There’s no sharper contrast on the Oregon coast than the difference between industrial Coos Bay and earthy Bandon (pop. 3,130), just 24 miles to the south. Here in the Old Town section along the banks of the Coquille River are several blocks of galleries, crafts shops, and fine restaurants, marked by a gateway arch off US-101. Start a tour of Old Town at the corner of 1st Street and Baltimore Avenue, where Big Wheel General Store houses the Bandon Driftwood Museum (daily, free), which gives a good sense of Bandon’s back-to-the-land hippie ethos. Next stop: Washed Ashore (325 2nd St., 541/329-0317), which showcases life-sized sculptures of grey whales, great white sharks, and other wildlife all created out of plastic trash retrieved from Bandon’s beaches.
A more academic introduction to the town and region can be had at the Bandon Historical Society Museum (270 Fillmore Ave., 541/347-2164, Mon.-Sat., daily summer, closed Jan., $3 adults), in the old City Hall along US-101. South of town, Beach Loop Drive runs along a ridge overlooking a fantastic assemblage of coastal monoliths.
For fish ’n’ chips along the waterfront, the Bandon Fish Market (249 1st St. SE, 541/347-4282) is cheap, cheerful, and very good; a block to the east, looking more like a tackle shop than a restaurant, Tony’s Crab Shack (541/347-2875) is another local landmark, famous for fish tacos, chowders, and silky crab sandwiches.
Outside town, the exclusive and expensive (but open to the public) Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (541/347-4380 or 888/345-6008, $85-275 per golf round for resort guests) has been drawing raves from golfers, well-heeled vacationers, and landscape architects alike. Designed to preserve and enhance the “natural” scenery in the style of Scottish links courses rather than the anodyne green swaths that characterize most suburban country club courses, Bandon Dunes offers golf, deluxe accommodations, and nice restaurants.
South of Bandon, 9.5 miles north of Port Orford, Cape Blanco is considered—by Oregonians, at least—the westernmost point of land in the contiguous United States. Named by early Spanish explorers for the white shells encrusting the 245-foot cliff face, the cape is also the site of Oregon’s oldest (circa 1870) and highest lighthouse. Set back from the cliffs in forested woodlands, Cape Blanco State Park (541/332-2973) has hot showers and a few cabins ($43-53), along with a spacious campground ($24). The headland offers great views of the rugged coastline plus a good chance of seeing gray whales spouting and leaping offshore.