Big Bend Road Trip, Part 1: Natural North Florida–Yankeetown to Suwannee Town

Florida’s Big Bend has long been a preferred destination of travelers and tourists. This unspoiled region we call “Natural North Florida” encompasses the Gulf of Mexico coastline, and has developed largely along the spine formed by US19 and US98. On it’s interior US27, US90, US 301, US441 and Interstate Highways 75 and 10 have attracted larger populations and development. But it’s the coast that’s can give visitors a look at our heritage and connection to the Gulf. We invite you to take a road trip!


Yankeetown isn’t exactly on US19/98. To reach this historic fishing village you must first pass through the town of Inglis on SR40 (AKA “Follow That Dream Parkway”-you remember that Elvis movie, don’t you? Some scenes were filmed there.) and head west. A few miles down the road, you’ll reach the Yankeetown city limits and from there on to the Gulf. Yankeetown (and Inglis) are the southernmost settlements in Levy County, and are bounded by the beautiful Withlacoochee River.

the Withlacoochee River iss lauded by many as one of Florida’s most beautiful. It flows west from the Green Swamp to the Gulf, through Inglis and Yankeetown The river is a favorite of freshwater anglers and many saltwater species can be caught near its mouth.


The “wide spot” on US19/98, just a few miles from Inglis, is Gulf Hammock. Turn west there, and you’ll reach the county park and boat launch on the Waccasassa River.

There are no homes on the Waccasassa River between the boat ramp and its mouth. A spectacularly pristine river, it empties into Waccasassa Bay. It’s fisherman’s paradise!

Cedar Key

Hang a westward turn from US19/98 at Otter Creek, travel 24 miles on SR24, and you’ll find yourself in Cedar Key, Natural North Florida’s largest and most developed town. Once the terminus of a railway as well as a thriving cedar industry (think: pencils), Cedar Key is now famous for its recreational fishing and aquaculture. It supplies clams nationwide and the archipelago of small islands offers terrific inshore fishing. And Cedar Key’s location, jutting out into the Gulf, makes it a good destination for angler hoping to catch offshore fish species.

Cedar Key is a destination for art lovers, with galleries offering a wide range of arts and crafts.
There are many shops and galleries along the waterfront at Cedar Key
The Island Hotel and bar is a famous destination for tourists
And don’t forget to try some local seafood at Cedar. Tony’s clam chowder is a winner!

Chiefland, Manatee & Fanning Springs

Instead of backtracking on SR24 to US19/98, take CR347 from Cedar Key and visit the “Indian mound” at Shell Mound. Indigenous Americans formed mounds to honor their dead, as well as to disposed of mollusk shells. This mound, just a few feet from the Gulf is a good example. As you then head north on CR347 towards Chiefland, you’ll skirt the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and get a chance to see the famous Suwannee river at the Fowlers Bluff settlement. At Chiefland, you’ll find shopping, as well as lodging and fast food.

Manatee Spring
Rent a canoe or kayak at Manatee Springs State Park
Manatee Springs State Park is just a few miles from Chiefland at the end of CR320. there, you can swim, SCUBA dive, paddle or float near the spring. Or, head down the short spring run to the mighty Suwannee River

As you head north on US19/98 from Chiefland, and just before you cross the Suwannee Eiver, be sure to visit Fanning Springs State Park.

There’s fun for all age groups at Fanning Springs State Park
Fanning Springs State Park
If you’re a boater, you can launch just across the Suwannee River and motor up to the dock at Fanning Springs State Park. Join the fun!

Suwannee Town

Once you cross the Suwannee River on US19/98, your next stop for fuel and food is at Suwannee Old Town, where CR340 heads toward the (new) town of Suwannee on the north side of the river at the Gulf of Mexico, about 24 miles away.

The entire length of the Suwannee River, from Georgia to the Gulf is lined with many private homes and camps. There are also several RV Parks for those of you traveling along CR349, from Old Town to the Gulf.
Suwannee Town offers good lodging, including houseboat rentals. From there, you can explore the river’s mouth, the backwaters and Natural North Florida’s largest and longest free-flowing river.

From Suwannee Town, head back east to the main highway (US19/98) and then proceed north to Cross City, the site of your next Big Bend adventure at Big Bend Road Trip, Part 2: Natural North Florida–Cross City to Panacea

We hope this virtual trip along our Big Bend Gulf Coast put you into a “traveling mood” and that you’ll get on the road to explore the rich history and hidden sites of our region—the part of Florida that considers “nature to be our theme park”!