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Top 12 Things To Do In Florence Oregon (+Where To Stay)

Florence Oregon and the Siuslaw River Bridge.

Florence, Oregon is a charming town along the Oregon Coast. Located at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, along the Pacific Ocean.

Florence started as a hub for logging, fishing, and agriculture. But has now grown into a tourist hot spot along the Oregon Coast. With the rolling sand dunes, freshwater lakes, one of the most picturesque lighthouses, and home to the Stellar Sea Lions, it’s an easy place to enjoy for the whole family.

And for a small town, there really is plenty of unique attractions. Here are our top things to do in Florence, Oregon. 

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Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Aerial photo of the massive sand dunes in Florence.

Florence, Oregon is best known for its massive sand dunes. It’s the largest concentration of coastal sand dunes anywhere in North America.

The dunes stretch 40+ miles along the coast, with some dunes reaching up to 500 ft tall. And there are nearly 7,000 acres to explore. Wind along the coast has been depositing sand here for millions of years, forming this ever-changing landscape of dunes.

These unique temperate-climate dunes feature a wispy blending with dense green forests and wetlands. With a diverse mix of ocean, massive sand dunes, wetlands, and tall forests, there is tons to explore in the area.

One of the most popular (and exhilarating) ways to explore the dunes is by dune buggy.

Or rent a sand board and try your skills to shred down the dunes on a board.  

It’s most popular to explore the Oregon Sand Dunes via dune buggy. You can rent your own and choose your own adventure or book a tour. Here are some great places to rent ATVs/UTVs or book a tour:

For a more budget-friendly option, you can hike around the dunes. However, walking in the sand can be quite tiring. It’s a 2-steps forward, 1 step back kinda deal.

It is rather exhausting to explore deep into the dunes on foot. Our best suggestion is to hike up to the top of a dune to get a unique perspective of the area. 

And if you are on foot, just be sure to watch out for dune buggies, and only stop in places where you are easily visible. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to hear them coming.

Also, you can rent sand boards from some local shops and shred down some of the taller dunes.

The best place to access the dunes is at Jessie M Honeyman State Park. This beautiful park features dune access, lakes, forests, day-use areas, and camping.

They have full hookup campsites, tent sites, and even yurts. The forested camping area was such a peaceful and affordable place to stay near Florence.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse is a top attraction near Florence.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most majestic lighthouses on the Oregon coastline. And often dubbed as “the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon”.

This area was founded by Bruno de Heceta, a Spanish navigator and explorer who surveyed the Oregon coast in 1775. But the lighthouse was officially built much later in 1894. To this day, Heceta Head Lighthouse is still helping boats safely navigate the treacherous coast. 

The light can be seen 21 miles from shore and flashes its one million candle power beacon every ten seconds.

A close-up moody photo of Heceta Head Lighthouse.

While you can see the lighthouse from the parking lot, you can’t miss the opportunity to get up close to it. The hike is a short .5 miles with a slight incline. We strongly encourage people to hike up a little more just above the lighthouse for the iconic photo spot!

You can also stay in the old Heceta Head lightkeeper’s house, which has been converted into a bed & breakfast. You can rent just a room, or rent out the whole place.

The other notable landmarks here are Cape Cove Beach and the famous Cape Creek Bridge. The Cape Creek Bridge is particularly unique because it spans a gorge and passes through a tunnel in the mountain.

The Cape Creek Bridge near Heceta Head Lighthouse.
It’s almost as if the bridge just disappears into the side of the mountain.

For many years, people had no easy way to travel across the gorge. Even though Cape Creek was only knee deep, the steep cliffs made travel over land nearly impossible. But when Highway 101 was being built, engineers devised a bridge that connected the two sides.

Cape Cove Beach sits right below Heceta Head Light.

The Cape Cove Beach is a remarkably scenic beach that sits just below the Heceta Head Light.

Hobbit Trail to Hobbit Beach

Hiking Hobbit Trail near Florence Oregon.

