an open-fire stone oven paired with a house-brewed beer. This casual pub and pizzeria has ample indoor and outdoor seating for families and offers a robust range of dishes, like soups, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and burgers, along with kids’ meals. Non-alcoholic fountain drinks are also available.
Sitting by the mouth of the Coquille River, this rustic waterfront restaurant offers some of the best views in Bandon. Edgewaters’ menu is diverse and features steak and chicken dishes, fresh local seafood, and a variety of pasta creations. I recommend the seafood chowder and Pacific steamer clams for starters. There are three dining zones: the 21-and-over upstairs lounge; the child-friendly, wheelchair-accessible main dining room; and the covered patio, which offers physically distanced space. Reservations are required.
Hotels In Bandon
Whether you want an ocean view, a hotel close to town, or one that has private access to the beach, Bandon has you covered.
For visitors who want to be close to town, the locally owned, pet-friendly Bandon Inn overlooks Old Town, the harbor, and the Coquille River. It is a quick walk to dining, crabbing, shopping, and more.
Windermere on the Beach is about a mile south of Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint and offers rooms with a fireplace, a fully-equipped kitchen, and spacious decks that overlook the ocean. Pet-friendly rooms with beach access are available for your four-legged travel companion.
The Best Western Inn at Face Rock has oceanfront views and private beach access. Located a mile south of Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, the inn is pet friendly and offers a full list of amenities for visitors.
The Lamplighter Inn is a charming refurbished 1960s motel on Highway 101, a mile east of Old Town. The clean and comfortable rooms come with modern amenities at an affordable rate.
Since my visits were extended stays with two dogs, I always rented a vacation home on the bluff with close access to the beach. Many of the rentals can be booked through Vrbo, Homes and Villas by Marriott, or other property management companies.
The Bottom Line On Bandon
Bandon is a friendly, welcoming place where locals love to brag on their town and share its uniqueness with visitors. The theme here is all about experiencing the beauty of the area, on both land and sea, and enjoying each moment with a relaxed, laid-back attitude. You can breathe in the ocean air, sink your toes into soft sand, and meet the friendly locals in the marketplace; enjoy delicious meals, long walks, and stunning vistas. Bandon has plenty to keep you busy, entertained, and inspired, and you will likely remember your visit as the perfect long weekend in this quaint seaside town.