Rugged Beauty

Bandon is a bit of Scotland
on the Oregon Coast


by Kim Cooper Findling

It was never a sure thing that tiny, charming Bandon, Oregon would become a world-famous destination. Founded in 1891 and named for Bandon, Ireland, the small town on the rural Southern Oregon Coast supported a modest population by growing cranberries and making cheese for most of its history. In the 1990s, entrepreneurs were drawn to the rugged, stunning coastline and windswept cliffs, which resembled the landscape of Scotland. Might this be a good place to lay down a Scottish-links style golf course? The answer was yes, and the rest is history. Now there are six golf courses in the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, attracting guests from all over the world for a chance to hit a ball on spectacular, challenging greens. Cranberries and cheese endure, and pursuits aside from golf abound, including mountain biking, beach walking, and the chance to achieve that bucket-list dream of riding a horse along the shore. Early summer brings clear skies and balmy temperatures to this idyllic city by the sea.


Begin your getaway at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, where Bandon’s glory is on high display. Wide sandy beaches give way to rolling surf, dotted with towering sea stacks—remnants of rocky headlands, now partly eroded by the sea. Oregon’s sea stacks are protected as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge; bring your binoculars and spy the many species of wildlife that call these columns home, including puffins and common murres. Visit Face Rock on the right day in the summer season and watch the beach come alive as artists create walkable labyrinths in the sand for the spirit-lifting event series Circles in the Sand (find the schedule here). For scenic beauty, recreation and camping, as well as access to the historic Coquille River Lighthouse, visit Bullards Beach State Park.


Golf is what put Bandon on the map, and guests to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort can choose from six courses to test their skills (and legs—Bandon’s courses are walk-only, no golf carts allowed). Sheep Ranch is the newest course, opened in 2020 with a mile of ocean frontage overlooking Whiskey Run Beach and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean beyond. Whiskey Run itself is the site of some of Oregon’s best—and only truly year-round—mountain biking trails. Cut through a hilly forest of fir and spruce just inland from the beach, Whiskey Run consists of miles of loop trails for all skill levels, blending flow and cross-country style riding. If you’ve left your bike at home rent one from Whiskey Run Rentals. If your idea of a trusty steed is a horse instead of a bike, visit Bandon Beach Riding Stables to join a guided horseback ride over the dunes, onto the beach and along the surf line.

After the outdoor adventure of your choosing, venture to Old Town Bandon for arts, shopping and dining. During the summer, the Port of Bandon Boardwalk Art Show springs up on the waterfront, displaying paintings by community members including both trained, professional artists and local youth. WinterRiver Books & Gallery is a terrific local bookshop with plenty of gift and collectible items to take home. Don’t miss a visit to Washed Ashore, an education arts organization responsible for sculptures crafted entirely from plastics collected from the sea and shore. These large-scale sculptures catch the eye as well as educate about pollution; see the art at their small museum and sprinkled around town.


Most legitimate Oregon towns have a craft brewery, and Bandon is no exception. Bandon Brewing Company offers pizza and casual food in a casual setting. Grab a seat outside at the pub, found under the “Welcome to Old Town Bandon” sign. Perhaps the most iconic dining experience in town is found at Tony’s Crab Shack, where their crab sandwich and fish tacos are served from a bright blue building near the waterfront. This is the place to order Dungeness crab—in fact, if you catch your own crab and bring it to Tony, he’ll cook it and serve it to you for lunch. Bandon Baking Co. is a great spot for lunch; try the frittata or a sandwich made with a fresh baked bagel. The Bandon Farmer’s Market at the Port of Bandon offers up local produce and products in season; perhaps you’ll even find fresh Pacific dulse seaweed, farmed by Oregon Seaweed and a near-perfect food, extolled for its health benefits and low impact on the earth.

Bandon Rain and Face Rock Creamery sit side by side on the highway, offering cider and cheese respectively. Face Rock rakes in awards for their cheeses every year. Try the Vampire Slayer if you’re not afraid of garlic or play it safe with a bag of cheese curds. Sip on a cranberry apple cider next door to balance your palate. Find a dinner of Oregon seafood at Edgewaters; ask for locally caught salmon or halibut when in season.


Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a luxury option for lodging in Bandon. A stay there means high-end everything from multiple dining options to a full-service spa. For affordability, walkability and proximity to downtown, try Bandon Inn or Inn at Old Town Bandon. A classic choice, terrific for families and multigenerational groups, is Windermere on the Beach, where windswept ocean views and the quaint atmosphere of an old-time beach cottage make for a relaxing retreat.