The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
If first and last impressions are enduring, Florence is truly blessed. As you enter the city from the north, US-101 climbs high above the ocean; coming from the south, travelers are greeted by the graceful Siuslaw River Bridge, perhaps the most impressive of a handful of WPA-built spans designed by Conde McCullough and decorated with his trademark Egyptian obelisks and art deco stylings. Unfortunately, first impressions feel a little misleading, since much of what you can see from US-101 is a bland highway sprawl of motels, gas stations, and franchised restaurants.
The best part of Florence, Old Town, is just upstream from that landmark bridge, along the north bank of the Siuslaw River. Here, among Bay Street’s three blocks of interesting boutiques and galleries, you’ll find a number of cafés and seafood restaurants, like Bridgewater Fish House (1297 Bay St., 541/997-1133, closed Tues.). Old Town Florence is also home to the very welcoming Edwin K Bed and Breakfast (1155 Bay St., 541/997-8360, $135-200), a lovely white Craftsman-style home built in 1914 by one of the town’s founders.