My adventures in Southwest Oregon

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Southwestern Oregon: A Great Destination For Families
By Erika Weisensee

Let’s face it, when it comes to our beautiful state, a few places seem to garner the lion’s share of attention in travel publications. The Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, and often written about towns like Astoria certainly deserve accolades. But, as I was recently reminded, scenic beauty, entertainment and family fun abound in every quadrant of Oregon. Families seeking adventure, affordable fun and breathtaking scenery should head to Southwestern Oregon.

Last week, my husband, Alex, and our almost 3-year-old son, Owen, had a lovely two-day getaway in Florence, Oregon.

We enjoyed the rolling dunes and long beaches of this area of the coast. Alex golfed one day and attended his meetings (we were there for his trade association’s annual summer meeting), while Owen and I visited Florence’s charming old town and city park. From the Sea Lion Caves to sand-dune adventures, Florence has plenty of activities to keep families busy. After two days and nights in Florence, we then headed south on Highway 101 where we connected with Highway 42, just south of Coos Bay, and drove two hours or so to Roseburg.

In Roseburg, we stayed the night at a comfortable family hotel, then awoke the next morning eager to visit one of the area’s most popular sites: Wildlife Safari (www.wildlifesafari.net). Located just south of Roseburg in Winston, Oregon, Wildlife Safari is a 600-acre drive thru animal park full of hundreds of native and exotic animals that inhabit the property’s golden hills. Because many of the animals roam freely on the grounds, it is so much more than a zoo, and much more fun for adults than I had anticipated.

By this time, we were thoroughly in vacation mode and decided to extend our road trip by another day. The weather was too beautiful and we were too close to Crater Lake (www.nps.gov.crla) not to see it, so we drove back into Roseburg and stopped at the visitor’s center. Now let me explain something: My husband, a native Oregonian well into his thirties, had never been to Crater Lake (this is practically a crime in my opinion). I had been only once as a kid and needed to see it again.

We called to check on the availability of a motel room and found a vacancy at Diamond Lake, which is about 20 minutes from  Crater Lake. The motel was rustic but comfortable, clean and all that we needed. The next morning, we got up early and were at Crater Lake by 9 a.m. We drove the entire rim of the lake, stopping at nearly every lookout to gasp at the blue beauty below us. To say it was worth it is just so cliché. It was amazing!

Of course, there are many other things to do and see in Southern and Southwestern Oregon, but we had to get home. We hope to go back soon.

### Erika lives in Milwaukie and teaches writing at the University of Portland.