The Oregon coast is a wild and rugged place. Sure, there are beautiful sandy beaches, but much of it is towering cliffs with waves crashing on the huge offshore rocks. If you are in your twenties and have a wetsuit, it might be a perfect place to take a swim! But the water is pretty cold much of the year. Right smack in the middle of the north/south Highway 101 is Florence, Oregon. But what sets Florence apart from the dozens of cute costal communities are the sand dunes. Miles and miles of them. This is dune buggy heaven.
Florence is a perfect refuge from the summer heat of the towns along the major north/south route of I-5, some 60 miles to the east. There are plenty of RV parks and cottages for rent. You will also find a charming old town, right along the banks of the Siuslaw River where the fishing and logging industry once stood. Now there is a great little marina filled with sailboats.
While we’ve driven right through Florence, Oregon on our way to California several times, we’ve never spent any time here until a recent trip up the coast and we made a point to stay for several nights. We found the historic old town area along the riverfront just charming with lots of mom and pop shops, restaurants – many featuring fresh local seafood, and a very nice little city park nestled in the trees along the water. We were delighted that many people had their dogs out for a walk.
If you are interested in visiting or relocating to a small coastal town, here’s what we discovered about Florence.
Population: About 8,500 people live here and a whopping 36.4% are over the age of 65, quite high for Oregon and for the US.
Housing: The median sale price of a home in Florence is $219,000 but we found several newer condo’s for quite a bit less.
Crime: The violent crime rate is almost non-existent at .083 per 1000, while the Oregon average is 2.54, and the nation is 3.8.
Climate: In January the weather is usually in the low 40’s F. But in July-September, the daily highs can get into the 70’s. Over 50 inches of rain fall during the year and the wettest months are in December and January. The wind can blow like a banshee on any given day.
Florence is a great place for exploring the coast and many people do just that. The summer months can see several thousand tourists in town on the weekends as this is a popular destination location. Many come for the dunes, antique shops, sea lions, and beach combing. Only the hearty come for the swimming and maybe in the hotel pool!
One of the best stories we heard about Florence was about a beached whale. In 1970, a 45 foot sperm whale died on the beach and the city hired an “expert” to dispose of the carcass. He decided to attach some dynamite and blow it up into smaller pieces and it could be hauled off or eaten by the birds. Instead of using the recommended 20 sticks of dynamite, he used 20 cases. The whole thing was caught on film including the part where a good chunk of carcass hit and destroyed the “expert’s” car! PS: The birds were all scared into the next county and bits of whale were found in many a back yard and on the streets.
We fell in love with Florence. Who knew?
Zoom in and out on the map below to see Florence and the surrounding area.