Cool Little Coastal Town ~ Florence, OR

Old Town Florence Boardwalk

Nestled between the Siuslaw (Sigh-oo-slaw) River and the Pacific Ocean is the cool little coastal town of Florence.

Logging, agriculture, and commercial fishing have been the mainstays in this little coastal gem but tourism is steadily increasing as the town has been discovered.  Florence is a great location to settle for a few days or weeks and branch out to explore.

When we felt the need to change plans earlier this year, Terry began to look at the state parks along the coast for our RV stops, as they had been given great reviews.  With high season fast approaching, this became a challenge so we settled on some county parks instead.  Armitage in Eugene was a great Lane County park and we’ve found another right here, Harbor Vista.  With only 38 sites and lots of vegetation between them, we can’t even see our neighbors and the steady moaning of the foghorn on the jetty lulls us to sleep at night – heavenly.

Cozy, secluded camp site

Here are a few things we would recommend should you find yourself wandering these parts:

Historic Siuslaw River Bridge

1)  Old Town Florence

Sitting right on the riverfront, Old Town has some great little boutique shops and restaurants and a quaint little harbor.   The view of the 1936 Art Deco Siuslaw River Bridge makes for quite the lovely backdrop.

Toes in the sand, feeling like a kid!

2)  Florence Beach

The beaches we have seen thus far in Oregon are so rugged and wild, with piles of bleached logs strewn along the shores like old bones.  This beach is no different and is a peaceful place to explore near sunset.  We spent some time visiting with a couple who settled here from Eugene 9 years ago. They say the fishing is grand and they often find little treasures that have washed ashore, like Japanese glass floats used in fishing nets.

Terry bracing against the wind on the jetty

3) South Jetty

Head to the south side of town; turn onto South Jetty Road; park in one of the lots; and head to the beach.  Just getting there requires a little effort to traverse the sand dunes but the reward is another lovely windswept beach where you can walk for miles.  We headed over to the south jetty after our walk  and decided to watch the kite surfers as this seemed the perfect activity for this windy day. Amazing what some of these guys can do!

Kite surfer
Buggies racing up the dunes

4)  Dune Buggies

On our way back from the jetty, we heard a deafening roar so stopped to check it out.  Dune buggies and ATV’s were tearin’ up the sand and it’s no wonder many accidents occur on these vehicles as we watched the mayhem on the dunes.  With vehicles flying in every direction, heading up steep dunes, not knowing what may be coming at you at any given moment, I was quite surprised but thankful we did not witness an accident while we sat there.  I only have two words for those who take part in this sport – TOTALLY CRAZED!

Shoreline from St. Perpetua Trail summit

5)  Cape Perpetua/Heceta Head Lighthouse

Venture out about 10 miles north of Florence on Route 101 to Cape Perpetua, where you will find a stunning headland jutting out into the Pacific.  Named by Captain James Cook in March 1778, as he sighted it on Saint Perpetua’s Day, it became part of the Siuslaw National Forest in 1908.

The Civilian Conservation Corps carved out a network of trails, built an observation point overlooking the coast, as well as a campground in this 2700 acres of old-growth spruce, Western hemlock and Douglas fir. The Forest Service followed that up with a Visitors’ Center in the 60’s and today it’s a popular spot for whale watching and exploring tidal pools.

At high tide when the ocean is turbulent, which it was not on the day we visited (insert heavy sigh here), there are some striking features to enjoy along this section of coastline.  Spouting Horn, a unique salt-water fountain, Thor’s Well, a powerful force of nature, and Devil’s Churn, a long crack in the coastal rock that fills with ocean waves that occasionally explode when incoming and outgoing waves collide are wonders I just had to be satisfied to see through photos.  Check out Thor’s Well here, Spouting Horn here, and Devil’s Churn right here.

Take the 2.6 mile hike to the summit on the St. Perpetua Trail and you will be rewarded with some fabulous views of the coastline from the West Shelter Observation Point.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Travel another 2 miles and you SHOULD be able to see some stunning views of the Heceta Head Lighthouse.  We knew there would be no tours available for this grand lighthouse that sits 205 feet above the ocean as it is undergoing an extensive renovation project which will last into late summer 2013.  What we did not know was that the entire tower is shrouded in black, almost as if she is mourning that she can’t be on display for all to see.  It was a disappointment but just means we will have to come back!

RV travels
Umpqua River Lighthouse

6)  Umpqua River Lighthouse

Six miles south of Reedsport or roughly 26 miles south of Florence stands the lovely Umpqua River Lighthouse.  Of the 9 lighthouses adorning the Oregon coastline, hers is the only one with a distinctive red and white Fresnel lens.  The very first Oregon coast lighthouse was erected on the northern spit of river here in 1857.  The one standing today is the second Umpqua River Lighthouse as the first crumbled into the river in 1861 when her foundation eroded.  This currently functioning lighthouse was built instead on the south side of the bay, standing 165 feet in elevation, with a 65 foot tower. Tours are scheduled when enough tourists are gathered together, which unfortunately was not during our visit.

By the time we end our Oregon wanderings, we will probably have seen 8 of the 9 lighthouses and I will most likely honor them with their own post.

Terry trekking up the dunes

7)  John Dellenback Dunes Trail

Six miles south of Reedsport is the John Dellenback Dunes Trail, highly recommended by our fabulous tour guides and RV buddies, Nina and Paul of Wheeling It.  In some respects I am saving the best for last, or perhaps the most entertaining, at least to us.  We were told this is a seldom traveled trail and as we ventured out the reasons became obvious.

