The Beach Loop
U.S. 101 follows an inland path for more than 50 miles between Coos Bay and Port Orford, but you can leave the highway in Bandon and take the four-mile Beach Loop for a lovely seaside detour south of town.
If you haven’t been to Bandon recently, the once bucolic drive along the Beach Loop has changed a bit—trophy homes form pretty much the only view you have for the first mile or two. Still, there are state-park parking areas that let you put the McMansions to your back and allow a look at the gorgeous ocean views.
Along this fine stretch of beach are rock formations with such evocative names as Table Rock, Elephant Rock, Garden of the Gods, and Cat and Kittens Rocks. The whole grouping of sea stacks, included within the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, looks like a surrealist chess set cast upon the waters.
The most eye-catching of all is Face Rock, Bandon’s answer to New Hampshire’s lately lamented Old Man of the Mountain. This basalt monolith resembles the face of a woman gazing skyward. An Indian legend says that she was a princess frozen by an evil sea spirit. Look for the Face Rock turnout 0.25 miles south of Coquille Point on the Beach Loop.
Despite its scenic and recreational attractions, the beaches south of Bandon can be surprisingly deserted, perhaps because of the long steep trails up from the water along some parts of the beach. In any case, this dearth of people can make for great beachcombing.
Agates, driftwood, and tide pools full of starfish and anemones are commonly encountered, along with bird-watching opportunities galore. Elephant Rock has a reputation as the Parthenon of puffins, while murres, oystercatchers, and other species proliferate on the other offshore formations.
Getting to the Beach Loop
Several access roads lead west from the highway to Beach Loop Drive (County Rd. 29), each about 0.25 miles from the others. Most people begin the drive by heading west from Bandon’s Old Town on First Street along the Coquille. Another popular approach is from 11th Street, which leads to Coquille Point. The south end of the drive runs through the northern portion of Bandon State Natural Area, providing parking, beach access, and picnic tables.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel