Remember the good old-fashioned summer road trips you took with your family as a kid? Stopping off in the middle of nowhere to behold strange, memorable phenomena across America? Give your kids memories to cherish in the same vein with a trip to Florence, Oregon. Florence is a quaint destination with a down-home vibe and tourist attractions that are reminiscent of those stops you made in your station wagon. Nestled along Oregon’s breathtaking coastline, Florence is home to Sand Master Park, Sea Lion Caves, a bustling historic Old Town, a famous lighthouse, and even some carnivorous plants!

Go: Year-round. (Click here for specific Sand Master Park hours)

Approximate travel time: Florence is located 164 miles from Portland, so a car journey would take about two and a half hours.

Where to visit: The World’s Largest Sea Cave, which is 11 miles north of Florence, is a sight to behold. Visitors descend over 200 feet via elevator into the spectacular cavern, and are then privy to an adventurous view of roaring wild sea lions, wailing birds, and thunderous ocean waves. Don’t miss out on an adrenaline-filled visit to the world’s first sandboard park: Sand Master Park, located in the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area. You can ride the sand dunes via a rented sandboard or sand sled, go wild on a family dune buggy tour, or opt for an on-site sandboard instruction lesson. To unwind from all of the excitement, enjoy a serene visit to the most photographed lighthouse in America. The Haceta Head Lighthouse, and Light Keeper’s House, were both built in 1894 and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Indulge in an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean from the working lighthouse. To arrange for a guided tour, click here. Continuing with more tame activities, stroll through Florence’s Old Town to enjoy charming shops, boutiques, and coffee houses. Top tip: Buzz into Incredible and Edible Oregon to watch bees make honey in an observation beehive.

Possible lunch spots: Grab lunch at the Bridgewater Seafood Restaurant, where you can choose from over 20 fresh seafood selections or opt for a burger, or pasta. Next, parents can sip on rave-worthy coffee from Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters, where the whole family will enjoy a view of the Siuslaw River and Bridge.

How to dress: Casual, seasonally appropriate. Closed-toe shoes would probably be best for the types of adventures Florence has to offer.

Need to know: Download a walking map of Old Town to get the lay of the land and make the most of your experience before reaching Florence.

Bonus: Science- and flora- fawning kids will get a kick out of the hundreds of carnivorous plants, which are aptly named cobra lilies, located at Darlingtonia State Natural Site. For the faint of heart, nearby vegetation also includes beautiful rhododendrons that certainly don’t bite.

Cost of trip: Moderate to somewhat costly depending on the types of activities enjoyed and the number of people in your party.


—Beth Shea