CAMPING SEASON is almost here! And every year our family plans at least one camping trip to the southern Oregon coast. Of course there are many beautiful places to visit, but our heart is always drawn to our favorite spot, Bandon, Oregon. The quaintness of Old Town Bandon always draws us back and there are so many great beaches to visit from Bandon to Coos Bay. Here are things to do while visiting Bandon, Oregon.
1. CAMP AT BULLARDS BEACH STATE PARK - A few years back we camped at Bullards Beach State Park and have gone back ever since. It’s a rather large campground with a variety of campsites to choose from. Of course there is tent camping, but there are a lot of spots for the largest RV’s, yurts and even hiker and biker camp spots. I would highly recommend reserving early, especially during the summer. The five days we were there last summer there were no vacancies.
So, what is so great about Bullards? First, the campground is not only beautiful with lots of trees, but Tuesday through Saturday they have wonderful, often interactive programs for the family to participate in. While, we were there the programs included: The Old Time Fiddlers playing a show; there was a presentation about owls; we learned about furry creatures of southern Oregon and got to touch pelts, and the kids got to present information that they learned to the whole group; and one time we learned about fire safety and got a visit from a wildfire firefighter and Smokey the Bear. Plus, if the kids sign-up for the Junior Rangers it makes it an even better learning experience, they get a badge and learn a cool little handshake andThey can participate in the Junior Ranger program at any Oregon State Park!
Also, right in the park is a trail you can take to the beach which be quite a walk on a hot day and the sand gets really hot so make sure you are wearing the proper walking footwear so you don’t burn your feet. You can also drive and that is what we started doing after taking the trail once, the kids got antsy and tired and we ended up carrying them. I would rather them not be grouchy and tired by the time we get there to play. It is also really nice because we love to watch the sunset, so after dinner every night we can drive down to take it all in.
2. VISIT COQUILLE LIGHTHOUSE - It doesn't matter how many times we visit the lighthouse, we have to go everytime. It is located within the "Bullards Beach" area and only a mile up the road from the campground. The beach is a little different by the lighthouse covered in driftwood perfect for fort making and for some reason the wind isn't as bad there sometimes.
3. VISIT OLD TOWN BANDON - Of course we always spend a day in Old Town Bandon. There are a lot of cute little shops that include a great toy shop for the kids to meander through, the Cranberry Sweets shop where you get to sample a lot fun and interesting jellies and sweet creations, a chocolatier and even a local rum tasting room. Of course, no trip is complete without visiting the general store where they have a fudge and ice cream counter and some of the old fashioned candies from our childhood days like cigarette gum, real jawbreakers and saltwater taffy; of course that is always Ilias and Olivia's favorite stop. When we get our ice cream we walk across the street to the boardwalk where we can view local art and sealife scultptures. Sometimes we have even gotten lucky enough to see a couple of seals poke their heads out of the water to entertain us.
4. EAT - For lunch and dinner we always eat at Tony’s Crab Shack! Our favorites: Gary and Ilias love the steamed clams and seafood cocktails, and Olivia loves the clam chowder and my personal favorite is the crab sandwich. If you see the grilled oysters on special, GET THEM. They are absolutely divine! What’s better than eating the freshest seafood at the peak of the season right from the source? If you feel adventurous you can even go crabbing right there in Bandon off of the boardwalk and you can take it to Tony’s where they will steam it right up for you! Another great spot is the Bandon Fish Market where they serve crispy fish and chips with tangy housemade tartar sauce, seafood cocktails and fried fish sandwiches. They are both very busy but always worth the wait!
One other place that we try not to miss is Face Rock Creamery, where we get to taste yummy cheeses and then have lunch. They have toasted panini sandwiches and soups that you can pair up with a refreshing glass of beer or wine. To top it all off we always order an ice cream cone. They are so huge even the kids size can be shared!
5. WALK AROUND THE OLD TOWN MARKETPLACE - Visiting the Old Town Marketplace where local farmers, crafters and artisans are there to sell us their goodies is a highlight for us. Everything, from jams & jellies, fruits & vegetables to handmade quilts and recycled glass wind chimes. It’s really fun and interesting to see what is offered locally because every community has their own talents. They are open Friday's & Saturday's 10am-4pm.
6. PLAY AT THE BEACH - Of course there is nothing like Oregon beaches and we make sure to take full advantage of them. Face Rock Wayside is one of our absolute faves. We usually wile away a few hours digging in the sand and playing in the water. Not only is the view gorgeous and the beach clean, but the water is swimmable...at least for the kids, though it was kind of cold for me :). We all always enjoy the serenity of this beach!
Another great beach is Sunset Bay State Park. Since it is completely surrounded by towering sea cliffs the water is pretty warm and it is real shallow. Plus the water is so calm, so we feel safe even letting even our three year old play on her own. This a great beach for playing in the sand, to waste the day away. When you Sunset Bay, make a day of it because not to far from there is Shore Acres State Park where you can tour their beautiful gardens. Then if you head up the road a little ways more you can stop at Stewart Point to check out the seals and sea lions. Make sure you bring your binoculars because they are a ways off the shore but believe me; it is worth the stop to take in the spectacular sound of hundreds of seals. Again, when you continue on up the road you end at Cape Arago State Park. There we took a little hike down to the tide pools to check out some beautiful sea life and climb around on the rocks. The kids wanted to stay there, but the beach wasn’t really conducive to swimming so we hiked back up and went back to Sunset Bay. If you make time you can also visit the Cape Arago Lighthouse. We ran out of time so will add that to our to do list.
One last beach we like to visit is Seven Devils Wayside; it is a pristine beach that seems to be barely touched. We usually find a lot of shells and rocks and we even have even seen jellyfish and starfish that have washed on to shore. Along this beach if you keep walking far enough you will cross through three different beaches. It's always a little windy but it is so nice and quiet you really feel like it’s just you and the ocean.
7. VISIT CAPE BLANCO LIGHTHOUSE - It is the oldest continually operating light, equipped with its beautiful fresnel lens. There is a volunteer when you first enter the lighthouse telling you it's haunted story and about the keepers throughout the years. You then take a spiral staircase up to the top where you get to take in the highest focal plane above the sea and we were then told more history about the lighthouse, by a volunteer. It is pretty awesome!
8. HIKE THE SOUTH SLOUGH ESTUARY RESERVE - On your way to Charleston from Bandon you will pass the South Slough. GO THERE! We had such an amazing hike through what seemed like a prehistoric forest that led you over a walkway though wetlands and then finally into an old growth forest. It was amazing! We could have spent a whole day exploring but we were eager to get to Sunset Bay.
Every time we leave we feel like we didn't have enough time eventhough, we do have a sense of peace and calm that not just the ocean gives you, but what being at a small ocean town on the Oregon coast offers. We enjoy every moment of making new memories and revisiting the old ones. As we drive out of town we always are talking about what a fantastic time we had and immediately start plannning the next trip!
WHERE TO STAY: If you don't want to camp and all of the yurts are reserved we have had really good luck with Airbnb. Also, the Bandon Inn is very reasonably priced, the rooms are clean and you are right by Old Town so we could walk to all of our favorite spots PLUS, you get a beautiful view of the ocean if you are lucky enough to get a balcony!
Southern Oregon Coast tips that we learned about the hard way. First, always bring water and snacks with you when visiting the beaches. There are no vending machines or snack shacks. Also, bring towels, sunscreen and swimsuits for the kids. We always think it is too cold to swim and before we know it the kids are knee high in the water with soaked pants. What was meant to be a quick visit to the shore ends up being two hours of bliss, but your belly is empty and the kids are whining because they are cold and have a sunburn.