10 Best Things to Do in Florence, Oregon

Hike, swim or shop on the Oregon coast

The town of Florence along the Oregon coast
Remsberg Inc / Design Pics / Getty Images

The charming town of Florence, Oregon, makes a great home base for any Oregon coast adventure. At the mouth of the Siuslaw River, this small city is a short drive from Cape Perpetua, the Oregon Dunes, and the Heceta Head Lighthouse. The local scenery provides a majestic scape for photography buffs, so be sure to bring your camera. Travelers will find plenty to do in the form of hiking, kayaking, or beach-going.

01 of 10

Go Whale Watching

Whale tail

Getty Images

Anyone watching the news in 1970 might remember Florence as the site of the infamous exploding whale, but it's also a fantastic place to go spot whales that aren't exploding—and you don't even need to get on a boat. Oregon's cold waters are some of the best in the country for spotting migrating humpbacks and orcas and from Florence, you can spot them flipping their tails from coastal parks like Cape Perpetua and the Heceta Head Lighthouse.

If the story of Florence's exploding whale has captivated you, you could also pay your respects at the official Exploding Whale Memorial Park on Rhododendron Drive.

02 of 10

Try the Crabs

Large crab caught along the Oregon coast

Shelby Cate / Getty Images

You can't possibly leave Oregon without trying the crabs. Florence, and the Oregon Coast in general, is a great destination for crab-lovers. These are some of the best crabbing waters in the country—and the enthusiasm shows. Just take a look at the signature dish at the restaurant Waterfront Depot, a Crab-Encrusted Alaskan Halibut. At Novelli's Crab and Seafood, you can eat crab right on the dock, but don't miss their award-winning chowder either.

03 of 10

Go Tide Pooling at Cape Perpetua

Cape Perpetua

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Cape Perpetua Lookout, Yachats, OR 97498, USA

The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, part of Oregon's Siuslaw National Forest, offers picturesque coastal and forest scenery. Miles of trails wind through old-growth forests to historic sites and magnificent overlooks, and then finally down to a rocky beach.

Along the shore, check out the tide pools and blowholes, or just sit and watch the wild ocean waves. The interpretive exhibits at the visitor's center will help you identify marine life sightings from sea urchins to anemones and other tide-pool dwellers. Camping and guided naturalist tours are available on site.

04 of 10

Ride a Dune Buggy on the Sand Dunes

Oregon Dunes
Bob Pool/Getty Images
855 US-101, Reedsport, OR 97467, USA
Phone +1 541-271-6000

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area occupies just over 40 miles of the Oregon coastline, with Florence lying at its north end. These dunes and their surrounding landscape are constantly being reshaped by both wind and water, making the park a great recreational playscape.

Hiking trails take you through forests, around wetlands, along the beach, or among the dunes themselves. OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) enthusiasts love to drive their dirt bikes, ATVs, and dune buggies through the sand, You can also hire a local outfitter to take you on a dune buggy and sand-rail tour. Tours can be as fast and wild or as slow and scenic as you'd like. 

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Stay at a Historic Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

97439 US-101, Florence, OR 97439, USA
Phone +1 800-551-6949

From the Heceta Head Lighthouse parking lot, enjoy fabulous views of the famous lighthouse, the historic Cape Creek Bridge, and numerous seabird nesting sites. A short and scenic trail takes you up the hill to the lighthouse itself.

Along the way, you'll pass the gift shop and the historic lighthouse keeper's home. You can stay in this 19th-century cottage, as it's now a bed and breakfast that offers some of the best views on the coast—at 205 feet above the ocean—and a seven-course breakfast the morning after your stay.

06 of 10

Check Out Insect-Eating Plants

Oregon's Darlingtonia State Natural Site
Angela M. Brown
5400 Mercer Lake Rd, Florence, OR 97439, USA
Phone +1 800-551-6949

The small nature preserve, Darlingtonia State Natural Site, is located off of Highway 101 and takes only a few minutes to visit. But, it is well worth the effort! A short stroll on a boardwalk trail takes you by a wetland patch of Darlingtonia californica, a carnivorous plant commonly known as the cobra lily. Part of the pitcher-plant family, cobra lilies have droopy bulbous heads with mustache-like appendages.

This rare plant contains a hidden opening in the stalk which harbors sweet nectar that attracts insects. Once the insect goes inside, it becomes confused and drops down the lower part of the hollow stalk to be consumed by bacteria and water and converted into nitrogen.

07 of 10

Spy Sea Lions in Their Habitat

Sea Lion Caves - Florence Oregon USA


Frank Fichtmüller/Getty Images

91560 US-101, Florence, OR 97439-8201, USA
Phone +1 541-547-3111

A visit to the sea lion caves offers a chance to view the largest seas cave in the U.S., sitting at four stories high. Take an elevator down to the inner cave where you'll be able to peer through a large opening into the mammoth structure.

Depending on the time of day, you'll find sea lions by the hundreds lounging around the cave's rocky floor and outcroppings. An additional opening looks to the north, framing a lovely view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse as well as more sea lions and shorebirds on the rocks cliffs. Outside the cave, a viewing platform provides yet another chance to watch sea lions and enjoy panoramic views.

08 of 10

Learn About History at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum

Exterior of Siuslaw Pioneer Museum

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

278 Maple St, Florence, OR 97439-9617, USA
Phone +1 541-997-7884

Step inside the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum and explore two floors of rooms filled with artifacts related to the founding of the city of Florence by early settlers. Here you'll find everyday items—like antique tools and machines—used by the region's first loggers and fishermen. The museum also displays historic photographs and has an extensive collection of documents available for research. Don't miss a stop at this 19th-century school-building-turned-museum.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Hike the Coast

Cleawox Lake Swimming Area Sand Dunes Honeyman State Park
GarysFRP / Getty Images
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, Florence, OR 97439, USA
Phone +1 800-551-6949

The diverse and scenic landscape that surrounds Florence provides many opportunities for a picturesque hike. From easy nature trails to challenging climbs that pass through forests, wetlands, and dunes, you'll find something to suit all ability levels. Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park has some of the most accessible trails in the area, including a jaunt that circles scenic Cleawox Lake.

Siuslaw National Forest has an extensive trail network that brings you through the estuary. And Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park provides on-site camping so you can hike the Hobbit Trail or the China Creek loop trail as soon as you emerge from your morning slumber. 

10 of 10

Stroll Through Old Town Florence

Old Town Florence

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

1335 Bay St, Florence, OR 97439-9649, USA
Phone +1 541-902-2505

Florence's historic Old Town resides on the banks of the Siuslaw River. Along with a park and marina, you'll find quaint shops, galleries, and a museum. Most shops sell your typical tourist and nautical-themed items. But the galleries (in particular, the River Gallery) feature the work of local artists and include items for purchase such as blown glass, paintings, and pottery. Visit Mo's Restaurant, an Oregon Coast favorite for lovers of clam chowder. And watch the passing boats go by at the Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Center.

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10 Best Things to Do in Florence, Oregon