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Exploring Bandon

The easily strollable Old Town area contains a small concentration of shops, crafts galleries, and restaurants. The Bandon area is known for its scenic viewpoints and state parks, its wildlife watching opportunities, and its golf.

Beach Loop Road  SCENIC DRIVE/OCEAN BEACHHead out of Bandon on Beach Loop Road, where shoreline monoliths have been sculpted by wind and waves into contorted spires and twisted shapes. All of these rock formations have names, and all of them are art of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The first good place to view the rocks and get down to the beach is at Coquille Point, at the end of 11th Street. Here you’ll find a short, paved interpretive trail atop a bluff overlooking the beach, rock monoliths, and the mouth of the river. A long staircase leads down to the beach. From here you can see Table Rock and the Sisters.

Face Rock, the area’s most famous profile, makes an appearance at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. Yes, it does resemble a face gazing skyward, and old Native American legend claimed that the rock is a “she”—a princess turned to stone by an evil sea spirit. Nearby are rocks that resemble a dog, a cat, and kittens (called, no surprise, Cat and Kittens). A trail leads down to the beach from the viewpoint, so you can explore some of the rocks at low tide.

South of the rocks, along a flat stretch of beach backed by dunes, there are several beach access areas, all of which are within Bandon State Natural Area.

world-class golf at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Golf may be a dying sport, but don’t tell that to the passionate linksters who descend on Bandon from all over the world to play world-class golf at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort , 57744 Round Lake Dr. (www.bandondunesgolf.com; tel. 800/742-0172). This is not your typical parkland golf course but an oceanfront links course modeled after the legendary courses in Scotland and Ireland, where the game originated. The motto at Bandon Dunes is “Golf as it was meant to be,” and what that means is that you walk the course (with or without a caddie) and the course follows the natural contours of the coastal landscape with its dunes, shore pines, gorse, and winds off the Pacific. In all, there are five courses at Bandon Dunes, designed by the likes of David McLay Kidd, Tom Doak, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They are both scenic and rugged, and playing here is an experience like no other. Since opening in 1999, Bandon Dunes has become one of the top golf destinations in the world, its courses compared to Pebble Beach, Carnoustie, and Pine Valley—and, some would say, better than all of them. Scattered throughout the 9,000-acre resort are lodges and secluded, upscale cottages , although you don’t have to stay here to play here. There is also a fine-dining restaurant. Seasonally adjusted greens fees, per course, range from $75 to $250 for resort guests, and from $100 to $295 for golf-only guests. No golf carts are allowed; caddies are available and charge $80 to $100 per bag. All proceeds from playing the 13-hole, par 3 Bandon Preserve course benefit the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, and there is also a college-scholarship fund for caddies.

West Coast Game Park SafariIn the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that I have issues with zoos and places like this. West Coast Game Park Safari bills itself as America’s largest wild-animal petting park, and that’s why I have problems with it. In a world of poachers and disappearing habitats, I understand the need for protection and conservation, but wild animals are wild animals, and when you destroy their natural instincts (to flee humans, for example), you destroy their spirit and ability to survive in the wild. That’s what happened with Keiko, the orca whale star of Free Willy, who was taken to the Oregon Coast Aquarium  for a well-meant but unsuccessful rehabilitation after being abducted from his pod and forced to spend years as a performer. Here, depending on what young animals they have at the time of your visit, humans are allowed to play with leopard, tiger, or bear cubs. It is a tourist attraction where many families like to stop, and that’s all I’ll say about it.

46914 U.S. 101 S. (7 miles south of Bandon). www.westcoastgameparksafari.com. tel. 541/347-3106. Daily summer 9am–6pm (call for hours in other months). $18 adults, $17 seniors, $10 ages 7–12, $7 for ages 2–6.

Insider’s Tip for Local Jams and Jellies

Every time I am in this neck of the ocean I make a point to stop at Misty Meadows, 48053 U.S. 101 (www.oregonjam.com; tel. 541/347-2595), which is not a retirement community but a wonderful store that sells jams and jellies made from locally harvested fruits. And boy, are they good—on toast, an English muffin, a buttered crumpet, ice cream, or as a condiment to meats and fish. I’m talking cranberry, marionberry, blackberry, huckleberry, salal, cherry, and other fruits. Sugar-free varieties are available, and they also have honey, syrups, and barbecue rubs. Misty Meadows is open daily 9am to 5pm. Look for it south of Bandon on the east side of U.S. 101 (after West Coast Game Park Safari).

“Honey, Is That a T-Rex Beside the Highway?”

Yes, dear, it is. The giant T-Rex, frozen in its voracious rampage, stands beside U.S. 101 about 12 miles south of Port Orford, and it will certainly get your attention—or, more likely, that of your kids. The Prehistoric Gardens & Rainforest, 36848 U.S. 101 S. (www. prehistoricgardens.com; tel. 541/332-4463), is a lost world of life-size dinosaur replicas. Though they aren’t as realistic as those in Jurassic Park, they’ll make the kids squeal with delight (or terror). The gardens are open in the summer daily from 10am to 6pm; other months, call for hours. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $8 for children 3 to 12. If you don’t want to venture inside, you can get your T-Rex photo op right by the side of the road.

Outdoor Exploring

Birdwatching More than 300 species of birds have been spotted in the Bandon vicinity, making this one of the best sites in Oregon for bird-watching. The Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which includes 1,853 rocks, reefs, and islands off the state’s coast, includes the famous monoliths of Bandon. Among the birds that nest on these rocks are rhinoceros auklets, storm petrels, gulls, and tufted puffins. The puffins, with their large, colorful beaks, are the most beloved of local birds, and their images show up on all manner of local souvenirs.

The Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/oregoncoast/bandonmarsh/index.htm; tel. 541/347-1470), at the mouth of the Coquille River, is another good spot for bird-watching. In this area, you can expect to see grebes, mergansers, buffleheads, plovers, and several species of raptors.

Whale-watching At Bandon, as elsewhere on the Oregon coast, gray whales migrating between the Arctic and Baja California, Mexico, pass close to the shore and can often be spotted from land. The whales pass Bandon between December and February on their way south and between March and May on their way north. Gray days and early mornings before the wind picks up are the best times to spot whales. Coquille Point (at the end of 11th Street) and the bluffs along Beach Loop Road are the best vantage points.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.