For a real coastal Oregon hike, you can’t miss Hobbit Trail. This trail connects Heceta Head to Hobbit Beach through a mystical and lush forest. The hike is 4 miles roundtrip with 1000 ft elevation gain.

This is one of our favorite coastal hikes in Oregon. We’ve actually been on this hike two different times.

Rays of light passing through the trees on Hobbit Trail.

Our first time offered a true mystical vibe with rays of light illuminating the fog between the trees. And the most recent time was a beautiful sunny Oregon spring day. But the variety of weather is what makes no two visits alike.

About a half mile from the lighthouse there is a spectacular overlook of Hobbit Beach.

The Hobbit Beach overlook from the trail.

From there, the trail descends another mile down to the beach itself.

However, there is also roadside parking along 101 right near Hobbit Beach, if you don’t want to hike all the way from Heceta Head. So you can make this hike as long or as short as you would like!

Sea Lion Caves

A lone sea lion in the Sea Lion Caves.

You can’t miss the famous Sea Lion Caves when visiting Florence Oregon. It costs $18 for adults, $12 for children, and free for children under 4.

This is a popular area to spot the species of Stellar Sea Lions (that’s the name of the subspecies, though they are quite a stellar sight!).

What makes this cave particularly special, is that it serves as the sea lion’s only mainland rookery. They use the cave as a home base to protect them from cold and rough weather.

The best time to see the Sea Lions in the Cave are in Fall and Winter or when big storms roll in. Otherwise, they gather outside along the rocky coast.

The sea lions gather along the rocky coast during mating season.

Spring time can be a unique time to visit, as the bulls (male sea lions) gather 10 to 20 cows (female sea lions) for mating. The bulls can weigh up to 1500 lbs, and they are quite an impressive sight!

There is an elevator that brings you down to America’s largest sea cave. Within the cave you can observe the sea lions in the cave (season-dependent). But even during mating season, there were still a few sea lions in the cave. And birds also use the cave for nesting.

There is a small exhibit in the cave with information about the local wildlife. And even a well-preserved sea lion skeleton is still on display in its final resting place.

A well-preserved sea lion skeleton on display.

Tips: bring binoculars, you won’t really get that close to them. And bring a jacket, the cave can be pretty chilly.

Old Town Florence & The Siuslaw Bridge

Old Town Florence

Old Town Florence has gone through some changes throughout its history. Beginning as a simple fishing port, but now a popular destination for seafood, shops, and more.

Before the construction of the famous Siuslaw Bridge, a ferry transported people and goods across the Siuslaw River from Glenada to Florence Oregon.

The Siuslaw River Bridge in Florence, Oregon.
Wooden stilts from the old ferry dock are still visible along the river.

But in 1936 when the bridge opened, people and businesses moved uptown, leaving this area somewhat run down and only a spot for fishermen and crabbers coming to and from the bay.

However, in the 70’s and 80’s, the community began to revitalize the area into what we now know as Old Town Florence. The cute old houses and storefronts are very charming. It’s now a popular destination for tourists, with many local shops, restaurants, and amazing views of the Siuslaw Bridge.

Grab Some Crab Chowder from Novelli’s Crab and Seafood

The floating restaurant, Novelli's Crab and Seafood.

If you think you recognize this place, it might be from the Food Network, as Novelli’s Crab Chowder was featured on Guy Ferri’s Diner, Drive-ins, and Dives TV hit. And for good reason, as this is one creamy and flavorful bowl of crab chowder. 

This no-frills crab shack is literally floating on the docks. If you got any closer to the source, you’d have to be on the fisherman’s boat itself! There is a nice seating area right on the docks, and honestly, the pricing is pretty affordable too.

So we can’t recommend this place enough!

If you really want clam chowder. Florence also has the famous Mo’s clam chowder. But there are many Mo’s locations along the Oregon Coast (like Newport, Otter Rock, Cannon Beach, Astoria). But Novelli’s crab chowder is exclusive to Florence.

