Coolest Small Town ~ Bandon, OR

Cute little eatery

Back in 2010 this small town of ~3300 was named one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” by Budget Travel. We wholeheartedly agreed as we wandered her streets and shops.  With 20+ eateries, this town relies on  tourists who come here for the temperate climate, rugged wind-swept beaches, fishing, crabbing, golf, and storm watching.  Also drawing in the crowds is the annual Cranberry Festival, which takes place in early September. We learned that 95% of all Oregon cranberries  are grown here and Bandon is the first location of “wet harvested” bogs, where dikes are built around the bogs then flooded in the fall and the cranberries rise to the surface, ready to be gathered.

cranberry bog
Cranberry bog, photo by Wood Sabold

This little town that sits at the mouth of the Coquille River was named by George Bennett, an Irishman who settled here in 1873, naming it after his beloved Irish hometown of Bandon.

bandon marina
Bandon marina

He brought with him a plant common around Ireland, gorse.  Little did he know at the time the impact this spiny hedge-like plant would have on this community.

Colorful harbor view

In the early 1900’s Bandon’s  population of roughly 1800 was considered to be a booming town.  Being a heavily forested area, fire was always a possibility but not much of a worry until the fateful day of September 26, 1936.  The Bandon residents had no idea the destruction the gorse plant would cause when a fire erupted.  This plant, being very oily, reacted as gasoline thrown on a fire and no amount of water added to the mix would have a positive outcome.  What remained of the town after the fire died was 16 buildings, of the approximate 500 standing before the burning began.  Ironically, a week before the fire, a local plant pathologist warned the residents of the hazards of a fire with so much gorse in the area.  Today you can still see remnants of this plant but it is strictly regulated as to its height and thickness.

coquille river lighthouse
Coquille River Lighthouse as seen from Bandon harbor.

Spending time at the Bandon Historical Society Museum is a great way to soak up the history of the area, we had heard, but unfortunately  we ran out of time so we relied on Nina and Paul of Wheeling It, to educate us about the area, given they are volunteering as Lighthouse Hosts at the Coquille River Lighthouse.

This cute little lighthouse stands at the mouth of the Coquille River and is the second smallest of the 8 lighthouses still standing in Oregon, with a 47 foot tower.  It is also the last, built in 1896 and replaced in 1939 by an automated light constructed on the south jetty.

Fog lifting from the jetty

Our last evening in Bandon was spent with Nina and Paul having dinner at the Alloro Wine Bar & Restaurant, a definite must if you are in this coolest of small towns.  The entrees were yummy and the chocolate mousse was almost too pretty to eat, almost.

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24 thoughts on “Coolest Small Town ~ Bandon, OR

  • Now I know why those guys from the cranberry commercial are standing in hip deep water, lol

  • I had no idea that cranberries were grown on the west coast. I always thought it was a New England gig. When I start doing my own exploring of the coast of California and Oregon, I’ll have to print out your posts and use them as tools as to where to go and what to see. I am getting excited about doing that. Thanks again for the wonderful post and great pictures.

  • We are still enjoying your blog, LuAnn. We have been at South Carlsbad for the past month with Gayl selling and orchestrating the sale of Christmas In July tickets. Yesterday was the big day, Christmas In July. Last year they had raised $13,000. This year it has been near $30,000. The day was quite interesting, with a lot of visitors enjoying themselves. This is the day after now and Gayl and I are on our last tour of camp hosting. It began at 6:30 AM and will end at 6:30 PM. Wow, are we glad to be finished. Tomorrow we are packing up and leaving on Tuesday. On the way home we will stop in Riverside and pick up our new Dutchman Kodiak Trailer. We plan to make a trip up to Portland, Oregon where our youngest son Kyle started his new job. We are planning this for September and Gayl said she was going to talk to you about staying at various places that you have enjoyed on your trip thus far, LuAnn. Bandon, Oregon sounds like a great little area, according to you and we enjoyed reading about it. We hope you continue having a great and wonderful tour of the West Coast of our great country. We still look forward to seeing you guys in person sometime when you are down this way.
    Take care,

    Roger & Gayl

    • Wow, $30,000! Glad to hear it was such a success and that you are soon going to be able to relax. When you are ready to head up this way we can certainly share where we have stayed and how we felt about it. The state parks in OR are wonderful! We are looking forward to reconnecting with the two of you again some day.

  • What a wonderful blog. I live in Washington now but only for the last few years. I grew up in Oregon so I’m lovin’ this post. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Isn’t the cutest little town you have ever seen. We love that area.
    Thanks for all info on the gorse plant. I knew nothing about this plant…actually I have never heard of it. Very, very interesting.

    • It is the cutest little town! I too knew nothing about the gorse plant until Nina & Paul talked about it at the lighthouse, then I went online and learned more. This little town has an interesting history.

  • Wonderful information about such a quaint small town. I love the history behind it…even though it’s sad that a plant brought over caused such damage! Beautiful photographs…thank you for sharing 🙂 Blessings ~

  • Hi,
    My name is Sarah and I’m with Dwellable. I was looking for blog posts about Virginia Beach to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, drop me a line at Sarah(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you 🙂

  • I learn something new here every time I visit L & T! Had no idea cranberries were harvested like that! Pity about the Gorse. The Water Hyacinth is proving to be a huge menace here. I guess there is a reason why these plants were not indigenous to these regions in the first place. A lesson to not upset natures balance 🙂

  • Found you from Ingrid’s site. Thought you might like a peek at my favorite beach in Bandon. Just did sunset last night –, but I’ve posted the beaches at Bandon in all their moods. I’m truly enjoying reading about your travels and adventures in my favorite little corner of the world. Are you still in my neighborhood?

      • Lots to love here. Newport is one of my favorite towns on the coast. It seems that there’s a bit more development as you head further North, but that’s just my opinion. I could be prejudiced. 😉

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