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Wondering what to do in Florence, Oregon? We’ve got it covered! From sea lions to sand dunes, from the superb beaches to the Siuslaw River Bridge, we are highlighting the absolute best things to do in Florence, Oregon.
A quaint coastal town with a population of 8,500, Florence is situated along the Central Oregon Coast at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. The Old Town in Florence, Oregon is a hub of activity and the heart of the city – but visitors will find tourist attractions throughout the town and as well as in the immediate vicinity.
Discovering the Best Florence, OR Things To Do
We consider ourselves very fortunate to have family that has been living in Florence, Oregon for years, otherwise we may have never discovered it! Even before my very first visit, I suspiciously wondered “What is there to do in Florence, Oregon?” I doubted the sleepy town had much to offer…but I was proven wrong. So incredibly wrong. In the many visits since that first trip, I have discovered the best things to do around Florence, Oregon.
To help fellow travelers plan their trip itinerary we are sharing our favorite and fun Florence, Oregon things to do.
Planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest? Use our guide to Driving the Oregon Coast for tips on what to see and do!
The 25 Top Things To Do in Florence, Oregon
With our list of things to do and places to see in Florence, Oregon, you can easily plan your trip to the coastal town. Our range of activities are ideal for solo visitors, couples and even families looking for things to do with kids in Florence, Oregon.
Additionally, at the end of the post, we offer our top recommendation for where to eat and tips on the best accommodations in Florence, Oregon – along with other pertinent information to help you plan your itinerary.
We’ve include absolutely everything you need to know for visiting Florence, Oregon! Save, Pin or Bookmark this list of Things To Do Florence, OR so that you can easily access it while planning – and during – your trip!
#1 Stroll Through Historic Old Town Florence, Oregon
The charming Old Town district in downtown Florence, Oregon is a must-see for every visitor! Tucked away under the bridge and nestled along the Siuslaw River, the district is comprised of fun shops, locally owned restaurants and beautiful views. Historic buildings line the main thoroughfare, Bay Street, which runs parallel to the river.
In the summertime, brilliant flowers rise beside the sidewalks and overflow from the pots hanging from streetlamps, which adds a splash of color to the already quaint street. On your walk, don’t miss the picturesque gazebo (and the viewing platform behind it) in Old Town Park.
#2 Pick a Flavor at BJ’s Ice Cream Parlor
One of the best ways to explore the Old Town is with an ice cream cone in hand – and BJ’s Ice Cream Parlor is the perfect place to pick up your sweet treat. Boasting dozens of handmade flavors, BJ’s has been in business in Oregon for five generations. Get a cone (and maybe some saltwater taffy, too) then walk down to the docks and look for harbor seals swimming by.
#3 Sink Your Feet into the Sand on Florence, Oregon Beaches
Visiting the beaches is one of the best things to do in Florence, Oregon! Wide, long, flat stretches of sand line the Pacific shore offering visitors a chance to get outside and play.
Although the weather can be cool (even in the summer!) and the wind can be strong, the Florence beaches are ideal for walking, jogging, playing catch, building sandcastles, and flying kites. Pooches are allowed, so spending time on the beach is also one of the fun things to do in Florence, Oregon with dogs as well.
Visitors have numerous choices when it comes to beaches in Florence, Oregon. North Jetty Beach, Heceta Beach and Baker Beach stretch north of the Siuslaw River, while the South Jetty Beach extends to the south.
Personally, we think the best beaches in Florence, Oregon are North Jetty and Heceta Beach, which are seamlessly connected, allowing for long beach walks (plus, it’s a good spot to look for sand dollars!). Another reason we like these beaches is that there is free parking (a recreation pass is required for parking at South Jetty Florence, Oregon Beaches).
Pro Tip: If you are looking for seclusion, the best beach in Florence, Oregon is Hobbit Beach. The somewhat secret beach is reached by one of our favorite Oregon hiking trails.
#4 Lace Up Your Shoes for a Hike
The nature along the Oregon coastline is simply stunning. There is no better way to immerse yourself in it than to head out on some of the great Oregon Coast trails. In fact, we think hiking is the absolute best thing to do in Florence, Oregon. Trails lead through mossy forests, over sand dunes and to epic Pacific Ocean viewpoints.
