Florence: Oregon’s Hidden Gem

 
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If I passed out awards for the best Oregon cities, Florence would definitely win the “Hidden Gem” category. I’ll be the first to admit that at first glance, it didn’t overwhelm me. Coming down the 101, Florence looks a lot like every other small town that we had passed through. That being said, once I dove into what this coastal town has to offer, I was incredibly impressed.

We stayed at South Jetty RV Resort, which turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our visit. You get the best of both worlds with this park: you have full hookups (in most of the sites), you’re less than a mile away from the city, and yet you still feel like you’re in the middle of no where. Old growth trees, moss and wild mushrooms grow everywhere; you can tell the staff has their hands full trying to preserve the natural beauty of the park while making sure that their patrons are comfortable and safe. On that note, our ‘neighbors’ and new friends at the park sent us an message through RVillage a few days after we left. Turns out a big wind storm came through the park and completely uprooted one of the trees, which then landed on the back end of a Class A motorhome. Plot twist: They were in our former site! Thank goodness we left when we did, but I feel for the people whose rig was crunched. Ouch! Regardless, I would go back to South Jetty in an instant – falling trees or not, it is everything I could ask for in an RV park.

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As you would probably expect, we got a lot of rain while we were in Florence. A LOT. Some days I thought our RV was going to just float away. We decided to take advantage of the inclement weather and ended up being extremely productive. The house was spotless, our meals were on point, and we both got a ton of work done. On one particularly rainy afternoon we hopped online and came across a blog about RVillage, a social networking site for RVers. Brandon had signed us up a long time ago, but we had forgotten about it until then. We updated our location to “South Jetty RV Resort,” and saw that there were four other members in the park! We messaged all of them, and two out of the four got back with us. The first was Newschool Nomads. I immediatedly recognized the name, and soon realized I had followed their blog while we were preparing to full time. Jenn and Brent invited us over to their house that night. While we were there, Jema and Jon (another full time couple) came over. Both have had their families on the road for about four years, and we loved hearing about all the adventures they’ve had. The next day, we met Robert and Diana, who run a travel blog called Postcards from the Road. They are the folks who messaged us about the tree falling in our spot! We had a great time talking with them as well.

The rain gave us an opportunity to make some new friends and get a lot done, but we were still hoping the sun would come up so we could explore. Luckily, Mother Nature cooperated for a day or two, and we did get out to sightsee. One of our first stops was Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the most photographed lighthouses on the West Coast. We didn’t go in (or even close to it), but we were able to capture some pretty great shots from pull outs on the highway.

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South Jetty County Park was one of my favorite areas around Florence. The park consists of endless sand dunes and miles of beach, with the Siuslaw River on one side and the Pacific on the other. Don’t whip out your bikini quite yet; the wind was so strong that it felt like a sandblaster was grating your legs. Wear long pants and bring your kite and camera for a fun afternoon.

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When we ventured in to the city, we were pleasantly surprised to find Historic Old Town. Bay Street parallels the river and offers great views of the Siuslaw River Bridge (Florence’s crown jewel, and my cover photo). It offers a great mix of bars, restaurants, and shops; it even kept shop-hating Brandon busy for a couple hours. If you’re in the area, you absolutely must check out Given Back Birdhouses. Amen and Maria Fisher have spent years researching how to create bird houses that mirror natural bird shelters. They collect dead wood, driftwood, mosses, branches, and other natural elements and hand craft extraordinary bird habitats. Their shop is a “working museum”; if you make a small donation (even $.25 is acceptable), you can peruse all of the unique designs that they’ve created. Amen and Maria are extremely talkative and friendly; they didn’t hesitate to explain their artistic process and answer any of my questions. It was such a bright spot in our visit.

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After an afternoon of window-shopping, we treated ourselves to an incredible dinner at the Waterfront Depot Restaurant. We went at 6 pm on a Monday, thinking we would be seated right away — nope. Two and a half hours later, we were finally at our table. Pro tip: if you’re planning on dining here, call ahead! I was advised to order the crab crusted halibut, and I am so glad I listened. It was one of the best seafood meals I remember having. Brandon isn’t a fan of seafood, so he ordered the chicken parmesan and gave it rave reviews. Despite the long wait, we went home stuffed and happy.

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I was too busy stuffing my face to snap a picture of the restaurant, but while we waited for our table, we walked up and checked out the dock.

We were only in Florence for 6 days, and I definitely wish we would’ve extended our stay. There was so much more to explore! Next time, I would definitely check out Sand Boarding — think snowboarding sans snow. It rained too much during our visit to check that out, but if you’re there during the summer months, it looks like a blast. The Sea Lion Caves, about 10 miles north of Florence, are supposed to be really neat as well. You take an elevator down to some enormous caverns and can witness hundreds of sea lions in their summer home. This is a seasonal thing, so be sure to call beforehand and make sure that you’ll actually see some Sea Lions before paying the big bucks to head down there. I also plan on eventually visiting Cape Perpetua, home to the famous Thor’s Well (a giant “hole” in the ocean). I actually didn’t know about this area until our full time friends posted about it on their Facebook page — oops! I suppose not seeing or doing everything that you want to gives you a good reason to return, so Florence, we will be back sooner than later!

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