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 “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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