The Hobbit Trail is our favorite hike in the region, but there are several trails for hikers to immerse themselves in nature. For some of the best Oregon hikes, use our guide to Hiking in Florence.
#5 See the Sea Lions Cave
One of the fun things to do in Florence, Oregon with kids (and adults!) is to visit the Sea Lions Caves.
While it is possible to spot harbor seals around the docks in the Florence Old Town, the Sea Lions Cave is – without a doubt – the best place to see an abundance of Stellar sea lions. The natural cave is home to thousands of sea lions – and it’s just 11 miles north of Florence Old Town. The cave has been a protected habitat for the sea lions since 1932.
Today, visitors to the Oregon Coast can descend into the cave to hear, see, and smell the funny sea lions. Note: The cave is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm and requires a ticket to enter.
#6 Visit Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, Oregon
One of the top Florence, Oregon attractions – and one of the best sights along the entire Oregon Coast – is the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Located just 1 mile north of the Sea Lion Cave (and 12 miles from Florence), the lighthouse is a must-see!
The red and white lighthouse has stood stoically on the shoreline since 1894, safely guiding sailors around the headland.
Visitors park at Cape Cove (fee required) and then make a short trek up to the lighthouse. A fabulous hiking trail begins from behind the lighthouse (you can find details in our Florence Hiking blog post).
Lighthouse tours are offered twice a day – and we highly recommend timing your visit so that you can join a tour; it’s one of the fun things to do in Florence for free! Exploring the beach – especially at low tide – is another fun activity when visiting the Heceta Lighthouse.
#7 Spend a Day at the Sand Dunes Florence, Oregon
The shifting sand dunes in Florence, Oregon almost look otherworldly. At the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, towering mounds of sand collide with dense forests while being misted by ocean spray along a 40-mile stretch from Florence south to Coos Bay.
In addition to hiking, biking and beach walking, visitors have ample opportunities for thrilling fun on the dunes as well.
Dune Buggy Tours Florence, Oregon
Joining one of the dune buggy tours in Florence, Oregon is an excellent way to experience the city’s iconic sand structures. Sandland Adventures offers fun dune buggy rides in Florence, Oregon that the whole family can enjoy together.
ATV Rental Florence, Oregon
Would you rather be behind the wheel for an action-packed adventure? You can get an ATV rental in Florence, Oregon at Torex ATV Rentals.
Sandboarding Florence, Oregon
Sandboarding in Florence, Oregon is another fun activity on the dunes. At Sand Master Park, guests can rent boards and take lessons!
#8 Take a Horseback Ride on the Oregon Coast
Horseback riding is one of the fun activities in Florence, Oregon that is suitable for both beginners to advanced riders. The C&M Stables offer horseback rides through the spectacular sand dunes, forests and beaches.
If you are looking for family things to do in Florence, Oregon, consider the horseback riding morning adventure tour. For couples looking for a bit of romance, watch the sunset on the beach while enjoying a horseback ride.
#9 Play Golf in Florence, Oregon
Playing golf is one of the top things to do in Florence, OR – and there are two golf courses in Florence where visitors can hit the links. Although we ourselves are not avid golfers, we have visited both courses with our family.
Florence Golf Links (formerly Sandpines Golf Course in Florence, Oregon) is a highly rated course – which also has a cozy restaurant with friendly wait staff.
At Ocean Dunes Golf Florence, Oregon, which is under the management of Three Rivers Casino, the course is said to be both challenging and beautiful. They also offer golf lessons for beginners!
#10 Gamble at the Casinos in Florence, Oregon
Wondering what to do on the Oregon coast when it rains? Try your luck at the casino! Three Rivers Casino in Florence, Oregon offers everything from slots to table games to keno. Plus, with the recently opened non-smoking gaming area, visitors can now enjoy the excitement of the casino smoke-free!
#11 Visit Florence Museums
If you need more ideas for things to do in Florence, Oregon in the rain, we understand; on average, the town receives rain about 160 days a year. One way to escape the soggy weather is to check out the museums in Florence, Oregon!
While the two museums – the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum and the Oregon Coast Military Museum – are not major Florence, OR attractions, they are worth popping into – especially on a wet day.
