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Heading to the Oregon Coast? There are a few things you should know. Like you probably won’t need a swim suit (even in summer). You will probably want a kite, and bring your hiking shoes as well as your sandals. If you are planning a trip with your family, you may be wondering what there is to do besides play on the beach. Good news, there is plenty of fun to be had. Check out these great family activities near Florence, Oregon.
*Thank you to Thousand Trails for hosting our family at one of their locations. While our stay was complimentary, all opinions are 100% my own*
Where To Stay in Florence, Oregon
In March, my family took an amazing road trip from Seattle to San Diego on highway 101. During that trip we were able to hit up several spots on the Oregon Coast. We spent the majority of our time in Newport, Oregon, and we loved it. When we decided to do our family reunion on the Oregon Coast, we went about an hour south to Florence, Oregon.
We stayed at the South Jetty Thousand Trails Resort. I love staying with Thousand Trails because my family can choose the lodging that works for us. Tents, RVs, and even rentals like cabins. The South Jetty Resort was perfect as it was right on the edge of the Oregon Dunes Recreational Area, just a few minutes outside of town, and right off of Highway 101.
The area is forested, so you would never guess that just 3 miles down the road is the beach. Each site had a table and fire ring, and the cabin sites had BBQ grills as well. The setting was beautiful and the perfect location.
I love both the South Jetty and the South Beach (near Newport) locations and would recommend them to anybody going to this area.
What To Pack When Traveling to Florence, Oregon
The Oregon Coast is not going to have you sun bathing on the sand in a bikini. You will want to pack clothing in layers. We often needed warm jackets, pants, and more.
While it was mid-60’s for the high (which seems so wonderful) it was mid-July and we were used to much warmer weather. The fog was thick all day long as well, making it feel colder.
I suggest packing a few pairs of shorts, and tees, but be sure to bring long pants, hoodies, jackets and more.
Best Family Activities Near Florence, Oregon
While we were in Florence we had three full days of activities, and still didn’t get a chance to do everything we would have liked to do. Today I am going to share some of my favorite activities for families in Florence, Oregon, but I am going to include a few from Newport, Oregon as well since it is just a bit north.
1. Check out some of the best Oregon Coast Lighthouses
While the Oregon Coast has several lighthouses (seriously, a road trip hitting all of them would be awesome) you can get three of my favorites within a short drive of Florence, Oregon. Checking out these lighthouses may not seem like a fun family activity to some. I mean, kids tend to find lighthouses boring, but trust me, there is something fun and unique at each of them.
The lighthouse furthest from Florence, Oregon is Yaquina Head. It is about an 90 minutes north of Florence, Oregon but worth the drive. The lighthouse is located in the Yaquina Head state park, where you will find plenty of activities.
This is a working lighthouse, and they do give tours up to the top, but you will want to schedule your tour by either stopping by the visitors’ center first thing in the morning, or they do take reservations online at recreation.gov a few days in advance.
The tours are about 45 minutes long and historical in nature. The only downside of this tour is children under the age of 5 or under 42″ tall may not make the final climb to the light, and children may not be carried up the 117 stairs to the top. They can do the first part of the tour, just not the stair climb.
What I liked about Yaquina Head Lighthouse
There is plenty to do around the Yaquina Head lighthouse. You can find seals, tide pools, and even go whale watching within the state park. We were able to see a gray whale right off the coast with from the lighthouse.
The interpretive center has nice bathrooms, kids activities, and even table to eat your lunch at.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
A few miles south of Yaquina Head is the Yaquina Bay lighthouse. I love this lighthouse. We visited it in the spring as well, and I still enjoyed going again in July.
This lighthouse is decommissioned, and includes a self-guided tour. While you can not go all the way to the top, you can go up to the lightkeeper’s quarters.
In the basement of the lighthouse you will find a gift shop and a video about the history of the lighthouse.
What I like about this lighthouse
It is free! That is a big plus. I also love that it has a lot of interesting tidbits of info about life in a lighthouse during that era.
It is also located very close to both the aquarium and marine center, so you can easily include it in your day in Newport which is what we did.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
This is probably my favorite out of the three lighthouses. This is a great activity for families in Florence, Oregon as it is the closest to Florence. There are season tours available of the Heceta Head Lighthouse, but we have never been there at the right time to do one.
