15 Unique Things to do in Bandon Oregon
Bandon Oregon is steeped in native history, teeming with fishermen, and plenty of activities for the whole family. So while you are on your Oregon Coast Roadtrip, Bandon should be on your list. I visited Bandon with my best friend and our dogs. Surprisingly it wasn't hard to visit the area with our dogs as Oregon is an extraordinarily dog-friendly place to visit with your fur babies. Her sister that lives in Oregon met up with us and helped show us around some of the best locally known hot spots.
The information in this article was last updated April 2022 to ensure all information is accurate.
History of Bandon
The tribes were defeated in their resistance and relocated to the Siletz (the collective name of the 20 tribes relocated here) Reservation. This reservation is a 48-hour walk (with current road systems) from Bandon to Siletz Reservation. They were placed in an area that is 5.82 sq miles, and have gone from 10 distinct languages to one.
The Siletz language now has a talking language dictionary due to the help of National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, their language will hopefully continue to be preserved. Time went on and in 1873 George Bennette with his sons Joseph and George, along with Mr. Sealy came from Bandon Ireland to this area.
The original name of Averill is changed to Bandon a year later and the town continued to flourish. Mr. Bennette helped to both build and destroy Bandon. He brought his native grouse plant from Ireland, which you will see throughout the town. The Gorse is characterized by waxy leaves and small yellow flowers in thick thickets of bushes (especially along the coastline).
The grouse plant is what started the great fire in 1936. The older folks in the town may remember the fire still, it would take years for the town to rebuild itself. Wood production, sawmills, water plants helped the town flourish, even the first Bandon Cranberry Festival took place (1947). You can still visit the Cranberry Sweets factory today and sample some of the treats and other boutique shop items. Have I piqued your interest in Bandon yet? It may look like a small town that is brand new, but this little town packs a big punch in both history and in the outdoor activities you can participate in.
1 - Floras Lake State Park
This hike is a lot more strenuous than it appears. You start off walking over a bridge to a beach like area. It is quite unique as there is a lake on one side and over the sandy hill is the ocean. The sand is more like small pebbles that really took a toll on my calves. The lake is a very popular place to come Kitesurfing as the wind is usually perfect for this sport.
As you walk along the edge of the lake to the forested area, I would suggest bringing water shoes so you can walk on the packed down sand near the shoreline. Once you reach the wooded area you feel like skipping down the trail singing, 'Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my!'. Although nothing really jumped out of the woods at us, except for an occasional squirrel it is truly a place where you feel Gnomes and Fairies could live.
We walked for quite a while, 1 mile before most of the group turned back. My friend Breanna was so excited for this trail as it is supposed to spit you out along the sweeping cliffs complete with gorgeous waterfalls. As she led us along this trail we ran into large puddles of water.
With the edges of the trail being thick with sticks, moss, and underbrush we had to wade straight through the ankle-deep mud. I finally looked at my Fitbit watch and informed Bree that we had just hiked 2 miles in (which means we would have 4 miles back). She was sorely disappointed when I told her she could keep going, she caved and turned back with me.
On the way back, about 1/2 mile past where the others had turned back, we noticed a tiny little sign (its brown and has a 1 inch by 2 inch arrow with tiny little black mileage on the sticker)....this was where we were supposed to have turned to head to the end of this hike.
In total, we hiked 8 miles this day through pebble beaches, sand, sludge, wooded areas and were completely knackered by the time we reached the rest of the group. So if you decide to hike in Floras Lake State Park, be sure you either have a GPS guide or someone who can tell you where the bloody turn is.
2 - Coquille Lighthouse
This 40-foot lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Coquille River to help the Mariners get by the dangerous shifting sandbars that dot the river. In 1890 the Bandon Oregon area was known for its fishing and timber industries. Congress approved the $50,000 it would take to build this lighthouse (in 1891) and it was completed by 1895 and was first used February 1896.
The fire in 1936 slowed the ships into the town of Bandon and with the amount of money needed to rebuild the town, the Coast Guard decommissioned the Lighthouse by 1939. Eventually, the lighthouse was restored, and in 1991 was gifted with a new solar-powered light. It is now open from mid-May to September.
Address: 56487 Bullards Beach Rd, Bandon, OR 97411
3 - Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon: Art to Save the Sea
This was by far my favorite place to visit and where I feel my quest of using the least amount of plastic possible began. You wouldn't expect something like this in such a small town, but artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi started this non-profit community art project in 2010 to bring awareness to the plastic problem in our seas.