#12 Go Shopping in Florence, Oregon
Many of the cute shops and boutique stores in Florence, Oregon are found in the historic Old Town. A few of our favorite Old Town Florence, Oregon shops are Books ‘n Bears (a used bookshop), the Jolly Egret (a gift shop) and Wind Drift Gallery (a great place to buy kites and other locally handcrafted wares).
Florence, Oregon Boardwalk Market
If your trip coincides with a weekend, then be sure to check out the booths at the Florence Boardwalk Market. It is the perfect place to pick up a locally-made souvenir!
Antiques Florence, Oregon
Antiquing is another one of the popular Florence activities. The best antique shops in Florence, Oregon are located along Highway 101. That said, the Purple Pelican Antique Mall is our top pick for antiques shopping in the city.
#13 Charter a Boat for Fishing in Florence, Oregon
Florence is nestled along the Siuslaw river, on the Pacific Coast and near many gorgeous lakes…which means it is a fantastic destination for fishing! Salmon are found in the Siuslaw River; perch, trout and bass live in the lakes; and tuna and halibut are abundant in the Pacific Ocean.
Visitors who want to go fishing in Florence, Oregon can charter a boat (On The Line Guide Service comes highly recommended) – or just drop your line in from the docks. Find more information at the Port of Siuslaw Marina or Bridgeport Market.
#14 Learn the Basics of Crabbing Florence, Oregon
Florence is an excellent place to go crabbing! Although you will need a license and a little instruction, you can learn how to crab during your trip. In fact, one of the best places to go crabbing is at the designated areas along the public docks.
Crabbing season starts in the spring, but the best time for crabbing in Florence, Oregon is in the summer through the autumn. Find out more about where to crab in Florence, Oregon here.
#15 Grab Your Binoculars for Whale Watching Florence Oregon
When it comes to free things to do in Florence, Oregon, whale watching is a winner! But, even if it wasn’t free, we would still think it is one of the best Florence, Oregon activities!
Gray whales travel the Oregon coastline twice a year – once in the winter while traveling south from Alaska to Mexico to breed and then again in the spring (from March to June) when they return to the north alongside their babies. Additionally, a small pod of whales – about 200 in number – live off the Oregon Coast year-round – making it possible to spot whale spouts any time of year.
We have been lucky enough to spot whales right off Florence, Oregon beaches – but there are much better whale watching spots. Elevated viewpoints offer a greater vantage point for whale spotting. We recommend taking your binoculars to the Heceta Lighthouse and Sea Lion Beach Viewpoint along Route 101 for the best chance at seeing whales. While there, you can look for other incredible sea life, too – like orcas and sea lions.
#16 Make a Campfire on the Beaches in Florence, Oregon
A roaring beach campfire is the perfect combatant to the cool coastal weather – especially at sunset! In fact, it’s one of our favorite ways to wind down a day on the coast. Grab some firewood in Florence from a roadside seller (usually about $5 a bundle) or pick some up at the local grocery store. And don’t forget the marshmallows!
While having a campfire on the beach is one of the fun things to do in Florence, Oregon, you will want to make sure you do so safely. Only make fires in wet sand away from driftwood and only use dry split wood. When you are finished, douse your fire with water, don’t just cover it with sand.
#17 Walk Across the Siuslaw River Bridge
Since 1936, the beautiful Siuslaw River Bridge has spanned the Siuslaw River in Florence, Oregon. The steel and concrete Art Deco bascule bridge is a sight from afar – and even more magnificent up close.
Interested visitors (and those looking for things to do in Florence, Oregon for free) can use the footpath to cross the bridge. We recommend crossing on the east side of the bridge so that you have a view of the Old Town from the bridge. During your walk across the Siuslaw Bridge, be sure to search the waters below for swimming sea lions and harbor seals!
#18 Explore Exploding Whale Park in the Afternoon
Perhaps not on everyone’s list of the top places to visit in Florence, Oregon, we mention Exploding Whale Park for two reasons; first, because of the story behind the name and, second, for the bridge views in the afternoon sun.
While there are many parks in Florence, Oregon, none have a name quite as intriguing as Exploding Whale. To be honest, it was the park’s name that first caught our attention – and when we Googled why it is called Exploding Whale Park, we learned a part of the city’s history we will never forget.
