Lovely ocean beach with great sea stacks and a charming coastal town
Distance: 9.0 miles roundtrip (shorter and longer options available)
Type: out and back
Best season: all year (best at low tide)
After a fantastic day hiking along the cliffs between Sunset Bay and Shore Acres, it was time to hit the beach. I love sea stacks, so I was quickly drawn to William Sullivan’s description of the shoreline off Bandon, Oregon (map here).
There are a few different possible starting points for this hike. Old Town Bandon, Bandon’s South Jetty, and Face Rock Wayside all offer excellent jump off points. For the shortest hike to the sea stacks start at Face Rock Wayside, but note the impressive set of stairs you’ll need to descend… then reascend. For a longer hike, you could start further south at Bandon State Park’s Devil’s Kitchen.
Our hotel, Best Western Inn at Face Rock, offered a private beach access which allowed us to begin and end our hike directly at our hotel room. We had a hearty free breakfast at the hotel and then began our hike on a beautiful Labor Day morning. The first bit of hiking was arduous as we made our way through deep, loose sand. Once we made our way out to the wet sand, it was easy travels.
Once again we were following the Oregon Coast Trail. We traveled north for about a mile before we reached the first cluster of sea stacks. This is where you hit the beach if you arrive via Face Rock Wayside.
While this hike is navigable any time of day, I highly recommend hitting the area around the sea stacks near low tide. This allows the curious individual to weave through sea stacks, explore tide pools, and even pass through a natural tunnel in Cathedral Rock if conditions are just right.
For the next mile, we explored around all the sea stacks and enjoyed fine views of the larger islands a short distance off shore—Face, Elephant, and Table Rock being the largest. We did see others exploring around the area, but nothing like you would see further north. Considering this was a holiday, I was amazed by how few people we saw.
Face Rock, as the name implies, resembles a face. William Sullivan, in his Oregon Coast and Coast Range Travel Guide, provides the history of this name:
According to a Coquille tribal legend, the face in Face Rock belongs to Ewauna, daughter of Chief Siskiyou, who had traveled here to a great potlatch feast in his honor. Ewauna had never seen the ocean before, so one night she sneaked to the beach for a moonlight swim. In the water she was grabbed by the evil ocean spirit Seatka. But she refused to look into his eyes, knowing that this was how he controlled his victims. Instead she fixed her stare on the North Star, and defiantly gazes there even today.
One of my favorite spots was the beach between Coquille Point and Elephant Rock. We lucked out and hit the area near low tide which provided us with close up views of the Elephant Rock with its two sea caves.
From Elephant Rock, we continued another mile along the beach until we reached the Coquille South Jetty. Here you must leave the beach and climb up to the jetty parking lot. We followed Jetty Road along the Coquille River about a mile east into Old Town Bandon.
Old Town Bandon is quite charming. The area is only a couple blocks wide and maybe half a dozen blocks long. The exceptionally tidy streets are lined with quaint shops and restaurants. Orca whales the side of large vehicles are painted on the sides of buildings and the port is lined with wooden sculptures of area wildlife.
We explored the heart of Old Town and then purchased some clam chowder from the Bandon Fish Market. We took it to one of the many nice benches along the Coquille River where we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the beautiful day while having our lunch. We had fantastic views down river to the Coquille River Lighthouse.
After exploring Old Town, we retraced our steps back to the hotel. For this return hike, we were able to shorten the road walking along Jetty Road by climbing over some rocks and down to the banks of the Coquille River. Back on the beach, the tide was coming in and many of the sea stacks were now surrounded by water.
Our day ended with a fantastic meal at The Wheelhouse in Old Town Bandon (recommendation from a local) followed by delicious ice cream from the Face Rock Creamery!