I may have mentioned in a past post that I have an almost non-existent sense of direction, and if you do as well, DO NOT attempt this by yourself, particularly on a very breezy day as this one was.  This is a ~6-mile trail, with 4 of those miles done slogging through loose dunes, some BIG ones.  Your navigational aids are posts with blue striping to guide you to the ocean.  Imagine a trail that takes you through the forest, scampering up tall dunes, and dumps you off on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, and that would be the John Dellenback Dunes Trail.  Just for fun, throw in a little wind (or a lot in this case) to toss the sand around a bit, giving you a free nature-made facial, and if you walk through these loose sands in your bare feet (and you really must), a pedicure to boot!  I mused to hubby that if we shed a few more articles imagine how polished our skin would be (he wasn’t biting)!

Navigational aid when seen through the blowing sand!
hiking
Through the forest

With the wind whipping around us and sand blowing everywhere, we thought about stories we had read of people getting lost in real deserts.  At one point, as we scaled a large dune, Terry yelled “this is insane!” but he did have a smile on his face.

hiking
Destination beach!

Call me crazy, call me senseless, I laughed throughout the journey and had a total blast!  This is a must if you are looking for a different kind of hike, one that will TOTALLY work your legs and backside.

There is definitely lots happenin’ in and around this cool little coastal town so come on over!

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32 thoughts on “Cool Little Coastal Town ~ Florence, OR

  • GREAT round-up of stuff to see and do around Florence. You’ve given us ideas of new things to do! So happy you make it out to get your butts kicked at John Dellenback trail…it’s a whole outer-worldy experience!
    Nina

  • This was a fantastic post!!! You and your great sense of humor made it so delightful, that I can hardly wait to try it. Thanks again.

  • Thanks for all the great information. Oregon is one place we have not been to yet. Your descriptions make me want to jump up and go today. Alas, we will have to wait a few more years until our budget allows travel to the Northwest. We want to take our time exploring so will wait until we are able to do so without having to work along the way.

    • You will love OR when you have the chance to see it. BTW, I am subscribed to your blog but don’t receive emails of new posts. Is this possible or do I need to do something? I don’t know much about blogspot but I do receive emails when Janie posts. Any ideas?

  • Great post. Actually printed it for reference. Hoping to get to OR next year. Trying to figure out best time. Seems like the weather is pretty consistant. Did not comment on your last post as I was at a lose for words. Just know we send well wishes and happy travels. Where to next?

    • Thanks Ingrid! We are told that July, Aug & Sept are some of the best months on the coast. We are planning to be back at Bullards Beach SP (Bandon, OR) next Aug & Sept to do some volunteer work. If you find yourselves in the area at that time, we would love to meet the two of you. We are on to Newport next, about 50 miles up the coast. Thanks for the warm wishes. We have a positive attitude and feel blessed to be living a dream. What could be better?!

      • I’m ready to head your way but am afraid OR will have to wait. Sept will take us back to Illinois 😦 to settle some things. End of Oct we’ll be heading to desert southwest. Hope to add Borrego Springs to the adventure.

      • I probably neglected to mention that we will be at Bullards Beach in Bandon, OR doing some volunteer work in August and Sept of 2013. Maybe we will meet yet.

  • We really enjoyed our stay in Florence. There is so much to see in that area. Cape Perpetua was one of our favorite places along the coast. Just so lovely to look down over those cliffs. So many great photo opportunities. Looks like you are both enjoying the Northwest!

    • We are having a great time. It’s funny, I had hoped for turbulent seas when we were there so Devil’s Churn, Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well were providing us a show but want light breezes when we are hiking (lol)! I don’t seem to have a direct connection to Mother Nature! Hope you are having a great Sunday!

  • Great photos LuAnn and excellent commentary. Did you know (you’ve probably already heard this)when Governor McCall of Oregon (in the 70’s) was in office he was well known for having said things to discourage tourism (ecology issues) He became quite well known for this and was only half joking. I’m glad it isn’t true today. I enjoy following the two of you in your travels. Thanks, Penny

    • Thanks Penny. I did not know about Governor McCall’s views on tourism. I guess it can be a double-edged sword at times, good for economics but not so good for the environment. Oregon certainly is a beautiful state. Have a lovely day.

    • Thank you so much! I have received others in the past and perhaps it is because I don’t feel worthy when I read other blogs such as yours, so I hope you understand if I leave it as a heartfelt thanks. I hope you continue to follow and I will continue to do the same with your blog. I so enjoy reading it!

    • No Madhu, nothing so glamorous as that. I have read that there is some controversy over its name. Some think the city was named fora state senator, A. B. Florence, who served the county in the late 1800’s, while others believe it was named for a French vessel that was wrecked at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, also in the late 1800’s.

  • Great post (and I also love the photo of you on the beach with your toes in the sand!). I am also a lighthouse lover, so if you post a blog of the lighthouses, I will be there! Thanks for the mini holiday from my house!

  • As usual a wonderful post. I am loving reading about your adventures and am so happy that you have moved on from the daily go to work lifestyle. Hope you are sleeping well now.

    I am going to Oregon October (Chris is going to a bridge tournament) I will have to see if I can get to some of these places. A friend of mine went to Thor’s Well to take photographs but didn’t get the pictures he wished for due to fog. I have been adding places to my “wish list” of things to visit while there, I know that there isn’t going to be enough time so will eventually have to pick and choose but whatever I decide to do I know I will have fun.

    • The day we went to Cape Perpetua was beautiful but the seas were entirely too calm. The day we headed up the coast for Newport and passed Cape Perpetua the ocean was churning. We couldn’t exactly pull a big rig off onto the shoulder so we had to keep moving. Timing is everything they say! I’m sure you will enjoy your visit in Oct and bless us all with some spectacular photos!

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