Sunday, May 31, 2015

Road Trip to Bandon

When we came to the Oregon coast in 2009 we stopped one day and had what seemed to be the best fish and chips we've ever eaten at a little shack on the Bandon wharf.  Even though Bandon is just over 100 miles from where we are staying, we felt it was worth the drive to go back and see if our memories were being honest with us.

Heceta Head Light
We headed south on the coast highway past Cape Perpetua and through the 11.5 foot tall tunnel, then stopped at the top of the next hill to take a couple of pictures.  Last summer I told you about the Nubble Light at Cape Neddick, Maine, which was felt to be the epitome of all light houses and was included on the data disk sent into deep space with the Voyager probe.  But for my money, Heceta Head Light is even more iconic as light houses go.  It sits halfway up a mountain, jutting out high above the ocean to flash out a light signal visible for God knows how many miles.  Our viewpoint was a pullout on the highway just below Sea Lion Cave, across a small inlet from from the Hecita Head Light.  Nubble is nice, but I think Heceta is at least as much the embodiment of what a lighthouse is all about.

Restored Coquille Light
We continued south past the Suislaw National Forest and drove through Reedsport where we had hit the coast on Hwy 38 a few days earlier, then continued south into new territory.  We passed through North Bend and Coos Bay, then just before Bandon we pulled off at Bullards Beach State Park where we visited the Coquille River Light.  No one is going to award any prizes to this small lighthouse which sits across the Coquille River from Bandon but it is picturesque enough.  It was the last US Coastguard lighthouse built along the Oregon coast and operated from 1896 to 1939.  A fire largely destroyed Bandon in 1936 and with the subsequent lack of significant shipping in the area the light was shut down as unnecessary.  It was replaced some years later by a small automated light placed on the jetty on the Bandon side of the river.  The Coquille River Light was allowed to fall into ruin until a local restoration project picked it up in 1976.  It is now an interpretive center staffed by RV work
Replacement light on the south jetty
campers who are given free parking for their rigs at the Bullards Beach campground in exchange for spending a few hours a week answering tourist questions inside the lighthouse.  I assume they get some kind of training, but maybe they just make the answers up.  We certainly wouldn't know the difference.

The Bandon Fish Market and Chowder House
Finally we went back to Hwy 101, crossed the Coquille River Bridge and entered Bandon.  A large sign welcomes you to the Old Town area where the Bandon wharf is located and we parked just about 50 yds from the Bandon Fish Market where the Fish and Chips are produced.  For fifty years this place has made cod and halibut fried fish and chips.  There are a few other things on the menu.  They've added salmon fish and chips since we were last here and had some fresh tuna that particular day.  They've also added the option of having your fish grilled instead of deep fried, but that's not what we had driven 100 miles for.  I had a cup of clam chowder and Vicki ordered a cup of
Perfect fish and chips (and so-so coleslaw)
smoked salmon chowder, and we each had an order of cod fish and chips.  It was pretty much as we remembered it.  The batter was light and crispy and the fish was moist and so soft it almost melted in your mouth.  I don't know how they do that.  I mean, if it were simple, everybody's fish would taste like this.  I had thought that the secret was that the fish were fresh off the boat, caught the same day, but on asking I learned that this particular cod had come from Alaska.  So I don't know what their secret is, but I may have to drive the 100 miles again to consider the question further before we leave the state.

Across the street from the Fish Market sits the Cranberry Sweets and More store where they make fruit fudges and pates (apparently a fancy way of saying jelly candies).  These are delicious, if somewhat expensive (they averaged about $22 or $23 a pound) .  We each got a few of ounces things that looked good to us along with two chocolate dipped cherries and moved on.
Sunset Bay State Park (with my phone panorama)
Cape Arago
On the way back north we stopped at a number of state parks and waysides.  In particular, we drove the Cape Arago Highway which hugs the coast over a section where 101 does not.  This took us to Sunset Bay State Park, which is a beautiful little round inlet with a large sand beach protected by high cliffs around about 3/4 of its circumference.  This is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike and gets over 1.5 million visitors a year.  A few miles further along is Cape Arago where Francis Drake is supposed to have sheltered the Golden Hind from storms in 1579 while he was searching for the western end of the fabled Northwest Passage.

Watching the show at the Elquarium
When we got to Reedsport, we turned right and drove a few miles back out Hwy 38 to visit the Dean Creek elk viewing area or, as I like to call it, the Oregon Coast Elkquarium.  This is a 1080 acre preserve with a herd of about 100 Roosevelt Elk that stay in the area all year.  They're wild (sort of) but the area is fertilized and maintained to provide plenty of food so they don't need to  migrate away to forage.  Next to the highway is a  large marshy grassland where they can be viewed from a raised gazebo platform with handicapped accessibility.  May and June are calving season and the pregnant females all head up into the mountains for some privacy, so what we saw was a small herd of mostly males feeding leisurely about a hundred yards from the viewing platform.  They all had fuzzy little antlers which will grow throughout the summer to become 6 foot wide racks by September when they start banging their heads together over the women.  Thus it has always been.

While we were watching the Elk, this rather bedraggled Blue Heron flew into the marsh to do a little fishing.  We've seen a few of these over the years in various shades of blue.  This guy looks pretty grey to me.
Greyish Blue Heron
We finally arrived back at our motorhome at about a quarter past eight to discover that our rig was running on battery power.  The 50 amp circuit breaker at our electric post had quit working.  I knocked on the manager's door and told him about it and after a brief inspection he agreed that the circuit breaker had not "tripped", it had failed and would need to be replaced.  He offered to do it that night, but we had a 30 amp converter cord and with the motorhome plugged into the 30 amp breaker it seemed to work fine, so we left it like that overnight and he came over and replaced the 50 amp breaker the next morning.  I don't know when the next morning exactly.  I certainly didn't get out of bed to watch.

Bonus Pics

Heceta Head with the lighthouse halfway up the mountain on the left and the keepers house on the right

Wood carvings on the Bandon wharf.

Formation flying

View from Shore Acres State Park
Sunset Bay

Fuzzy antlers

Group of mostly males


  1. i remember this area with great fondess

    1. How are you doing. Haven't seen you in ages. When were you in Oregon?

  2. Great photos and I love the wood carvings.

    1. Glad you enjoyed them. Welcome to The Road.