Grab a Brew from the Beachcomber

Grabbing some beers at The Beachcomber.

The Beachcomber is the local hangout downtown. It was established in 1936, and has been through the ups and downs of Old Town Florence, but always serving up travelers, fishermen, loggers, and more. 

And really, it’s just a vibe when you walk in, with the old beer taps, growlers, artwork and more. They have 20 different beers on tap, and are always rotating to micro brews from all parts of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. 

You can also grab a bite to eat, as the Beachcomber serves up affordable seafood and pub food. And they have a pool table, shuffleboard, and other games for entertainment.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at BJ’s

Emily eating some old fashioned ice cream at BJ's

BJ’s is the best place to grab a sweet treat in Florence Oregon. They actually have two locations in Florence, whether you are in the main city center or in Old Town. 

Their business is 45+ years old, and can even be said to have 100+ years of experience. Original owners Brian and Jodie, can date back their ice cream making experience to 1917 when Brian used to make ice cream with his grandfather. So you know this place has some serious experience operating a creamery! They are now on the 5th generation of business owners. 

Bj’s has created 48 flavors of old-fashioned batch ice cream. And they don’t just stop there, they also make 200 flavors of Salt Water Taffy, plus homemade fudge, caramel corn, and other custom sweets. 

They also have other locations in Sisters, Albany, Lebanon, Nye Beach in Newport, and Winchester Bay.  

Grab A Coffee From River Roasters 

A fresh cup of coffee from River Roasters.

Grab a warm coffee and enjoy a great view of the Siuslaw Bridge. Or on a rainy day, cozy up to the wood burning stove inside. 

River Roasters sits in an old 1944 auto and outboard motor garage. Once the original owner passed, this property was turned into a funky and eclectic coffee shop. And they kept Bill’s legacy alive, with many nods to the old auto shop.

Coffee is what they are known for, but you can also snag a tasty baked good or burrito which they outsource from other local shops nearby.

Heceta Beach

Heceta Beach in Florence Oregon.

Heceta Beach is not actually near Heceta Head Lighthouse, but rather right along the coast near Florence. This beach offers miles of sandy shores backed by rolling sand dunes, and the constant serenade of Pacific Ocean waves.

Waterfront Depot Restaurant

Waterfront Depot Restaurant

If you are looking to splurge on an fancy dining experience, this is the place. The Waterfront Depot restaurant sits inside a 1912 train station.

This old Southern Pacific Railroad Depot served the nearby town of Mapleton. When the building was no longer needed and the construction of highway 126 took place, the building was set for demolition. But a local contractor was destined to save this little piece of history.

They relocated the building to Old Town Florence, which now serves as the Waterfront Depot providing “elevated coastal cuisine” to both locals and tourists. Try their unique cocktail creations with a delicious seafood meal!

Have A Day At The Lake

There are tons of gorgeous freshwater lakes near Florence Oregon. From the massive lakes like Siltcoos Lake, Tahkenitch Lake, and Woahink Lake, to the smaller ones like Cleawox Lake, Sutton Lake, Munsel Lake, and Mercer Lake. There are tons of options for boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, camping, and more!

Nowhere else on the Oregon coast will you find so many lakes to enjoy.

If you want to bring your own boat or kayak, there are plenty of boat ramps and day-use areas. Or you can rent boats and kayaks locally. 

Boat and/or Kayak Rentals: 

Map With Our Top Things To Do In Florence

Where To Stay In Florence, Oregon

A yurt at Jessie M Honeyman State Campground.
A yurt at Jessie M Honeyman State Campground.

We think the best places to stay in Florence is either right in Old Town Florence, within walking distance to all the attractions. Or booking a cabin, yurt, campsite, or RV space on a lake or in the woods.

Beyond the standard hotel/motel options, Florence has some unique accommodations as well. From rustic lakeside cabins or RV spots, to old town bed & breakfasts, forested yurts, and more.

Old Town Florence

Lake And Forest

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