As the story goes, in 1970, a deceased whale floated ashore. In order to dispose of the carcass, the city decided to use a half ton of dynamite to blow it up. Really. What ended up happening is that they ‘blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.’ If you’d like, you can watch the entire video here.
Although the Florence, Oregon park is not the actual sight of the explosion, the park was named in the infamous event’s memory.
The real reason to visit the park, however, is for the beautiful views of the Siuslaw Bridge in the late afternoon when it is bathed in sunlight. The small park offers a short walking path and a few benches and picnic tables.
#19 Search for Sea Life at Low Tide Florence, Oregon
When the tides in Florence, Oregon are low, the absence of water reveals wonderful tide pools and creates the opportunity to get a glimpse of colorful sea life. Mussels, crabs, anemones, urchins, starfish and other interesting sea creatures can be found hiding in rock crevices at low tide.
The tide pools are one the of the top things to see in Florence, Oregon – and the best place to find them is at Cape Cove (by the Heceta Lighthouse). Another great place for finding sea life exposed at low tide is along the jetty walls at North Jetty Beach.
Check the Tide Table for Florence, Oregon here to time your beach visit.
#20 Catch a Wave Surfing Florence, Oregon
Surfing in Florence, Oregon is not an activity that we have participated in – but we have watched surfers ride the waves at South Jetty Beach. With strong currents and moderate shark danger, I have been happy to keep my feet firmly planted in the sand – and surfing at South Jetty is only recommended for advanced surfers.
#21 See Carnivorous Plants at the Darlingtonia State Natural Site
An interesting little park that is well worth the detour, Darlingtonia State Park is solely dedicated to the rare Darlingtonia Californica – or Cobra Lily. The 18-acre park is navigated via a raised boardwalk – and there is a place for picnicking as well.
#22 Watch a Movie at City Lights Cinemas Florence, Oregon
City Lights Cinema is one of the evening attractions in Florence, Oregon. The City Lights Theater is a small, independently operated movie theater located right off Highway 101. The four-screen theater presents both blockbusters and independent films.
#23 Attend One of the Events in Florence, Oregon
The biggest event in town is the Rhododendron Festival, which traditionally takes place the third weekend in May. The Rhody Fest has been held annually for more than 100 years and is complete with a parade, run, car show and musical performances.
Other Florence, Oregon events are the Winter Music Festival, Oregon Dunes Triathlon, Wings and Wheels Classic Car and Airplane Show, 4th of July Fireworks, Rods ‘n Rhodies Classic Car Invitational and the Wine and Chowder Trail.
#24 Sip a Local Vintage at the Wineries Near Florence, Oregon
Sipping local wines from the source is one of the fun things to do near Florence, Oregon. Several wineries dot the South Willamette Valley, which is a grape-growing region located between Florence and Eugene – making visiting the vineyards a fun day trip or overnight stay. Find details here.
#25 Eat the Best Food in Florence, Oregon
Wondering where to eat in Florence, Oregon? We can help! On our many trips, we have discovered where to find the best food in Florence, Oregon. From upscale dining to casual fare to local must-try seafood, we are sharing our list of the best places to eat in Florence, Oregon.
Restaurants: Florence, Oregon
With our family providing local insight, we have been able to dine at the absolute best restaurants in Florence, Oregon. We have found that the top places to eat in Florence, Oregon are the locally owned eateries in and around the historic Old Town.
Waterfront Depot: Best Restaurant in Florence, Oregon
Our top pick for fine dining in Florence, Oregon is the cozy and classy Waterfront Depot. Located riverside, the Waterfront Depot restaurant is housed in a charming historic building. Take our advice, order the signature dish: Crab-Encrusted Halibut – it’s absolutely divine! The small space fills up quickly, so it is best to make a reservation in advance.
If you can’t get in at Waterfront Depot, try Restobar or Bridgewater Fish House – both just across the street – instead.
Novelli’s Crab and Seafood Florence, Oregon
When it comes to seafood restaurants in Florence, Oregon, there is plenty of choice. Mo’s and International C-Food Market are two prominent restaurants at the end of Bay Street. However, for the absolute best seafood in Florence, Oregon, we recommend getting a bowl of award-winning crab chowder from the family-owned Novelli’s on the dock. At the floating crab shack, they only sell what they catch, so get there early!
