Guide to Florence's Best Beaches
Let's go fly a kite — or build a sand castle! Oregon's wide open beaches are the perfect places for kite flying and constructing sand art. In fact, there is a perfect beach for just about every summer adventure. Here are some helpful tips on what you need for a fun-filled day with the family near Florence — and the best beach for you!
Best Beach for Kite Flying
The North Jetty is easily accessible from Historic Old Town Florence and connects to the long white sands of Heceta Beach. But what makes the North Jetty best for kite flying? Well the wind, of course! Strong gusts off the ocean can help hoist your kite high as you run. Most days on the Oregon Coast, and from most beaches, conditions are great for kite flying — but when we asked the experts at the Wind Drift Kites shop in Florence, the North Jetty was their favorite and most reliable site for soaring high.
Kite-flying tip: Bring patience for unsnarling kite strings, as they will inevitably have a tangle or two, and be especially mindful of other people on the beach (nobody wants to be smacked with a kite). If you have long hair, tie it back as loose hair may block your vision. And hold onto your hat!
Best Beach for Sand Castles
The miles of perfect and flat beach sand at Heceta Beach behind Driftwood Shores (this is NOT the beach below Heceta Head Lighthouse) makes it a favorite for continued kite flying from the North Jetty, beach sports, and an ideal canvas for inspired sand art. Whether it is a kid-built sandcastle or a professional sand sculpture, this beach was made for creation. Twice sand artist Denny Dyke has created "Circles in the Sand" in Florence, showcasing amazing temporary designs. Lon Beale, owner of the nearby Sand Master Park, has periodically offered sand sculpting clinics for those enthusiasts ready to take their beach castles to the next level.
Sand castle tip: Bring a bucket and sand shovel. And then take pictures of your completed monument for posterity, because it will be gone with the next tide...
Best Beach for Dune Buggies
Jessie M. Honeyman State Park
This day-use area and campground back up to the Oregon Dunes making it an excellent access point for dune buggy riding and sandboarding. The Jessie M. Honeyman State Park offers yurts as well as campsites. During daylight hours expect to hear the roar of the buggies cruising the sand mountains. Even if you aren't out on a ride, it is a thrill to watch them tackle the slopes.
Dune buggy tip: There are several dune buggy tour companies within the vicinity. Choose "wild" or "mild" for the sandrail experience that is right for you.
Best Beach for Swimming
Cleawox Beach at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park
The Pacific Ocean along the Oregon coastline is not known as a "swimming" destination due to waves, strong currents and cold water. At most, people may walk barefoot along the shore line, wading and splashing when the waves are small. However, if getting in is your goal, then the coastal Cleawox Lake offers a real chance for in-the-water recreation. Here sandy beaches border calm water and there is even a roped swim area with a floating dock (no lifeguards). Rent paddleboats to cruise around when the concessionaire is operating. While there are facilities on-site, due to pandemic protocols, they may be closed. A day pass is required.
Swim tip: Bring extra warm, dry clothes; and in lieu of showers, refill old water bottles and dump water on your feet before getting back in the car to remove the excess sand.
Best Beach for Storm Watching
Storm watching can mean gazing into a thick blanket of fog, obliterating your view completely; or it can be an awesome show of gigantic waves hurling themselves at the coastal cliffs and beaches. With wind roaring and rain coming down, storms on the coast can be very exciting — and cold, wet and unpredictable. For this reason, we recommend Heceta Beach because you can appreciate the crashing waves from the ocean view comfort of Driftwood Shores Resort. With every room looking out across the beach to the Pacific Ocean, you stay dry and cozy while enjoying the whole show. Always stay off the rocks, off and away from logs and debris which could roll or blow unexpectedly. After a storm, while beach combing, please use caution when coming across discoveries.
Storm Watching tip: The restaurant and bar at Driftwood Shores has floor to ceiling windows, perfect for storm watching while enjoying a bowl of clam chowder, a hot toddy or a cup of tea.
Best Beach for Horseback Riding
Ride through grassy dunes onto Baker Beach for the classic beach ride. C&M Stables is just across Highway 101 and offers guided horseback rides in the morning and at sunset. Their family-owned stable has clean, healthy horses that are gentle and lovingly cared for. With great horse trail access, miles of serene shoreline and a fine nearby ranch — Baker Beach is perfect for your bucket list ride.
Beach ride tip: Participants on beach rides must be at least 8 years old. Only wear a hat with a chin strap, as the ocean wind may otherwise carry it away!
