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Three Perfect Days in Bandon

If you’re a golfer, you already know what your three perfect days in Bandon are going to entail. You’ll be on the links at one of Bandon’s five (!) world-class golf courses where Oregon’s coast—carved by the elements—adds both challenge and majesty to the game. “Golf was born on rugged, wind-swept land just like this,” claims the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort website. “Every hole, every hazard, every shot is defined by nature's infinite presence…Amongst the massive dunes and hearty pines, you'll discover golf in its purest state. Where nature is embraced, not conquered. And where the traditions of a time-honored game yield to an experience unlike any other.”

For the rest of us, Bandon offers a surprising amount of diverse pastimes for a coastal town of 3,100 located just 90 miles north of the California border.

Day 1

On Friday morning before the crowds hit, head out to the West Coast Game Park Safari­­­­­ located seven miles south of Bandon. Burrows, sheep with their lambs, and herds of deer and fawns roam the grounds, scattering as people approach only to gather again just a few feet away.  Dedicated to educating visitors about the animals and their preservation as well as to wildlife propagation, the park focuses on letting people actually interact with the ​animals instead of just looking at them. Sure, the big lions, tigers and bears (oh “my!) are kept behind bars, along with a host of other big boys. But every day the park brings out ambassador animals that visitors can pet and even play with during their frequent shows. When I went, I was able to tickle both a bear and puma cub, the latter of which was way more interested in playing with his sock monkey than me. In one of the several Nursery Land shows I witnessed, I petted baby raccoons and a sleek, long-tailed white ferret climbed onto my shoulder and settled into my sweatshirt hood for a nap.

On your way back into town, stop at the Washed Ashore Project, a non-profit community-based organization dedicating to creating awareness about the lethal impact that marine debris and plastic pollution have on sea life. You’ll recognize it by the giant seabird made from plastic refuse perched atop a mound of used tires. Here trash that washes onto the local shores is transformed into enormous sculptures of the sea creatures most affected by plastic pollution. Other displays involve art pieces that are often interactive. My friends and I played the set of bongos made from Styrofoam containers, walked through a dark room made to look like an iridescent coral reef, and walked through the tentacles of the massive jelly fish that hung from the yurt workshop ceiling. The dozens of tentacles are made from hundreds of water bottles that washed up onto local beaches, some special edition Olympic bottles that drifted in from as far away as Japan. Volunteers of all ages (even your young ones) can help create these art pieces on Tuesday – Saturday from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

To end your first day plan a beachside stroll at sunset and check out Face Rock, Bandon’s most famous rock formation named for the monolith apparent facial features. To see actually the features, you’ll want to take a look from the cliffs before you hit the sand.

Day 2

Saturday morning, head to the Old Town Marketplace located by the boardwalk, which is also open on Fridays. In addition to farm-fresh produce and fabulous plants, you’ll find sweet and savory Chubby Girl Cheesecakes. You owe it to yourself to try the latter. I could be probably be talked into a life of crime if that was the only way to ever taste Susan’s garlic-stuffed green olive or smoked blue cheesecakes again. Local artisans also peddle their wares. I bought two sets of multi-colored glass-ring wind chimes made from melted-down recycled bottles. The artist, who also sells stunning iris bulbs, threw in a bulb of my choice—probably because I hung out so long, unable to choose which two wind chimes I liked best.

Next, grab a sandwich at the Marketplace or one of the stores or nearby eateries and settle down on a bench along the boardwalk from where you can admire the bronze outdoor sea life sculptures or look out over the water to see the real thing. After lunch, try catching your own crab for dinner from the crabbing deck that juts out from the main part of the boardwalk. You can also rent or charter a boat and head out to sea of you’re brave—or up the Coquille River if, like me, you’re prone to seasickness. Port O’ Call, located right on the boardwalk can hook you up with equipment rentals including fishing gear and crab pot, fishing licenses and boat rentals or deep-sea fishing excursions.

Interested in a little culture? Bandon not only has a community theater, it has five theater groups. To find out what’s at the Bandon Playhouse, which offers performances on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees (when a play is running, of course), visit http://thebandonplayhouse.org/.

Day 3

We all know that Sunday is made for brunching. However, there are several other noteworthy outings in Bandon.

The historic Coquille River Lighthouse—located at Bullards Beach State Park, a family-friendly and pet-friendly park two miles north of Bandon—features an interpretive center which is open daily from mid-May – mid-October and from Wednesday – Sunday in April. Follow a paved mile-long path that winds through fields of tall beach grass and forest to the sandy, sculpted dunes. Make sure to take a sweater. It can get pretty blowy out there. The campground with its 13 yurts, however, is tucked away in a grove of shore pines which protect it from the wind.

For those who, like me, think that cheese is its own food group, Face  Rock Creamery—which makes premium handmade butter, Monterey jack, fromage blanc, cheese curds and seven types of cheddar cheese, several of which just showed up in my local Costco—offers demonstrations and samples.

Need to get back in the saddle—literally? Bandon Beach Riding Stables, located three miles sout of own on Beach Loop Road offers hour-long guided rides through creeks and past rocks, caves and tide pools during the day and at sunset. Call for a reservation: 541-347-3423 (stable) or 541-260-1437.

By the Way

If you’re considering a September visit, don’t miss the annual Cranberry Festival. Cranberries have been grown in Bandon since Charles D. McFarlin transplanted vines he brought over from Cape Cod in 1885. The bog, the state’s first, provided cranberries until the mid-sixties. Today more than 100 local growers raise 95 percent of Oregon’s cranberry crop and about 5 percent of the nation’s. The festival features a parade, music and lots of cranberry laden goodies to eat.