Bandon has always intrigued me, so I find myself spending a lot of time there.
Every community in this region has some amazing things about it. Many have miles of coastland, beautiful beaches, forests that take your breath away and businesses worth stopping at.
But Bandon is the community that has figured out best how to make itself a tourist haven. Of course, their downtown is uniquely situated for tourism with the right kinds of businesses, a small enough area for walking, the boardwalk and parking. But Coos Bay and North Bend aren’t too far off. So, what does set Bandon apart.
A little while ago, my family and I took a drive to Bandon for one purpose and one purpose only – to see starfish.
Recently in the column, I wrote about seeing my first starfish in Cape Arago and I was quickly informed I needed to visit Face Rock Beach in Bandon. I wasn’t told a whole lot more except to go in low tide.
So that’s what we did. We arrived mid-morning with the tide out and made our way to the beach. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for, so we kinda just wandered the beach for a little bit, enjoying the breeze, the sand and the waves crashing nearby.
But when I found what we came to see, it was more than I ever expected. I don’t even know the name of the rock, but when you find it, you too will know.
Jutting out of the beach in low tide, and likely the water in high tide, the rock is covered with living things for at least the first 10 feet. There are mussels, anemones and more along the rock, but the allure is the starfish.
I honestly didn’t know starfish could survive out of the water, and Google says they can’t for long, but somehow at Face Rock Beach, the laws of nature are suspended.
Hundreds of starfish of different colors, different sizes and different shapes are stuck to the rock as if holding on for dear life. I have to guess they are somehow getting moisture while out of the water or maybe they can store moisture like the anemones do. There were even some in broad sunlight, just waiting for the tide to come back in. I don’t know, but I do know the starfish are out there in big numbers and the sight of them is breathtaking.
As we walked around the rocks, we saw some bigger than my hand, others a third that size. Some were hiding in indentations of the rocks, others boldly out where everyone can see them. Most were purple and orange and all had a firm grip on the rocks.
It was tempting to touch them, but a local resident explained how starfish in the region are threatened due to a sickness that is killing many of them. With the numbers declining, it’s best to look, admire and let them be.
So, we did. For an hour, we walked around, stunned every time we turned another corner. There were others doing the same, but the crowd was smaller than I would have expected. As the number of tourists climbs, I expect the crowds will, too.
I live here, I get to see the ocean any time I want, I visit beaches several times a week. And yet there are new surprises almost every time I go out. Face Rock Beach was more than I would have guessed. I would make the drive again to see five starfish, but there are hundreds ready to show off. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. If you have, it might be time for another trip.
To reach Face Rock Beach, follow Highway 101 from Coos Bay to Bandon. Continue on 101 through the downtown area and turn right on 11th Street. Follow to the end and turn left on Beach Loop Road. The beach is about half a mile down the road on the right.