As flowers are beginning to bloom and the sun is peeking through the winter clouds, the itch to get out on the road and discover is more persistent than ever. When we think of Oregon, many think of thickets of trees, mountains and a wild ocean crashing against a sandy, rocky shore. What if there was a getaway that encapsulated those breathtaking sights, offered superb shopping options and top-notch dining spots to top it all off? A trip from Eugene to the Central Oregon Coast does just that, and here are a few must-sees, must-try and must-stays along the way.
Start your road trip in Eugene, known to many Oregonians as “TrackTown USA.” Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’ll leave Eugene as an Oregon Duck fan because of the energy and sportsmanship found in Eugene. Maybe you’re visiting for the Prefontaine Classic held every year at the University of Oregon. No matter whether you’re hoping to check off a glance at the historic Hayward Field, or are touring the University of Oregon with a prospective college-graduate, Eugene is more than a runner’s town. Stick around to explore the city this spring, before jetting out to the coast.
Grab lunch at the popular 5th Street Public Market shopping district. Choose from a number of restaurants including Carlita’s Rooftop on the seventh floor of The Gordon Hotel for a 21+ option with happy hour, or for a family-friendly establishment with a kid’s menu, try Sushi Station. After lunch, shop until your heart’s content at the 5th Street Public Market, and find boutiques and gift shops within the district. Explore Marley’s Monsters, featuring zero-waste products, or the Made in Oregon Store, selling products only made in—you guessed it—Oregon. When you’ve made your way through the hidden gems of the shopping center, it’s time for one more stop. Back on the university campus, check out the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, with both beautiful and thought-provoking exhibits, visitors will want to explore the museum up until close. After finding dinner, perhaps at one of the many duck-themed restaurants near campus such as Track Town Pizza, take a drive across the river and check in to your hotel for the night.
Hyatt Place is centrally located in Eugene, offering a variety of views from almost every room. Once you drop your bags in one of the luxe rooms, head to the Sky Bar, and discover panoramic scenes of Eugene surrounding the hotel. Order a nightcap to toast to new adventures.
Hop on Highway 126 and don’t stop until you see the Pacific. The drive from Eugene to Florence is approximately an hour, but there are plenty of sightseeing options to turn the quick jaunt into a journey. Look for waterfall viewing areas, and once you reach Mapleton, the Siuslaw River which spills into the Pacific Ocean—a sign you’re not too far from the destination. In Mapleton, choose to keep driving to the coast, or break off for a pit stop hike at Sweet Creek Falls, where multiple trail heads let you customize your adventure. Stretch your legs and enjoy picturesque views of the cascading waterfalls before getting back on the road to your next destination.
Once you’ve arrived in Florence, head straight for the beach. Spring at the Oregon Coast can be magical, and there are plenty of convenient options for beaches nearby, including both North and South Jetty beaches. If historic landmarks are up your alley, check out Heceta Head Lightstation—a lighthouse that has been sitting on the Oregon Coast since 1894. The lighthouse is now a place for tourists and locals to learn the expansive history, and even stay overnight at a unique lodging option.
After spending time in the sun and dipping your toes in the Pacific, it’s time for a rare experience that only Florence can offer. Head north on historic Highway 101, and 15 minutes later, find yourself in the parking lot of the Sea Lion Caves. Take the walk down to the elevator which lowers into the caves. There, watch as sea lions dip in and out of the caves and into crashing waves. Following this rare and exciting excursion, check into the Three Rivers Casino Resort, not only offers comfortable lodging, but plenty of dining options and a golf course. If you’re hoping to venture out for dinner, try The Waterfront Depot Restaurant and enjoy quality seafood while gazing upon the beautiful Siuslaw River as it flows towards the Pacific.
On the last day of the Oregon Coast Range Getaway, make sure to block out some time for an adrenaline rush. Book an adventure for larger parties with Sand Dunes Frontier and tour the epic dunes in a Big Buggy driven by a skilled driver. Looking for something smaller and still exhilarating? Hop on a buggy with an experienced driver, and take a ride on the Sand Rails Tour, 12- to 14 miles of rolling dunes.
The drive between Eugene and Florence may not be far, but these towns are jam packed with enough activity to explore the hidden gems of Oregon for an entire weekend. Make time this spring to explore the city lights and team spirit of Eugene and the Oregon Ducks, the refreshing scenery of the Pacific Ocean and the limitless excitement of activity in the oceanside town of Florence. See eugenecascadescoast.org for more information on planning your weekend getaway.