Every single piece of the marine life sculptures in this gallery are made entirely from garbage that is removed from the Ocean. After walking the magnificent beaches of Oregon Angela decided to make a bold statement through Art, by using this garbage to created the animals who were the most affected by the garbage pollution.
Be sure to stop by and help create one of these masterpieces, I'm sure you will leave the Washed Ashore Gallery with a greater sense of responsibility to #SavetheSea
Address: 325 2nd St SE, Bandon, OR 97411
Other exhibitions: St Paul Minnesota at the Como Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois, S at the Shedd Aquarium, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Washington, DC. Donations can be made to WashedAshore.org - a Non-Profit organization
4 - Shores Acre State Park
A picture can tell a thousand words, but a video can help you experience all that Shores Acre State Park has to offer. This park was once a magnificent estate of Baron Louis Simpson, a logging tycoon that wanted to create a palace for himself on the Shoreline of Oregon. Stroll along the trail from the parking lot to the Ocean Cove at Simpson Beach.
Take a gander inside the viewpoint gazebo during any season and watch the waves at high tide crash against the shoreline. You may even see some migrating whales along the shore during December and March. The Simpson mansion has since disappeared but the formal Shores Acre Gardens are still well maintained and close by. Walking through these gardens is a like a botanical Disneyland.
You start your journey through a tulip-lined walkway with fountains and benches. Birds softly chirping around you, and you are sheltered from the Ocean winds. A small house sits on the property with a cottage like feeling that welcomes all who enter. Be sure to take in the Japanese-style garden with a lily pond, and the two rose gardens. If you are there during the Christmas holidays, volunteers will delight you by filling the garden with lights making for a perfectly romantic holiday getaway.
Address: Cape Argo Hwy, Coos Bay, OR 97420
Note: Credit Cards are not accepted for parking pass purchases. Receipt from any other Oregon State Park Campground is accepted as a daily permit, just display it on the driver's side of the dashboard.
5 - Crabbing in Charleston
Did you know that you can go crabbing in Oregon and California? I thought that crabbing was reserved only for being on the boats in the middle of the Alaskan Bering Sea. When we went to Oregon, I found out that you can go Crabbing just off the Pier in Charleston (a town right near Bandon). Grab some Crab Pots at Davey Jones Locker, along with some thawed out fish heads and such & catch some fresh Crab for your dinner.
6 - ATV Riding
Right between Bandon and Charleston are two places where you can ride ATV's. Our itinerary did not allot for the time to do this, but is definitely on the list should we go back.
The trails that you would be looking for are Winchester Trails for ATV riding, and Blue Ridge for ATV, Camping, and Sand Boarding.
Check out Oregon's riding restrictions before you go, so as not to get a ticket.
7 - Circles in the Sand at Face Rock Wayside Beach
We happened upon the Circles in the Sand group when checking out Bandon's City page. This wonderful group goes out to Face Rock wayside beach and using rakes to create labyrinths in the sand. Once the labyrinths are completed, the attendees are gathered together - a message of hope and encouragement of a meditative state of mind is encouraged.
As you disconnect from technology, follow the paths along the beach, and truly listen to the waves crashing nearby - a state of calm and peace with descend upon you. Truly one of the most unique experiences while in Oregon. Be sure to connect with them through the Facebook website
8 - Kronenberg Park
Located right by the Wildlife Refuge and has some of the best views of Bandon's coastline islands. There are plenty of wildlife sightings of birds, Murres, cormorants, petrals, and tufted puffins.
From the parking lot you go down a long set of stairs to the beach (I did not see any easy wheelchair access). This is also right by where the Coquille Lighthouse is, but you have to watch the tide tables and go at low tide in order to reach the lighthouse by foot. The Coquille Point Trail is around 0.5 mile long trail you can take to get there.
9 - Elephant Rock
While it really is possible to swim along the coast of Oregon, this is a great place for sunsets and wildlife viewing and to explore tidal pools. There are several hundred steps to get down to the beach in order to get good views, and make sure you are going at low tide. If you go further down the beach, and come at sunset, you can position yourself in a way to see the hole in the middle of the rock where the sun shines through and makes it look like a giant elephant rock.
