Florence Oregon Old Town attractions beaches and things to do

• Florence is most know for the whale explosion fiasco
• The city is full of historic places and scenic natural wonders

Florence is a small Central Oregon Coast town sitting at the mouth of the Siuslaw River. But don't let its small size fool you. Florence and the surrounding area can be the all-in-one destination for the entire family.

Here, you can enjoy beautiful views of the mighty Pacific Ocean, see unique landmarks like Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Sea Lion Caves, enjoy fine dining, play in the dunes, walk miles of picturesque hiking trails, and more!

Florence History

The Siuslaw people inhabited this territory long before the first pioneers came here. New settlers chose this area for easy access to both the ocean and the river.

Florence was incorporated in 1893, but the source of its name is still uncertain.

One version names the town in honor of A.B. Florence, Lane County representative from 1858 to 1860. Another version says the town was named after the French vessel Florence, wrecked at the mouth of the Siuslaw River on February 17, 1875.

Independently of the name's source, Florence is a coastal city worth exploring.

Florence Oregon Old Town Beach
Florence Old Town

Florence Exploding Whale Fiasco

Florence is best known for its exploding whale fiasco. On November 12, 1970, local authorities attempted to dispose of a 8-ton dead whale on the beach by using 20 cases of explosives.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned, and instead of becoming a mist, large and small whale remains rained on the beach and the town! Luckily, no one got injured in this accident, even though some whale pieces were heavy enough to crash the passenger vehicle!

Find Places to Stay

Florence has a variety of stays for every taste and budget. You can pick from regular motels, inns, and B&Bs or you can stay at a higher-end resort.

Florence Oregon Old Town Beach Promenade
Florence Old Town

Things To Do And See In Florence

Florence Old Town

Historic Old Town is a charming district located at a bend of the Siuslaw River. This area, originally the home of Florence's fishing industry, now has the town's best eateries, inns, and a variety of unique shops and galleries.

Many of those places are in buildings dating back to the early 1900s and will take you back in time.

Florence Boardwalk

The Florence Boardwalk runs along the Siuslaw River and has plenty of things to do and see. Stroll along the boardwalk while enjoying the views of the river and the historic Siuslaw River Bridge.

You can also stop by the unique boutiques, dine at waterfront restaurants, and explore the local arts and crafts. The boardwalk often hosts local events, such as farmers' markets, live music performances, and festivals. Make sure to visit Florence Marina when you are here.

Siuslaw River Marina Port And Docks

The Siuslaw River Port And Docks is a hub of maritime activity and a gateway to outdoor adventures. This well-maintained port is a popular destination for fishing, crabbing, and boating.

Here, you can rent a boat or bring your own to explore the waters of the Siuslaw River or venture into the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, you can fish and crab right from the pier!

Charter services at Siuslaw River Marina provide guided fishing trips and scenic river tours.

Florence Oregon Siuslaw River Bridge and Siuslaw River Fishing
Siuslaw River Bridge

Siuslaw River Bridge

The Siuslaw River Bridge is styled with Egyptian obelisks, taking you far beyond North America with its design. The Art Deco-style bridge, built in 1936 by bridge engineer Conde McCullough, spans 1,568 feet (478 m) across the Siuslaw River.

The bridge featured a combination of a bascule drawbridge and reinforced concrete arches, which was very innovative at the time of its construction. The central bascule span, which can be raised to allow river traffic to pass, is flanked by two 154-foot (47 m) reinforced concrete tied arches.

The Siuslaw River Bridge was built as part of the Oregon Coast Highway project. It improved connectivity along the rugged coastline and helped the region's economic development.

Siuslaw Pioneer Museum

The museum sits in a renovated school building constructed in 1905. Siuslaw Pioneer Museum tells the history of Florence and the Siuslaw River Valley, as well as the stories of early pioneers and natives.

You can see displays of day-to-day life and historical events. One of the displays tells the story of the US federal government buying the land from the Siuslaw people but failing to pay for it in the end.