Most Scenic Beach for Instagram
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint is an iconic photo-opportunity. The sheer beauty of this beach, surrounded by coastal cliffs and crowned with a hundred-year-old lighthouse is staggering. Add in the shady creek that flows under a historic bridge, into the ocean below; the wildflowers edging the white sand beach; the forest walk to the former assistant lighthouse keeper's home — now a charming B&B rumored to be benevolently haunted — and the grassy overlook ringing the lighthouse with viewfinders for whale watching... and you've got a million Instagram-worthy photos.
Photography tip: Try unique and varied angles. Hike up the trail above the lighthouse to look down on the scene, hike along the creek under the bridge to look back at the cove, and park at a pull-out on the highway across from the lighthouse for a prize shot.
Best Beach Campground
Carl G. Washburne State Park
The Carl G. Washburne State Park is both a day-use park and a campground. Its beautiful woodsy area opens up to gorgeous coastline with sandy beaches. Expect a short hike from the campsites. The beach rewards you with scenic views, miles of sand and a great spot for beachcombing or stormwatching. Jessie M. Honeyman Campground is a runner up for beach campgrounds, adjacent to the sand dunes and close to town.
Camping tip: Buy your firewood locally so as not to accidentally bring in non-native insects and critters.
Best Hidden Beach
While the beach is secluded, its secret is out. Hobbit Beach is an amazing, magical expanse of beach accessed by a short, family-friendly trail through the thick coastal forest. Magical in appearance, thus the "hobbit" name, the dark woodsy path is strewn with moss and thickets. But from the forest, step out onto the wide and bright beach for unfettered romps. A great place for children and dogs to run free, up and down the beach. But as always, please keep an eye on your children and dogs under voice control. Bring chairs, beach toys and a picnic.
Hobbit Beach tip: Parking on the highway can be tricky. If it is too busy, come back another time. Use caution when crossing the road.
Best Place to Watch the Sunset
Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial State Scenic Viewpoint
On a small bluff off Highway 101, soak up the full panoramic sunset view at Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial State Scenic Viewpoint. The site offers a tiny parking lot and small grassy area, below is the beach, and to the north a small creek trickles across the sand. From the wayside there is gentle beach access. As the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean, the colors of the sky and sea change, dance, and then become dark. Stars pop out above the inky ocean. There are many other amazing viewpoints along the coast, but with few steps back to the car, this is an easy place for lingering at dusk to watch the sky.
Sunset & stargazing tip: Muriel O. Ponsler is a popular, easy-to-access wayside that can get crowded quick. Plan ahead if you want to nab a seat on the park bench or at a picnic table — or better yet come prepared with your own chairs, a blanket and a picnic.
Best Beach for Tidepools
Strawberry Hill Wayside - Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint
Observe marine life in around the rocks and in the tide pools at Strawberry Hill Wayside. This beach changes with the tides, displaying an ever new tapestry of a nature. Collect agates and tiptoe among the tide pools, but please be mindful of sea life and avoid trampling or disturbing the creatures and plant life. Strawberry Hill is a magical place of exploration. Nearby Bob Creek Wayside is also a great spot for agates.
Beachcombing tip: Collecting agates is limited to one gallon per day with a maximum of three gallons in one year. Take home tide pool memories by snapping pictures and leave nature as you found it.
Best Beach with a Funny Story
Exploding Whale Memorial Park
Say what?! Come enjoy this beautiful shoreline park and take a selfie in front of the Exploding Whale Memorial Park sign. What is the story? Well, once upon a time in the early 70s, there was a deceased whale that washed up on the shore (not here exactly — but on the Oregon Coast) and no one knew how to dispose of it. So they decided to dynamite it. The press and onlookers packed the beach... only to have giant pieces of blubber raining down on them.
The park features picnic tables and great views of the sand dunes on the other side of the Siuslaw River at the mouth of the ocean.
General tip: Don't blow up whales.
Best Beach for Long Walks
All Our Beaches!
The stretch of Oregon coastline near Florence features many long swaths of uncrowded, serene beaches just perfect for total immersion in nature. Slip your shoes off and walk, hand-in-hand with a loved one, with your dog, with your children, or in solo reflection across the sands. Please always let someone know where you are going, stay off rocks and logs, and watch for unexpected waves. Enjoy the ocean breezes, the salty air, the roar of the ocean and the cry of the gulls.
Beach tip: Dogs must be under voice control on state beaches. Please stay out of zones posted for seasonal closures to protect endangered species.