It was a tight race, fueled by a social media push from folks around the state and across the country.
When the Oregonian’s survey launched on a Friday morning, Florence wasn’t even in the top-10, and was not available to receive votes. Florence fan, Scott Steward, e-mailed reporter Kjerstin Gabrielson on that Sunday evening asking if she would add Florence as a late entry.
“Hey OregonLive, where’s Florence?” wrote Steward. “It’s got miles of uncrowded nearby beaches, the Oregon Dunes, the Siuslaw River, a dozen lakes within a dozen miles, and spectacular old forests with hiking and waterfalls. They have a great historic old town area with excellent food and lodging, a burgeoning arts community, and a couple of museums. There is also world-class golf, the world’s first sandboard park (and two international competitions as seen on ESPN), and an airport for small planes. It’s quaint without being commercialized. What more could any other destination offer than all this? Please include Florence as a late entry.”
Steward then rallied Facebook friends, members of local Florence Facebook groups, and members of the Chamber of Commerce. He also enlisted Julie Celeste of Celeste/Daniels Advertising, the Chamber’s marketing partner. She too rallied support, and the race to the top was on.
Then other fans of Florence sprang into action, explaining what they love about the Lane County destination.
OregonLive.com commenter “Travel 2 Lane” offered plenty of detail: “Florence—Historic beautiful bridges, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Dune Buggy tours. Rocky tidal areas, Oregon State Parks, Siuslaw River, Siuslaw National Forest, transportation, in-town bus and bus to Eugene or south coast. Mostly flat, no stops on steep slopes with the stick shift truck! Several north-south roads in town as alternates to Highway 101. Historic riverfront shops. Museums. Healthy food shops, including a co-op. Highway 101 mostly out of tsunami zone. Long distance viewpoints.”
Sara Kremer wrote on The Oregonian’s Facebook page: “Florence, Oregon, is our slice of heaven!!!”
Though starting in last place on that Monday morning, Florence rose steadily to the top until voting closed Tuesday night. Florence won 21 percent of the vote, followed by Bandon with 18 percent, Newport with 10.74 percent, and Cannon Beach with just more than 10 percent.
Oregonian staff photographer Thomas Boyd wrote that he never tires of Florence, and always tries to take a stroll on Bay Street.
“The best of the year for Bay Street is by far the Rhododendron Festival every May,” Boyd writes in his walkabout guide. “Motorcycles line the streets and bikers fill the bars. It’s the Oregon Coast equivalent of Sturgis…just a fraction of it. But, there’s also a parade…with princesses and old men in clown suits driving go-carts.”
Another prime time to visit is in July, when the Sand Master Jam returns to Sand Master Park for its 20th anniversary on July 16. Oregonian reporter Terry Richard sets the scene from the 2015 event at www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2015/07/sandboarders_from_around_world.html.
As the People’s Choice winner, Florence receives an official “Best of Getaways” badge for all to see, not to mention bragging rights.
Author’s Note: When in Florence, the places to stay, right in the middle of all the fun Florence has to offer, are The River House Inn (541-997-3933) and The Old Town Inn (541-997-7131). Call the front desk to get the best possible rates.
Compiled from multiple sources, including reporting by Kjerstin Gabrielson of The Oregonian/OregonLive on February 03, 2016.