The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area — the largest coastal sand dunes in North America â€“ makes you feel exactly like Luke Skywalker. Well, maybe you wonâ€™t look or sound like him, but after 10 minutes here, you’ll empathize with Lukeâ€™s long walk over those huge, majestic dunes on Tatooine.
Naturally, kids LOVE this place.
As if Â droppedÂ right into a giantâ€™s sandbox, youâ€™ll find giant 500-foot-tall (152 m.) peaked mounds and â€œtree islands,â€ where trees cluster together, surrounded by sand.
The Oregon Dunes NRA Visitors CenterÂ offers hiking tips through the dunes, info on the areaâ€™s natural history and summertime programs on the plants and animals of the dunes. No tusken raiders actually live here, boo.
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is a great place to experience the areaâ€™s unique landscape — walk the dunes, watch kids sled or snowboard down dunes, and visit the beach. The parkâ€™s freshwater lake (Cleawox) was warm enough to qualify as a â€œbathâ€ for my kid, who hates baths but didnâ€™t complain here.
The dunes stretch for forty miles long along the coast, so many visitors opt to see them in a giant, slow-moving dune buggy (you can even bring a baby in a carseat on a buggy) or a faster sand rail (required: goggles, a helmet and age 3 & up).
In either case, reservations must be made in advance with one of the dune buggy outfits. Sandland AdventuresÂ has a nice little Family Fun Center with bumper boats, if you want to cool off after a Sandland buggy ride.
If sandboarding looks more your kids’ speed, Sand Master ParkÂ rents gear, gives lessons and offers family packages. The park is right next to a Fred Meyer, and itâ€™s funny to see the sand actually moving into the parking lot â€“ it creeps inland 16 feet per year. Maybe some day we’ll all be driving sand buggies.
Where to stay in Florence with Kids
You can stay at Jessie M. Honeyman in one of the yurts — or bring your tent. Book far in advance, because it’s a popular destination with great weather.
We stayed at the Driftwood Shores Resort right on the beach, which was fine and clean, if a bit dated and mildewy in spots (hey, it’s the Northwest Coast — only so much you can do about things like this). A bonus: The Inn has a small children’s aquatic play area with fun showers and sprinklers — a nice back up if you do arrive on a very windy or rainy day.
Where to eat in Florence with Kids
After some deep research, we went with a few fun places:
Mo’s in Florence Old Town.Â 1436 Bay St., Florence, Oregon.Â So, Â the seafood is similar, perhaps, to your grandparent’s seafood restaurant (like a fancy Skipper’s, maybe). You can’t beat the location (right on the water), the kid-friendly aspects (really noisy restaurant, crayons, kid menu) and the fact your child’s palate and your grandparent’s palate are probably not too dissimilar. It’s fine. Order an appetizer if the restaurant is busy, as you may wait a while for your food.
Maple Street Grille. 165 Maple St., Florence, Oregon.Â An upscale restaurant with solid meal options, including well-cooked salmon, chicken and pasta. A bit more formal and expensive. No kids’ menu, but kid-friendly restaurant staff will help your children find yummy food, such as mac ‘n’ cheese.
Nature’s Corner Cafe and Market.Â 185 Hwy 101 Florence, Oregon.Â Hearty, healthy breakfasts in a very casual setting Â — more like a store than a restaurant. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. It can take a while for the food to arrive (maybe order something small to take the edge off). But when it does Â arrive– yum.
1285 Restobar also looks like a decent option for pizza and Italian food.
Read more about Florence with Kids.