Best Restaurants in Florence, Oregon for Mexican Food
One of our favorite spots for an afternoon drink and an al fresco meal is Traveler’s Cove. They offer a Mexican inspired menu along with other pub grub and sometimes have live music, too.
If you are seeking additional authentic Mexican fare, then head to Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant on Highway 101. The salsa is exceptional – but, trust us, everything is good at Rosa’s!
Abby’s Legendary Pizza in Florence, Oregon
An Oregon favorite since 1964, Abby’s Pizza Florence, Oregon is the place to pick up a pie! You can’t go wrong with anything you order from Abby’s, but our favorite is the Abby’s Special.
The Hukilau for Hawaiian Fusion
What began as a local food truck, named A Taste of Hawaii, has morphed into an exceptional fusion seafood restaurant, The Hukilau. From classic plate lunches to phenomenal sushi, the food at The Hukilau is superb!
Fast Food in Florence, Oregon
There is a slew of fast-food joints strewn along Highway 101 – including all the most popular American fast-food chains. Rather than settling for something you can get anywhere, stop at the nostalgic A&W Drive Up Restaurant for an old-fashioned burger and root beer float.
Breakfast in Florence, Oregon
Don’t skip breakfast on your trip to Florence, OR! For a fast breakfast of donuts and burritos, stop by Big Dog Donuts Florence (try the fritters!). If you want to sit down to a classic American breakfast, tuck into Little Brown Hen Cafe, where they serve comfort food (like chicken and waffles).
Visitors staying in the Old Town, however, will want to check out Mari’s Kitchen for amazing breakfast meals.
Coffee: Florence, Oregon
Hands down, the best place to get coffee in Florence, OR is River Roasters (formerly Siuslaw River Coffee Roasters). Located on Bay Street next to the bridge, the coffeeshop is an inviting place to sip your coffee – either inside by the fireplace or on the deck overlooking the river.
That said, one of the things we love about the Pacific Northwest is the coffee huts – a tradition that stretches from Spokane to Portland to the Florence, Oregon coast. Our favorite coffee shack in town is Teresa’s Sunrise Espresso.
Where to Buy Food in Florence, Oregon
Visitors staying in Florence, OR for awhile may want to buy food to prepare at home. There are two big grocery stores in Florence, Oregon: Fred Meyer and Safeway.
Fred Meyer’s is a one-stop-shop super store located on the north end of town. The Safeway in Florence, Oregon is located further south, right by the Old Town.
Drink at the Best Bars in Florence, Oregon
For a small town, Florence has an abundance of fun places to drink. In addition to Traveler’s Cove, our favorite spot to grab a beer with the locals in Old Town is the Beachcomber Pub, where they feature the best Oregon craft beer on tap. For a different vibe, stop by the Zebra Bar and check out their happy house specials.
Breweries in Florence, Oregon
Unlike the rest of Oregon, there are not many Florence, OR breweries – but Homegrown Public House is changing that, as they have started brewing their own beer. Although we have yet to try their brews, we love the space and have sampled a range of regional craft beer they have on tap. And, if you are hungry, they serve delicious food (featuring healthy and vegan options!) in a relaxed atmosphere.
Lodging: Florence, Oregon
Travelers wondering where to stay in Florence, Oregon have quite a few choices – from hotels to apartments to campgrounds. Although we usually stay with our family when visiting, we have stayed in hotels, rented houses and have used Airbnb for accommodations in Florence, OR, too. From our experience and research, we are highlighting the best places to stay in Florence, Oregon by type of lodging.
Best Hotels In Florence, Oregon
Before choosing a hotel in Florence, Oregon, you should consider your desired location and price range.
Hotels and Motels on Highway 101
Many of the hotels and motels in Florence, Oregon are located along Highway 101. Of the highway options, the Quality Inn stands out as the best hotel, while most of the rest receive below-average reviews.
Best Place to Stay in Florence, Oregon Old Town
While we have not stayed at The River House Inn , some of our family members have. What they loved about the hotel was the prime location right on Bay Street, the comfortable bed and the river views.
Oceanfront Hotels in Florence, Oregon
Although a short drive from town, the beachfront hotel, Driftwood Shores Resort, offers nice rooms with a premium view. If you are staying for a few days, book a room with a kitchen.
