Florence is a small city on the Oregon coast, famous for its nearby sand dunes and sea lion caves, and with the Pacific Coast Highway going right through the centre.

The Oregon Coast near Florence at sunsetThe Oregon Coast near Florence

Best Things to Do in Florence

Darlingtonia State Natural Site

The Darlingtonia State Natural Site is about 5 miles (8 kms) north of Florence, on the Pacific Coast Highway. It gets its strange name from a strange plant, the Darlingtonia californica. Also known as the California pitcher plant, cobra lily, or cobra plant, it's native to northern California and Oregon and is carnivorous.

Cobra Lily PlantYou Can See Why it Gets Called a Cobra Lily

The plant attracts insects with its nectar, and once they're inside the insects get confused by fake 'exits' that draw them further into the plant, and they eventually get trapped by downward-pointing hairs. This is the only Oregon state park dedicated to the protection of a single plant species. The best time to see them is late spring and early summer.

The Boardwalk and Marina in FlorenceThe Boardwalk and Marina in Florence

Florence Old Town

On the north side of the landmark Siuslaw River Bridge (see below), take a left or a right off the highway, find somewhere to park and walk around. This not only gives you chance to get a better view of the historic bridge, it puts you right in Florence's charming Old Town, with all of its historic buildings too. There are lots of good little eating places as well, if you're hungry: real good old-fashioned local cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Heceta Head in Florence, OregonHeceta Head

Heceta Head Lighthouse

About 12 miles (19 kms) north of Florence, and just north of the Sea Lion Caves, is Heceta Head and the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. You should definitely pull off the highway, not only to see the lighthouse but because you also get fantastic views along the coast. The lighthouse was first used in 1894 and is said to be one of the most photographed lighthouses in the USA. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, OregonHeceta Head Lighthouse

There is an interpretive center there, but opening hours depend on the availability of staff. You can tour the bottom of the lighthouse but need to check the schedule first by visiting the website.

You can also stay in what used to be the light keeper's house, Heceta House, for a very unusual accommodation experience. It's now an attractive b&b but with only six rooms you'll need to book ahead. It's also said to be haunted, so be prepared.

Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, OregonHeceta Head Lighthouse Seen from the Sea Lion Caves

Honeyman State Park

The Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, to give it its full name, is about 3 miles (4.8 kms) south of Florence and is right off the Pacific Coast Highway so you can't miss it. It has a large campsite with hook-ups, camping spaces, and ten yurts (five of them pet-friendly). There are hiking trails and huge areas of sand dunes between the park and the ocean. The park also has two freshwater lakes, one good for swimming and the other with canoe rental and a boat ramp.

Honeyman State Park in Florence, OregonHoneyman State Park

In April and May the park bursts into color thanks to the large numbers of rhododendrons there are. In fact Florence holds a Rhododendron Festival on the third weekend of May in the Old Town, a great time to visit but book your accommodation well ahead.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation AreaOregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

This amazing natural wonder stretches for about 40 miles (64 kms) alongside the Pacific Coast Highway south of Florence. It's the biggest area of coastal sand dunes anywhere in the United States, and there's so much to do and see here we recommend stopping first at the Visitor Center, which is just south of where Highway 101 crosses the Umpqua River. They can advise you on where you can drive to, where you can walk, where you can't walk, and so on.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation AreaOregon Dunes National Recreation Area

If you've got any time at all we definitely recommend booking a ride with a driver in a dune buggy. We went with Spinreel Dune Buggy Rentals.and it was one of the most fun things we've done on our drives along the Pacific Coast Highway. It really gets you out into the dunes to experience the wonder of them.

Dune Buggy for driving in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation AreaMike in Our Dune Buggy

Sea Lion Caves

See our separate review of the remarkable Sea Lion Caves, which stand right on the Pacific Coast Highway about 10 miles (16 kms) north of Florence on the way to Yachats. We think they're an essential stop on any PCH drive.

Florence Sea Lion CavesFlorence Sea Lion Caves

Siuslaw Pioneer Museum

Another reason for stopping off and exploring the Old Town of Florence (see above) is that it also enables you to visit the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum. It's in a schoolhouse that dates from 1905 and has a good collection of artefacts about the local area over the centuries. 

Siuslaw Pioneer MuseumIn the Native American Room

There's a room devoted to the local Native Americans, including old photos and craft items. Other displays cover old sewing machines, historic business equipment (fascinating to compare with life today!), and domestic life from the 1800s through to the 1970s. It's the kind of display which will have you saying: 'I remember grandma had one of those.'

Siuslaw River Bridge

The Pacific Coast Highway crosses the Siuslaw River on the Siuslaw River Bridge, which opened in 1936. You'll have to go about 15 miles (24 kms) inland to get to the next river bridge. The Siuslaw River Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, and you'll have time to admire it if you get caught when the middle section is opening up to let a ship pass through.

Siuslaw River BridgeSiuslaw River Bridge

It's a remarkable feat of engineering, and it has four art deco-style towers, one of which has living accommodation for the bridge operator. If you visit the Old Town you can call in at the Interpretive Center, which is at 1252 Bay Street.

Where to Stay in Florence

Other Oregon pages

  • Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway

    Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.

  • Tillamook

    Tillamook in Oregon is prime cheese and dairy country with the County Creamery and Blue Heron French Cheese Company among the visitor attractions.

  • Overleaf Lodge Yachats

    The Overleaf Lodge in Yachats, Oregon, is an oceanside hotel accommodation, right by the ocean, just off the Pacific Coast Highway and with spacious rooms.

  • Oregon Coast Hotels and Inns

    The Oregon Coast's hotels, inns, guesthouses, b&bs and other places to stay include 5-star luxury hotels and resorts, motel chains, RV parks, and camping.

  • Ocean Lodge Cannon Beach Oregon

    The Ocean Lodge in Cannon Beach, Oregon, is a romantic ocean front accommodation near the Pacific Coast Highway that is pet-friendly and family-friendly too.

  • North Bend Casino Hotel

    The Mill Casino Hotel and RV Park in North Bend and Coos Bay on the Pacific Coast Highway is Native-American owned and with waterfront views.

  • Gold Beach Oregon

    Gold Beach is a small town on the Oregon coast at the mouth of the Rogue River with the Pacific Coast Highway running right through it.

  • Gold Beach Oregon Lodging

    If you’re looking for good Gold Beach Oregon lodging check out the Tu Tu Tun Lodge a few miles inland along the Rogue River on the Southern Oregon coast.

  • Frommers Guide to Oregon

    The Frommer's Guide to Oregon has good information on hotels, restaurants and what to see in Portland, and along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Florence Sea Lion Caves

    The Florence Sea Lion Caves are one of the best wildlife attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway, north of Florence and south of Yachats.

  • Depoe Bay

    Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, a little village that's noted for whale-watching, for its spouting horns and has the smallest navigable harbor in the world.

  • Cannon Beach

    Cannon Beach is a small town on the Oregon coast on the Pacific Coast Highway and with its coastline, state parks and beaches among its attractions.

  • Brookings

    Brookings in Oregon stands on the Pacific Coast Highway at the southern end of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

  • Bandon

    The small town of Bandon on the Oregon coast is big in what it can offer visitors, including some of the finest golf along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Astoria Hotels near the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews five Astoria hotels in the budget, moderate and expensive categories and all taken from their guide to PCH accommodation.

  • Astoria in Oregon

    The small port of Astoria in Oregon sits right on Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway, at the mouth of the Columbia River.

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