A 1900s fishing village at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, Florence makes a great base for exploring the top sights on the Central Coast: the vast Oregon Dunes, the historic Heceta Head Lighthouse and the world-famous Sea Lion Caves, just to name a few. But with a picturesque and walkable riverfront, cozy cafes, galleries and shops, Old Town Florence is a destination unto itself. Spend a weekend exploring and let this historic town woo you with its quiet charms.

The best way to see the sights in Old Town is on foot, so fuel up for a day of strolling at Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters. Sip a cappuccino in front of the always-roaring woodstove or head outside to take in the views from the deck, which is a great vantage point to take in views of the majestic Siuslaw River Bridge. This beautiful Art Deco drawbridge was built in 1936 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Before the bridge was built, locals traversed the river by ferry; and the ferry wharf pilings are still visible along the riverbanks — ghostly remnants of a bygone era. The Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Center is just outside the coffee shop, and its meandering walkways and educational signage make for an informative stroll. Feeling energetic? Take a walk across the bridge for even more beautiful views upriver and out to sea.

Another scenic stroll follows the boardwalk at the Port of Siuslaw, where fishing and sail boats are moored, as well as a three-masted tall ship replica. Boats just in from the sea often prepare fresh catches for walk-up customers, as harbor seals bob about the marina.

At the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum you’ll find artifacts and photos exploring the legacy of logging and fishing in the Florence area. The museum is also the jumping-off point for a self-guided walking-tour that passes 21 different historic buildings and sites in Old Town.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Maple Street Grille to fill up on homemade soup, fresh salads or a burger. Homegrown Public House is another option; it’s a cozy pub with Northwest beers on tap and simple, delicious fare made with locally sourced ingredients. For the freshest local fish, Dungeness crab, oysters and clams, stop in at the Krab Kettle. Their quart-sized to-go chowder gets rave reviews.

Explore the shops and galleries, including Backstreet Gallery, featuring talented local artists working in a variety of media. Resto-Arts offers a mix of old and new with art, jewelry, antiques and vintage treasures. Head to Books n’ Bears for new and used books, and all sorts of teddies. Kids will enjoy exploring the wide selection of toys at nearby Funky Monkey Toys.

Photo by Greg Vaughn