Massive sand dunes characterize the area around Florence. Located on the northern edge of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ODNRA), Florence is best known for the hiking, bird watching, horse back and dune buggy riding activities available in the dunes. The ODNRA contains some of the largest oceanfront dunes in the world, ranging up to 500 feet high and forming banks up to three miles deep. The Oregon dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the U.S., and stretch for 50 miles between Florence and Coos Bay. Other popular recreational activities include fishing, swimming and boating in the 17 lakes around Florence and crabbing, clamming, ocean and river fishing. There are jet boat trips available up the Siuslaw River during the summer. For a more leisurely pace, the Westward Ho!, an old fashioned sternwheeler, takes visitors on excursions and dinner cruises on the Siuslaw River. Florence's tastefully restored Old Town offers interesting shops and boutiques, coffee houses and good restaurants. The Dolly Wares Doll museum has a wide variety of dolls on display, as well as facilities for repair and restoration of broken dolls. South of town, the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum has exhibits of pioneer items such as kitchen and lumbering artifacts. It also includes Siuslaw Indian artifacts and an account of how the U.S. government promised to pay the Siuslaw for their land and then never provided compensation.

Ten miles north of Florence, the enormous sea grotto of the Sea Lion Caves contains the only mainland rookery of Stellar's sea lion in the lower 48 states. After paying an admission fee, visitors descend through a 208 foot elevator shaft cut into the natural basalt and enter the grotto. The sea lions occupy the cave in fall and winter, with up to 200 sea lions living there. Views of the coastline include Heceta Head Lighthouse and nearby cliffs that are home to guillemots, cormorants and other sea birds. Golfers will enjoy the 18 hole Ocean Dunes Golf Links public course, which is surrounded by sixty foot high sand dunes. The course has a driving range, cart and equipment rentals and a pro shop. Open all year, weekend reservations are recommended on this popular course

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