North Florida is a playground for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. This region offers tourists and residents a different side of Florida nature, and is home to some of the nation’s most desired recreational areas. North Florida is known for its nature reserves, prehistoric caves and biking trails; however, its natural springs, wildlife sanctuaries and breath-taking landscapes are what make the state of Florida diverse from its northern neighbors. Here’s a three-day guide that highlights some of North Florida’s must-sees.
Day One: Edward Ball Wakulla Spring State Park
Florida’s Panhandle boasts rich historical culture and national forests. This area is also known for its channel of waterways and sundry ecosystems found in parks such as the Edward Ball Wakulla Spring State Park. Located in Wakulla County, the park hosts various activities, including wildlife observation decks, glass bottom boat tours, snorkeling and scuba diving experiences. The park also provides picnic tables and benches ideal for an afternoon lunch.
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs is a historic landmark located inside of the state park. The lodge mirrors Spanish-style architecture, and offers affordable rooms with picturesque views of Wakulla Springs. The lodge’s dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner options and is known for its southern, home-style menu.
Day Two: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
About three hours south of Wakulla County is Alachua County, famous for its natural springs, wildlife trails and flatland. Alachua County is home to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, a U.S. National Landmark located in Micanopy. This 21,000-acre savanna features a plethora of wildlife and livestock, including bison and Florida’s famous alligators. Paynes Prairie also offers a 50-foot-high panoramic-view observation tower, perfect for bird watching the 270 species of fowl found within the state park.
Paynes Prairie provides on-site camping and lodging, ideal for the true outdoorsman. It’s equipped for RV lodging and primitive tent camping, providing campfire circles, hammock-friendly trees and a nearby electric and water service. Micanopy lies just south of Gainesville, which also offers an assortment of lodging. One of the most famous hotels in Gainesville is the University of Florida Reitz Union Hotel. The hotel is located on campus in the University’s student union, and provides a scenic view of the rural Alachua County region.
Gainesville is also home to the eclectic Satchel’s Pizza, known for its thin-crust pies and monstrous calzones. This quirky pizza shop is located about fifteen miles from Paynes Prairie and is a perfect lunch or dinner venue.
Day Three: Levy County
Levy County borders the Gulf of Mexico and is home to nationally recognized Devil’s Den and Cedar Key.
Devil’s Den is Florida’s pre-historic underground spring, known for its crystal-clear waters, cave diving and scuba opportunities. Experiencing Devil’s Den is a three-day adventure in itself, as it offers RV and cabin camping, various nearby restaurants and even a laundry service. However, visiting the cave is an easy day trip, and is located a little less than 50 miles from Levy County’s Cedar Key.
Cedar Key brings a northern coastline feel to the south. It’s an island off the Florida coasts that showcases a mixture of freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. Along with its nature trails and wildlife refuges, Cedar Key’s quaint downtown area is the perfect location to grab dinner and watch the sunset over the gulf. Dock Street features restaurants such as Steamers Clam Bar & Grill, ideal for an evening of dining on the water, and the renowned Cedar Key Harbour Master Suites.
North Florida offers a perfect get-away trip to the great outdoors. Whether you’re a nature-lover or adventurer seeker at heart, North Florida guarantees some of the nation’s finest natural and rural landscapes. The area provides countless opportunities to interact with wildlife, lodge in national landmarks and truly become one with nature.