Before reserving your room, read our Top Tips for Booking Hotels!
Airbnb: Florence, Oregon
Airbnb is our go-to resource for booking accommodations – and we have stayed in two different Airbnb rentals in Florence, Oregon.
Our first vacation rental in Florence, Oregon was a condo located in the heart of the Old Town, just steps from Bay Street – which we loved for the easy access to restaurants and the river.
Our second Florence, Oregon Airbnb stay was a cozy studio near Heceta Beach – it took us just 5 minutes to walk from door to sand.
We like staying in apartments and houses over hotels and motels – but only because we tend to stay longer and like to make use of the kitchen. Visitors only staying for a night or two – and those who want to try the delectable local cuisine – will likely find hotels to be much more affordable.
RV Parks in Florence, Oregon
Florence, OR is an RV friendly city offering many options for RVers. Heceta Beach RV Park and South Jetty RV Resort are both close to the center of town and get good reviews.
Camping: Florence, Oregon
Surrounded by lush nature, there are many Florence, Oregon campgrounds for visitors who would rather camp than stay in a hotel.
Alder Dune Campground, which is situated within the Siuslaw National Forest north of the city, is highly rated by fellow travelers for camping near Florence, OR.
South of the bridge, the Honeyman Memorial State Park Campground in Florence, Oregon is another good option, boasting 167 campsites.
It is also possible to find cabins and yurts in Florence, Oregon for rent as well!
How To Get To Florence, Oregon
The best way to get to Florence (and the only way we have traveled to the city) is by car.
There are no commercial flights to Florence, Oregon (the general aviation airport in Florence, OR only accommodates small aircraft).
The closest commercial airfield is the Eugene Airport (EUG) and you can book flights from or through Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Denver and San Francisco. To get from Eugene to Florence, Oregon, visitors can either rent a car and drive or take the Link-Lane Bus. The obvious downside to the bus is that you will be limited in your exploration to just the immediate downtown area.
The distance to Florence, Oregon from Eugene is about 60 miles – and it takes about 1.5 hours to drive between the two cities. The winding road through the forest is beautiful, but best driven in daylight.
Driving the Portland to Florence, Oregon Scenic Coastal Route
If you are driving to Florence from Portland, we recommend taking the scenic coastal route, on Highway 101. You can find all of the details in our Oregon Coastal Trip Itinerary.
Making the trip from Seattle to Florence, Oregon?
Visitors traveling the Pacific Northwest have numerous options for their route. We recommend traveling from Seattle (use our top tips for sightseeing in Seattle first!) south to Vancouver, WA. From there, cross the river into Oregon, explore Portland and then follow our route to the coast.
Use this link to Google Maps for directions to Florence, Oregon from your location.
What You Will Need for Your Trip to Florence, OR
Now that you know all of the best things to do in Florence, OR, we have just a few packing tips to help you prepare for your trip! Read about all of our Packing Hacks and check out our ultimate Packing List as well.
Map of Florence, Oregon
While it is pretty easy to get around the Old Town, a map will help you navigate your way to sights and attractions in Florence, Oregon and the region. Buy one on Amazon before your trip!
Camera with Zoom Lens for Oregon Photography
Florence, OR is incredibly beautiful! To best capture the sights, we recommend using a travel camera with a zoom lens. For our travels, we carry a DSLR Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens. However, for some scenes along the coast – like the lighthouse – a longer 55-200mm lens would be better.
Binoculars to spot Oregon Wildlife
While it is certainly possible to spot whale spouts with the naked eye, spying the sea animals with binoculars allows for a much better view!
Walking Shoes for Oregon
Regardless of whether or not you plan to hike, you will want a good pair of walking shoes for your trip. I like lightweight all-around sneakers by New Balance and Kris likes to wear his Merrell shoes for both city walking and hiking. Not only will you be walking in the Old Town and across the bridge, but you may want shoes for the beach, too (and it may be too cold for flip flops!)
Day Pack for Oregon Hikes
If you plan on taking a few hikes (and we highly recommend that you do!) don’t forget a day pack that you can carry while hiking. Ideally, it will be big enough for water, snacks and your everyday travel items, too.
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