Pacific Undertow

A taste of the British Isles pulls tourists to the Oregon Coast

By: Bob Demyan

When describing the rugged beauty of the Oregon Coast, comparisons are often tossed around: Big Sur in some places; Ireland or Scotland in others. Still, with pounding surf, towering cliffs and miles of sandy beach, the Oregon coast is in a class by itself.

For much of the state’s history, tourism and traditional industries lived side by side as fishing and port activity are part of Oregon’s charm. Many towns along coastal Highway 101 still find the traditions of the past to be an illuminating path to the future. Nowhere is that more evident than in Bandon. Located about 250 miles south of Portland, Bandon’s mix of cozy town and spectacular setting is hard to resist.

The area’s similarity to the British Isles was not lost on one savvy entrepreneur. In the late 1990s, greeting card magnate Mike Keiser bought 1,200 acres of land just north of Bandon and began building the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. The goal was to create an experience that beckoned the game’s Scottish origins, and in 1999, the first of three courses opened to rave reviews.

Bandon Dunes has been likened to California’s Pebble Beach and St. Andrews in Scotland, and just after opening, it became one

of Golf Magazine’s highest rated public courses. When the second course, Pacific Dunes, debuted three

years later it ranked even higher. Just this past year the third course, Bandon Trails, opened.

Finished With Fore

If all that great golfing proves tiring, fear not: The lodge awaits. Have a massage ($90 hour), or enjoy a Scotch (naturally) while staring out at the vast expanse of dramatic Pacific. There are several places to dine, from McKee’s Pub, serving traditional Scottish pub fare, to the Tufted Puffin Lounge where Oregon’s highly ranked pinots complement a full menu. For other eats, Bandon boasts a large cranberry industry, and clients can sample cheeses made from the same recipes brought by Irish settlers in the 19th century.

For the intrepid explorer, miles of beach and trails await. Over 10 miles of trails along dunes and bluffs can be accessed from the Bandon Dunes resort, or clients can take a road trip along the popular Beach Route Drive that winds along the coast and past stunning sea stacks like Face Rock, Table Rock and Elephant Rock. Of course, the best way to see these incredible natural features is by foot or horseback. Guided horseback rides are available through Bandon Stables or for a more romantic experience, clients can try a two-hour sunset ride.

If the Pacific blue makes you itch to be out on the water, sea kayaks can be rented for paddle trips on the bay or up the wide and placid Coquille River.

Seven miles south of town animal lovers have a unique chance to view some of nature’s most majestic creatures up close at West Coast Wildfire Safari. Here, large African cats, lemurs, bears, snow leopards and other threatened species roam free and interact with visitors.

Bandon’s spectacular setting on the Oregon Coast will draw clients in with all the power of a Pacific undertow, and they’d be well advised to just go with it.


Getting There
Horizon/Alaska Air offers five flights a day to the airport in North Bend/Coos Bay, which is a 25-minute shuttle to Bandon Dunes (clients can also rent a car). Thanks to the popularity of Bandon Dunes, future expansion plans include direct flights from San Francisco and Seattle.

Bandon Cheese Factory
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Bandon Stables
Open year-round. Three-mile rides leave on the hour. $30-$40 per person.

Bandon Visitors Center
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., except Christmas Day.

Cranberry Festival
Typically held around Sept. 8-10, the festival celebrates the upcoming harvest and includes food, crafts, music and plenty of cranberries.

Coquille River Museum
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Admission: $2.

Oregon Coast Visitor’s Association

West Coast Game
Park Safari

Hours: Daily, March 1-Nov. 30. Opens at 9 a.m. Admission: $4.50-$8.50