One of the most popular tourist towns on the coast is Bandon a.k.a. Bandon by the Sea. In the past, the story of Bandon was that of two plants—gorse that helped burn it down and cranberries that contributed to its economic stability. The cranberries are still part of the story, but so are tourism and golf in today’s Bandon
In 1874 Bandon was founded and named by Lord George Bennett, an Irish peer, after his hometown of Bandon, Ireland. He became the Justice of the Peace and remained involved in the town for many years. He is also infamous as the person who introduced gorse to the town. This dense, thorny shrub with yellow blossoms spreads easily, is highly flammable, and is almost impossible to eradicate. It has become the bane of the south coast. And it added greatly to the devastating Bandon fire in September 1936 that burned about 450 buildings––all but 15 in the town. Ironically, Bennett’s gorse nearly eliminated the town he founded.
To learn more about the fire and the history of Bandon, visit the Bandon Historical Society Museum located in the old City Hall building. They have wonderful displays, and they also carry my book: Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges.
One of the main symbols of Bandon is the Coquille River Lighthouse a.k.a. Bandon Light. It is accessed through Bullard’s Beach State Park on the north side of the Coquille River. In the past few years it was repainted to better represent it’s original look. Not everyone likes the new historic look better. But it grows on you.
Old Town is a “must see.” The Chamber of Commerce has a visitor information center on 2nd Street across from the “chimney” with a plaque––it’s a memorial to those who rebuilt the town after the 1936 fire. The following four Old Town venues are favorites of mine:
• Big Wheel General Store has the usual T-shirts and sweatshirts but also myrtlewood gifts. Myrtlewood grows only on the south coast of Oregon. Big Wheel is also home to the Fudge Factory and the Driftwood Museum and Gallery.
• Second Street Galley is a most impressive gallery with its wide assortment of handmade crafts and fine art representing approximately 150 artists from the Northwest and beyond.
•WinterRiver Books is a wonderful all purpose bookstore with a friendly staff, large children’s section, and a great selection of greeting cards, toys, and games. And they carry Crossings.
• Cranberry Sweets makes all kinds of candy, but the cranberry candy is their specialty. They also have candles and other gifts. A second store is located in the Empire District of Coos Bay.
Just past Old Town on the east side of Hwy 101 is Bandon Glass Art Studio where glass artist Dutch Schulze blows amazing glass vases and other fluted forms. His work is incredibly beautiful. Check out his work online. His wife Aro does extremely heavy and intricate paper weights. I have one and I just love it.
From Old Town, Bandon’s Scenic Loop continues along the edge of the bluffs south of town to Coquille Point where you can loop back to Hwy 101 on 11th Street. Along this drive are ocean vistas and sea stacks along the beach and offshore, including famous Face Rock. Along this drive is also where Lord Bennett’s Restaurant and Lounge is located––my favorite Bandon eatery. At Coquille Point are viewing decks and a stairway to the beach. It’s a great beach to walk and to watch sunsets.
South of town, some of the Cranberry bogs––belonging to the approximately 100 growers in the area––are visible from Hwy 101. Cranberries have been grown in the area since 1885, and bog tours are available from time to time. One grower produces award-winning cranberry wines––Cranberry Mist Winery. The wines are available in many coastal outlets. My favorite is the semi-dry one. And each year on the second weekend in September, Bandon hosts their biggest event of the year—the Cranberry Festival. Numerous activities take place all over town during a three-day period.
Seven miles south of town is the West Coast Game Park home to 450 animals and birds, representing 75 different species. It’s been at this location for decades. It’s quite an experience to walk among hundreds of wild animals. The last time I was there, I was walking among the animals and stopped to talk to someone. After a couple of minutes, I looked down to see a wild goat untying my shoelaces, some kind of small deer sniffing my purse, and a wild pig rubbing against me––all part of the wild animal experience.
Two of the coast’s best birding sites are near Bandon. Bandon Marsh just north of town is renowned for its wide variety of birds especially as the tide heads out. South of town is the New River area with more variety in habitats. Early morning and evening are best for spotting birds. Binoculars are a necessity and a spotting scope a luxury. I’m a birder and have new mid-size binocs, but I’ve had my scope since the mid-1980s. A really good one should last a lifetime. Spring and fall migrations are the absolute best times of the year to go birding. And right now is the start of the fall migration.
I’m not a golfer, but I did visit and write about the four golf courses built north of town at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort for Oregon Coast magazine more than once. These world-class courses were built between 1999 and 2010 and bring in golfers from far and wide. One interesting note: No golf carts are permitted on these courses, unless required for medical reasons. Consequently, caddies do a really good business. The newest course, Bandon Preserve, has only 13 holes and they are shorter distances. The net proceeds from this course go to The Wild Rivers Coast Alliance to protect the lands and waters of the south coast.
And last week I told about locking my keys in the car when I stopped to take a photo of Tiffany’s Drug at the shopping center on the northern edge of town. This “drug store” has an amazingly large selection of wines—one of the best on the whole coast. It’s known as the Oregon Coast’s Destination Wine Shop and has more than 1,000 different wines, including hard-to-find ones. As you might have guessed, the store manager is a real wine aficionado.
This is the Bandon I’ve gotten to know through numerous visits during the past 25 years. Now, you’ll have to visit and make your own memories and reasons to return.
Note: For more information, Google any of the places I’ve mentioned or contact the Bandon Chamber of Commerce (300 2nd Street SE, Bandon, OR 97411, 541-347-9616, http://www.bandon.com).
TO BUY JUDY’S FIRST BOOK
Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $4.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at http://www.connectflorence.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society; in Made in Oregon stores throughout the state; and more and more bookstores, libraries, and museums in western Oregon.
JUDY’S SECOND BOOK DUE EARLY DECEMBER
The second book Oregon’s Coastal Bridges––A guide to the most impressive spans––will cover 15 bridges and have at least one color and one historic photo for each bridge. The cost will be $10 + $3 shipping. This book will also be published through Pacific Publishing.
The half-hour interview with Dr. Veronica Esagui for the “Author’s Forum” program on public access TV in the Portland Metro area ended it’s two-week run June 1-14, 2012, but can be seen on YouTube in two parts: Google Judy Fleagle YouTube.
September 29, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Florence––2nd Annual Florence Festival of Books–an authors and publishers fair held at the Florence Events Center (715 Quince Street, 1 block east of Highway 101). I’ll be there.
October 13, 11 a.m. Oregon City––The historic Arch Bridge designed by McCullough reopens in Oregon City on the weekend of October 1314. I have been asked to be part of the festivities and will be giving my PowerPoint presentation at the Museum of the Oregon Territory on Saturday. The actual bridge reopening celebration will be on Sunday, and I’ll be there.