Bandon Discovery Drive #1: Beach Loop Drive
This five-mile tour can take just a few minutes, or you can make it an all-day outing. With its numerous rocky spires and offshore rock formations, Beach Loop Drive offers access to several astounding viewpoints and sandy beaches. Tide pools as well as abundant sea birds and mammals are major attractions. Use the time to explore the history, learn the lore, and discover the wild beauty of Bandon.
The drive begins at the Bandon Historical Society Museum located on Hwy 101 and Fillmore Avenue. Housed in the former City Hall, the museum building was the second structure built after the disastrous 1936 fire. For a comprehensive story of a town “blessed by water and cursed by fire,” start (or finish) your tour with a visit to the museum. From the museum, cross Hwy 101 on Fillmore, turn left onto 1st Street for a view of the waterfront, boardwalk, fishing fleet, and pleasure boats. Plan a return to this street to rent crab rings, buy bait, and catch your own crab. Tony’s Crab Shack will even clean and cook it for you!
Continue on 1st Street past the Historic Coast Guard Building (housing the Port of Bandon offices), the Historic Breuer Building (now Bandon Historic River House Vacation Rental), and the old City Fire Hall later the Robertson Building (now Edgewaters Restaurant). This building, which housed a thriving sand and gravel business, may be the oldest structure in Bandon. At the “S” curve in front of Edgewaters, continue west on Jetty Road to the South Jetty for a great photo op of waves crashing against the jetty, as well as a grand view of the Coquille River Lighthouse. From the South Jetty, drive back to the Stop sign, and turn right on Edison Avenue. At the top of the hill, turn right onto 4th Street, which becomes Ocean Drive, 7th Street, and finally Beach Loop Road. This section of the route takes you along the bluff to view the beautiful Pacific (sunny or misty) and the photographic off-shore rocks called “sea stacks.” As you drive along, you will see part of Bandon’s residential area where several private homes, vacation rentals, and small hotels are located.
Continue on Beach Loop Drive to 11th Street, and turn right to the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge parking lot for an outstanding view of Elephant Rock and North Coquille Point. The sea stacks seen here are part of the refuge where thousands of birds nest in spring and early summer. Use the walking path around this open, breathtaking point of land to view the Pacific Ocean and varied marine life. Along the path are interpretive signs, as well as benches to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery. A stairway to the beach or a pathway leading to the South Jetty Beach are conveniently located to allow a leisurely walk along the beach and a closer look at the ocean. At the base of Elephant Rock, look for harbor seals resting on the low rocks. Higher up the rocks, you may spot thousands of nesting common murres, gulls, pigeon guillemots, and black oyster catchers. A memorable day will provide a glimpse of a gray whale or orca!
Return to Beach Loop and continue south to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint with a well-kept trail to the beach. From the interpretive signs, read about the legend of the rock, and see if you can spot the face peering up out of the water. Drive further and investigate the beaches, trails, and scenic views at Bandon State Natural Area including Devil’s Kitchen, Bandon Wayside, and China Creek with an easy, one-mile out-and-back trail. After China Creek, Beach Loop Road curves east and “loops” you back to Highway 101. Turn left on Highway 101 and drive approximately 3.5 miles back to where you started. Park the car and end your day with a visit to the museum or a walking tour of historic Old Town Bandon. See the port and marina up close, visit the many shops, then settle down to a relaxing meal at any Bandon’s fine restaurants located in Old Town or the city proper.