It always amazes me how many of my Californian friends have never been to Oregon. If they need a little encouragement to head North, I tell them Oregon is a diverse state with dramatic ocean cliffs, lush green forests and arid deserts in the east. It’s also on the forefront of the foodie scene, but Oregon doesn’t get as much press attention as other hot spots. If you ask, Oregonians are perfectly fine flying under the radar.
Should you be so lucky to make it up to Oregon, there is one central coast city that you simply must visit. Florence, Oregon is a gorgeous micro-town with beaches, sand dunes and over seventeen lakes to enjoy. The area is also studded with local County and State parks, so there’s no shortage of camping and hiking options.
Must See & Do When in Florence, Oregon
It’s a bit touristy, but where else can you go in a giant sand buggy and fly across the dunes as if you were in a scene from Star Wars? The two operators in town offer a slower bigger sand dune buggy ride and smaller faster option for the thrill seekers. Tips: Bundle up (the wind feels like ice!), wear sunglasses and forget a hat. It will blow off. You’re better off with a big bandana to tie around your face.
Many of the beautiful lakes here are stocked with trout in the summer. Just ask which lakes were recently stocked when you go to get your inexpensive fishing license. Catching a trout and grilling it up is an experience everyone should have. Fresh caught trout has a light mineral taste, and make sure to grill it whole. It’s easier to deal with the tiny bones. Make sure to pick up some lemon and Cajun spice to sear your fresh catch in!
Tips: Our family favorite is Honeyman Lake. If you’re not into fishing, this lake has trails, sand dunes to play on and water craft rentals such as kayaks and paddle boats. The little camp store even offers freshly popped popcorn for .25 a bag.
Many of the trails lead through lush green sub-tropical like forests. You’ll see lots of ferns, moss, creaky tall pine trees, mushrooms and probably a banana slug or two!
This tiny town set upon the Siuslaw River has dramatic views of the 1920’s art deco Siuslaw Bridge, forest and sand dunes. After shopping your heart out in the adorable shops, it’s time to eat up! There’s no shortage of good food in Old Town, Florence. As they say, if the restaurant wasn’t good, it wouldn’t be open. Small towns in Oregon live or die with the summer market, so there’s no room for error. Try the clam chowders, fish & chip options (salmon, cod & halibut), Dungeness crab and any berry pie! Save room for ice cream. BJ’s Ice Cream in Florence makes their own ice cream and has a respectable selection of fresh taffy.
Tips: Make a reservation before you arrive in town at the Waterfront Depot. Culinary magic happens out of this tiny kitchen every night and every last seat is booked. Order a local Oregon Pinot Noir to go with your meal. Our favorites are the Crab Encrusted Halibut and the Seafood Portuguese Stew with crusty bread.
The access is primarily through State Parks, so you’ll need to get a Day Pass. If you’re in Oregon for more than a week, consider getting the yearly access pass and then you can drive into any State Park during your trip without any fuss.
The beaches can be windy, so the best time to visit is in the morning before the wind kicks up. Look for seaglass and polished stones that roll up onto the beach.
Tips: North of town there is the Heceta Lighthouse, which is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Perched upon dramatic cliffs, you can actually visit the lighthouse and sometimes they have special events there. The beach below is also stunning and fun to picnic at.
When To Visit
The summer months are ideal to visit Oregon with August being top choice. As this is often the warmest month, all of the berries are finally ripe for picking. There are several home owners in Florence, Oregon who open up their yards once a year for U-Pick Blueberries – take advantage of this fun family activity! It’s not unsual to have some envious deer watching while you pick!