Setting: About halfway down the Oregon coast and 60 miles west of Eugene, Florence straddles the Siuslaw River. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and the Pacific Ocean define the town's western boundaries; the Siuslaw National Forest provides its eastern backdrop.
Attractions: Temperatures range from highs of 50°F to 70°F winter and summer. Diverse outdoor recreation includes river and ocean watersports as well as hiking and biking. The small population (8,630 and growing) encourages citizen activism. Eugene's airport, medical center, and University of Oregon campus lie only an hour's drive away. Quality medical care is available in town, and schools enjoy widespread support.
Drawbacks: Ten inches of rainfall is typical each month November through January, though it slacks off in spring and dwindles to just an inch or so in July and August. The service-based economy offers few career opportunities. Shopping and nightlife are lacking.
Housing: There's little oceanfront property; most water views overlook the Siuslaw River or the large natural lakes. The 2006 median price for houses was $299,000. Figure on spending at least $320,000 for a three-bedroom house without a water view. Waterfront homes start at about $900,000 and may cost $1.1 million or more. New condo developments are proliferating, with two-bedroom units starting at about $225,000 ($465,000 with water views).
Your next-door neighbors: A U.S. Forest Service biologist, a Harley-riding surgeon, a retired rocket scientist, a ceramics artist.
How you'd spend your free time: Hiking the dunes, exploring forested trails, surfing at the South Jetty or fishing on the Siuslaw River, browsing Old Town with visiting family and friends, volunteering.
(published May 2007)