By Jan Lee for the Portland Examiner ~ Bandon, Oregon is world renown for its golf courses. The emerald-green courses flanked by tall, sandy dunes at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort have become the city’s signature snapshot. Its dramatic scenery has been the subject of talk even in Scotland, where jaw-dropping scenery and stunning golf courses are the norm.
But Bandon has another side to its personality that hails from its longstanding reputation for pristine beaches and undisturbed vistas. Some of the Northwest’s most unusual wildlife habitat is nestled in South Coast’s quiet hideaways, making Bandon the perfect destination for birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts and leisure travelers who enjoy the scenic beauty of a spectacular coastline.
Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge
At one time the Tufted Puffin was a regular inhabitant of Bandon’s rocky coastline – so much so that Bandon Dunes made the distinctive-looking bird its mascot on signs and entrances. These days the Puffin is less apparent to the naked eye, but it is still considered an important symbol of Bandon’s shoreline. The bird’s recent reappearance has been an exciting discovery for birdwatchers and environmentalists who feared its disappearance was due to ecological decline. As of recent, the Tufted Puffin has been sighted during the early spring and summer months around Coquille Point.
Bandon’s protected beaches are part of a vast wildlife refuge called the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge (a subsection of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex). Coquille Point, which stretches the coastline between Sixth Street SW and approximately 11th Street SW in Bandon, is one of the more accessible places to observe wildlife. Parking is located at the west end of 11th Street SW, and is linked to the beach by a stairway. Harbor seals, Brant’s Cormorant, Western Gull and Common Murre make their homes on the rocks offshore and can be viewed by binoculars.
Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge
The Coquille River’s fertile estuary, which lies just north of Bandon’s town center, is also a haven for thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains two viewing stations. The Bandon Marsh Unit is located on the west side of Riverside Drive. The Ni-les’tun Unit can be found on North Bank Lane. Both locations are equipped with viewing stations.
The non-profit organization Shoreline Education for Awareness (SEA) maintains an office across from the North Bank Lane viewing station. During peak visitor periods trained docents provide tours and information about birdwatching, whale sighting and other opportunities for viewing wildlife up and down the South Coast of Oregon.
For those who just like to stroll the beaches and take in undisturbed beauty, Bandon’s coastline offers some of the best vistas that Oregon has to offer. Enormous monoliths dot the coastline, providing great opportunities for photography or just lounging against on the beach. Their odd shapes and worn edges serve as a testament to the wind storms and pelting rain that can frequent this area during the wintertime. During the summer however, there can be no better place to observe Northwest shorebirds and experience the South Coast’s temperate weather than on Bandon’s beaches.