The lighthouse is a good 1/2 mile trek up the mountain, but it is a pretty easy climb. Our twins have done it both trips without a problem. About half way up is the gift shop, and then you continue up to the lighthouse. The views from the lighthouse, and the trail on the way up, are spectacular.
What I like about this lighthouse
Heceta Head has a small beach that often has tidepools you can explore. Also, this is where the forest literally meets the ocean. It makes for a cool feel to be in the middle of the forest, but just a few yards from the water.
2. Explore the Hobbit Trail
How can anyone not want to explore a trail with this name? The second I read there was a Hobbit Trail I wanted to explore it.
The trail is near mile marker 177 on Highway 101 just north of Florence. There is no large sign, but you will see a pull out on the east side of the highway, and the trail head is on the west side. Yes, you will have to cross the highway.
When reading about the Hobbit Trail, most of the reviews said it was a very easy hike. It was pretty easy, but not flat. I think that is important to note. There are also several large (tall) step downs. My mother-in-law is extremely short, so these steps were not only a challenge when going down, but also going back up.
The other thing to know about this trail is that the last part of it is very sandy. Like sink in the sand, sand dune, sandy. So wear hiking sandals (my favorites are Chacos – they worked great this entire trip) or plan on emptying your shoes quite a bit.
This trail is a half mile each way, mile round trip, and leads to a quite, and pretty secluded beach. We did not see hardly anybody else on this beach, even though we saw plenty of other hikers on the trail.
3. Sea Lion Caves
I wrote about this when I talked about going to Newport, Oregon during our Seattle to San Diego trip because we hit it on our way out of Newport, but it is worth mentioning again. We did not go here with Mike’s family because we wanted to check out other activities, but if you want to see hundreds of Sea Lions, go down a 208 foot elevator shaft (and pray it doesn’t break down), and see the largest sea cave in the Americas, it is worth a stop.
Not going to lie, it is spendy for the amount of time you will spend there. Thankfully our twins were free, but we ended up paying nearly $40 for two adults and a child. YIKES! And I think we were there maybe an hour or 90 minutes. It is something I glad we did…but I won’t be paying to do it again for quite a few years.
Why would something like this make a “best of list” when I basically just called it a tourist trap? Because you will see hundreds of sea lions…and more. We saw a bald eagle, a whale or two, and much more. Also, if you have older kids there are videos and exhibits, but littles may not have any interest in them.
4. Horse Back Riding Trails
The one thing we were not able to fit in this trip that I was really bummed about was horse back riding near the dunes and beach.
Ever watched those movies where they get to ride horses on the sandy beaches…well this is your chance. I have had several friends do this, and I really wanted to fit it into our schedule, but I have two three-year-olds so we decided to wait until EVERYONE in our family could do this.
5. Sandboarding and Sledding
This was by far our favorite activity that we did. Let me tell you a little story about this.
My oldest, anytime we try to get him to do something new, he is all brave about it until right when it is time. Then there is usually a melt down of “you are trying to fill me!” or “What if I….” and on and on.
So I wasn’t sure what to expect. We went to Sandmaster Park and rented a couple of sandboards and a sled. One sandboard for my oldest, a sandboard for the teens and adults to share, and a sled for everyone to share and my twins to get to ride on. We paid under $50 to rent all 3 for a full 24 hours.
We head down to the beach near our campground. South Jetty has some amazing sand dunes to use for sledding and boarding. We get to the top, and I say “who wants to go first?”
My oldest raised his hand and goes “me!!!!” He gets on his board and ROCKS IT! Seriously this kid has some mad skills.
Seriously, that kid was the best at this. He had so much fun, and when we returned our boards, we learned that you can also do sandboarding at a state park in Idaho (where we live) near our home.
You can also get lessons, but since we were just doing it for fun, we didn’t. I had emailed with the shop before hand for tips and to see if lessons were necessary. After speaking to them, I do have to say, the lessons seem like they are a great value price, and they were quite honest that we may not need lessons if this was a one time thing.
They also gave us a vinyl sticker for each board/sled we rented, and then you could buy extras for your group for $1 each.
These activities were plenty (along with the Hatfield Marine Center and some time at the RV Resort pool) to fill 3 full days in Florence. Check out these family activities near Florence, Oregon and more when you are staying at the South Jetty Thousand Trails.