The charming town of Florence makes a great base for a Central Oregon Coast adventure. There is a long list of fun and unique attractions located within a short drive, from Cape Perpetua to the north and Reedsport to the south.
Here are my picks for fun things to do in and near Florence, Oregon.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area © Angela M. Brown (2009)
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area occupies just over 40 miles of the Oregon coast line, with Florence at its north end. The sand dunes and the surrounding landscape are constantly being reshaped by the forces of wind and water, creating many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Hiking trails in the Oregon Dunes NRA will take you through forests, around wetlands, along the beach, or among the dunes. The Oregon Dunes are a popular destination for OHV enthusiasts (OHVs include such recreational vehicles as dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and four-wheel drives). A number of local companies provide dune buggy and sandrail tours that can be as fast and wild or slow and scenic as you'd like. Many Oregon Dunes visitors choose to camp.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area © Angela M. Brown (2009)
The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, part of Oregon's Siuslaw National Forest, offers some incredibly picturesque coastal and forest scenery. Miles of trails wind through the Scenic Area, taking you through old growth forests, past historic sites, to magnificent beach overlooks, and down to the rocky beach. Along the shore you can check out tide pools and blow holes, or you can just sit and watch the wild ocean waves crash in. There is a visitor center at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area that houses interesting interpretive exhibits and offers guided naturalist programs and walks. Camping is also available.
Heceta Head Lighthouse © Angela M. Brown (2009)
From the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint parking lot you can enjoy fabulous views of not only the famous lighthouse, but of the historic Cape Creek Bridge and of lively seabird nesting sites. A short and scenic trail will take you up the hill to the lighthouse. Along the way you'll pass the gift shop and the historic lighthouse keeper's house (now a bed and breakfast). You'll also get a fabulous view of Heceta Head Lighthouse when visiting the Sea Lion Caves, including a perfectly framed view from inside the cave.
Oregon's Darlingtonia State Natural Site © Angela M. Brown 2009
This small nature preserve, located right off of Highway 101, only takes a few minutes for a visit but is well worth the stop. A short walk on a boardwalk trail takes you to a wetland patch of Darlingtonia californica
, a carnivorous plant also known as the cobra lily. Part of the pitcher-plant family, the Darlingtonia californica
have droopy, bulbous heads with funny mustache-like appendages. In the springtime, the bright green plants bloom with purple flowers.
Hiking around Florence Oregon
Honeyman State Park near Florence, Oregon ©Angela M. Brown 2009
The diverse and scenic landscape around Florence provides many opportunities for a great hike. You'll find easy nature trails and challenging climbs, passing through forests, wetlands, and dunes, following ridges, lake shores, rivers, and the ocean. Here are my Florence-area hike recommendations.
- Honeyman State Park
Try the easy nature trail that circles scenic Cleawox Lake.
- Siuslaw National Forest
The Waxmyrtle campground and day-use area includes a network of trails through wetlands, along the river, and through the estuary. Inland from Florence you'll find the Sweet Creek Falls trail system, a 3.5-mile hike past several waterfalls.
- Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park
Try the China Creek loop trail or the Hobbit Trail.
Sea Lion Caves in Florence, Oregon © Angela M. Brown 2009
A visit to the Sea Lion Caves gives you a chance to see sea lions both inside the cave and along the rocky ocean cliffs. You'll take an elevator down to an inner cave, where you'll be able to peer through a large opening into the mammoth sea cave. When they are there, sea lions by the hundreds lounge around the cave's rocky floor and outcroppings. Another cave opening looks to the north, framing a lovely view of Heceta Head Lighthouse as well as the sea lions and shorebirds out on the rocks. There are also a number of interpretive exhibits inside the cave. Outside of the cave you'll have access to a viewing platform that provides another chance to watch sea lions, as well as to enjoy panoramic ocean views.
Siuslaw Pioneer Museum in Florence © Angela M. Brown 2009
Florence's Siuslaw Pioneer Museum has two floors of rooms filled with artifacts related to local history. You'll find many everyday items from the region's pioneer area as well as historic tools and machines. The Siuslaw Pioneer Museum displays many historic photographs and has an extensive collection of photos and documents available for research. The museum is located in a 1905 school building.
Old Town Florence Shops and Restaurants
River View from Old Town Florence © Angela M. Brown 2009
Florence's Old Town area overlooks the Siuslaw River. Along with a park and marina, you'll find the standard touristy shops selling souvenir and nautical-themed items. The River Gallery features the work of local artists in a variety of media, including art glass, paintings, and pottery. Among the Old Town eateries is Mo's Restaurant, an Oregon Coast favorite for its yummy clam chowder. Other Old Town riverfront restaurants include Traveler's Cove, The Firehouse Restaurant, and Waterfront Depot.
Three Rivers Casino and Hotel © Angela M. Brown 2009
While the Three Rivers gaming floor is small, they manage to pack in the full range of Vegas-style games. You'll find all the latest slot machines, keno, blackjack, craps, and roulette. Live comedy and music are available on a regular basis at Ace's Sports Bar & Lounge. Special events and concerts are held periodically at the Three Rivers Casino Special Event Center. Fine, casual, and buffet dining are all available at the Three Rivers Casino.
Outdoor Recreation in and near Florence, Oregon
Here are some of your other opportunities to play during your Florence getaway.
- Kayaking - local outfitters include Oregon by Kayak (541-729-2436) and Central Coast Watersports (541-997-1812).
- Sandboarding - find out what it's all about at Sand Master Park (541-997-6006).
- Fishing - the area's freshwater lakes, the rivers, and the Pacific Ocean all offer great sport for fishers