“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”–Jacques Cousteau
If you find yourself driving down Oregon’s coastline, take a moment and set your GPS to 43.114193, -124.435927, and let it take you to the city of Bandon.
This quaint little coastal town may sound small and boring, but it has a lot to offer. Visitors can choose from crabbing and fishing to golfing, shopping, taking a wine tour or simply spending time at the beautiful boardwalk in “Old Town,” not to mention enjoying spectacular views of Oregon’s rugged coastline.
Averill was founded in 1853; however, in 1873 Irish settler George Bennett and his sons moved to the area from Bandon, Ireland. The following year the settlement’s name was changed.
Seventeen years later on February 18, 1891 Bandon was officially incorporated.
The next 10-years Bandon would see its iconic Coquille River Lighthouse built (1896), a jetty constructed (1897-98), and its population swell from low double digits to more than 600 people.
As Bandon entered the 20-Century, it was poised for growth. The town had wood and wool manufacturing, a school district, a post office, churches and a robust cheese making industry.
Within the first ten years of the new century, Bandon’s population would grow to more than 1800 people and its harbor would become a principle port between San Francisco and Portland. With an average of 300 vessels visiting annually, Bandon became a primary tourist attraction on the Oregon coast.
Sadly, as the 1900s rolled on, the municipality would face several vicissitudes that would forever alter its course. A blaze in 1914 destroyed the waterfront and the “Great Fire Of 1936” reduced the city to ashes. Bandon was economically devastated for years to come.
Rebuilding began immediately and concluded in 1946. Over the next 70 years, generations of residence went to work reclaiming Bandon’s status as a resort community. The first step was creating a new tradition, the Cranberry Festival, in 1947.
The ensuing years saw cheese production become a major component of the city’s identity. At one point, when the old Bandon Cheese Factory closed, the city lost a huge part of its individuality.
Steady growth continued for much of the 50s and 60s, and ambitious revitalization campaigns of the 70s and 80s brought upgrades to infrastructure and services; thus, setting the stage for non-pelagic industries to play an essential role in the local economy.
The 90s ushered in significant milestones. Bandon and its lighthouse celebrated their centennial anniversaries and a wastewater treatment plant dedication was held; however, the 2000s weren’t as kind.
The new millennium started with a back eye. Tillamook Dairy purchased the popular Bandon Cheese Factory and eventually closed it. Face Rock Creamery, a new cheese producer, which is built upon the site of the old factory, stated, “This was a sad and upsetting day to Bandon residents and tourists alike.”
However, the 2000s did have some high points. The population ballooned to 2800 people, all open streets within the city were paved, and highway 101 was widened to include a turning lane; also a new water clarifier was built at the treatment plant.
A seminal moment occurred in May 2013; Face Rock Creamery opened its doors and heralded in the return of a primary attraction: cheese making.
Today, Bandon has a lot to offer visitors besides its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Obviously, its location is a major selling point for tourism and the backbone of its economy, but golf, cranberries, wood products, cheese and wine making have also developed into an integral part of the city’s future too.
Thanks to outstanding foresight, Bandon is once again a vibrant community.
The next time you’re in the Pacific Northwest, or just visiting the Oregon Coast, take the time to explore Bandon. The beaches, lighthouse, and city will provide you with lots of options to enjoy your stay.