10 - Bullards Beach State Park
This is a family friendly outdoor adventure paradise just two miles north of Bandon. When I visited we sat right on the rocks and watched about seven sea lions play in the ocean while our dogs and the sea lions peered at each other with extreme curiosity - it was such a special moment.
It isn't just wildlife spotting though, there are 11 miles of horse riding trails, 4.5 miles of beach, mountain biking, camping, fishing and crabbing as well. It is a place where sand dunes, forest, and forest all converge and is such a peaceful place.
They have year round camping with full-hookup sites, electricity and water, yurts (6 that are pet-friendly), campsites with toilets and showers, a dump station and there is firewood available.
11 - Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Located just off of Oregon's South-Western Coastline near bandon this Wildlife Refuge has 371 acres of land with 1,853 islands and is right by Kronenberg Park so you can easily visit both in one day. This refuge is open year round and has plenty of hiking trails along the coast, campgrounds (even dog friendly ones). They even have dog friendly Yurts but you have to reserve them way in advance.
12 - Bandon Historical Society Museum
No matter what city or country I visit I try to stop in at the museums to really make the culture of the unique areas more meaningful. Here at the Bandon Historical Society Museum has artifacts from Native Americans, coal mining displays, and the time of the gold mining. It also tells about how the timer industry changed the area and how it is being managed better today.
You also get to see the types of exports that are popular from this area like fishing, cranberries, dairy farming and cheese making. There are military memories, maritime history and shipwrecks area, and information about the two fires that happened in 1914 and 1936. Bandon truly is the jewel of the Southern Oregon Coast.
13 - Cranberry Sweets & More Store
If there was a store in the USA that resembled Charlie and the Chocolate factory Cranberry Sweets would be it. They have homemade fudge, and jellybeans of EVERY kind, they also have an ENTIRE WALL of flavored popcorn that I just went completely nuts over. Pre-COVID they did have some samples you could try of some of the items they produce. They also have an online store :) in case you wanted to order something from home. While the picture makes this look like a small shop, it is anything but that. It is an entire warehouse with multiple rooms that could fit about 80 people per room.
14 - Eat Seafood and Stroll Old Town
While Old Town is only about 10 square blocks it has plenty of shopping, dining, history, art and cultural stores that could rival anything I have seen while I was on the Maine Coastline. While you are in town, I highly suggest checking out some local seafood joints. While many people suggest going to Tony's Crab Shack, I would say, yes it is good, but it is quite expensive. I also really liked the Fish & Chips Chowder House. Nothing beats going and catching it fresh and cooking fresh caught crab with Rock Salt.
15 - Nasomah Memorial
This memorial is dedicated to the Nasomah Indians who lived here for 3,000 years. This is a tree root that was transformed into an elegant memorial. There is a plaque here that has more information about who the tribe was. How they farmed, how they hunted Sea Lions. It talks about greeting the Hudson's Bay Company & Fur Trappers in 1826 and teaching them about the land. It describes how they watched Jedediah Smith destroying their homes, burning their canoes. By 1856 Gold Miners came through and started murdering them. The tale goes on, but it ends with a remembrance of their Grandmothers and Grandfathers.
While I wasn't personally able to visit this spot while I was there, I definitely try to highlight Native American Tribes that live in each area prior to colonization.
How to get To Bandon:
Eugene Airport (EUG) offers flights from multiple destinations and is 2.5-hour drive from Bandon (approx. 150miles). Multiple airlines fly to this airport.
- From Eugene, you can take the Amtrak train to Coos Bay ($39 and takes 16 hrs)
From Eugene, you can take the Amtrak train to Coos Bay ($39 and takes 16 hrs)
Southwestern Oregon Regional Airport (OTH) in North Bend is 30 miles North of Bandon.
Bandon State Airport (BDY) only has private and charter planes
You can also take the Coastal Express up and down the Oregon Coast by calling 1-800-921-2871 - please note that this service only runs Monday through Friday.
Where to stay In Bandon
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Why You Should Visit Bandon
Although Bandon is not well known for its attractions, it is a truly beautiful place. If you are an outdoor fanatic like me, you will feel so at peace and at home being amongst the moss lined trees. Seeing Bandon on the map is quite a different experience than actually being in this city. The area is suited not just for the outdoor savvy, but those with children, elderly, families small and large, and for those who may have disabilities. Participate in as many hikes, sand labyrinth walks, and art projects as you can while visiting.
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