Darlingtonia Botanical Gardens

Cobra lily - Darlingtonia State Natural SiteIt is a unique place to see the carnivore plant Darlingtonia californica, also known as cobra lily, cobra orchid, or pitcher plant.

The plant catches its prey in a very interesting way. It attracts insects into a hollow chamber by producing a sweet smell. Transparent "windows" inside the plant confuse the insect, and downward-pointing hairs prevent it from crawling out.

An exhausted insect falls to the bottom of the stem, where it is digested by the plant for nutrients.

See Unique Cobra Orchid

Sea Lion Caves

Sea Lion Caves - FlorenceOne of the biggest attractions near Florence is the Sea Lion Caves. The best time to visit is during fall and winter when approximately 200 sea lions inhabit the caves.

Sea lions hang out on the rock ledges outside in spring and summer. Steller sea lions are most common here, but from late fall to early spring, you can also see California sea lions.

Visit America's Largest Sea Cave

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head LighthouseA historic lighthouse constructed in 1894 sits at the mouth of Cape Creek. Heceta Head Lighthouse was restored in 2013 and still in service. Heceta Head has the strongest light among all Oregon lighthouses.

It is open for visitors with free admission and tours, you only need to pay a day-use fee. Heceta House sits right below the lighthouse and it used to be the keeper's living quarters. Right now, it is an interpretive center as well as a Bed&Breakfast.

Visit The Strongest Lighthouse In Oregon

Devil's Elbow State Park

Devil's Elbow State Park is just a short hike from Heceta Head Lighthouse. This picturesque Pacific Northwest beach has scenic ocean views and picnic tables sheltered from the wind. The Heceta Head hiking trail starts here and is part of a 7-mile trail network.

Florence Oregon Old Town Boardwalk Promenade Waterfront
Florence Boardwalk

Hobbit Beach

Beach and Heceta HeadHobbit Beach is a mesmerizing spot near Florence. The thick Pacific Northwest forest full of Sitka spruce abruptly ends with a sandy beach, rocky formations, and Heceta Head at its southern end.

Discover Unique Piece Of Middle-Earth In Oregon

Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park

Carl G. Washburne Memorial State ParkThis expansive park combines a lush forested area, a serene beach, a developed campground, and a day-use area. It is a fantastic spot for hiking, picnicking, camping, beach combing, and rockhounding.

Visit Peaceful Oceanside Park



Dunes in the Florence area attract thousands and thousands of visitors every year. You can rent an ATV and ride alone or sign up for a buggy ride with a driver.

You can also sandboard at Sand Master Park and ride a horse through dunes at C&M Stables.

Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park and South Jetty are both within the boundaries of dunes so you can visit both spots during your dune trip.


Oregon Coast is home to miles of hiking trails, and the Florence area is no exception. Hiking trails here include:

  • Hobbit Trail
  • Pawn Old-Growth Trail
  • China Creek Trail
  • Overlook Beach Trail
  • Tahkenitch Creek Loop
  • Taylor Dunes Trail.


Siltcoos Lake is stocked with rainbow trout in the spring and salmon, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat in late summer and fall.

You can also fish for warm-water species like crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, brown bullhead, and largemouth bass.


Ocean Dunes Golf Links and Sandpines Golf Course are two prime golf locations here.

Water Activities

Woahink Lake - Honeyman State Park
Woahink Lake

The Pacific Ocean, Cleawox Lake, Woahink Lake, Siltcoos River, and Siltcoos Lake give the entire family plenty of opportunities to play in the water.

Swimming, boating, canoeing, and kayaking are just a few examples of things to do here.

Events and festivals

The Rhododendron Festival is held every third weekend of May. The tradition dates back to 1908 and includes a carnival, parade, flower show, 5K "Rhody Run", and Queen Rhododendra's crowning.

Florence Festival of Books gathers book lovers, authors, and publishers.

July 4 Celebration in town includes live music, an outdoor barbecue, and fireworks.


Florence features a variety of venues where you can enjoy meals and drinks. You can find seafood, Mexican, Italian, Pacific Northwest, and other cuisines.

Florence Oregon Siuslaw River Docks
Siuslaw River Docks

Adventures Nearby

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